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The Devils Footprints

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This one has always amused me.

In 1855 after a night of heavy snow fall in Devon, UK, residents awoke to find a series of footprints in the fresh snow that supposedly went on for between 40 to 100 miles. The imprints were hoof shaped, fell in a straight line suggesting a biped rather than a four legged creature and supposedly passed over roof tops, through walls and across fields. There was even a suggestion that they stopped at one side of a river and reappeared on the other side as if whatever had made the imprints had walked across the water.

Some stopped abruptly and continued after a large break, others stopped at walls as high as 14 feet, only to continue on the other side, leaving untouched snow on the top of the wall. Some were even said to have travelled through narrow apertures such as drainpipes.

Many of the townspeople armed themselves and attempted to hunt down whatever caused these marks.

Local clergymen were quick to suggest that the devil had visited Devon and made the marks, roaming the countryside looking for sinners. Others dismissed such suggestions as superstition. There was even a suggestion that the marks might have been caused by a hot air balloon that may have passed overhead trailing something off a rope - A hot air balloon that nobody saw.

Possible causes from an escaped kangaroo, to badgers, rabbits, swans, racoons and Otters were tendered but to this day no real answer has been found. A hoax? The massive distance covered suggested that it wasn't a human effort. Attached is a drawing from the Illustrated London Times from 1855 showing a classic hoofed row of imprints.

So what visited Devon and its surrounding villages that night in February 1855?

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You're in luck - there's a Skeptoid for that!

http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4031

So who did walk in Devon that night? In the presence of so many possible and reasonable culprits, and in the extreme unlikelihood that this was indeed one single set of prints, I find little reason to turn to supernatural explanations. Commonplace events are frequently blown out of proportion, and everyday objects are just as frequently regarded as supernatural oddities. In my opinion, which I think is well supported with other examples in recent history, the devil's walk through Devon was the 1855 version of the Virgin Mary appearing in the bark of a tree or in bathtub stains. People see what they want to see and they think what they want to think, even when they're looking no farther than their own grilled-cheese sandwich skillet.

You can read the transcript or listen to the podcast at the above link.

Skeptoid - winner of the 2012 Stitcher Award for Best Science Podcast

Enjoy

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Certainly stirs the imagination. Bloody Badgers with an attitude, cause a whole heap of trouble..

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Just 11 years later, abour 280 miles away in Liverpool, there were more mysterious footprints:

On January 12th, 1866, a great snow storm hit the town of Liverpool. The blizzard was very fierce, and gale-force winds blew down telegraph lines, so all communication with London and the rest of the country was suspended for over a week. As temperatures plunged below zero, the River Mersey froze over, and Liverpool gradually came to a standstill, as people hurried indoors to escape the big freeze. Liverpool soon resembled a ghost town; not a soul roamed the snow-covered streets.

At 6 a.m. on the following morning, a policeman in the south-end of the city came upon a curious sight. In the fresh virgin snow of Great George Street, he noticed a trail of what seemed to be animal tracks. On closer inspection, the tracks looked like hoof prints, yet they seemed very peculiar, because the animal must have put one hoof exactly in front of the other as it walked in a precise straight line. The policeman measured the space between each horseshoe-shaped print and saw that it was eight inches. He knew of no animal that could walk in such a straight manner, and he followed the trail - and saw that the tracks could not have been made by any four-legged animal he knew of. Nothing impeded the progress of the unidentified animal; the tracks went right up Great George Street, and were found on each side of a factory wall. Weirder still, at one point, the tracks went across the roof of a snow-covered house in Oldham Street, where a postman had also noticed the strange prints. The trail of hoof marks extended up St Anne Street and Scotland Road where the tracks suddenly came to a dead end - as if the strange creature had taken off like a bird at that point.

News of the eerie trail spread across Liverpool, and the local population, which consisted of many superstitious Irish people, thought there was something unearthly about the prints in the snow. People were soon referring to the tracks as the Devil's footprints, because many believed that Satan had strolled through the deserted streets of Liverpool. Who else had hoofed feet? And who else could walk over walls and rooftops? Others thought the culprit was Spring-Heeled Jack, a legendary figure seen throughout the country at the time who could make tremendous leaps into the air. Other people blamed otters, rats, a three-legged horse, and someone suggested that perhaps the trail had been made by a rope dangling from a balloon, but none of the theories fitted the facts. The mystery deepened when several people, including a postmaster general, in Richmond Row, Everton, claimed that they had heard strange pipe music around 4 a.m. on the morning that the tracks were made. This made people think; the Devil was always depicted as playing pipes like the Greek god of mischief, Pan.

