Creature Feature: Rougarou

This month’s creature feature is dedicated to the shapeshifter of the Louisiana bayou: The Rougarou. Sometimes spelled Roux-ga-rou, Rugaru, or Rugaroo, legends of this creature typically originate in french-speaking Cajun communities in Louisiana and Laurentian Canada. The name is a variant pronunciation and spelling of the original French loup garou — the European werewolf. Both are used interchangeably in southern Louisiana, where the monster is said to occupy the swamps.

Creature Feature: Rougarou

Loup is French for wolf, and garou (from Frankish garulf) is a man who transforms into an animal. (I haven’t found any stories referencing female Rougarou, so forgive me if I settle into one gender-specific pronoun to reduce confusion. There are no suggestions that the creatures mate, in any case. Its origins are related to curses and biting.)

We assume that the legend spread from French-speaking settlers to Acadia, but for my part — living in Montreal — I’ve never heard reference to it in these parts. Geographically we’re closer to Pigman and the Cardiff Giant, if you were to consult the map:

United States of Monsters

United States of Monsters from Roadtrippers.com

 

Then again, they say that Vampires are the biggest deal to come out of Louisiana since jazz and go-cups, and I’d put money on it that we can attribute that claim to Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. Thanks, Lestat.

I began researching the legend of the Rougarou after coming across this image, captured by a hunter at a reserve in Berkwick, Louisiana near Morgan City, from a deer stand camera. Something wandering through the woods at night, which he subsequently reported to the media because — well, hell — wouldn’t you? Just freaking look at it! I passed the image around on tumblr a bit after I could stand to look at it without giving myself nightmares, and after chatting with a couple of people trying to convince myself that it was probably a racoon, the conclusion was drawn that: “There’s a lot of weird stuff in the swamp. Anything is possible.”

 

Rougarou, Berwick

Rougarou, Berwick

 

As the Rougarou is often considered to have a lupine body and the head of a man, legend suggests that the monsters inhabits the swamps and woodland areas surrounding Acadiana and greater New Orleans. It’s proposed that the story is a cautionary tale: a means of persuading children to behave. Other variations relate to a handful of origin stories.

Becoming the Beast

Most origin stories relate to a curse resulting from bad behaviour or transmission of bodily fluid. To become a Rougarou, any of the following are possible:

Breaking Lent, if you’re a French Catholic:

A person becomes a Rougarou after breaking Lent seven years in a row, and as a monster, it would hunt down and kill Catholics for their transgressions.

Blood Exchange & Biting

The Rougarou carried the affliction for a hundred and one days. After that period, the curse could be transferred to another person by a bite or by drawing blood. In daylight hours, the creature returned to human form, only returning to the swamp at night to prevent transferring the sickness onto anyone who might cross their path.

Curses & Witchcraft

Only a witch was capable of creating a rougarou — either by turning themselves into wolves voluntarily, or cursing others with lycanthropy.

Not Keeping Your Fool Mouth Shut

The person possessing the Rougarou strain would appear afflicted with something to other people, but for fear of lengthening their affliction and making the curse permanent, would maintain their silence. Otherwise, after a year and a day, they would be cured. It’s been suggested that those who’d become a Rougarou permanently by telling someone of the curse would often take their own lives.

Just Looking at the Damn Thing

Another variant of the legend indicates that simply laying eyes on a Rougarou would ensure that you were turned into one. Another great way to ensure your kids are tucked in safely at night with their eyes squeezed shut.

Rougarou

Rougarou, Berwick Detail

Feel like gazing into those eyes again?

 

Showing 12 comments
  • Kira Butler (@kirabutler)
    Reply

    So this guy caught thing thing on a deer camera down in Louisiana. #Rougarou http://t.co/iGmFX9QZCH http://t.co/mbvA8uq8SC

  • Kiran Shahzad
    Reply

    Wow… that picture freaked me out at first, but when I squinted closely at it for a minute, something about it feels fake. Like the shadows on the creature don’t seem natural, or the outline of the body is blurred or something. Still, the legend of the Rougarou makes for a fascinating read! I love hearing stories and legends – some popular scary stories in my country are usually about djinns, and a type of entity called ‘pichal peri’. Weird stuff :/

    • Kira Butler
      Reply

      That is super cool! I’m not too well-versed in demonic entities outside of North America, but I what I gather, they’re usually pretty fascinating. I wonder why the feet face backwards, though?

      The picture from Berwick above was actually proven a hoax (I did deliberately leave that part out — there’s nothing that kills a good scare than disproving it right off the bat.) Wildgame Innovations (you can see their brand mark in the corner) used this image as part of a promotion for their hunting cameras. The image went viral, which is how I came across it. Totally bogus, though.

      • Kiran Shahzad
        Reply

        Aww, man. My inner ghost-story-lover was hoping that picture wasn’t fake. And a part of some deliciously creepy tale in which people who dare to go in the woods go missing….

        Yes, there are pretty fascinating legends around here. I am curious about the feet turned backwards thing too. Maybe a person with a physical disablity was mistaken for a demon? Don’t really know about the origins of this legend. Also, old trees – especially banyan – are associated with ghosts (called ‘bhooth’ in Urdu) here.

        Anyway, a friend told me a couple of jinn encounters her grandfather had. I’m not sure how true it all was, but well, they happened in a small village a long time ago. One story was that as he was going back home after working in the fields a beautiful tall woman (a malicious jinn, probably) blocked the road by laying down across it and dared him to go forward. Her grandfather, a young man at the time, threatened to chop her up with an iron axe he had with him. As he came towards her with the axe, she became frightened and quickly got up and glided away, saying “Aj tu salamat bach gaya!” (meaning that today you survived, or today you got away safely…) as she disappeared and he hurried home. There’s a few more if you’d like to hear ’em 🙂

  • Reply

    From the archives: Creature Feature: Rougarou http://t.co/iGmFX9QZCH #amwriting #ya http://t.co/OTP5p3MXf0

  • Reply

    From the archives: Creature Feature: Rougarou http://t.co/iGmFX9QZCH #amwriting #ya http://t.co/SXnw0pMNvp

  • Reply

    From the blog archives: Creature Feature: Rougarou http://t.co/iGmFX9QZCH http://t.co/VJTBIOORRl

  • Kira Butler (@kirabutler)
    Reply

    From the blog archives: Creature Feature: Rougarou http://t.co/iGmFXapDML http://t.co/WoA6WOBXuX

  • Kira Butler (@kirabutler)
    Reply

    From the blog archives: Creature Feature: Rougarou http://t.co/iGmFXapDML http://t.co/9iCpb7STDY

  • Kira Butler (@kirabutler)
    Reply

    From the blog archives: Creature Feature: Rougarou http://t.co/Eyax3Y7e1H http://t.co/6s4ZdJPA1Q

  • Reply

    From the blog archives: Creature Feature: Rougarou http://t.co/Eyax3YoOTf http://t.co/B35JuGhCkW

  • @kirabutler
    Reply

    From the blog archives: Creature Feature: Rougarou http://t.co/Eyax3YoOTf http://t.co/j5Mlg5aF6j

Leave a Reply

Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Not readable? Change text.

Start typing and press Enter to search