Mysteries, Oddities, and Everything Strange: Rougarou


Bridget Vaughan, Staff Writer

Rougarou: A French Werewolf

Whether it be through a teenage drama, a fairy-tale novel, or scary stories around the fire, practically everyone knows what a werewolf is. A bipedal wolf with shaggy hair and a thirst for humans is pretty terrifying, all things considered. Legends of these bloodthirsty creatures is pretty widespread, with the myth of a full moon allowing these creatures to wander freely only creating more terror under the astrological phenomenon. These beasts might go by different names across the world, but in France, they’re known as Rougarous. So, what is a Rougarou? Is it just the name of a floor-less roller coaster at Cedar Point, or does the legend continue to haunt the legends of full moons past?

Although the Rougarou is known as a French creature, its highest density encounters have occurred in Louisiana. The name derives from the French word loup-garou, which, not all too surprisingly, means werewolf (its direct translation is man who transforms into an animal). The legend of the Rougarou was passed to Louisiana through its time as a French territory in the early 1800’s. French Canadian immigrants and settlers spread the legend to locals, and eventually the whole state was engulfed by the tall tale. 

The legend was created by an ethnic group known as the Cajuns living in Louisiana. The Cajun people still exist today, but at a much smaller scale than they did in early American history. These people were the posterity of older Roman Catholic French Canadians. They had been driven from their original home in French Canada (Acadia) and retreated to Louisiana. The legend of the werewolf had dated back as far as the Renaissance in France

The legends described the Rougarou as a creature with a human body and a canine head that resides in Louisiana swamps. The Rougarou reportedly roams in search of naughty children who wander off into the swamps. It would take these children—and Catholics who had not partaken in Lenten practices for seven years in a row—and make them into werewolves themselves, although the main purpose of these stories was to intimidate these groups of people into behaving. The method Rougarous would use to initiate this transformation is largely unknown, but the terror was enough to keep children at home and away from the possible dangers of exploring the wilderness.

The Rougarou is not known to be a violent creature as modern media might suggest. It prefers to torment people by wrecking buildings and other property instead of killing. Instead of turning them into werewolves through bites, the Rougarou would instead lay curses upon people, with any encounter causing a transformation within 101 days. One such way to repel the Rougarou would be to leave 13 different objects on a windowsill. The beast would be very confused, as it can’t count higher than 12, and would spend the whole night counting, fleeing once the sun rises. One man reported to have hit a cow with his car, and when he got out, instead he saw a bipedal wolf fleeing into the woods nearby. 

Although there are some non-believers in Louisiana, the Rougarou has become an essential part of their culture. A common saying after a restless sleep is that someone “made the Rougarou” during the night. There are festivals dedicated to the legend, like the Rougarou Fest, which occurs during late October in Houma. You might want to get up close and personal, visiting the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans to see a life-size statue. The New Orleans Pelicans were originally going to be named the New Orleans Rougarous. There are still many reports of sightings each year, but none are credible or even grounded. Regardless, remember to be cautious, as there might be a Rougarou hiding among your friend group. And if you stop off in Ohio, maybe take a ride on the roller coaster synonymous with the mysterious creature.