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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Devil's Footprints

The further in time we are from when an event occurred, the easier it is to write it off as fictional or exaggerated. I suppose this is do to some underlying assumption that people of the past, due to their lack of “knowledge” which we modern people possess, were either ignorant or gullible. However as is my usual inclination I take people’s personal accounts and experiences at face value for the most part and tend to believe that they believe what happened to them actually occurred. With this in mind I wish to take a look at an interesting event which occurred in  Devon-shire, England.

On the night of February 7th, 1885 a heavy snow fell as the residents readied themselves for another night’s sleep in this quiet town they had no idea that a strange mystery was about to unfold across their rooftops and lawns. Writing in Unexplained! (in the interest of full disclosure I only have the 2nd edition of this book, there is however a newer 3rd edition which I have linked to here), Jerome Clark relates what the Times of London reported on February 16 as having happened that night:

“It appears that on Thursday night last there was a very heavy fall of snow in the neighborhood of Exeter and the south of Devon. On the following morning, the inhabitants of the above towns were surprised at discovering the tracks of some strange and mysterious animal, endowed with the power of ubiquity, as the foot-prints were to be seen in all kinds of inaccessible places - on the tops of houses and narrow walls, in gardens and courtyards enclosed by high walls and palings, as well as in open fields. There was hardly a garden in Lympstone where the footprints were not observed”

The Times goes on to report that “The creature seems to have approached the doors of several houses and then to have retreated”. The residents, it would seem, were mostly convinced that the Devil himself had visited. Have a look at the artists rendering of the “footprints” and see for yourself.


As usual many explanations were offered in order to explain the tracks. The Times noted that a local minister, Rev Musgrave, spoke about the footprints in a sermon and alluded to them having been made by a  kangaroo. Which, in and of itself, would be a bit of an interesting tale. Our story doesn't end here however. While doing some internet searching in relation to this Fortean tale,  I came across a curious story which the Telegraph ran back in 2009. They report:

"Jill Wade was perplexed to find pointed, hoof-like marks in freshly fallen snow at her home in Woolsery, North Devon.

The marks were similar to those in the original Devil's Footprints which have been shrouded in mystery for over 150 years when it was believed Devon was visited by the devil himself.

Legend has it that on February 8, 1855, a trail of hoof-like marks following straight lines appeared in the snow for more than 100 miles across South Devon.

It was also recorded that the tracks were seen on one side of 14 foot walls, and again on the other side, had passed through locked gardens, and over houses, as if they were no barrier.

Nearly 154 years to the day Mrs Wade a retired local government officer, awoke and looked out of her bedroom window to see the eerie footprints stretching across her garden.

She says the footprints stretched 60 to 70 feet across her garden in an arch shape running from below her window to the other side of her garden."

The marks which Wade found in her backyard bore an uncanny resemblance to those which had been sighted near the same area over 100 yrs in the past. According to the Telegraph, Wade contacted the Center(Centre) for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) who sent out a Zoologist to investigate. His personal opinion was that the footprints were likely caused by a hare or a rabbit. Mystery solved? Perhaps in the case of what Wade sighted, as to the original footprints? Who knows? Could they have been actual footprints of the “Devil”, well personally I doubt it because I’m not convinced such an entity exists.

Still it makes for an interesting story and a good fun read. So long as
I don’t wake up to find the same footprints outside of my doorstep. I highly recommend, if you haven’t already, picking up a copy of Clark’s Unexplained! 3rd Edition. It has a great many stories just like the one I related and they make for fun reading. That’s all for now, check back tomorrow for more tantalizing and strange tales from the world of the Fortean! (Or something like that, the closing sentence is always so difficult for me ha ha ha).


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