This story happened on February 8, 1855,
in the county of Devon in England. On that day the inhabitants of a number of
villages in the county discovered strange tracks in the snow that they couldn't
explain. That was the beginning of one of the strangest mysteries ever to take
place in Great Britain, a country known for its apparitions, extraordinary
phenomena, phantoms and ghosts... all of which seem to have a predilection for
On the morning of February 8, 1855, people living in the
villages of Devon were surprised to find tracks in the snow that resembled the
tracks left by a pair of hooves. They were discovered in 18 villages, and were
spread over an area 180 kilometers long.
The hypothesis that they were made
by an animal that had escaped captivity was rapidly excluded, since all the
cattle were kept in barns in winter, and no farmer had reported the loss of a
farm animal. A group of armed men had visited all the farms in the region, and
were told the same thing: no animal had escaped.
It was not an animal …
The mystery grew when
the facts were examined. No animal with cloven hooves could have left tracks
that covered a distance of 180 kilometers in a single night! What's more, the
prints were in a straight line, as if the creature had moved by jumping forward
on only two legs, with one print appearing in front of the other. The prints
were repeated at regular intervals, and would have been impossible for an animal
to make. Also, the snow around the prints was melted, as if it had come into
contact with a heat source.
The creature seemed to have moved at a constant
speed no matter what the terrain. It had gone in a straight line, paying no
attention to any obstacles it encountered. The prints were found on flat land,
in corn fields, across walls, and on the rooftops of houses, barns and stables.
They even crossed a small river, as if whatever made them had been looking for
No one could come up with a satisfactory
explanation. It hadn't been an animal, that was certain. Nor could it have been
a man, given the distance between the prints, the strange course the creature
had followed (over walls, across a river) and the distance it had covered in a
Since the prints resembled those of cloven hooves, people
started thinking it might have been some kind of demon, or the Devil himself.
Stranger still was the fact that, despite the great distances the creature had
traveled through inhabited areas, no one had seen or heard anything. If it had
been a man or an animal walking over rooftops and walls, someone would have
surely heard something.
An unidentified flying
In 1855 no machines, flying or otherwise, existed that
could have covered such a distance in such a short time, much less at night and
without making any noise. The hot-air, motorized dirigible had just been
invented in 1852. Its engine made a huge amount of noise, and its freedom of
movement in the air was extremely limited. No one would have flown one way out
in the countryside, in complete darkness. Despite the many attempts that were
made to explain the origin of the hoof prints in the months that followed, no
one was able to resolve the issue, and the Devil's Footprints have remained a
mystery to the present day.