Little Bits of History

The Devil’s Footprints

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 8, 2011

Image of the prints from the British news - 1855

February 8, 1855: The Devil’s Footprints appear. During the night of February 8-9 after a light snowfall, a series of hoof-like prints appeared in Devon, England. Each print measured between 1.5 and 2.5 inches across and were spaced about eight inches apart. The prints traversed an irregular line covering about 100 miles. Most of the line was straight but at intervals would erratically change course. The course was not altered by landscape and the prints crossed houses, rivers, haystacks, and other obstacles. The prints were said to lead up to and exit from drainpipes measuring as little as four inches in diameter.

The prints began at Exmouth, went to Topsham, crossed the river Exe, led to Dawlish and ended at Teignmouth. Decades after the occurrence, an article by R. H. Busk was published claiming similar tracks were found as far south as Totnes or Torquay. There were also reports, said Busk, of prints as far away as Weymouth, Dorset and even into Lincolnshire. In each of the separate cases, prints would range for miles. At the time of the appearance, locals reported seeing a “devil-like figure” in the area. Many citizens armed themselves and tried to find the beast/being responsible for the tracks found in the snow.

What caused the tracks? Today, many people believe there were not tracks traveling a hundred miles through the snow. They point out no one person could have travels the track in one day to follow them as the distance was too far for modes of transportation at the time. So it was a variety of people reporting the mysterious tracks, and many of their descriptions vary in numerous ways. Geoffrey Household thinks it might have been an experimental balloon accidentally released and with a weight hanging over the side dragging in the snow. It is unknown how this balloon could have traveled without the dangling rope catching in a tree or other obstruction. Other theories include hopping mice and even a kangaroo. There is also the possibility of mass hysteria.

Similar incidents have occurred both before (1840) and after (2009) but without the scope of the 1855 incident. Both of these events were noted in Great Britain. There are also reports from far away Poland. Phenomenon such as this may be responsible for the Chinese myth of Kui and legends of Sciapods, one-legged creatures. Many of these events seem to follow fierce electrical storms.

“Among the high mountains of that elevated district where Glenorchy, Glenlyon and Glenochay are contiguous, there have been met with several times, during this and also the former winter, upon the snow, the tracks of an animal seemingly unknown at present in Scotland.”

“The print, in every respect, is an exact resemblance to that of a foal of considerable size, with this small difference, perhaps, that the sole seems a little longer, or not so round; but as no one has had the good fortune as yet to have obtained a glimpse of this creature, nothing more can be said of its shape or dimensions; only it has been remarked, from the depth to which the feet sank in the snow, that it must be a beast of considerable size.”

“It has been observed also that its walk is not like that of the generality of quadrupeds, but that it is more like the bounding or leaping of a horse when scared or pursued. It is not in one locality that its tracks have been met with, but through a range of at least twelve miles.” – The Times, March 14, 1840 reporting a sighting

“A brave man is a man who dares to look the Devil in the face and tell him he is a Devil.” – James A. Garfield

Also on this day:
Orangeburg, South Carolina – In 1968, the Orangeburg massacre took place.
Military news – In 1918, the Stars & Stripes began to publish once again.



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