The Legend Of The Nain Rouge Explained

If you're poking around Detroit on a Sunday in early Spring, you'll likely notice a few things: a marked absence of Robocops, an underlying an inescapable sense that you're in a Rock City, and, if you're particularly astute, a parade of several thousand Midwest denizens shouting at a demon.

This is the Marche du Nain Rouge, Detroit's celebration of the beginning of Spring. The festival's co-founder Francis Grunow calls it "Halloween meets Burning Man meets New Year's Day parade," according to Curbed, and while the festivities have only been happening for a little more than a decade, their demonic star attraction has a history in the Motor City that dated back to before there were motors. This grinning, crimson-skinned devil is the Nain Rouge, or "red dwarf," and he's what paranormal experts describe as "a real Jerk McGurk." According to local legend, this portent of regional misfortune has been wreaking havoc on the good people of Michigan for more than 300 years.

Rouge your daddy?

The tale of the Nain Rouge was first recorded in Legends of Le Détroit, a collection of stories published in 1883. There, the creature is described as "most malignant, if offended, but capable of being appeased by flattery," and an old fortune teller warns Detroit's founder, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, that he should try to be cool if he runs into the little devil.

Unfortunately, that was apparently too much to ask, and various retellings of the story state that Cadillac, upon inevitably meeting the Nain Rouge, called it names and smacked it with a cane. The Nain Rouge didn't take kindly to this, and got down to the business of messing with Detroit. Sightings of the Nain Rouge have historically been reported before regional calamities – the Detroit Metro Times reports that it was spotted before the 1967 12th Street Riot, and again before a brutal ice storm in 1976.

Today, the Marche du Nain Rouge is celebrated as a yearly tradition, with participants either cheering the beast in the hopes of appeasing it or trying to drive it out with jeers and unkind rhetoric. We're pulling for you, you mob mentality Winchester brothers. Go Red Wings.