Book of the Damned Chapter XXVIII
NOTES and Queries, 7-8-508:
A correspondent who had been to Devonshire writes for information as to
a story that he had heard there: of an occurrence of about thirty-five
years before the date of writing:
Of snow upon the ground--of all South Devonshire waking up one morning
to find such tracks in the snow as had never before been heard of--"clawed
footmarks" or "an unclassifiable form"--alternating at huge but regular
intervals with what seemed to be the impression of the point of a
stick--but the scattering of the prints--amazing expanse of territory
covered--obstacles, such as hedges, walls, houses, seemingly surmounted--
Intense excitement--that the track had been followed by huntsmen and
hounds, until they had come to a forest--from which the hounds had
retreated, baying and terrified, so that no one had dared to enter the
Notes and Queries, 7-9-18:
Whole occurrence well-remembered by a correspondent: a badger had left
marks in the snow: this was determined, and the excitement had "dropped to
a dead calm in a single day."
Notes and Queries, 7-9-70:
That for years a correspondent had had a tracing of the prints, which
his mother had taken from those in the snow in her garden, in Exmouth:
that they were hoof-like marks--but had been made by a biped.
Notes and Queries, 7-9-253:
Well remembered by another correspondent, who writes of the excitement
and consternation of "some classes." He says that a kangaroo had escaped
from a menagerie--"the footprints being so peculiar and far apart gave
rise to a scare that the devil was loose."
We have had a story, and now we shall tell it over from contemporaneous
sources. We have had the later accounts first very largely for an
impression of the correlating effect that time brings about, by addition,
disregard and distortion. For instance, the "dead calm in a single day."
If I found that the excitement did die out rather soon, I'd incline to
accept that nothing extraordinary had occurred.
I found that the excitement had continued for weeks.
I recognize this as a well-adapted thing to say, to divert attention
from a discorrelate.
All phenomena are "explained" in terms of the Dominant of their era.
This is why we give up trying really to explain, and content ourselves
with expressing. Devils that might print marks in snow are correlates to
the third Dominant back from this era. So it was an adjustment by
nineteenth-century correlates, of human tropisms, to say that the marks in
the snow were clawed. Hoof-like marks are not only horsey but devilish. It
had to be said in the nineteenth century that those prints showed
claw-marks. We shall see that this was stated by Prof. Owen, one of the
greatest biologists of his day--except that Darwin didn't think so. But I
shall give reference to two representations of them that can be seen in
the New York Public Library. In neither representation is there the
faintest suggestion of a claw-mark. There never has been a Prof. Owen who
has explained: he has correlated.
Another adaptation, in the later accounts, is that of leading this
discorrelate to the Old Dominant into the familiar scenery of a fairy
story, and discredit it by assimilation to the conventionally
fictitious--so the idea of the baying, terrified hounds, and forest like
enchanted forests, which no one dared enter. Hunting parties were
organized, but the baying, terrified hounds do not appear in
The story of the kangaroo looks like adaptation to needs for an animal
that could spring far, because marks were found in the snow on roofs of
houses. But so astonishing is the extent of snow that was marked that
after a while another kangaroo was added.
But the marks were in single lines.
My own acceptance is that not less than a thousand one-legged
kangaroos, each shod with a small horseshoe, could have marked that snow
London Times, Feb. 16, 1855:
"Considerable sensation has been caused in the towns of Topsham,
Lympstone, Exmouth, Teignmouth, and Dawlish, in Devonshire, in consequence
of the discovery of a vast number of foot tracks of a most strange and
The story is of an incredible multiplicity of marks discovered in the
morning of Feb. 8, 1855, in the snow, by the inhabitants of many towns and
regions between towns. This great area must of course be disregarded by
Prof. Owen and the other correlators. The tracks were in all kinds of
unaccountable places: in gardens enclosed by high walls, and up on the
tops of houses, as well as in the open fields. There was in Lympstone
scarcely one unmarked garden. We've had heroic disregards but I think that
here disregard was titanic. And, because they occurred in single lines,
the marks are said to have been "more like those of a biped than of a
quadruped"--as if a biped would place one foot precisely ahead of
another--unless it hopped--but then we have to think of a thousand, or of
It is said that the marks were "generally 8 inches in advance of each
"The impression of the foot closely resembles that of a donkey's shoe,
and measured from an inch and a half, in some instances, to two and a half
Or the impressions were cones in incomplete, or crescentic basins.
The diameters equaled diameters of very young colts' hoofs: too small
to be compared with marks of donkey's hoofs.
