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8 February 2012

On this day in history: Appearance of the Devil`s Footrpints, 1855

On the night of 8th/9th February 1855, a series of mysterious footprints appeared in freshly fallen snow. The Times of February 16th reported the 'Extraordinary Occurrence' in the following article:

Considerable sensation has been caused in the towns of Topham, Lympstone, Exmouth, Teignmouth, and Dawlish, in the south of Devon, in the 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 of 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 neighbourhood of Exeter and the south of Devon. On the following morning the inhabitants of the above towns were surprised at discovering the foot-marks 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 courtyards, enclosed by high walls and palings, as well as in open fields. There was hardly a garden in Lympstone where these footprints were not observable. 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 impression of the foot 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 appears as if cloven, but in the generality of the steps the shoe was continuous, and from the snow in the centre 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 the 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 of their doors after night.
The Times (16th February 1855), p. 8.