Podcast 295 – The Woonsocket Werewolf

In the late 1800s, a priest from Woonsocket, Rhode Island, used a beast from hell to build his church. When the beast got free, the loup garou was born.

The Woonsocket Werewolf

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In Episode 295 Jeff Belanger and Ray Auger hunt the woods of the Fairmont section of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, searching for the loup-garou, the French-Canadian version of the werewolf. Found somewhere near a cave called the Devil Hole, the story about a monster roaming the woods near the Blackstone River has been passed around for generations.

Read the episode transcript.


Produced and hosted by: Jeff Belanger and Ray Auger
Edited by: Ray Auger
Theme Music by: John Judd

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The Woonsocket Werewolf by a Devil Hole near the Blackstone River.

The Woonsocket Werewolf by a Devil Hole near the Blackstone River.

*A note on the text: Please forgive punctuation, spelling, and grammar mistakes. Like us, the transcripts ain’t perfect.

RAY: What was that?!
JEFF: Uhhhhh… I’m sure it’s just a coyote, or a dog, or something like that.
RAY: What are we even doing out here at night in the middle of the woods by the Blackstone River? It’s dark. I can hardly see anything. If it wasn’t for the full moon out tonight, I don’t think I could see my hand in front of my face!
JEFF: Yeah… about the full moon. The reason we’re out here tonight under a full moon in the Fairmont section of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, is because… well… we’re bait.
RAY: Bait?! Bait for what?
JEFF: Ray, we’ve come to Woonsocket to try and find a place called the Devil’s Hole in the hopes of spotting… a werewolf!
JEFF: I’m Jeff Belanger and welcome to Episode 295 of the New England Legends podcast.
RAY: And I’m Ray Auger. Thanks for joining us on our mission to chronicle every legend in New England one story at a time. We’re always on the lookout for strange tales of monsters, true crime, ghosts, UFOs, roadside oddities, and all the other weirdness that makes New England like no other place.
JEFF: Before we go exploring this monstrous mystery, we want to take just a minute to tell you about our sponsor, Nuwati Herbals!
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RAY: So you’re saying we’re werewolf bait here in the woods of Woonsocket tonight?!
JEFF: We are. More specifically the loup-garou which is the French term for werewolf.
RAY: I guess French would make sense considering we’re in Woonsocket.
JEFF: There is a huge French population in town for sure. I think I have a distant relative here who used to own a cleaners way back when.
RAY: Here’s a little more background on Woonsocket, Rhode Island. It sits in the northern part of the state right on the border with Massachusetts. Woonsocket Falls was first established in the 1820s. The Blackstone River powered mills and the Industrial Revolution in this region. With so many mills and factories popping up, there were lots of jobs available. Many French-Canadians came down from Quebec and settled here looking for work. By 1913, Woonsocket had the sixth-largest concentration of French or French-Canadian people in the United States.
JEFF: So a few Quebecois families came down here, then a few more, and next thing you know… it’s pronounced (FRENCH ACCENT) Woonsocket.
RAY: Exactly. And it makes sense they brought their beliefs and customs with them too.
JEFF: Of course! Which brings us back to the loup-garou.
RAY: Which is the French word for werewolf.
JEFF: Right. There are werewolf tales all over Europe.
RAY: A person who transforms into a wolf and terrorizes the town.
JEFF: That’s right. But in the French-Canadian version of the legend, there are religious ties. Someone who is a loup-garou is a cursed person who brought that on themselves by not following Catholic doctrine. Like skipping confession at Easter could bring on this curse. Or any number of other offenses, really. You always need to be on your guard.
RAY: And coming out here in the middle of the night under a full moon is “being on our guard?”
JEFF: Yeah, maybe not the safest move. By the way, the full-moon thing with werewolves is not part of the original legend. There are tons of full moon legends.
RAY: Right, they say hospitals are fuller during full moons, more women giving birth, police stations are busier.
JEFF: I’ve heard that too. The idea that people go a little nuts during full moons goes way back. It’s where we get the term lunatic and lunacy.
RAY: That’s right!
JEFF: There’s an old European legend that suggests you can become a werewolf by sleeping outside under a full moon on certain days of the year. But it’s never worked for me.
RAY: I’ll have to give it a try sometime.
JEFF: There’s also an old story that wolves in the wild only howl during full moons, but that just isn’t true. They can howl anytime they want, thankyouverymuch.
RAY: So you’re saying we basically have to worry about werewolves ALL the time, not just during full moons.
JEFF: Exactly.
RAY: Great.
JEFF: So let’s head back to 1868, and search for the Woonsocket werewolf.
RAY: It’s April of 1868 here in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. Though Europeans have been living and working in the region for over two centuries now, the town officially incorporated only a year ago.
JEFF: With so many mills and factories along the Blackstone River, workdays are often as long as the sun shines. Workers start early in the morning and go until the sun sets. As you can imagine… by the end of the day, folks are dog tired.
