The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

February 9, 2012

February 9, 1855

The morning snow in South Devon, England revealed a strange phenomena: tracks in the snow that no one could identify, and that traveled in a straight line for 100 miles. These tracks appearing on February 9, 1855 were quickly called the "devils footprints" and were discussed in the national newspapers for weeks as experts tried to explain the phenomena. Explaining the phenomena seems to have occupied paranormal researchers for next 150 years. Joe Nickell, (born on December 1, 1944) researcher for the Skeptical Inquirer, believes that inconsistencies in the stories reveal that in fact, there was no single straight 100 mile line, and that various animals made the tracks. He accounts for the consistency in eye witness accounts as a product of 'contaigon", wherein various people's perception is affected by what they anticipate.

One eyewitness, a vicar's daughter recalled:

A number of cats, for instance, were responsible for many of the tracks in one village, as was explained in 1923 by a woman who had been a young girl ... [in Dawlish] in 1855. ...She recalled that the footprints were all over the town of Dawlish ...[Her father] and his curates, she said, carefully examined the tracks which ran from the Vicarage to the vestry door, and came to the conclusion that they had been made by the paw-marks of many cats which had been partly washed away by the slight thaw, and expanded into the shape resembling hoofmarks by the early morning frost.

The above is one of many stories told in one of Joe Nickell's books on the paranormal, Real-life X-files: investigating the paranormal (2001). I have to wonder personally, with such a mundane explanation, that the phenomenon did not recur in the succeeding eras. 

No comments: