Sunday, June 14, 2015

HGB Podcast, Ep. 50 - The Legend of the Devil's Footprints

Moment in Oddity - Did the Island of Lomea Exist?

Can islands just disappear? There has been a debate for some time over a rough sandbar near Kent.  The sandbar was named the Goodwin Sands after a man who reportedly had a home built on the sandbar when it was an actual island sometime around 1053 AD. The debate arises around whether there was an island named Lomea here and even those who agree that Lomea existed, maintain that it could not have been around after 5000 BC. The Goodwin Sands caused the sinking of hundreds of ships, which has led to stories of ghost ships like the Lady Lovibond, the S.S. Montrose and the H.M.S. Shrewsbery appearing in the area. While it seems almost impossible that the treacherous Goodwin Sands could possibly have been an island at one time, historical records and Mr. Goodwin's home seem to dispute that belief. The Romans came to the Kent shores looking to conquer more areas and they wrote about a low island off of Kent in 43 BC. When it was decided that a lighthouse needed to be built near the Goodwin Sands to protect ships, drilling was done and it was found that below the sandbar of the Goodwin Sands was blue clay. There was a chalk base beneath that as well, which indicated to geologists that something more substantial had been here. It has always been conventional belief that a chalk sand bridge once connected Great Britain and France, but scientists say that this land bridge was washed away by the ocean before 5000 BC. So scientists claim that there was never an island named Lomea here. Did Lomea actually exist? Are there such things as vanishing islands? Are vanishing islands just figments of the imagination? We'll leave the debate up to the geologists and other scientists, but the whole idea of vanishing islands certainly is odd.

This Day in History - Stars and Stripes Replaces Grand Union Flag

On this day, June 14th, in 1777, the Grand Union Flag is replaced with America's beloved Stars and Stripes. The Grand Union Flag was the first flag designed and used by the colonists. The flag had several names, ranging from the Congress Colors to the Cambridge Flag to the First Navy Ensign. The flag had the infamous thirteen stripes - representing the thirteen colonies - that would carry over into the new Stars and Stripes design and those thirteen stripes are still present on our modern day flags. In the left upper corner field, the Grand Union had the Union Jack that is the flag of Great Britain. This signified that the colonies were British owned. When America pushed for her independence, it only made sense to remove the Union Jack part of the flag. It was replaced with a blue field and a circle of thirteen white stars, which represented the thirteen colonies. As the years went by and new states entered the union, a new star was placed in the blue field until we had the fifty stars that are on our flags today. The Stars and Stripes made it's first appearance at the beginning of the Revolutionary War on the ships of the Colonial Fleet on the Delaware River. The Stars and Stripes was considered the unofficial flag of America until the Continental Congress made it official on June 14, 1777.

The Legend of the Devil's Footprints

We love covering urban legends and we have another one for this episode. Urban legends can be as recent as the Charlie, Charlie Game that went viral on the internet a couple of weeks ago or they can reach back into the past. The legend surrounding the Devil's Footprints dates back to 1855. The Devil's Footprints is an unexplained mystery that is one of the strangest stories we have ever heard. The only theory that has really survived the test of time is that the Devil paid a visit to Devon, England and made his way bouncing around roofs and yards and such. After hearing the details, perhaps you will come up with your own theory. Was it the Devil? Did aliens pay a visit? Could these be the tracks of a ghost?

The county of Devon in England is known for shores that are both sandy and cliffs, a mild climate, agriculture and tourism. As is the case with all places, there are some dark spots in Devon's history. The Prayer Book Rebellion occurred in 1549. This was yet another European religious war that erupted after the Book of Common Prayer that featured the theology of the English Reformation was published. The book was seen as an attack on the Catholic Church and an angry uprising ensued. German and Italian mercenaries were sent to calm the revolt. Several battles were fought and in one incident named the Clyst Heath Massacre, 900 men were bound, gagged and had their throat slit in the space of ten minutes. The Rebellion resulted in the death of 5,500 people.

Another dark spot in Devon's history occurred on February 9th, 1855. The people of Devon went to bed on February 8th and awoke to a surprising phenomenon. A heavy snow had fallen while they slept across the entire county. In the snow where hundreds of hoof like tracks that seemed to belong to only one two legged upright creature. The footprints were in single file trails that stretched up to 100 miles. They extended from Exmouth to Topsham. The trail crossed the river Exe to Dawlish and Teignmouth. Some reports had the footprints going as far south as Totnes and Torquay. Even stranger than the distance covered is what the cloven prints seemed to walk across or through.

The prints not only appeared on the ground, but they went up walls as if the creature was Spider-Man. The prints crossed roofs without the assistance of ladders. They went up and down fences. Some of the footprint trails stopped abruptly as if the creature making the prints just disappeared. There were prints that stopped at walls and rather than climb the walls, the prints started up again on the other side of the wall as if the creature just passed through the wall. There were cloven prints on either side of the Exe River as if the creature walked across the water. Some witnesses claimed they saw a short devil like figure.

