Rougarou is a Cajun or Acadian variation of the original French words “loup garou” that describe a large, terrifying werewolf-like creature that haunts the swamps around Acadiana and New Orleans, as well as fields and forests in southern Louisiana. The Cajun variation and the original French are used interchangeably. The French Acadians are said to have arrived in Louisiana bringing the legend of the rougarou with them after they were deported by the British if 1755. Others believe that the legend came directly from the French who settled Louisiana. Most of the legends describe the Rougarou as a monster with a human body and the head of a wolf or dog.
Other versions of the rougarou’s appearance sound more like a description of Big Foot or the alleged Swamp Ape. These legends describe the creature as over 10 feet tall, with dark, matted hair, blazing red eyes and long, sharp fangs that are usually bared.
The creature is also sometimes described as a a shadow that haunts anyone out late at night, a ravenous beast, a ghost or a jealous lover that has been transformed into a werewolf.
Various myths and legends abound about the loup garou. One variation of the legend states that a person can be transformed into a rougarou either by being attacked by one or by looking into its evil gaze. However, anyone who survives either incident can reverse the curse by remaining silent about it for a year and a day. If this is accomplished, not only is the victim freed from the curse, but so is the rougarou that attacked or encountered him.
Another method for reversing the curse is to place 13 small objects in the doorways and windows of a home. It is said that rougarou can only count to 12 and will be forced to start over each time he reaches 12. Consequently, he will be so occupied in this pursuit that he will not notice the approaching dawn until it is too late and he must return to the swamp.
There is also a legend about Loup Garou Balls, which refers to a gathering of wolves that meet in a clearing in a swamp and dance on their high legs before going out to hunt prey. This definitely gives new meaning to Call of the Wild.
A nineteenth century tale of the rougarou involved a young newlywed who is waiting for her husband late on a moonlit night near the swamp. Although her husband has warned his bride not to go out after dark, she becomes impatient for his return and ignores his warning. As the girl stands there in the chill of the night air, she sees a huge, dark form with red, glowing eyes emerge from the woods. She is stricken with terror when before her, in the clearing, stands a huge wolf man. Shocked by the sight of the rougarou, she fails to avert her eyes from the creature’s fiendish gaze before it retreats back into the woods.
Remembering the tales of the rougarou, she locks herself in the woodshed each night of the full moon and tells no one of her experience. Since her husband frequently works at night, he doesn’t know that she locks herself up on each full moon. Finally, the allotted time of a year and a day passes. Her husband, quite unexpectedly asks her if she has ever waited for him at night by the edge of the woods.
The young wife lies and says that she hasn’t. Her husband looks straight into her eyes and replies that he knows she has because he was the rougarou she encountered a year and a day ago. He goes on to tell her than since she had kept her silence about the experience for the requisite year and a day, the curse is broken for both of them.
Another tale holds that rougarou will hunt and kill any Catholic who does not keep Lent properly. Conversely, the loup garou stories among French Catholics states that breaking Lent for seven consecutive years will turn a person in a loup garou.
The legends have frequently been used both as a form of discipline and a cautionary tale by parents to children: Stay out after dark and the rougarou is sure to get you!