After the thaw, the footprints incident soon faded from the public's memory, but not many people in Liverpool knew that similar footprints had been seen eleven years before in Devon, again after a snowstorm. Also, in the reign of King Richard I, (1189-1199) at York, a monk wrote about hoof-like tracks which appeared on the ground after a fierce lightning storm.

So, what made the tracks on that winter's morning in Liverpool? Was it just some wild animal like a badger that had ventured into a seemingly deserted town? Or did the Devil really once walk through Liverpool?

http://thomasslemen..../devilwalk.html

Edited by TheLastLazyGun

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Keep in mind that newspapers of the 19th century and early 20th century often fabricated entire stories to get readers.

And newspapers often vied with each other by elaborating on a hoax that one paper started.

Mark Twain was a Nevada newspaperman and later admitted to writing "whoppers" to increase readership.

Just because it's reported in an old paper doesn't make it true, even if other papers of the same era also reported it.

If you think today's journalism is sensational, and lacks veracity, it's nothing compared to those of the 19th century and first two decades of the 20th century.

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It seems unlikely that any one person would have been able to follow the "foot prints" for a hundred miles. It would have been quite a journey at that time and taken an amount of time that would negate the idea of tracking it through fresh snow.

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It was caused by an underwater-swimming-inverted-owl-hyrax-glowbird-dogman.

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Keep in mind that newspapers of the 19th century and early 20th century often fabricated entire stories to get readers.

And newspapers often vied with each other by elaborating on a hoax that one paper started.

Mark Twain was a Nevada newspaperman and later admitted to writing "whoppers" to increase readership.

Just because it's reported in an old paper doesn't make it true, even if other papers of the same era also reported it.

If you think today's journalism is sensational, and lacks veracity, it's nothing compared to those of the 19th century and first two decades of the 20th century.

Err, when did that practice stop?

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This one has always amused me.

In 1855 after a night of heavy snow fall in Devon, UK, residents awoke to find a series of footprints in the fresh snow that supposedly went on for between 40 to 100 miles. The imprints were hoof shaped, fell in a straight line suggesting a biped rather than a four legged creature and supposedly passed over roof tops, through walls and across fields. There was even a suggestion that they stopped at one side of a river and reappeared on the other side as if whatever had made the imprints had walked across the water.

Who in the hell would follow these print 40 to 100 miles after a night of heavy snowfall? Sounds fabricated to me.

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Who in the hell would follow these print 40 to 100 miles after a night of heavy snowfall? Sounds fabricated to me.

There would have been probably hundreds, if not thousands, of people along the trail who saw the footprints.

Edited by TheLastLazyGun

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Satan must have been bored that night and very likely inebriated seeing as I cannot recall that it had any lasting impression upon the populace. I guess when you are stuck in hell you'll do anything to get a bit of fresh air. JMO.

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It was caused by an underwater-swimming-inverted-owl-hyrax-glowbird-dogman.

.....wearing a top hat!

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This is a very interesting case to research. After writing a chapter about it I came to the conclusion that, like many other cases from years ago, it was a combination of factors that all came together uncommonly well and that's kinda what made the story stick.

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I personally believe this to be a fabricated hoax due to reasons listed above. And honestly, who would spend their time in the cold snow making fake footprints for 100 miles just for laughs? Seems like too much time and effort for little to gain.

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And honestly, who would spend their time in the cold snow making fake footprints for 100 miles just for laughs?

That's why it's probably not a hoax.

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lol i love that they so quickly jumped to the conclusion that whatever it was walked on water. OR MAYBE it waded through the river instead? :o

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It was probably just a Pegasus. ;)

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lol i love that they so quickly jumped to the conclusion that whatever it was walked on water. OR MAYBE it waded through the river instead? :o

I think that a lot of conclusions were jumped to! :)

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This sighting, I think, explains what it could have been...

12-03-2009+devils+footprints+woolsery+%2528NDJ%2529261.jpg

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