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The Devonshire Devil Incident

Beren Erchamion

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Whether or not you are an ally of the search for the paranormal, the few appearances of the so-called Devil's footprints are no doubt an interesting topic. It's no doubt something out of the ordinary occured during these events and, despite their low rate of occurrence, there lies behind them substantial solid evidence. It still ranks among the world's great mysteries.

The most famous case of this phenomenon took place on the night of February 7-8, 1855 in Devonshire, England. Although documentation on this event is not entirely satisfactory, an account is copied below from The Times of London on February 16.

Considerable sensation has been evoked in the towns of Topsham, Lympstone, Exmouth, Teignmouth, and Dawlish, in the south of Devon, in consequence of the discovery of a vast number of foottracks of a most strange and mysterious description. The superstitious go so far as to believe 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 heavy fall of snow in the neighborhood of Exeter and the 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 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 foot-prints 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 after night.

This version, however, does not offer the detail sent to the editor of the Illustrated London News from the locals. The horseshoe shaped prints, spaced eight and a half inches apart, followed a 100 mile zigzag course. Witnesses also believed them to be made by a bipedal animal given the fact they were in line with one another. In one case they stopped at a twelve foot wall and continued on the other side disturbing neither the snow on top of the wall nor a nearby gate that was locked and secured. A similar sight was found at the Exe Rive, which at the time was over two miles wide, where the tracks ended ad one bank and continued on the other side. It is not documented whether or not the river was frozen at the time. The creator of the prints ignored many other obstacles as well like drain pipes, sheds, wagons

The tracks were explained away as that of a badger, deer, donkey with a broken shoe, kangaroo, mouse, otter, rabbit, rat, swan, foxes, cranes, cats, squirrels, and a toad. A simple study of the accounts rule out these candidates. Some believed it to be those of the Devil, thus the name, due to the disappearing morals of the townspeople. A unique description came from Geoffrey Household who stated the prints were caused by an accidentally released balloon trailing two shackles on the end of ropes. He goes on to say the matter was hushed up because the balloon destroyed a number of greenhouses and windows. This explanation, like the rest, does not hold up to the facts.

A somewhat less extraordinary account comes from small Kerguelen Island in the South of the Indian Ocean. The sighting was reported by Sir James Clark Ross while commanding two ships exploring southern polar regions. In his book, Voyage of Discovery and Research in the Southern and Antarctic Regions, he states:

Of land animals we saw none; and the only traces we could discover of there being any on this island were the singular foot-steps of a pony…, found by the party detached for surveying purposes, under the command of Lieutenant Bird, and described by Dr. Robertson as "being 3 inches in length and 2 ½ in breadth, having a small and deeper depression on each side, and shaped like a horseshoe."

It is by no means improbable that the animal has been cast on shore from some wrecked vessel. They traced its footsteps for some distance in the recently fallen snow, in hopes of getting a sight of it, but lost the tracks on reaching a large space of rocky ground which was free from snow.

There is also a strange ring 40ft in diameter and 1 foot wide in Chatham Co., NC, ten miles east of Siler City that is believed by locals to be the "Devil's Tramping ground." The center of the circle and the ground outside the path are lush with grass and other plant life, but nothing grows in the track itself. When rocks or similar heavy objects are placed in the pathway, they are found the next morning to have been brushed aside. In fall and winter, when rabbit hunters roam the surrounding countryside, their dogs tuck their tail between their legs and slink away when the chase nears the path. They will not go near the spot. Although a rather obscure account, people have known about the place since before 1800.

