Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Dartmoor: The Devil’s Footprints

In the early morning hours of February 8, 1855 a heavy snow fell across Devonshire in southwest England.

In the 19th century travel was limited and most country folk did not travel at night especially in the cold and snow.

So when the residents of Devonshire awoke on the morning of the 8th they were surprised to seen thousands of mysterious footprints in the freshly fallen snow.

These odd tracks were not only seen on the ground but trailing across housetops, leading up walls and even more strange leading up and down drainpipes.

Witnesses noted they seemed to walk right through walls and haystacks appearing on the other side. One set was tracked across a two-mile estuary.

Most disturbing of all was the appearance of these prints. They looked like clearly defined cloven feet. They also were sunk deep into the snow.

Some descriptions mentioned they appeared to be burnt into the snow with a hot iron.

Drawings by witnesses.

People started to question what could have created these prints. Many began to wonder if the Devil himself had visited Devon.

Various clergymen followed up with announcements that the Devil was roaming the countryside for sinners.

The Devil rumor spread like wild fire and people now afraid began to lock their doors at night.

In order to calm the populace, investigators dismissed the Devil theory and tried to come up with a more credible explanation.

There were so many witnesses to this strange phenomenon that no one ever disputed it actually happened. 

But since it was disturbing investigators immediately put forth several theories.

One common theory was that a bird or animal made these tracks. The problem with this was no prints like these had been seen before or since this incident in 1855.

People noted no animal could have kept to a straight line for the long distances made by these tracks.

Another theory put forth was that wind or atmospheric conditions left these prints. But this fails to explain the precise directions these tracks made or the fact that each print had a clearly defined shape.

If the weather was the cause, then people questioned why these prints were only seen in Devon.

Others stated that these prints must have been a hoax.

But no humans in 1855 could have managed to cover an almost hundred mile area in one night. Let alone do it in total darkness and in the freezing cold.

In an attempt to knock down the Devil theory one group even speculated a Kangaroo that escaped from a private zoo near Sidmouth caused the prints. But a Kangaroo's tracks look nothing like what was left in the snow.

It has been over 159 years since these prints were seen and they still remain one of the strangest unsolved mysteries in the world.

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