Friday, November 20, 2015

Devil's Footprints

Here's an old mystery for you all. After you read it, leave a comment and share your thoughts. Can you explain the Devil's footprints?
--taken from Weird Encyclopedia

On the morning of February 9th, 1855, thousands of mysterious tracks were found in the new-fallen snow that had fallen upon the town of Devon, England. The tracks, which resembled those of shoed horses, covered over 100 miles and through five parishes. Rather than navigating a straight or even near-even course, the tracks were found to go up the sides of walls, into gardens, onto roofs, up and down the sides of fences, and other avenues which were impossible for any real creature to follow.

Given the impossibility of the trail, and the cloven-hoof aspects of the tracks (not to mention the fact that they were apparently from a creature which walked on two legs), most of the local citizens agreed the footprints could have been laid by only one being: old Satan himself.

The footprints were reportedly seen by hundreds of persons, and were mentioned in both theTimes of London and the Illustrated London News. Citizens debated in the papers’ pages about what could have caused them – despite the spread of religion, this was, after all, the 19th century, and there were those who sought more rational explanations for the tracks than simply blaming them upon a creature like Old Scratch.

Various animals were trotted out (pun intended) as the possible cause. A Reverend Musgrave theorized that it could have been a pair of kangaroos, which had escaped a private menagerie in a nearby town; the naturalist Sir Richard Owen suggested that it could have been a certain species of badger, which tends to leave behind tracks suggesting a bipedal creature. Other suggested beasts were certain types of cats, otters, foxes, cranes, and mice. These, however, do not explain how any terrestrial animal could have (for example) traversed 4-inch-high drainpipes or walked vertically up walls, nor how the trail could abruptly stop at either end.

Naturally, there are more romantically-minded individuals who suggest that the footprints were caused by some supernatural type of being – if not the Devil himself, then perhaps an animal spirit, or even Spring-Heeled Jack, the mysterious English figure whose gravity-defying adventures were nearly synonymous with this account. Some have suggested the presence of extraterrestrial beings, who might have the technology to leave such imprints.

And, of course, there are those who seek more prosaic explanations: that the footprints were created by perfectly normal animals, and the acounts of the trails’ length and meanderings were exaggerated in the telling; that it was some sort of ‘mass hallucination’ (whatever that means); or even, possibly, that it was a stunt to increase newspaper circulation on a terribly boring, snowbound day.

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