Another neglected American horror legend from Balladeer’s Blog to help celebrate Halloween Month.


Red GnomeThis red-hued hobgoblin has plagued Detroit for over 300 years. The Red Gnome was one of the supernatural entities created by the Native American deity Glooskap to protect his people. When European  settlers began to populate the area the figure did what he could to protect the native inhabitants but when that proved futile he turned his attention exclusively to tormenting the newcomers. 

The Red Gnome was short in stature and often mistaken for a child when glimpsed from behind. The hobgoblin has rotten teeth and breath that can kill if the creature so chooses. Anyone tricked into kissing the Red Gnome is said to die immediately. In addition this ageless being has ruby-red eyes that can shoot fiery rays. 

In 1701 Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac (yes, as in THAT Cadillac) battled the Red Gnome, which plagued him until he had lost all his fortune. The hobgoblin’s fiery eye-beams would cause frozen ice on the Detroit River to melt under skaters or racers, plunging them to their deaths in the icy waters below. In warmer weather he would cause small boats to capsize and then drown the passengers. 

In 1763 the figure was said to have helped the Native Americans slay 58 British soldiers at the Battle of Bloody Run. The stream that ran through what in 1846 became Elmwood Cemetery was red with the blood of the slain. To this day the Red Gnome haunts the cemetery and torments anyone foolish enough to visit there after dark. 

The avenging Native American entity supposedly caused the Fire of 1805 and was sighted walking through the burning city spreading the flames with his fiery eyes. The conflagration destroyed nearly the entire city.

In August 1812 the Red Gnome helped Tecumseh and his British ally General Brock against the American forces holding Detroit in the War of 1812. The creature successfully harassed American General William Hull so effectively the U.S. surrendered Detroit temporarily to the British. 

The Red Gnome always did whatever it could to provoke hostility between Native Americans and the newcomers and tried to break up romances between white men and Native American women or vice versa because the creature disapproved of such intermarrying. 

The red-skinned hobgoblin destroyed the mill on Presque Isle and would beat horses bloody in their stables overnight. A famous story depicted the Red Gnome spraying one of the Tremblay Brothers like a skunk, leaving him reeking for days. 

DetroitTo this day the Red Gnome is said to be behind Detroit’s troubles, from the repeated problems of the auto industry to the financial collapse of the city in recent years. Certainly the violent, increasingly deserted and nearly post-apocalyptic shell of a city that Detroit is turning into might encourage such beliefs. 


© Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Filed under Halloween Season, Mythology


  1. Ana

    What an obscure little legend!

  2. Ives

    Even this gnome has probably left the Detroit hellhole by this point.

  3. The Moose

    That gnome is a menace!

  4. Vlad

    I never knew about this folk creature!

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