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The Nain Rouge, French for "red dwarf" or "red gnome" is a mythical creature that originated in Normandy, France, as a type of lutin. In the United States, it haunts Detroit, Michigan, and is feared by its residents as "the harbinger of doom." (Skinner 1896)
Detroit urban legend
Its appearance is said to presage terrible events for the city. The Nain Rouge appears as a small childlike creature with red or black fur boots. It is also said to have "blazing red eyes and rotten teeth." (Skinner 1896)
The creature is said to have attacked the first white settler of Detroit in 1701, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac who, soon after, lost his fortune. 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 tribe. 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. It is said he was seen dancing on the banks of the Detroit River.
Famous multiple sighting 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 of 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.
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 12th Street Riot in 1967 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 Co., a brewpub in downtown Detroit, has as its signature brew a "Detroit Dwarf" lager, named in honor of the Nain Rouge.
In 2010, a community-based movement began a tradition of a costumed community parade in the Midtown/Cass Corridor neighborhood. Called the Marche Du Nain Rouge, this event is a revival of an early tradition in the legend of the Nain Rouge. 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. At both the 2010 and 2011 events, an ad hoc organization calling itself The Friends of the Nain Rouge has 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. Supporters of the festival think Nain Rouge and his friends should follow Ted Nugent to Texas where they belong.
- In Palladium Books Rifter #36, Nain Rouge is an Optional Character for Beyond the Supernatural.
- The Nain Rouge appears as a recurring character in the second season of the Canadian television show Lost Girl on Showcase Television played by actress Hayley Nault.
- "Saw A Ghost". Retrieved 24 March 2013.
- "Marche du Nain Rouge". Retrieved 21 March 2011.
- Wattrick, Jeff. [http://www.mlive.com/entertainment/detroit/index.ssf/2011/03/hundreds_participate_ in_2011_m.html "Hundreds participate in Detroit's 2011 March de le Nain Rouge"]. Mlive.com. Retrieved 21 March 2011.
- "IMDB:Hayley Nault".
- Myths and Legends of our Lands, vol. 6, by Charles M. Skinner, printed about 1896, Nain Rouge.
- Legends of Le Détroit, by M.C.W. Hamlin, 1884.
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