The Snake Goddess of Belle Isle

Belle Isle is an island in the Detroit River, northeast of downtown Detroit. It's a nice place, with wide ranging park space, a pretty impressive botanical garden, and plenty of other attractions, though sadly the Belle Isle Zoo is no longer in operation. The Aquarium was closed for a number of years before volunteer efforts reopened it in 2012 and have been restoring it ever since. The island was known as Wah-na-be-zee (Swan Island) to the Chippewa and Ottawa Native American tribes that resided in the area before colonization by the French. Legend has it that picnickers on the island often encounter a beautiful white doe. Picnickers report the doe shyly observes them from behind trees and brush, but when approached bounds off. It's said that just as the doe disappears from sight, she transforms into a beautiful Native American maiden.

Unbeknownst to most of the eyewitnesses, they have just encountered the Snake Goddess of Belle Isle, originally the beautiful daughter of Chief (and demi-god) Sleeping Bear of the Ottawa. The Chief kept her hidden from suitors by hiding her near the Detroit River in a covered canoe. The winds, covetous of her beauty, blew the covers off the boat and the craft floated down the river. A keeper of the water gates, enamored by her charms, kidnapped the fair maiden and brought her to his wigwam. The winds, angry over his selfish actions, fell upon him, beating him until he died. The winds, sorry for uncovering her beauty, sent her back to her father, Chief Sleeping Bear. The chief, fearful other suitors would follow, placed the princess on an island in the Detroit River and sought the aid of the Great Spirits to protect his beloved daughter by surrounding the island with snakes. The Great Spirit made her immortal to reign over the island for eternity.

Stories and Speculation

The Goddess has obvious potential for use in ghost hunting stories. However, don't forget that she is the daughter of a Native American demigod; she might serve as a psychopomp, guiding people into the Mythic realms where her father's pantheon dwells. Also, the Goddess has been around for a looong time, and could serve as a source of forgotten information if she felt it appropriate.


The Detroit News described the Goddess in an article which discusses a number of other legends that get hauled out by the local papers around Halloween.