RAY: That they are. And devoutly religious too. When Sunday comes, it’s all about church and family. The problem is, there aren’t enough churches for all of the faithful. Local Woonsocket Catholics have to travel many miles to get to the closest church.
JEFF: A local priest is practically begging his parishioners to build a new church in Woonsocket. But volunteers are few and far between. Folks don’t have a lot of free time to spare on a building project even if it is for the church. Plus, locals can’t afford to spare their own horses to aid in the construction.
RAY: So the priest begs… he prays night after night. He says novenas to the Virgin Mary. And finally, his prayers are answered when the priests wakes up one morning to find a beast of a horse as black as night with glowing red eyes standing outside of his cottage.
RAY: The Virgin Mary appears before the priest and tells him this beast of burden will help build the church. But the priest must never remove the horse’s bridal or it will be gone forever.
RAY: Sure enough the horse can pull carts of supplies and materials that would take five or six horses. And so construction of the new church moves at a quick pace.
JEFF: The priest tells the foreman to never remove the horse’s bridal or else. The foreman agrees. Though they’re grateful for the help from this powerful horse… something about his glowing red eyes makes everyone uncomfortable. Pretty soon, the priests suspects this horse is the devil himself, placed under some kind of spell by the Virgin Mary.
RAY: Work progresses on the church at a quick pace. In just a few weeks, the walls are up, timber is set in place for the roof and steeple, and the priest is grateful that the Woonsocket faithful will soon have a church to call their own.
JEFF: But one day, the foreman is too sick to work. So he tells one of the other workers to take over for the day. He also passes along the warning about never removing the horse’s bridal. The worker nods and gets back to work.
JEFF: This worker leads the horse out to Fairmont Hills in Woonsocket near the Blackstone River to pick up some more stones for the construction. It’s a hot day, and the worker sees no harm in letting the horse take a quick drink from the water… So he pulls the bridle off the horse for just a minute.
JEFF: Suddenly a fiery chasm opens up in the ground! The horse transforms into a demonic beast with bat-like wings, and roars back underground.
RAY: The worker can’t believe what he’s seeing… But now… wait… he’s twitching a little bit.
JEFF: I see that!
RAY: It’s getting worse. He’s shaking violently…. He just fell to the ground.
JEFF: Should we help him?
RAY: We better stay back. Oh my God… he’s growing…
RAY: His hands are turning into claws!
JEFF: Fur is growing everywhere on him!
JEFF: Run, Ray!
JEFF: We just met a loup garou! A werewolf!
RAY: Back at the church, the priest soon learns what happened. By the time he makes his way back to Fairmont Hills, he can see the chasm is now just a dark cave near the Blackstone River. And the loup-garou is nowhere to be found.
JEFF: This area is now cursed. People avoid the new cave whenever possible. Folks coming by on horseback claim their horse will only get so close and then refuse to go any further. Dark storm clouds will form just over this part of the woods. And pretty soon the cave gets the ominous name: The Devil Hole.
RAY: It doesn’t take long for word of the loup-garou to spread throughout the French-Canadian community here in Woonsocket. And the Devil Hole too. Pretty soon, some of the more sinful among the town come to the Devil Hole to make an unholy pact with the devil. Word is they get what they ask for, but the price is not only their soul, but that they too become the loup-garou. They transform into a half-man, half-wolf… and hunt.
RAY: And that brings us back to today.
JEFF: Woonsocket lore still has stories passed around by the old timers who swear they have a relative or a friend of a friend who was chased by the loup-garou. Certain areas of town are to be avoided…
RAY: We looked around the woods and didn’t find any significant cave that could be the Devil’s Hole. It doesn’t mean there isn’t some odd cave out there somewhere, but we couldn’t find it, and no one marked it on any maps.
JEFF: Still the story survives.
Ray: The good news is, if you suspect someone you love of being a werewolf, there is an old folklore cure. If you recognize your friend in wolf-form, you need to get close enough to draw some blood. If you can make the animal shed some of its blood you might break the spell. And then that person needs to get to confession right away.
JEFF: The loup-garou is a very Catholic version of a classic monster we thought we knew. I mean, in the movie versions of the werewolf, you become one if you get bit. Then there’s nothing you can do about it short of a silver bullet. Werewolves are victims in the movies. Good people, bad people, it doesn’t matter. Wrong place at the wrong time. But the French-Canadian loup-garou is a curse you bring on yourself by not following churchy ways.
RAY: You know… it’s been a while since you or I have been to church or confession Jeff.
JEFF: Yeah. A looooong time.
RAY: Maybe we should get out of these Woonsocket woods… just in case?
JEFF: There’s gotta be a song in there somewhere. Warren Zevon? Werewolves of Woonsocket?
RAY: And that brings us to After the Legend where we dig a little deeper on this week’s story and sometimes veer off course. After the legend is brought to you by our Patreon Patrons! For just $3 bucks per month they get early ad-free access to all of our new episodes, plus additional episodes and content that no one else gets to hear. If you can help our mission to chronicle every legend in New England, please head over toe patreon.com/newenglandlegends to sign up.

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