February 8th, 1855 – The Devil’s Footprints

Today-In-History

The Devil’s Footprints is a name given to a phenomenon that occurred on February 8th, 1855 around the Exe Estuary in East Devon and South Devon, England.

Devil's FootprintsAfter a heavy snowfall, trails of hoof-like marks appeared overnight in the snow covering a total distance of some 40 to 100 miles. The footprints were so called because some people believed that they were the tracks of Satan, as they were allegedly made by a cloven hoof. Many theories have been put forward to explain the incident, and some aspects of its veracity have also been called into question.

There is little first-hand evidence of the phenomenon. The only known documents came to light after the publication in 1950 of an article in the Transactions of the Devonshire Association asking for further information about the event. This resulted in the discovery of a collection of papers belonging to Reverend H. T. Ellacombe, the vicar of Clyst St George in the 1850s. These papers included letters addressed to the vicar from his friends, among them the Reverend G. M. Musgrove, the vicar of Withycombe Raleigh; the draft of a letter to The Illustrated London News marked ‘not for publication’; and several apparent tracings of the footprints.

There are several theories as to what made the markings that include an “experimental balloon” released by mistake from Devonport Dockyard had left the mysterious tracks by trailing two shackles on the end of its mooring ropes, hopping rodents such as wood mice, escaped kangaroos from a private menagerie, and badgers.

The Devil’s Footprints was used as the inspiration for the events depicted in the 2014 film Dark Was the Night. The film speculates on how a modern American town would react to discovering biped hoof prints through freshly fallen snow.


 

Comments are closed.

Skip to toolbar