Detroit. Motor City. The D. Motown if you’re nasty. The place you’re more likely to land than O’Hare due to weather. No matter how you refer to it, Detroit is as much an American establishment as New York, LA or the Bloomin’ Onion hatchery below every Outback Steakhouse, though its hardships outnumber the others at a record breaking level.
Some would attribute the rapid bubble and burst cycle of Detroit’s history to the travails of industry sin, wagging waving over the last century as labor movements attempted to put the screws to the thumbs of modern-day robber barons, who in turn offered a newly global economy the opportunity for free trade of more cheaply manufactured motor vehicles. Others will tell tale of a pact the Tigers made whereby every base hit guaranteed a lost job during the ‘84 season. These are both completely reasonable answers to the question: “Why Detroit?” — but neither sufficiently positions the supernatural history accorded the city that birthed Gene Simmons’ tongue snake. But there is one legend, that explains it all.
The legend still resounds today of the Nain Rouge — the Red Dwarf of Detroit; a being as intertwined with the metropolis as the MC5 and rectangular pizza.
In 1701 the land that would become the pistons of America’s engine was granted to Antoine Laumet de La Mothe-Cadillac for the construction of the French fort Pontchartrain. Before leaving to assume his post as commander of the fort, Cadillac threw a goodbye rager. He emptied a wine cellar and, if my recall of French history serves me correctly, definitely swung from a chandelier while sky fencing.
At the close of the celebration, a party crashing fortune teller arrived to issue a warning to the new commander. He was told that his endeavors upon the gifted land would be either greatly fortuitous or forever imperiled depending on how he reacted when he met the Nain Rouge, whom he’d know by its black fur, bright red face and glistening eyes. You know, dwarf stuff. Cadillac woke up the next day like: “Woah! What a party? There was apple punch and a dark omen, and Barry threw up in the aquarium.” He gave little thought to the portent as he left to assume his post at the proposed fort. But the Nain Rouge, would not be so easily ignored.
In 1707 rumors about a red man spread throughout town. Both French and Indigenous Peoples alike spoke in low tones to beware of the Nain Rouge. And, as fated, Cadillac was met one night with the red dwarf. Perhaps forgetting the warning of the fortune teller or possibly believing himself beyond the purview of the spectral, he smacked the tiny man with his cane and berated him. The Nain Rouge laughed in Cadillac’s face, robbed him and disappeared. To put it plainly, Cadillac was roundly served.
Shortly thereafter Cadillac’s luck took a steep downturn. His rule had apparently not been as genteel as promised and the people wanted him gone. He was alleviated of his post and charged with multiple counts of abuse of power. Sure, this could be the natural consequence of being a greedy bootlegger requiring local trappers and farmers to proffer a portion of their wares as an illegal tax but, a more likely reason is the curse of the Nain Rouge.
Cadillac then helped found another American tradition by being hurried to a new precinct and appointed as Governor of Louisiana instead of being fired and jailed! Not even a supernatural dwarf can pierce the coddling bosom of nepotism! The Nain Rouge continues to be seen in the Detroit area, often a harbinger of disaster. He was seen the night before the Great Fire of 1805 that ravaged the city down to a single stone fort and several brick chimneys. His curse has been blamed for the loss of the fort in the War of 1812. Protesters said they spotted a red man during the 1967 12th Street Riot and it was seen again on the eve of a devastating ice storm in 1976.
Through it all Detroit has persevered, but there’s no telling when next the Nain Rouge might come prancing through the darkness. But that won’t stop us from trying. Rest assured, our own group of Werewolf Radar approved fortune tellers have been working around the clock to predict the next appearance of the creature. Nothing so far … but they did predict a battle with the giant sized skeleton of Gordie Howe for gangland rights to HockeyTown in 2036. So … Watch out for that.
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It’s a big, weird world. Don’t be scared. Be Prepared.
Nate Balding is a freelance humanoid who occasionally manifests in print and can most likely be seen at Werewolf Radar. Should you wish to hear him manifest audibly you can do so at the aforementioned Werewolf Radar’s associated podcast on Spotify and Apple, and if anything ever becomes humorous again, on a variety of stand up stages around the nation. If you’re truly craving further content there’s always @Exploder on Twitter — even if it is only a form of digital self flagellation at this point. His one thing that he considers actually accomplished was this time he was published in the journal Nature and then later collected into a volume called Futures from Nature, still available in places that have things.