Have you heard the tale of the mysterious footprints that appeared on 8th February 1855? It’s one of Devon’s well know mysteries and even inspired a film called ‘Dark Was The Night (2014).
After a snowy night in Devon, residents woke to find a trail of footprints left in the snow. Nothing strange there you might think, but the trail stretched over 100 miles through the countryside. Reports say the prints were 3″ wide and 8″ apart and covered walls, haystacks, drainpipes, roofs and even the frozen river.
The prints were soon named the ‘devils footprints’ due to their shape resembling a cloven hoof. Over 30 different locations across Devon reported the phenomenon and rumours quickly circulated the Devil had walked over Devon.
The only known surviving documentation of the events of that night are those collected by H.T. Ellacombe, a vicar of the parish of Clyst St. George (1850 – 1885). Ellacombe noted on the night his dog had been disturbed and barked during the night and stated “there is no doubt as to the facts – that thousands of these marks were seen on the snow on the morning of the 9th ult. extending over many miles on either side of the Estuaries of the Exe & the Clyst – even to the suburbs of the City. All agree in form – varying some little in size – but the general appearance was the same – that of a Donkey’s Shoe – such is the answer given me by my parishioners & other neighbours”.
The Times 16th February 1855 reported:
‘EXTRAORDINARY OCCURRENCE. –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 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 from the fact that the subject has been descanted on from the pulpit.
There are many theories as to what, or who, created the prints that night. From badgers to kangaroos, monkeys to wolves with other popular theories including otters or rats. One thing is for sure, the mystery remains to this day.
Where they the footprints of the devil? Let’s hope they don’t appear again so we don’t have to find out for sure!
LCC Founder & Creative Director
Hello and welcome to the LCC. I'm a rural-loving mum (of the horse, human and dog variety!) living in Cheshire in the North West of England. For as long as I can remember I have always had a fascination with the great outdoors. Eager to understand the 'how' and the 'why' of the world around us. I created this platform where we can connect and share our love of the the countryside and rural life.