On February 9, 1855, many residents of Devon, England had a really bad day. It started like any other day, except for the strange set of tracks many people reported finding. Their curiosity quickly turned to terror as they discovered the tracks spanned multiple villages over 100 miles apart. Someone or something had traveled a great distance over the night, the evidence of their journey laying in the fresh snow.
The footprints themselves were shaped like cloven hooves and about 4-5 inches long. The villagers said the tracks didn’t look like any they had seen before and they certainly belonged to something that could fly. Why? The tracks went over haystacks, rivers, hedges, walls and rooftops, inexplicably disappearing in one place only to appear in another. In some cases, the prints even appeared to enter drainpipes.
In some villages, the marks were found on or around every house.
While many wanted to believe the prints were the work of pranksters, it was not the case as no other footprints were found besides them.
The strange tracks sank low in the snow as if they were hot and had melted the snow. The fact that they sometimes stopped indicated that whatever made them was able to fly over short distances. They formed a singe-file, suggesting they had been made by some kind of bipedal creature.
Panic spread like wildfire and many villagers believed the prints were the work of the Devil himself. Rumors about sightings of a demonic figure in the area led to the townsfolk arming themselves and forming search parties. Although their searches were fruitless, they further deepened the mystery. In one case, villagers tracking the footprints with hounds reported the dogs coming back from the woods “baying and terrified.”
Reverend H.T. Ellacombe, the vicar of the parish of Clyst St. George in East Devon took it upon himself to investigate the otherworldly markings.
On the whole it appears that a considerable majority of the people who might have been expected to be familiar with all manner of trails left by the local wildlife, were puzzled and in many cases scared by these tracks and by the places in which they were discovered,” he wrote in a paper called The Devil’s Hoofmarks.
Various newspapers picked up the story, making the locals lock their doors and keep watch. That winter, the hoofmarks were found in two other places. They appeared on vertical walls and rooftops in Wolverhampton, England and were also seen in Inverness, Scotland.
Although many explanations were proposed, the strange prints still remain a mystery. The most recent sighting happened on March 12, 2009, when a similar set of prints was discovered in the yard of a retired government official in North Devon. The prints were 5 inches long and had a stride of 11-17 inches. The snow underneath them had melted, revealing dry concrete. Wildlife experts were called in but couldn’t identify what animal might have left them.
To this day, many people believe the prints were left behind by some kind of demonic presence.