and a half has passed and the inexplicable events of 8th February
1855 are still without answer: was Devon really visited by the Prince
Residents either side of the River Exe woke up to an almost unblemished
snowfall, unblemished that is but for a collection of what were
described as cloven footprints.
was no horse or deer though, the footprints appeared to go through
haystacks and walls, across the River and even, most unexplainable
of all, across roofs and seemingly travelling up drainpipes, stopping
at the base and starting again at the gutter.
the Times the footprints were described as "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."
the Dark One visit?
the description of the prints it was probably inevitable that many
of the locals became positive the footprints were Satan's own tracks
as he stalked around the area looking for sinners and many became
terrified to leave their homes, a worry compounded by the tracks
actually going up to people's doorways before backtracking.
fact the heavy snow was almost totally cleared through to the ground
in the prints, giving the impression they were almost branded, gave
the more religious of the locals even more cause to imagine it was
Infernal One's red hot hooves causing the prints.
answers have been put forward for the phenomenon, one of the most
agreed upon is that Devonport Dockyard had released an experimental
balloon by mistake and it had travelled across the area trailing
its mooring shackles.
would explain the shape of the prints but people who disagree with
this argue whether the balloon would have travelled such a random
course and also suggested that it would have been a near miracle
for the hanging chains not to have become fouled up in a tree or
of the other explanations given revolve around animals. The most
bizarre being that a kangaroo had escaped from the private zoo near
Sidmouth owned by a Mr Fische.
biologists and naturalists have belittled this however and one,
Sir Richard Owen, suggested they were badger tracks as a badger
places its back feet in the same tracks left by its front, therefore
explaining the fact the tracks were bipedal.
biggest problem with many of these explanations is that the prints
had not been photographed and were roundly ascribed to an animal
without the naturalist having seen them, simply working from a description.
One un-named animal expert told the newspapers that no beast or
bird could have made such prints in that straight a line for such
scientific explanation has also been put forward that the way the
rain fell and frozen may have created the effect, unfortunatly though
this effect has never been recreated.
mystery will probably never be properly solved unless the phenomenon
that created it happens again and can be recorded, although maybe
if it was the footprints of the Devil we may not want that to happen...