|creatures - on land - devils footprints|
Although documentation is sketchy, we do know that something extremely strange occurred in Topsham England on 02/07/1855. Townspeople were shocked when they awoke to find unexplained footprints covering their yards, gardens, streets, and even roofs of their homes. Although other reports of unknown tracks are known to exist, this incident proved to be most unexplainable. The Times of London printed the following article on February 16, 1855.
This strange incident occurred in Topsham, Lympstone, Exmouth, Teignmouth, and Dawlish. Most of the details came from readers to the editors of the Illustrated London News. Strangely, most of the newspapers failed to report on the incident until almost a week later.
The tracks covered a 100-mile course zigzagging from Topsham southward to the town of Totnes. Each of the prints were exactly 8 1/2 inches apart and measured 4 inches long by 2 3/4 inches wide. The prints were U-shaped. Some indicate that the tracks had a split in the middle indicating a cloven hoof. The prints were made in-line with each other further indicating that they were made by a 2-legged animal. Each of the prints were extremely clear, as if they had been 'branded' into the snow (could this have been caused by freezing rain on top of the new snow?).
Townspeople immediately set out to discover the culprit. Toting clubs, rakes, and other weapons, the people set off to find the monster that created the footprints.
The tracks appeared to follow no certain course. In one case they led right up to a 12 foot wall, ended abruptly, and continued on the other side! The snow at the top of the wall was not disturbed and a small gate on the wall was locked and secure.
In another instance the tracks led up to the Exe River (near the Powdersham Castle) where they suddenly ended. On the other side the tracks continued as if the creature had swam (or walked) across the river. This would have been quite a feat given the fact that at this point in the river, it was considered a 'bay' and was actually over 2 miles wide. Of course details are sketchy on the entire incident so could it have been possible that the river was frozen at this time?
In another instance the tracks ended at the entry of a drain pipe and reappeared at the other end as if the animal had somehow passed through the pipe.
There were even reports that the tracks actually went up walls, sides of barns, and over houses. Townspeople were baffled as they followed the tracks that crisscrossed through cemeteries, in popular town squares, in people's yards, over snow covered wagons, and in same cases led right up to people's doors were they stopped and continued on in another direction (including back-tracking on top of themselves).
One local clergyman thought he knew the answer. He claimed that the tracks were the footprints of the devil. He believed this event occurred due to the waning morals of the local people and that the occurrence served as a warning to all to change their ways.
Of course, others produced more believable theories. Sir Richard Owens suggested that the prints were those of a badger (even though he never actually saw the prints and created his theory on the description he heard from others). Other theories included rabbits, birds, otters, and rats.
One of the most believable theories came from Geoffrey Household who edited a book that contained all of the newspaper correspondence collected concerning the incident.
But even this theory is difficult to prove. If a wondering balloon were responsible for the tracks, how do we explain the fact that the tracks covered much of the territory scrambling all over the place. A balloon would indeed tend to follow a much straighter path. Besides, the tracks followed a North to South path and not surprisingly, the prevailing winds at that time were from East to West...