THE DEVIL'S FOOTPRINTS
The First Report
After a dense snowfall on February 7 and 8, 1855, the people of Devonshire, England awoke to find strange footprints throughout their small town. The London Times, on February 16, reported the entire incident in detail.
"Considerable sensation has been evoked in the towns of Topshm, Lympstone, Exmouth, Teignmouth and Dawlish, in the south of Devon, in consequence of the discovery of a vast number of foot-tracks of a most strange and mysterious description. The superstitious go so far as to believe that they are the marks of Satan himself; and that great excitement has been produced among all classes may be judged from the fact that the subject has been descanted on from the pulpit.
It appears that on Thursday night last there was a very heavy fall of snow in the neighborhood of Exeter and he 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 track appeared more like that of a biped than a quadruped, and the steps were generally eight inches in advance of each other. The impressions of the feet closely resembled that of a donkey's shoe, and measured from an inch and a half to (in some instances) two and a half inches across. Here and there it appeared as if cloven, but in the generality of the steps the shoe was continuous, and, from the snow in the center remaining entire, merely showing the outer crest of the foot, it must have been convex.
The creature seems to have approached the doors of several houses and then to have retreated, but no one has been able to discover the standing or resting point of this mysterious visitor. On Sunday last the Rev. Mr. Musgrave alluded to the subject in his sermon, and suggested the possibility of the footprints being those of a kangaroo; but this could scarcely have been the case, as they were found on both sides of the estuary of the Exe.
At present it remains a mystery, and many superstitious people in the above towns are actually afraid to go outside their doors at night."
Other Reports of Walking Devils
There has been one other recorded sighting of similar tracks, reported by Captain Sir James Clark Ross. The commander of two ships was exploring the South Pole landed on Kerguelen Island around May 1840. The Captain told of finding no animals and simply tracks of a "pong or ass, found by the party detached for surveying purposes..." The men thought the creature may have escaped from a shipwrecked vessel. The men eventually gave up looking for the creature as it passed over a large area of rocks and the tracks were lost. As Rupert Gould asks, "One wonders, if they had 'got a sight of it,' what they would have seen."
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