Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Devil’s Footprints

The English winter of 1854-55 was severe and one of the coldest in living memory. The county of Devon was under 5cm of snow, which fell overnight on 9th February 1855. The River Exe froze over trapping birds where they stood on the ice. As the dawn came, the countryside was carpeted in thick snow interrupted only by a trail of mysterious footprints, which ran for 150 km. They appeared as donkey hooves which zigzagged through five parishes across gardens, over rooftops, haystacks, walls and in and out of barns. Someone or something, walking upright on two legs made the hoof prints. Reports of the unusual event brought many theories but the most prevailing was these were the footprints of the devil. When dogs were brought in to follow the prints they were reported to have retreated howling dismally. Many theories were put forward to explain the prints including an escaped kangaroo. One of the more plausible explanations was `the prints belonged to a badger. Badgers place their hind feet into the marks made by their forefeet. Although the species hibernate, sometimes they come out in midwinter in search of food. Closer examination revealed the prints had not all been made overnight and there was evidence practical jokers may have been responsible for some. Despite the plausible explanations however many local people held the belief the Devil walked that night and take care to this day to avoid going out at night after sunset.

There is an old legend about Cley Hill, Warminster in Wiltshire, England. Displeased with the people of Devizes the Devil was making his way to Somerset carrying a huge bag of earth on his back. His intention was to cover the town with mud. He met a fellow traveler on the road and asked him how far it was to Devices. A cobbler to trade the man recognized the devil and to confuse him, said ,
"that's just what I want to know myself . I started for Devizes when my beard was black and now it is grey and I haven't got there yet".

The devil replied. "If that is how it is, I won't carry this thing no further, so here goes," and throw the earth away forming the hill now known as Cley Hill.

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