Wednesday, February 8, 2012


One hundred and fifty-seven years ago today, on the morning of February 8th 1855, the residents of South Devon England reported seeing cloven footprints in the fresh snow that had fallen the night before. These footprints were rapidly identified as having been left by Satan.

The news inspired many people to run out to see look for the cloven footprints in the snow. Apparently many people then saw them.

Though Charles Wheatstone and William Cooke had put their newly invented telegraph into commercial use along the nearby London-Blackwell railway over fifteen years earlier it had not reached the south Devon coast. Constrained by the speed of information the sightings were concentrated in a coastal meandering from Totnes to the coast, and then along it to the Exe estuary, then along the coast of that inlet to Exemouth; a total distance of about 40 miles. The next day residents of nearby Dorset county contributed to the collected sightings, and expand the track’s length to 100 miles. Soon residents of Lincolnshire clear on the central eastern coast of England contributed to the amassed data, and increased the length of the track by almost an order of magnitude.

Some sketches were made, but they are uniformly less impressive to me than something that was so immediately identifiable as Satan’s footprints should be.

Many reports of the footprints measured them at 1.5 to 2 inches wide, and eight inches apart. They apparently traveled in a straight line (except as obvious from the map of sightings did not) over houses , walls, and through drainpipes as small as four inches in diameter.

On March 5th 2009 new reports of Satan’s footprints in Devon have been reported. This time in north Devon.


Alan Farre said...

I don't suppose there were any young goats or similar perhaps wondering around in the snow at that time?

adult onset atheist said...

I thought about examining the possible explanations. One explanation forwarded at the time was that an escaped kangaroo (no!...really!...Kangaroo in England!...)was responsible.

Unfortunately footprints of unknown age in snow are suspect data. Worse even, the reported descriptions suggest that not all the tracks looked the same.