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Devils Footprints 1855 - newspaper articles needed

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  • Devils Footprints 1855 - newspaper articles needed

    I am writing an article about the Devil's Footprints incident in South Devon on 7/8 February 1855.
    So far I have found only two articles on this. One of these articles makes reference to an article in The Times and also I have seen reference to letters in the Times discussing the matter. I have searched under Devon, snow, foot tracks, footprints and the individual names of the towns where the prints occurred.
    If any of you kind folk who are keen newspaper hunters can find anything on this incident apart from these two below - especially any of the Times correspondence - I would be VERY grateful!
    Chris

    Here is what I found to date:

    The Devil's Footprints
    Press Reports
    The incident actually occurred on the night of 7/8 February 1855
    The Examiner (London)
    Saturday 17 February 1855
    EXTRAORDINARY OCCURENCE.
    Considerable sensation has been caused in the towns of Topsham, Lympstone, Exmouth, Teignmouth and Dawlish, in the south of Devon, in consequence of the discovery of a vast number of foot tracks of a most strange and mysterious description. The superstitious go so far as to believe that they are the marks of Satan himself; and that great excitement has been produced among all classes may be judged from the fact that the subject has been descanted on from the pulpit. It appears that, on Thursday night last, there was a very heavy fall of snow in the neighbourhood of Exeter and south of Devon. On the following morning the inhabitants of the above towns were surprised at discovering the footmarks of some strange and mysterious animal, endowed with the power of ubiquity, as the footprints were to be seen in all kinds of unaccountable places - on the tops of houses and narrow walls, in gardens and courtyards, enclosed by high walls and pailings, as well as in open fields. There was hardly a garden in Lympstone where these footprints were not observable. The track appeared more like that of a biped than a quadruped, and the steps were generally eight inches in advance of each other. The impression of the foot closely resembled that of a donkey's shoe, and measured from an inch and a half to (in some instances) two and a half inches across. Here and there it appeared as if cloven, but in the generality of the steps the shoe was continuous, and from the snow in the centre remaining entire, merely showing the outer crest of the foot, it must have been convex. The creature seems to have approached the doors of several houses, and then to have retreated, but no one has been able to discover the standing or resting point of this mysterious visitor. On Sunday last the Rev. Mr. Musgrave alluded to the subject in his sermon, and suggested the possibility of the footprints being those of a kangaroo; but this could scarcely have been the case, as they were found on both sides of the estuary of the Exe. At present it remains a mystery, and many superstitious people in the above towns are actually afraid to go outside their doors after night.
     
    Trewman's Exeter Flying Post or
    Plymouth and Cornish Advertiser
    22 February 1855
    "MYSTERIOUS FOOTPRINTS."
    An excitement worthy of the dark age has prevailed in Topsham, Lympstone, Exmouth, Teignmouth, Dawlish, and, for aught we know to the contrary, in many other places, caused by "foot tracks of a most strange and mysterious description," as the local penny a liners to the London papers have described them. There are to be found in fields, gardens, roads, house tops, and other likely and unlikely places, deeply embedded in snow. The shape was a hoof, and as the Devil is supposed to have a cloven foot, why, of course, the impressions were Satanic, at least this was the suggestion of the intelligent mind who does the correspondence for the Times. It happens, however, that both foot tracks are cloven, so that Old Harry must have disguised his sound foot to have escaped detection, although, singularly enough, according to "our own correspondent," the steps he took to elude the vigilance of the police have led to his discovery. The following is the account sent to the Times:-
    "It appears that on Thursday night last there was a very heavy fall of snow in the neighbourhood of Exeter and the south of Devon. On the following morning the inhabitants of the above towns were surprised at discovering the footmarks of some strange and mysterious animal, endowed with the power of ubiquity, as the footprints were to be seen in all kinds of unaccountable places - on the tops of houses and narrow walls, in gardens and courtyards, enclosed by high walls and pailings, as well as in open fields. There was hardly a garden in Lympstone where these footprints were not observable. The track appeared more like that of a biped than a quadruped, and the steps were generally eight inches in advance of each other. The impression of the foot closely resembled that of a donkey's shoe, and measured from an inch and a half to (in some instances) two and a half inches across. Here and there it appeared as if cloven, but in the generality of the steps the shoe was continuous, and from the snow in the centre remaining entire, merely showing the outer crest of the foot, it must have been convex. The creature seems to have approached the doors of several houses, and then to have retreated, but no one has been able to discover the standing or resting point of this mysterious visitor. On Sunday last the Rev. Mr. Musgrave alluded to the subject in his sermon, and suggested the possibility of the footprints being those of a kangaroo; but this could scarcely have been the case, as they were found on both sides of the estuary of the Exe. At present it remains a mystery, and many superstitious people in the above towns are actually afraid to go outside their doors after night."
    We can't pretend to give an explanation of this "mysterious affair," but all we know is that if this Devil has taken it into his head to have a steeple chase in Devon, he has manifested very peculiar taste in choosing such an inclement season for his sport.

  • #2
    16 February 1855. Search under Topsham and you should find it. I did some work on this years and years ago. I think there is a chapter about them in John Godwin's This Baffling World. If I can find my notes, which is unlikely, I'll dig out more. Notes and Queries is another source.
    Paul

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    • #3
      many thanks Paul - I am off to look at this now:-)
      Chris

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      • #4
        I remember reading an account of this in Arthur C Clarke's Mysterious World book (sometime in the late 1970's??) Fascinating occurence.
        Good luck with your article Chris

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        • #5
          many thanks Mark

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          • #6
            The Devil's Footprints

            This 1985 booklet, 24 pages, is pretty comprehensive and contains the main press references, which include Woolmer's Exeter and Plymouth Gazette (17 February 1855), Trewman's Exeter Flying Post (22 February, 1 March, 1855), The Illustrated London News (24 Feb, 3, 10, 17 March, 1855), and The Times. The story is also in R.T. Gould's Oddities (1944); Elliott O'Donnell's Strange Sea Mysteries (1926); Harry Price's Poltergeist Over England (1945); Transactions of the Devonshire Association (1950, 1952); Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries (n.d.) and Shades and Spectres-A Guide to Devon Hauntings (1978).

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            • #7
              Notes and Queries

              The Notes and Queries references are reproduced in Charles Fort's The Book of the Damned (1919).

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              • #8
                The Times

                The following report appeared in The Times of Friday February 16, 1855.

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                • #9
                  Illustrated London News

                  The best contemporary coverage, with illustrations, appeared in the Illustrated London News (issues I have listed) with long correspondence. I have all the originals in a huge, half leather, bound volume which is difficult to scan because of its size.

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                  • #10
                    The Times

                    There was another mention in The Times of Tuesday March 6, 1855.

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                    • #11
                      Drawings

                      The drawings were reproduced in the previously mentioned booklet.

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                      • #12
                        Foot-Marks on the Snow, in Devon
                        Illustrated London News
                        Saturday, February 24, 1855
                        ***********************



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                        • #13
                          Professor Owen on the Foot-Marks in the Snow in Devon
                          Illustrated London News
                          Saturday, March 03, 1855
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                          • #14
                            The Foot-Marks in the Snow, in Devon
                            Illustrated London News
                            Saturday, March 10, 1855
                            **********************




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                            • #15
                              Stewart and How
                              I cannot thank both of you enough for the outstanding help in posting these articles
                              Believe me you have helped enormously and will of course be credited when the article is written and I shall forward a copy of the finished piece when done
                              Thanks again
                              Chris S

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