After a heavy snowfall during the night of the 8th February 1855, the residents of Topsham awoke the next morning to find that a series of hoof-like marks had appeared in the snow around the town. They were first seen by George Fairley, a baker on his early morning rounds.
The hoofprints, most of which measured around four inches long, three inches across and between eight and sixteen inches apart, were mostly in a single file. As well as in Topsham, they were reported in over thirty locations across Devon. It was estimated the total distance of the tracks amounted to between 40 and 100 miles. Houses, rivers, haystacks and other obstacles were travelled straight over. The prints appeared on the tops of snow-covered roofs, and high walls which lay in the hoofprints’ path, as well as leading up to and exiting various small drainpipes. Many local people were convinced it was the Devil that had visited, and so locked themselves away.
Numerous explanations have been put forward for the incident. Some investigators are sceptical that the tracks really extended for over a hundred miles, arguing that no-one would have been able to follow their entire course in a single day. Theories have included hoaxers, badgers, large birds, goats, hopping mice, seals, hares, otters, escaped kangaroos, and even the trailing rope from an experimental balloon released by mistake from Devonport Docks.
But the mystery has never been solved…..