In this article we will be covering the case of The Devil’s Footprints from 1855, around the Exe Estuary in Devon, England. What was behind the strange hoof marks that appeared all over South and East Devon on the night of the 8th of February?
Let’s take a closer look…
On the night in question, the weather was extremely cold, and reports from the time show that temperatures remained around freezing from January until March. These extreme temperatures were stopping the fallen snow from melting, and new snow was just topping up the old already on the ground.
On the night of the 8th of February 1855, mysterious hoof marks appeared all over South and East Devon in the newly fallen snow. These reports originated from a total of 30 locations in the Devon area.
Each mark/print was estimated at being four inches long, three inches across, and between eight and sixteen inches apart. They also seemed to travel in a single file formation.
Some reports from the time claim that these hoof marks covered at least 100 miles of area, and the creature that left them had no trouble getting over whatever obstacle was in his/her path (they were found on frozen rivers and even on the roofs of some houses in the area!).
The Tracks of Satan
Before long, the local press started referring to these tracks as “devil’s footprints” or “tracks of Satan” – this was probably down to people living in the area being set on the fact that the tracks looked like they were made by cloven hoofs.
Reports also suggest that locals took these tracks pretty seriously, and for months after the event many were scared to venture out after dark had fallen. They were convinced that the devil had paid their area a visit in February!
Theories On The Devil’s Footprints
A recent study on this subject done by Mike Dash, who is a well known historian from Wales, seems to point to the fact that the prints came from a number of sources – not just one. He believes the majority of them were nothing more than one hoax, following another hoax, and so on…
He firmly believes that a large majority of the tracks were made through using donkeys and ponies, but he also admits that some of the remaining tracks have left him baffled.
A writer named Geoffrey Household believes that an experimental balloon released from the Devonport Dockyard was behind the tracks in the snow. The balloon was thought to have had two shackle-like devices hanging from it, and these dragged and dipped in the snow, leaving the footprint marks.
Another theory from July 1855 suggests that the mysterious footprints were caused by local badgers making their way through the snow, searching for food in the cold conditions.
What are your thoughts on this subject?
Was it a hoax?
Were the tracks caused by common wildlife, or even a balloon?
Was this a simple case of mass hysteria in the area?
Please leave your thoughts and opinions in the comment section below.