The Devil’s Footprints

by Doug MacGowan, April 2011 – Updated April 2021

The Devil’s Footprints
The Devil's Footprints. English papers prints in 1855

It had snowed all night.

On the morning of February 8, 1855, residents of Devonshire, England, woke to find an abnormality in the yards and fields around their homesteads. There, in the snow, was a single line of footprints in the shape of a small horseshoe. The prints were odd in many ways. Whatever had made them walked with one foot directly in front of the other rather than on alternating sides like a biped. The most alarming abnormality, however, was the course the prints took when encountering various obstacles such as houses or haystacks or walls. Whatever made the footprints seemed to go up the sides of buildings and walls and continue in a straight line on the other side. It did this without disturbing the surrounding snow, indicating that it jumped 20 feet in the air and landed neatly on or over the object without missing a beat. Sometimes it appeared to have gone across rivers and through a pipe only 4 inches in diameter.

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The footprints covered an area, depending on the source material, of 60 to 100 miles. “The People’s Almanac” states that in order for the maker of the prints to cover that much area in a single night it would have had to travel at a speed of 9 strides per second!

The story spread outside of sleepy Devonshire and major London newspapers took up the story and suggestions for the originator of the footprints flooded the letter columns of the newspapers. Possible suspects included birds and badgers and rabbits. None of these could have covered that much territory, however, and prints from those animals are quite different from those that were spread across Devonshire. One theory claimed that escaped kangaroos from a nearby private zoo had caused the phenomenon. But the footprints didn’t look like anything that had been seen before. Some ministers warned their congregations that the footprints were made by the devil himself. Alternately, some scientists wrote the whole thing off as some kind of mass hysteria.

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Regardless of the many theories, no concrete explanation has ever been presented that completely explains the puzzling Devil’s Footprints in the snow.

The Devil’s Footprints (Mysterious Britain & Ireland) – pulled 4-29-11
The People’s Almanac Presents The 20th Century: History With The Boring Parts Left Out

Doug MacGowan

Doug MacGowan

Doug MacGowan lives on the San Francisco peninsula with his wife, a dog, and far too many cats. He has published five books on the topic of historic true crime. In his free time he enjoys reading.