Page last updated at 20:19 GMT, Friday, 13 March 2009

Snow prints spark 'Devil' mystery

Snow print
The Centre for Fortean Zoology said it is unlikely the Devil is in Devon

A set of unexplained animal tracks are being examined by experts in Devon.

The imprints, found in Jill Wade's garden in Woolsery, have been likened to the legendary "Devil's footprints" from the 19th Century.

In 1855, local people said the Devil had come to Devon because the clergy had altered the standard prayer book.

But Jonathan Downes from the Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) said: "It's a great yarn, but the truth is this one's more likely to be a hare or a rabbit."

Mrs Wade called the CFZ when she found the mysterious cloven hoof-shaped marks in her snow-covered garden.

If it was Satan, then he's only about 18in tall, looking at the size of the prints
Jonathan Downes, CFZ

The north Devon centre, which investigates unexplained animal phenomena, sent Graham Inglis, who noticed the similarity to the tracks which sparked the "great Devon mystery".

Those "unholy" prints were appeared in the snow were said to have followed straight lines stretching for miles across Devon, passing through locked gardens, and over houses.

Mr Inglis said the new tracks in Mrs Wade's garden were also straight and simply disappeared.

"The tracks were in a very straight line with no left-right-left-right pattern you'd expect with animals," he said.

But Mr Downes is confident there is no paranormal or satanic explanation.

'Natural' explanation

"None of us are saying the Devil's in Devon - if it was Satan, then he's only about 18in tall, looking at the size of the prints," he said.

"I think they've been made by a hare or a rabbit, hopping in an unusual way.

"It's also been suggested the tracks could have been made by a muntjac deer, which is a good idea.

"The slight problem with it is in their natural habitat of Asia there's no snow to compare the tracks."

Mr Downes said the centre had been inundated with suggestions about what made the tracks.

"One thing I am certain of is it will have a natural explanation," he added.

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