In the morning of the 9th February 1855 the residents of towns stretching across 100 miles, from Devon to Dorset, awoke to find weird footprints in the deep snow.
The footprints ran in a straight line, across haystacks, up and down fences and houses. They travelled straight up walls, across roofs and down the other side.
They were cloven hooves, like a donkey – or the Devil!
But of course it couldn’t have been a donkey, walking straight up and down walls. And they had obviously been made by a two-legged creature. The steps were about eight inches apart, and quite deep and clear.
Of course, there were a lot of theories. One was that an experimental balloon had broken free from Devonport dockyard and the tracks were left by its shackles on the end of the mooring ropes.
But as someone said, the ropes couldn’t have travelled so far without getting tangled somewhere.
Hopping rodents was another theory. Some of them leave a print like a cloven hoof due to the motions of their limbs.
My favourite theory is that a couple of kangaroos escaped from a private menagerie in Sidmouth. It wasn’t clear how the kangaroos could have escaped and crossed the Exe Estuary. But the local people were searching for a logical explanation as a lot of them were too scared to go out at night.
UFOs and aliens are a more modern theory, and even laser beams.
There have been sightings of strange footprints in other parts of the world, including the legends of the Jersey Devil and the Leeds Devil in New Jersey, which date back to the late 1700s, although none of them are like the Devon footprints, travelling in a straight line for many miles.
What is obviously true is that Something travelled a long way on one snowy night in 1855, and the evidence was seen and discussed by many people.
But so far, whatever it was has never returned or left any tracks – at least, not on a snowy night!