The Devil in Dartmoor

The Devil in Dartmoor

Dartmoor is a windswept hilly region of England.  This beautiful land of grassy rolling hills (the moorland) has been rich with myths and legend for thousands of years.  In particular, the Devil is said to stalk the moors of Dartmoor at night.  In fact, the Devil makes quite a few appearances there, in a number of different guises.

Black Dogs
The Devil often appears with his hunting hounds, called the Wisht Hounds.  These large evil animals are pitch black, with glowing eyes.  They hunt down unwary travelers, and carry their souls off to Hell.

A lone black dog may also be the Devil himself, in disguise.  The legend of black dogs in Devon is an entirely separate (and equally rich) set of tales which we talked about a little while back. 

The Dewerstone
The Dewerstone is a remote cliff that rises above the valley of the Cad.  The Devil likes to use his hunting hounds to drive sinners towards the cliff - and off the edge, to perish on the sharp rocks far below.  This craggy cliff is named after the Devil himself, who also goes by the name of Dewer.

Legend has it that you can hear the cries of the long-dead sinners, if you listen carefully late at night.

Once, long ago, locals report that after a fresh snowfall they found the tracks of a human footprint alongside those of a cloven hoof.  The tracks led up to the very top of the cliff.

The Devil's Thunderstorm
In 1638, an unusually severe thunderstorm struck the village of Widcombe-in the-Moor while church was in service.  In a freak act of nature, ball lightning entered the church.  As a result, four people were killed and 60 people injured.

Local legend has it that the thunderstorm was sent by the Devil, who had bet a local card sharp that the Devil would take his soul if he ever found him asleep in church. 

That morning, an innkeeper a few miles away reported that a tall black man with cloven hooves for feet, riding a giant black horse, stopped in for a pint.  The ale sizzled as the Devil poured it down his throat, and when he set down his pint glass, it scorched a mark on the bar (which can still be seen to this day).  After he left, the innkeeper found that the Devil's money had turned to dried leaves.

Wishtman's Wood
This is a small, treacherous copse of woodland.  It features boulders covered with slippery moss, and small weathered trees which drip lichens and mosses. 

The Wisht hounds hunt here, driving the unlucky sinners into the darkness, where they fall and break an ankle or leg.  This leaves them vulnerable to the pack of hounds, which then bear the hapless soul to Hell.

The Devil's Stone
In the tiny town of Shebbear lies a large stone, weighing about a ton.  Is the Devil buried beneath it?  Or did he drop it there when he was driven out of Heaven? 

The residents aren't sure - but they do know that every year, the village bell-ringers have to use crowbars to turn the stone over on November 5th.  If they don't, the village is plagued with terrible luck for the rest of the year.

Photo credit: Flickr/tiny_packages