The Nain Rouge - Detroit's Genius Loci?

Nain Rouge is French for "Red Dwarf", and that's a pretty good description. Witnesses of this goblin-like creature describe it as no more than two and half feet tall, covered in dark red to black skin or fur with blazing red eyes. By itself, it's simply a garden-variety cryptid (admittedly an oxymoron). The interesting part is that the Nain Rouge has a reputation as a bearer of bad tidings.

  • In 1701 Cadillac, the founder of Detroit, is rumored to have encountered and even attacked the Red Dwarf. Within days Cadillac lost both his fame and fortune.
  • On July 30th of 1763, the day before the battle of Bloody Run, the Red Dwarf was seen stalking Capt. James Dalyell on the banks of the Detroit River. The following day, the British captain and 58 of his soldiers were ambushed by Chief Pontiac at the Battle of Bloody Run. The small tributary of the Detroit River, which still flows through what is now Elmwood Cemetery, turned red with the blood of the soldiers for days after the battle.
  • Multiple sightings of the Imp occurred just before the majority of Detroit was consumed in a massive fire in 1805.
  • A blundering Gen William Hull claimed to have seen it in the fog just before his surrender of Detroit to the British without firing a shot in the War of 1812.
  • Several citizens of Metro Detroit sighted the Nain Rouge the day before the 1967 riots which marked the start of Detroit's modern decline.
  • In 1976, two employees of Detroit Edison saw a small "child" climbing a utility pole on March 1st. Fearing the "child" might fall the two men called out to "him" and much to their surprise the "child" leaped from the top of the twenty-foot pole and scurried away. The Red Dwarf had reared it's face again and the next day Detroit was buried in one of the worst ice/snowstorms in it's history.

Stories and Speculation

As of yet no "origin story" has emerged for where the Nain Rouge came from, but it was reportedly known as the Demon of the Strait even before its encounter with Cadillac. Given that, the Ottawa people in the area were presumably acquainted with the being. In any case, the link between the city's fate and the Nain Rouge is both hard to explain and difficult to interpret. Is the Nain Rouge attempting to warn people? Or does it cause the disasters its appearance fortells? Strangely, Cadillac's encounter with the creature was itself foretold by a fortune teller, and apparently his failure to heed her warning to avoid offending the Nain Rouge is what led to Cadillac's downfall. Perhaps an appropriate show of respect could forestall some dire fate facing Detroit in the future.


The early legends of the Nain Rouge are described in two books on-line. The first is Charles M. Skinner's Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land, a lengthy book converted to plain text by the Gutenberg Project, and The Legends of Le Detroit, a 19th century book by M.C.W. Hamlin which has been scanned in by Ohio State. The Great Lakes Ghost Hunter's Society has put together a summary that describes the Nain Rouge's more recent activites, and around the end of 2005 the folks at Model D Media posted a collection of speculations on his current fate. Finally, in February of 2008 David Claerr posted an eyewitness account, and in his researches turned up another account or two from historical records.