Milo Historical Society

12 High Street - Milo, Maine

Devil’s Den & Snowshoe Tracks

The Devil’s Den and Snowshoe Tracks are two old superstitions about rock formations on Ledge Hill. The tracks were a cluster of rock formations that all had the same indentations. Originally there were over 20, but in 1980 there were only 5 left.

The formations are on the back side of Sargent Hill (Ledge Hill) on the way to Dover-Foxcroft (West Main Street). The track is on the left, right on the edge of the road, and the den is on the right, a short distance into the woods.

Mysterious Devil’s Footprints in Milo, Maine
Written by Dick Shaw for the Lewiston Evening Journal, June 26, 1976 Issue.

“Who made the footprints?”
The title of a May 1883 item in Bangor’s Mining and Industrial Journal was indeed an eyecather.

“A correspondent of the Piscataquis Observer,” the piece read, “…writes as follows: Having frequently heard of there being remarkable footprints in the solid rock in the town of Milo… a few days ago I determined to ascertain whether the report was fact or fiction…”

“About half a mile from the west line of Milo, on the road leading from south Sebec to Milo village, the road passes over a bare ledge.”

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Pre-Historic Animal, or Geological Phenomenon?
Jack Strout points to some peculiar indentations in a boulder off from the Dover Road, adjacent to the “Devil’s Snow-Shoe Tracks.” Jack was working on a camp next to the boulder, and gladly showed us these additional tracks, which by legend were left by a dog, following the larger footsteps of a hunter (the hunter’s footprints coincide with those of the “Devil” – the basis of another legend).

Here the gentleman found six distinct prints of well-defined snowshoe tracks from three quarters of an inch to one inch deep, apparently made by the right and left foot of someone — or — something.

“Will someone explain when and by whom or what those tracks were made, and also how they could have been made in the ledge?”

Mystery to This Day: Well, if anyone knew the answer he never responded and, unfortunately, the prints remain a mystery to this day.

Of course, theories have evolved over the years, by far the most popular being the folklorish one built around the phenomenon’s namesake, old Satan himself.

But don’t laugh. Perhaps the story-tellers are right when they speak of Satan and his dog fleeing Milo on a cold winter’s night, trekking over the hillside ledge and leaving their mark in time.

Satan’s Cave: The Devil also supposedly blasted a cave deep in the rock with one fiery breath, as protection from the plummeting Maine temperatures.

The amusing legend is given further substance when one realizes that around 1906, when a dam was being constructed on the nearby Sebec River, a series of nearly identical snowshoe tracks were uncovered before the bulging eyes of the workmen! And the prints were headed straight for Satan’s cave!

Many explorations: Equal time should be given to one Thomas H. Benton of Missouri, who many years back asserted that a similar set of tracks on the Mississippi River were ancient petroglyphs carved by area primitives.
His reasoning? 1. The hardness of the rock. 2. The want of other tracks leading to and from them. 3. the difficulty of supposing a change so instantaneous and apropos, as must have taken place in the formation of the rock, if impressed when soft enough to receive such deep and distinct tracks.

Sounds scholarly enough, but one still yearns for the romance of the Satan’s tale!

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Devil’s Den, 1998

And if this isn’t enough, there is a third theory, painfully obvious, perhaps, but also tremendously plain! Specifically, the possibility of a simple crevice during the glacial formation is discussed, over which debris and sediment were dragged to form footprints.

The plot thinckens unalterably here and ends abruptly, as well. Perhaps if Satan himself could step forth and, perhaps…

But, forget it. Mystery isn’t such a bad thing, is it? It’s a challenge, something to work for, to solve — maybe.

Judge for Yourself: In the meantime, judge for yourself visit the tracks. Time and man have altered them somewhat, but a few are still remaining.

Manchester Prints: Are the prints unique in Maine? Almost, but not quite. A series of companion tracks are located in the small town of Manchester, Maine on a stone which forms part of a church wall.

Local sentiment, however, has been kinder to these for they are still referred to as the work of an angel. They have received more attention than the Milo tracks.

