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Le Nain Rouge - Detroit's Red Devil

Updated on October 8, 2014
Sightings of the Nain Rouge are said to foretell doom.
Sightings of the Nain Rouge are said to foretell doom.

Detroit, 1976

Two employees of Detroit Edison ( the local utility company) are enjoying lunch in their truck. They spot a small child climbing a utility pole, and run from their vehicle shouting for him to come down before he falls to his death. As they reach the pole, the child looks down at them from the top, and leaps to the ground a few feet from where they stand. He runs off under gathering clouds, and leaves the two men in shock.

Realizing this was no child, they later described the creature as small in stature and covered in short red fur. He had red eyes and rotted teeth.

They have just encountered one of Detroit's oldest legends. The Nain Rouge. As is typical of Nain Rouge sightings, Detroit met disaster the following day. It came in the form of the worst ice storm Michigan had ever seen, leaving 16 dead, and 500,000 homes and businesses without electricity.

Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac
Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac

A brief history of the Nain Rouge

The Nain Rouge (French for " Red Dwarf", or "Red Gnome") is reputed to be the son of the Stone God.He shows up in the Detroit area, often dancing and doing back flips, just before a disaster strikes. He has been described as childlike, or impish, being covered in red or black fur, and having blazing red eyes (as any self respecting creature of myth would). He is also said to have rotten teeth, and some have reported seeing small horns on his head.

The first recorded sighting of this beastie was in 1701. Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, the founder of Detroit, allegedly chased and attacked the little guy. The disaster that followed was the complete loss of fortune and subsequent fall from grace for monsieur Cadillac. He eventually returned to France, where he was imprisoned for speaking out against settlements along the Mississippi river.


While Cadillac's was the first official sighting, the Nain Rouge is believed to have been known to, and feared by the Ottawa indians that pre-dated the establishment of Detroit.

Historians have found references in local indian lore to the Demon of the Strait, whose appearance and antics are remarkably similar to those of the Nain Rouge.

There have been numerous sightings across the United States of similar creatures, but he has become well known in the Detroit area as a harbinger of ill fate.

Most widely reported incidents

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Multiple sightings of the Imp occurred just before the majority of Detroit was consumed in a massive fire in 1805.

  4. 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.

  5. Several citizens of Metro Detroit sighted the Nain Rouge the day before the 1967 riots which marked the start of Detroit's modern decline.

There have been more recent sightings but, as you may expect, the sources are dubious at best. Alcohol is usually involved in these personal accounts. In fact, there are several witnesses who claim to have seen the creature as they were leaving a bar. In one story, he appeared to be trying to steal a car. This takes the romance out of it for me, so I try to stick to the more credible witnesses.

That's not to say I believe this myth, but I do enjoy a good story. Alcohol feuled hallucinations can be humorous but, I find, they rarely add anything useful to an already interesting myth.

On the other hand, an encounter with this little cryptid could drive a person straight to the local pub. If that's the case, I might suggest a local beverage that seems to have been inspired by him. The Red Gnome contains rum,peach schnapps, orange juice, lemon juice, and a drizzle of creme de cassis pooled at the bottom of the glass. If you have a few of these, you're all but guaranteed to see the Nain Rouge as well as countless other creatures running through the streets.

His adversary

Pierre Livernois, often called the Spirit of Detroit, is ever vigilant in attempting to banish the Nain Rouge. His spirit has reportedly been seen many times working diligently to repair the damage brought about after a visit from the imp.

Real or myth?

I leave it to you to decide. I have spoken with many people who believe he is real, and a great many more do not. As for me, I remain a skeptic, but wary. As the evidence would suggest that reported sightings may indicate impending disaster.

Real or not, he has certainly enriched the history and lore of Detroit. There are a great many ghost stories in and around the area, but the Nain Rouge is, by far, the most enduring.


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    • rmr profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Livonia, MI

      Hey Chris! Nope, he's not a muppet. The last time I ran across him I was too slow to snap a good pic lol. That's a freebie I found online.

    • Christoph Reilly profile image

      Christoph Reilly 

      8 years ago from St. Louis

      I was looking at that picture up there. So...the Nain Rouge is a muppet?

    • free4india profile image


      9 years ago

      I think most are imaginations of people. When you see one thing which is similar to something.... we think it is the that thing...

    • rmr profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Livonia, MI

      Thanks Chris, I'm glad you enjoyed it. These stories still pop up on the local news here, periodically. I find them intriguing.

    • profile image

      Chris Friend 

      9 years ago

      A wonderful creepy Hub! Very scary.

    • rmr profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Livonia, MI

      Thanks for commenting, crypto hunter. Feel free to add any info you may have. I'm always interested in learning more about cryptids!

    • profile image

      crypto hunter mi. 

      9 years ago

      intresting but u don't have all the facts about the red devle!!! i do know a fue more things but keep up the good work.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      If you'd care to read a very interesting argument for the existance of interdimensional creatures(which is what I suspect "le nain rouge" is), then get a copy of 'Hunt for the Skinwalker' by Colm Kelleher, Ph.d and George Knapp; Paraview Pocket Books, 2005. Don't let the discussion of Quantum physics deter you, it's also a fun read. Btw, how are things in GC? Used to live there many years ago. dk.

    • Rob Jundt profile image

      Rob Jundt 

      10 years ago from Midwest USA

      What an interesting myth I had no idea existed until reading your hub. I enjoy your writing style. Keep on going!

    • profile image


      10 years ago from Louisiana

      Great hub! I enjoyed reading it!

    • G-Ma Johnson profile image

      Merle Ann Johnson 

      10 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

      okie dokie my friend...thanks G-Ma :o)hugs

    • rmr profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Livonia, MI

      Zsuzsy, thanks for stopping by again. I always look forward to hearing from you! I also love folklore, and I may have a couple more hubs up my sleeve along the same lines.

      G-Ma, thanks. Believe it or not, Washington doesn't have a monopoly on bigfoot. I have been reading about an alleged family of them living right here in Michigan. I'll keep you posted.

    • G-Ma Johnson profile image

      Merle Ann Johnson 

      10 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

      My my what a strange story..but no stranger then our BIG FOOT here in Washington I guess..Fun to read about other stories around the world..Thanks for that my dear... G-Ma :o)

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 

      10 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      rmr! Another great hub. I always enjoy reading about 'folklore' based on reality or not, it's all interesting.

      regards Zsuzsy


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