Podcast Show Notes — Episode 22 (August 18, 2014)


On Feb. 9, 1855, the residents of Devon in southern England awoke to find a bewildering set of footprints in the newfallen snow. “These are to be found in fields, gardens, roads, house-tops, & other likely and unlikely places, deeply embedded in snow,” ran one contemporary account. “The shape was a hoof.”

In this episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll examine the surviving descriptions of the odd marks and consider the various explanations that have been offered. We’ll also revisit the compassionate Nazi fighter pilot Franz Stigler and puzzle over how to sneak into Switzerland across a guarded footbridge.

Our segment on the “devil’s hoofmarks” is drawn from Mike Dash’s excellent article “The Devil’s Hoofmarks: Source Material on the Great Devon Mystery of 1855,” which appeared in Fortean Studies 1:1 in 1994. The full text (2MB PDF) is here.

The Restricted Data Blog’s post on John W. Campbell and his 1941 article “Is Death Dust America’s Secret Weapon?” appeared on March 7, 2014. The comments include an extensive discussion about Campbell’s exchanges with Robert A. Heinlein.

You can listen using the player above, or subscribe on iTunes or via the RSS feed at http://feedpress.me/futilitycloset.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at podcast@futilitycloset.com. Thanks for listening!

3 Responses to “Podcast Show Notes — Episode 22 (August 18, 2014)”

  1. Mike D says:

    My suggestion: A herd of feral goats. They’re known to travel in large groups for very long distances, and are capable of climbing seemingly-impossible surfaces and effortlessly clearing large heights and steep jumps. They can be quite stealthy if need be.

    As for why no one recognized goat-prints? I would go with Sharon’s point that once someone makes a suggestion in scenarios such as these (“I saw some suspicious footprints”), human nature, especially in pre-modern agricultural societies, is to agree with the original observer. Thus, what would otherwise be a simple explanation suddenly becomes mysterious, supernatural, and even sinister.

  2. Kingannoy says:

    I wonder why no one suggests a cause that happened before the snow fell, for example:

    Suppose the ground is still quite warm but a bit of frost has gotten into the surface layer. Donkeys walk around on the ground undisturbed during the day, no snow, no (clearly) visible prints nothing to be noticed that is out of the ordinary. When the snow falls the spots the donkeys walked in are ever so slightly warmer then the area’s around it making the fresh snow melt where around it the cold ground keeps the snow from thawing.


    Hoaxers walk around during the daytime for the preceding days (assuming it stayed dry) sprinkling salt (or something else that influences thawing temperature) on the floor in hoof shaped stencils, when the snow falls the salt makes the flakes melt and hoof prints become visible.

  3. Lucien Stals says:

    This is clearly a migration of Fauns, possibly from Narnia.

    Or it’s the Wild Hunt.

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