Wednesday, 13 January 2010

The Day The Devil Left His Mark In The Snow

In early February 1855, especially on night of the 8th, there was some light snowfall in Devon and other parts of the country. Not unlike, I suspect, the situation we find ourselves with right now.

So not all that interesting, except when people woke up in the morning back then they didn't have train websites to check or BBC News 24 hours coverage to watch and instead went outside and took a look around at the winter wonderland. That's when they found something a little... disturbing.

Early risers in Devon, and across the south of the country, discovered sets of prints set out in straight line. Not only that but moving in ways no normal creature would seem to be able. Walls didn't seem to stop them, neither did downpipes nor it would seem did the River Exe. Sometimes the prints would stop and then, after some distance, resume. They were vaguely horseshoe shaped but did not appear to be made by a four hoofed animal.

Of course the local fundies announced immediately that the devil was wandering the villages searching for sinners, whilst others blamed some recently escaped kangaroos near Sidmouth. My favourite explanation is that an experimental balloon of some sort had been set free and trailed rope from the side. As it bounced up and down in the air on it's way the rope would touch down and leave the horseshoe shape (which does appear from sketches to have changed slightly each time). Of course that would lead to an even greater mystery: how would these ropes avoid becoming tangled in trees??

The mystery was never solved.... but reared it's head again last year Woolsery. Alas it would seem our favourite mystery investigators, the Centre for Fortean Zoology, think it was probably a deer.

Further Reading

The Book of the Damned - Charles Fort (US Amazon, UK Amazon)

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

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