The footprints appeared again a few days later with the same results. The Weekly Dispatch reported after the incident:
 "PANIC CAUSED BV THE APPEARANCE OF THE DEVIL IN DEVONSHIRE.---Considerable sensa-   tion has been caused in tho towns of Topsham, Lympstone, Exmouth, Teignmouth and Dawlish, in tho South of Devon, in consequence of the discovery of a vast number of foot-tracks of a most strange and mysterious description. The superstitious go so far as to believe that they are the marks of Satan himself; and that great ex- citement has been produced among all classes may be judged of from the fact that the subject has been descanted on from tho pulpit. It appears that, on Thursday night last, there was a very heavy fall of snow in the neighbourhood of Exeter and the South of Devon. On the fol- lowing morning the inhabitants of the above towns were surprised at discovering the foot- marks of some strange and mysterious animal, endowed with the power of ubiquity, as the foot- prints wore to bo seen in all kinds of unaccount- able places - on the tops of houses and narrow walls, in gardens and court-yards, enclosed by high walls and palings, as well as in open fields. There was hardly a garden in Lympstone where these footprints were not observable. The track appeared more like that of a biped than a quadruped, and the stops were generally eight inches in advance of each other. Tho impres- sion of tho foot closely resembled that of a don- key's shoe, and measured from an inch and a half to (in some instances) two and a half inches across. Here nnd there it appeared as if cloven, but in the generality of the steps tho shoo was continuous, and, from the snow in the centre re- maining entire, merely showing the outer crest of the foot, it must have been concave. The creature seems to have approached tho doors of several houses, and then to have retreated, but no ono has been able to discover the standing or resting point of this mysterious visitor. On Sunday last the Rev. Mr. Musgrave alluded to thc subject in his sermon, and suggested the pos- sibility of the footprints being those of a kanga- roo; but this could scarcely have been the case, as they were found on both sides of the estuary of tho Exe. At present it remains a mystery, nnd mnny superstitious pcople in the above towns are actually afraid to go outside their doors after night."
Obviously, these people were terrified and with good reason. Had the Devil really come to visit or was this some kind of hoax? After all, we have found out in recent times that crop circles in many cases were hoaxes. But circles have been unexplained and it would seem these footprints are the same thing. It would be really hard for a human to have made these footprints and the ones that climb walls and fences would be impossible. So a hoax seems to be ruled out and really, why would someone bother with such an elaborate hoax?

Other theories were suggested. It was suggested that donkeys could have made the marks and that could be the case with those found on the ground, but on the roofs? An experimental balloon had broken free from the Devonport Dockyard and some people thought that a couple of shackles dragged below the balloon could have caused the prints. But how did the balloon keep from getting tangled up in something and why was no balloon ever found in the area? Hopping Wood Mice have been blamed for the marks. When they hop from spot to spot, their movements and their tail cause a hoof mark like print. Could it all come down to hysteria or false reporting? Perhaps people saw strange prints and imagined something really incredible happened, although to have mass hysteria cross into some devil like being crossing roofs and walking up walls seems a bit much.

What makes this story even stranger and cross it over into the realm of urban legend is that the couple of occurences in Devon, England are not the only reports of this phenomenon. As a matter of fact, there was a story from 1840 in the The Times that read:
"Among the high mountains of that elevated district where Glenorchy, Glenlyon and Glenochay are contiguous, there have been met with several times, during this and also the former winter, upon the snow, the tracks of an animal seemingly unknown at present in Scotland. The print of the foot in every respect is an exact resemblance of that of a foal of considerable size, with this small difference perhaps, that the sole seems a little longer or not so round; but, as no one has had the good fortune as yet to have obtained a glimpse of this creature, nothing more can be said of its shape or dimensions; only it has been remarked, from the depth to which the feet sunk in the snow, that it must be a beast of considerable size; it has been observed also, that its walk is not like that of the generality of quadrupeds, but that it is more like the bounding or limping of a hare when not scared or pursued. It is not in one locality only that its tracks have been met with, but through a range of at least twelve miles..."

And even before that, all the way back to 1205, writer Ralph of Coggeshall who documented weird arial phenomenon reported that strange hoof prints appeared after an intense electrical storm. The Kui is a mythical monster that is found in Chinese mythology. The monster is thought to be a demon that has only one leg with a cloven hoof that looks similar to that of a cow for a foot. Depending on the source, the Kui is portrayed as either a monkey with a human face, a dragon or a drum. Fierce electrical storms heralded its presence. There were also mythical human beings that were one legged with a foot big enough to give them shade if they laid on their backs and raised their foot above their body. These creatures were called Sciapods. There were claims that Sciapods actually existed in India. The Chronicles of Narnia even features a Sciapod.

Devon experienced the phenomenon again in 2009. The footprints were the same shape and followed a similiar bizarre path with nothing to account for how the prints were made. So does the legend of the Devil's Footprints continue on today? Does some weird creature need to be added to the list of cryptological marvels? Is there a simple explanation for this phenomenon? Or has something supernatural taken place whenever these marks are found? That is for you to decide!

Show Notes:
For more on the Island of Lomea debate:

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