Nain Rouge

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Representation of "Le Nain Rouge", or "The Red Dwarf", the mythical figure that haunts Detroit and is cause for all of the problems that plague the city.

The Nain Rouge, French for "red dwarf", is a creature which is said to haunt the area in and around Detroit, Michigan. The Ottawa tribe which had once inhabited the region believed it was a protector of the area and the son of their stone god, but beginning with the French settlement of the location it was feared by the inhabitants of the city as a "harbinger of doom."[1] The city's founder, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, said he saw it; and a succession of other people have also described sightings since then, including in recent decades.

Alleged sightings[edit]

The Nain Rouge is usually described as a small creature with red or black fur covering an animal's body but with the face of an old man with "blazing red eyes and rotten teeth." [2] His appearance is believed by some to presage terrible events for the city.

In 1701 the creature is said to have attacked Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, the French founder of the fortress which later became Detroit, Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit, the creature is also said to have appeared on July 30, 1763 before the Battle of Bloody Run, where 58 British soldiers were killed by Native Americans from Chief Pontiac's Ottawa tribe. Eyewitnesses said they saw the Nain Rouge dancing among the corpses on the banks of the Detroit River after the battle, the small tributary of the Detroit River which still flows through what is now Elmwood Cemetery turned red with blood for days after the battle.

Multiple famous sightings occurred in the days before the 1805 fire, which destroyed most of Detroit. General William Hull reported a "dwarf attack" in the fog just before his surrender of Detroit in the War of 1812.

Jane Dacy of East Elizabeth Street was at home performing errands one evening in October 1872 when she entered a dark room and saw what the Detroit Free Press called a ghost. However, the description of "blood-red eyes, long teeth and rattling hoofs" seems more akin to the famed Nain Rouge than a mere spectre, the fright of seeing the creature caused Dacy to faint and become bed-ridden.[3]

Another woman claimed to have been attacked in 1884, and described the creature as resembling, "a baboon with a horned head ... brilliant restless eyes and a devilish leer on its face." Another attack was reported in 1964.

Other sightings include the day before the 1967 Detroit riot and before a huge snow/ice storm of March 1976, when two utility workers are said to have seen what they thought was a child climbing a utility pole which then jumped from the top of the pole and ran away as they approached.

More recently, in the autumn of 1996, according to an article in the Michigan Believer, the Nain Rouge was spotted by two admittedly drunken nightclub patrons, who claimed to both have heard a strange "cawing sound, similar to a crow," coming from a "small hunched-over man" who was fleeing the scene of a car burglary, the creature was described as wearing "what looked like a really nasty torn fur coat."

Detroit Beer Company, a brewpub in downtown Detroit, has as its signature brew a "Detroit Dwarf" lager, named in honor of the Nain Rouge.

In 2015 Woodberry Wine, a distributor and wholesaler of fine wines and Kindred Vines Import Company, an importer of French and Italian wines both based out of the Metro-Detroit area introduced Nain Rouge Red; a French red wine blend named after the Nain Rouge dwarf.[4]

In 2010, a community-based movement revived an old tradition of a costumed community parade in which the Nain is traditionally chased out of the city, though the revival parade stays entirely within the Midtown/Cass Corridor neighborhood. Records vary on when the original parade ceased. Called the Marche du Nain Rouge,[5] At the conclusion of the parade, an effigy of the imp was destroyed, thus banishing the evil spirit from the city for another year, each year, parade participants and spectators are encouraged to wear costumes so that when the Nain Rouge next returns, he will not recognize the persons who once again ousted him from the city limits and thus will not be able to seek personal vengeance.

The 2011 event featured a parade followed by the banishment and a party in Cass Park, drawing hundreds of guests,[6] at the parade organizations calling themselves The Friends of the Nain Rouge and We Are Nain Rouge[7] have protested the banishment parade, arguing that the Nain Rouge is not to blame for the city's ills and that considering Detroit's population loss, no one should be banished from the city, particularly those who have been there the longest. Both groups also work toward making the event a celebration of Detroit's folkloric ancient guardian,[8] the banishment parade has also taken place in 2012,[9] 2013,[10] and 2014. The 2014 parade included a short speech from Alexis Wiley, Mayor Mike Duggan's representative.[11]

In fiction[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ (Skinner 1896) Myths and Legends of our Lands, vol. 6, by Charles M. Skinner, printed about 1896, Nain Rouge.
  2. ^ (Skinner 1896) Myths and Legends of our Lands, vol. 6, by Charles M. Skinner, printed about 1896, Nain Rouge.
  3. ^ "Ghost Story #5: Le Nain Rouge or a Mere Rogue Spirit?". Weird Detroit. Retrieved 18 June 2015. 
  4. ^ Wos, Jenny (March 4, 2015). "Troy's Woodberry Wine Premieres Nain Rouge Red for March Parade". DBusiness Daily News. Hour Media. Retrieved 18 June 2015. 
  5. ^ "Marche Du Nain Rouge". Marche Du Nain Rouge. Retrieved 18 June 2015. 
  6. ^ Wattrick, Jeff. "Hundreds participate in Detroit's 2011 March de le Nain Rouge". Retrieved 21 March 2011. 
  7. ^ "We Are Nain Rouge". We Are Nain Rouge. Retrieved 18 June 2015. 
  8. ^ Bouffard, Karen (March 22, 2015). "Nain Rouge march returns to streets of Detroit". The Detroit News. Retrieved 18 June 2015. 
  9. ^ "Marche Du Nain Rouge 2012: Detroit Revelers Kick Out The 'Red Dwarf' (PHOTOS)". Huffington Post. Huffpost Detroit. Retrieved 18 June 2015. 
  10. ^ Burns, Gus (March 25, 2013). "Detroit's Marche du Nain Rouge revisited; off-beat parade draws record crowd (photos/video)". MLive. Retrieved 18 June 2015. 
  11. ^ Walker, Marlon A. (March 23, 2014). "Marchers drive evil spirit Nain Rouge out of Detroit for another year". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 18 June 2015. 
  12. ^ "Hayley Nault". IMDb. Retrieved 18 June 2015. 
  13. ^ Joseph, Izzi Bendall. "Royal Oak Firm Releases Nain Rouge Graphic Novel, Film in the Works". DBusiness Daily News. Hour Media. Retrieved 18 June 2015. 

Further reading[edit]