Wednesday, February 8, 2012

On this Day - Devon's Devil Footprints

The hillsides of Devon, England are the playground of the Devil, or so some people believe. February 8 , 1855, citizen’s awoke to find single tracks of cloven hooves decorating the hillsides newly fallen snow. Panic arose in the town quickly when the tracks couldn’t be identified. They weren’t simply spanning across fields, hoof prints were found on houses, roofs, haystacks and other odd places where it would be almost impossible for a hoofed animal to walk on.

The tracks spanned almost 100 miles and were reported as being 4 inches long, 3 inches across and 8 to 16 inches. Rumors of sightings of a devil-like figure roaming around the area fueled the panic that among Devon’s inhabitants. People found comfort in arming themselves, and groups hunted the creature with no success.

Inquests into the actual origin of the hoof marks followed with several plausible theories. Author Geoffrey Household suggested the marks were made by shackles dragging from an experimental balloon. Another suggested mass hysteria caused by multiple animal tracks ignited the belief that the Devil made the footprints. Yet another thought that a couple of kangaroos that escaped from a private owner most likely caused the tracks.

The events were widely publicized in the newspapers. In the Illustrated London News of March 17, 1855, a correspondent wrote that this same phenomenon is seen in the snow every year in Piaskowa-góra. The cause, the newspaper stated, were the tracks of the inhabitants of “supernatural influences.”

There are countless stories circulating, just like this, of an unexplainable event occurring but never repeated. This story, however, is not an isolated incident. March 12, 2009, one hundred fifty four years from the first appearance of the hoof marks, the same type of marks appeared again in Devon. Again, the press covered the story and theories emerged again from deer to a hare making the imprints in the snow.

The mystery of Satan’s hoof prints in the snow continues to this day.

Kerri L. Schultz

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