Today In History
On this day in 1855, a series of hoof-like marks — now called “The Devil’s Footprints” — appeared in the snow in South Devon. These footprints, most of which measured around four inches long, three inches across, between eight and sixteen inches apart and mostly in a single file, were reported from over thirty locations across Devon and a couple in Dorset. It was estimated that the total distance of the tracks amounted to between 40 and 100 miles. Houses, rivers, haystacks and other obstacles were traveled straight over, and footprints appeared on the tops of snow-covered roofs and high walls which lay in the footprints’ path, as well as leading up to and exiting various drain pipes as small as four inches in diameter.
From a contemporaneous news report:
“It appears on Thursday night last, there was a very heavy snowfall in the neighbourhood of Exeter and the South of Devon. On the following morning the inhabitants of the above towns were surprised at discovering the footmarks of some strange and mysterious animal endowed with the power of ubiquity, as the footprints were to be seen in all kinds of unaccountable places – on the tops of houses and narrow walls, in gardens and court-yards, enclosed by high walls and pailings, as well in open fields.”
Numerous theories have been developed to their genesis: a balloon dragging a chain, hopping mice, an escaped kangaroo, badgers and mass hysteria.
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