One final twist in the story of the Devil's footprints is a rather detached scenario and only gains mention here because of an assumption made by Frank Edwards in Stranger than Science. In November 1954, a bizarre looking animal was found in the shallows of a beach on Canvey Island, Great Britain. Witnesses dragged the carcass onto the sand, covered it with seaweed, and proceeded to notify the local authorities, who contacted the federal authorities who responded by sending two zoologists to the site. They examined and photographed the corpse, then admitted they had never seen anything like it. It appeared to be a marine animal, but with feet and legs that, if standing upright, would have made it about two and a half feet tall. The creature had a thick, brownish-red skin and a "pulpy" head with two protruding eyes. The feet had five toes arranged in a 'U' shape, with a concave arch, linking it to the previous accounts. Unfortunately, the body was cremated by the zoologists, who then left without making a public statement concerning the incident. The story continued on August 11 of the same year, when the Reverend Joseph Overs ran across a second body. This one was also was floating in a shallow tide pool not far from the first discovery. He also contacted the local authorities with the same results. This body was not only taller than the last (about four feet) but was in better condition, as well. The zoologists stated that the body weighed about twenty-five pounds, had two large eyes, nostrils as well as gills, and strong, sharp teeth. The skin was pink and tough, like the hide of a healthy pig. As before, it had two legs and feet, along with the toes arranged in the tell-tale 'U' shape with a concave center.

I would like to take this opportunity to give credit where due, this was copied off of http://members.tripod.com/burns_mike/a/devilsfootprints There are other versions of this bizzare incident on there

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Ah yes, I have more information similar to "The Devil's Tramping Ground." It is another story from North Carolina. This one is from Warren County as opposed to Chatham County where The Tramping Ground is.

"The Devil's Rock measures about thirty feet long and fifteen feet wide. It is an enourmous flat area of solid stone that projcts far enough above the ground so as to remain free of soil. At one time, this unusual outcrop, the exposed portion of an extensive underground vein, was much larger. Significant portions of it were blasted away in the twentieth century for road construction. But neither man nor nature has been able to eradicate or alter the strange imprints in the rock. Almost at the center of the Devil's Rock is a footprint twelve inches long and one inch deep. Imprinted in the stone several feet away are numerous tiny tracks, some of which overlap eachother. They give the appearance that little children once danced upon the rock. Nearby is another curious indentaion. The circular sunken area is the size of a snare drum; when tapped with a rock or stick, it makes a hollow sound.

"No one knows exactly how long the mysterious impressions have been there. But early Warren County residents noticed them and speculated about thier origins. For as long as anyone can remember, folks in those parts have believed that the largest imprintation to be the right footprint of the Devil who is said to walk here at night. On his visits he beats his rock drumhead as his children danced in mirth and mischief. Those who intruded on these nightly rituals on those nights were severly punished; there are stained portions of the rock that appear to have had liquid spilled or splattered on them. Could this be the blood of visitors who unwittingly came to the rock when the Prince of Darkness was in residence?

"As early as the antebellum period, area residentes observed a strange phenomenon about the rock; children at play while the sun was bright enjoyed filling the stone footprints with pebbles. Invaraibly, when they retunred the next day, the pebbles were gone and the print was empty.

"You may be wondering what happened to the left footprint of the devil. A traviler who came to the county in the middle of the twentith ccentury informed the locals that he had once seen an identical left footprint in a stone in South Carolina. "

This account is taken from Piedmont Phantoms by Daniel W. Barefoot.

There is another account from North Carolina about the Devil called "The Devil's Christmas Tree."

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There's no town of Devonshire, England. It's a county, and it's called Devon. It's kinda like me saying an American comes from the town of Texashire in the country of America.

There's a really in depth discussion of this somewhere, I'll try and fish it out.

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There's no town of Devonshire, England. It's a county, and it's called Devon. It's kinda like me saying an American comes from the town of Texashire in the country of America.

There's a really in depth discussion of this somewhere, I'll try and fish it out.

'John Cleese' wrote a letter to America regarding this and other issues:


There were some responses from America:



I like the Devil's footprint stories, especially the Devonshireville one. It would be a disturbing moment to realise some creature had been breathing just the other side of your door the night before.

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I have a book that talks all about this, it was sure was odd wasn't it. I don't know what to think of them, :P

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