Windmill Point
Grosse Pointe Historical Society
Local History Brought to Life!
The Legends of Grosse Pointe
Le Lutin
The Legend of the Goblin Horseman c.1746
Jacques L'Esperance, or Jaco, as he was called, upon the death of his father found himself sole owner of a fine property at Grosse Pointe. The soil was rich, and seemed to be full of promise. Jaco was not lazy, but somehow his farming efforts did not meet with the same success of his neighbors. However, he did have a way with horses, and followed his interest to become one of the most celebrated horse breeders in the midwest. He was an expert on the subject. It was during the winter races on the ice along the lake shore and Grand Marais, or great marsh, that Jaco gained his greatest triumph. Jaco was seated high on his horse and sleigh, well protected from the blasts of winter by his Indian-blanket coat with its deep black stripe. His hood was drawn tightly over his head, a wide red sash circling his waist, his hands covered with mole-skin gloves, his voice was heard loud above the others as he urged his little Canadian pony on: "Avance donc Caribou! avance Lambreur!" With lightning speed he flew, and before the sound of his voice had died away only a tiny speck on the ice marked the horse and its driver.

Arriving at the Hotel of the Grand Marais, in his excitement he would claim for his pony a speed which even today would be considered marvelous, "clearing at a leap," he said, "cracks in the ice twenty feet wide." Jaco could be seen every day driving his favorite horse along the lake shore, and L'Eclair (Lightning), as he called her, carried herself as if she was aware of the admiration which she created.

One night, Jaco went to Antoine Griffard's with the rest of the habitants. Griffard's magic violin playing could make the most unwilling feet dance the night away. At dawn, Jaco went to the stable to harness L'Eclair, for he had a long drive. He found her all covered with foam, her mane all tangled with burrs. Annoyed that anyone should have played such a trick, but not wanting to make a disturbance, Jaco held his tongue, but decided that when he came to Griffard's again he would bring a less valuable horse. But the next morning, and the next, he found his favorite horse again covered with foam, tired and wearied as if she had been ridden hard all night. He put a lock on his barn door, spread ashes about to discover the footsteps, yet to his great amazement he found L'Eclair in the same heartbreaking state, the lock intact and no footprints on the ashes. Jaco, much confused, went to talk with one of his good friends who listened carefully to his story, and at its conclusion, gazing around cautiously as if afraid of being overheard. He whispered hurriedly, "C'est Le Lutin qui la soigne," (it is the goblin who takes her).

Le Lutin was a dreaded monster which had haunted Grosse Pointe many years before. When for some reason he took a dislike to a habitant he tormented him by riding his finest horses by night. Jaco could not believe it. He shook his head doubtfully and said it was the work of some enemy, jealous of L'Eclair. He had heard of "La bete a Cornes," or horned beast, as some called Le Lutin, but only thought of it as one of the stories his mother would tell him as a child. His friend told him he should brand his horses with a cross, or put an good-luck charm around their necks. Jaco returned home sad and discouraged. He had not heard what he wanted, and was determined to find out for himself who this enemy was.

One bright moonlit night, Jaco sat himself at his window where he could have a good view of his barn without being seen. Armed with his rifle, he waited for his enemy. Not a sound disturbed the night air except the low murmuring of the waters against the beach, the lone cry of the fox, or the occasional splash of some restless bullfrog. All nature seemed to slumber. Suddenly a sound like the troubled neighing of a horse fell on his strained ear. Keeping his eyes on the barn doors, he saw them silently open and his favorite L'Eclair, trembling like a leaf, fly out. On her back was a fearful vision. Jaco was no coward, but he felt his courage oozing out at his knees, a cold chill chasing down his back, and great beads of sweat standing on his forehead. The monster resembled a baboon, with a horned head, a skin of bristling black hair, brilliant, restless eyes, and a devilish sneer on its face. It clutched with one hand L'Eclair's mane, and with the other hit her with a thornbush stick, for the fiend rode without saddle or halter.

Jaco recognized in an instant that his rifle was powerless against such a enemy. Remembering the old method used to kill a demon; he seized the holy water font, one of which hung at the head of every good habitant's bed. He threw it down upon the monster as he passed beneath his window. A demon-like scream filled the air, the horse snorted, reared, and plunged into the chilly waters of the lake. Jaco rushed in pursuit. When he arrived at the beach, only the circling water marked the spot where the frightened animal and its fiendish rider had disappeared. Jaco fired his rifle to wake his neighbors, who rushed to find out what was the matter. Jaco told them his adventure. His disheveled appearance, the absence of the horse, the broken fragments of the holy water font, and the thornbush stick dropped by the goblin, confirmed his tale.

Thereafter, like a sensible man, he marked all his horses with a cross, fearing the return of Le Lutin. And until the automobile came to Grosse Pointe, its habitants retained this custom. And when the habitants went to the barn in the early morning and find their favorite horse reeking with sweat and foam, with its mane all tangled as if by the claws of a beast, they would shake their heads hopelessly and say, "It is Le Lutin come again."