Interesting reference to the Manchester footprints was made by Wallace Nutting, the author of “Maine Beautiful” and other notable volumes, who once received religious instruction in the North Manchester church bordered by the wall in which the two prints are embedded. Of what origin did Mr.Nutting theorize the prints to be?

Not Old Nick: Not of the Devil, as few have held, but yes, most decidedly they were made by “an angel’s step, accompanied by that little child whose had he held.”

He went on to explain the legend behind the discovery of the rock, having been uncovered during early road making operations.

Necessitating removal before further road work could be done, the foreman one night sold his soul to the Prince of Darkness for the boulder’s removal.

And to the side of the road it now stands, only itself, needless to say, knowledgeable as to its true origin.

Unfortunately, no stories appear to exist regarding the discovery of the Milo prints. However, it seems fairly certain that they too were first noticed during road construction judging from their nearness to the highway.

Bangor Too: A series of prints were also found in Bangor. Now, either submerged by the murky waters of the Penobscot or perhaps covered by a railroad embankment,
the tracks were reported by Fannie Hardy Eckstrom, the noted Maine Folklorist.

And one of the prints was even said to have been formed by a human!

Not too far from the above-mentioned was also found the Devil’s Arm-chair, a recession in the riverbank which many fancied to resemble a chair. Indeed, it did contain a back and high arms.

Maine’s Mystify: Of course, American folklore is full of similar stories to the Milo, Manchester, and Bangor prints. A marked rock beside a church in Ipswich, Massachusetts, supposedly bears the imprint of a Satan who leapt from the building in haste. None, however, is as intriguing or mystifying as the sites in Maine.


 

“Devil’s Footprints” Seen a Fascination to Visitors
Written by Grace Bush for the Bangor Daily News, ca 1970s.

Fascinating generations of local citizens and tourists alike, the so-called Devil’s footprints, driven deep into solid rock, are located on Route 16, between Dover-Foxcroft and Milo.

Spaced evenly the tracks measured 40 inches in length, 14 inches wide, and more than 12 inches deep. At the right are paw prints of Satan’s dog. Just beyond the prints, shaped like a snowshoe is a cave deep in the rock, blasted with one searing breath, as protection from the cold according to folklore.

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Devil’s Snowshoe Track, 1998

Tracks made by dinosaur or some other pre-historic animal? Not according to geologists who say that the rock formation dates before animal life appeared on the earth, Slate formation surrounding indicates the rock pushed up during the Silurian period some 360 million years ago.

Much of the surrounding area changed with the construction of the highway. Previously there was a sharp bluff about 20 feet high just beyond the prints, where according to one narrative, Satan would climb to watch for his dog. Before the improvements in the road there were several years of hard climbing into the woods to see the cave in the earth and the prints.

Several times the youth in past generations tried to explore the cave half filled with water. Small time blasting by the boys produced no information relative to the interior. However after a pet dog entered the cave and came out with his tail between his legs, yelping and making time back to his home in Milo, the exploring was practically given up by the youngsters.

Also unexplained are exactly the same kind of tracks which showed up leading across under the Sebec River, in the general direction of the Devil’s cave. these tracks were uncovered nearly a hundred years ago, at the time the cofferdam was built near the source of the stream. The new highway placed the prints in full view to the passerby.


 

Afterword: Since the printing of both articles, some of the prints have been vandalized, as was the sign erected marking the spot. Dale Jenkins (now deceased) told of exploring the Sebec River bed, particularly the ledge area behind where the hardware building used to stand on the Island. He said the tracks were there. Also, he followed them up over the ledge and through the woods, stating that he had uncovered more leading toward the river. Some theory, was that the holes were made by Native Americans to grind their corn. It is true about the dogs going into the cave, but my father said his dog only barked, but sounded very far away. My own experience was an attempt to show my young children where the cave was, when they were very young. We climbed over a fence, and was nearly to the cave’s location when we heard a low, deep growl. We made it back over the fence and to the safely of our car much faster than when we began our exploration… never to return.


Above articles edited and compiled by C.K. Ellison.

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