"On Sunday last the Rev. Mr. Musgrave alluded to the subject in his
sermon and suggested the possibility of the footprints being those of a
kangaroo, but this could scarcely have been the case, as they were found
on both sides of the Este. At present it remains a mystery, and many
superstitious people in the above towns are actually afraid to go outside
their doors after night."
The Este is a body of water two miles wide.
London Times, March 6, 1855:
"The interest in this matter has scarcely yet subsided, many inquiries
still being made into the origin of the footprints, which caused so much
consternation on the morning of the 8th ult. In addition to the
circumstances mentioned in the Times a little while ago, it may
be stated that at Dawlish a number of persons sallied out, armed with guns
and other weapons, for the purpose, if possible, of discovering and
destroying the animal which was supposed to have been so busy in
multiplying its footprints. As might have been expected, the party
returned as they went. Various speculations have been made as to the cause
of the footprints. Some have asserted that they are those of a kangaroo,
while others affirm that they are the impressions of the claws of some
large birds driven ashore by stress of weather. On more than one occasion
reports have been circulated that an animal from a menagerie had been
caught, but the matter at present is as much involved in mystery as ever
In the Illustrated London News, the occurrence is given a
great deal of space. In the issue of Feb. 24, 1855, a sketch is given of
I call them cones in incomplete basins.
Except that they're a little longish, they look like prints of hoofs of
horses--or, rather, of colts.
But they're in a single line.
It is said that the marks from which the sketch was made were 8 inches
apart, and that this spacing was regular and invariable "in every parish."
Also other towns besides those named in the Times are mentioned.
The writer, who had spent a winter in Canada, and was familiar with tracks
in snow, says that he had never seen "a more clearly defined track." Also
he brings out the point that was so persistently disregarded by Prof. Owen
and the other correlators--that "no known animal walks in a line of single
footsteps, not even man." With these wider inclusions, this writer
concludes with us that the marks were not footprints. It may be that his
following observation hits upon the crux of the whole occurrence:
That whatever it may have been that had made the marks, it had removed,
rather than pressed, the snow.
According to his observations the snow looked "as if branded with a hot
Illustrated London News, March 3, 1855-214:
Prof. Owen, to whom a friend had sent drawings of the prints, writes
that there were claw-marks. He says that the "track" was made by "a"
Six other witnesses sent letters to this number of the News.
One mentioned, but not published, is a notion of a strayed swan. Always
this homogeneous-seeing--"a" badger--"a" swan--"a" track. I should have
listed the other towns as well as those mentioned in the Times.
A letter from Mr. Musgrave is published. He, too, sends a sketch of the
prints. It, too, shows a single line. There are four prints, of which the
third is a little out of line.
There is no sign of a claw-mark.
The prints look like prints of longish hoofs of a very young colt, but
they are not so definitely outlined as in the sketch of Feb. 24th, as if
drawn after disturbance by wind, or after thawing had set in. Measurements
at places a mile and a half apart, gave the same inter-spacing--"exactly
eight inches and a half apart."
We now have a little study in the psychology and genesis of an
attempted correlation. Mr. Musgrave says: "I found a very apt opportunity
to mention the name `kangaroo' in allusion to the report then current." He
says that he had no faith in the kangaroo-story himself, but was glad
"that a kangaroo was in the wind," because it opposed "a dangerous,
degrading, and false impression that it was the devil."
"Mine was a word in season and did good."
Whether it's Jesuitical or not, and no matter what it is or isn't, that
is our own acceptance: that, though we've often been carried away from
this attitude controversially, that is our acceptance as to every
correlate of the past that has been considered in this book--relatively to
the Dominant of its era.
Another correspondent writes that, though the prints in all cases
resembled hoof marks, there were indistinct traces of claws--that "an"
otter had made the marks. After that many other witnesses wrote to the
News. The correspondence was so great that, in the issue of March
10th, only a selection could be given. There's "a" jumping-rat solution
and "a" hopping-toad inspiration, and then someone came out strong with an
idea of "a" hare that had galloped with pairs of feet held close together,
so as to make impressions in a single line.
London Times, March 14, 1840:
"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, in every
respect, is an exact resemblance to 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
sank 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 leaping of a horse
when scared or pursued. It is not in one locality that its tracks have
been met with, but through a range of at least twelve miles."
In the Illustrated London News, March 17, 1855, a
correspondent from Heidelberg writes, "upon the authority of a Polish
Doctor of Medicine," that on the Piashowa-gora (Sand Hill) a small
elevation on the border of Galicia, but in Russian Poland, such marks are
to be seen in the snow every year, and sometimes in the sand of this hill,
and "are attributed by the inhabitants to supernatural influences."