When I wrote about the Cabinet of Curiosities at Manchester College, I left out one of their star items: The hoofprint of the Devil in the Chetham Library. Dr John Dee, once a warden at the library, was said to have summoned the Devil, who burnt a hoof-print into the woodwork.
Oddly, while the paranormal landscape is pock-marked with His Satanic Majesty’s hoofprints, like the ones from South Devon in 1855 or Munich Cathedral, there are very few examples of the Devil’s handprints. One finds the odd reference to a finger-marked “Devil’s Bridge” in Kirkby Lonsdale or a table in a Polish castle scorched by Old Scratch, but these are the exceptions. Possibly he is worried about leaving fingerprints for the forensics team.
All of which leads up to a story of a visitation from the Devil that left physical traces on a woman’s flesh.
That woman was Maude M.C. Ffoulkes, a well-known ghost-writer, who helped the rich, royal, and famous of the Edwardian age write their sensational memoirs. She liked to say that she “collaborated” with clients like Countess Marie Larisch of Mayerling tragedy fame, the former Crown Princess of Saxony, the Countess of Cardigan, and Louise, Princess of Belgium. When not paltering with the truth with her eminent clientele, she researched matters psychic and Spiritualist, writing a popular book, True Ghost Stories with Marchioness Townshend of Raynham (Yes, the Raynham Hall of the Brown Lady.). It’s chock-a-block full of Ripping Yarns, some written by Ffoulkes; others “as told to,” and has a very old-fashioned sensibility in spite of being published in 1936. Her letter to The Occult Review, which appears below is, by contrast more straightforward. Whether that makes it the more plausible, I leave it to you to judge.
A VISIT FROM THE DEVIL
To the Editor of the Occult Review.
Dear Sir, The following experience will perhaps interest the writer of “Hurt in a Dream,” [Occult Review, September 1918] as its bona fides can be vouched for by my doctor, Dr. Brown Tomson, by Miss Jessie Adelaide Middleton, and last but not least by that great writer on psychic matters—Algernon Blackwood.
In November, 1915, I was living in a flat in Curzon Street. I cannot say I was happy at this period, as I had been undergoing a more or less severe strain consequent on numerous worries. But my life apart from this was uneventful. I mention this to emphasize the fact that I was not devoting any time to occultism, much as it has always interested me.
I went to bed one Thursday in November, fell asleep and then commenced to dream “waking”—or so it seemed. I always sleep with alight in my room, and I thought I suddenly opened my eyes and saw a young man standing at the foot of my bed. I can distinctly remember him—slight, tall, with a grave, dark face, something like the youths of the Italian Renaissance. He was so “real” that I said, “Who are you, and what are you doing here?” He answered; “I am the Devil, and I am come to bargain with you for the souls of two women who have injured you, and who are now spiritually in your hands.” I answered: “I am dreaming, and you are only a creature of my imagination. There is no Devil, no Spirit who can bargain for souls.” “You are wrong,” he answered, “I am the Devil, and I can assume the likeness of a human being.”
I then seemed to drift again into sleep, and the next morning I regarded my experience merely as an interesting dream.
On Saturday, the whole thing was repeated. Again the dark youth disclosed his identity, again he wished to traffic in souls, and again I obstinately refused to allow that he was actually a Presence in my room.
“I know I am dreaming,” I said, “you are not really here, you are only a dream.”
The young man looked at me steadily—he was leaning over the low end of the bedstead. “I am here,” he answered, “and to-morrow you must and will believe in my existence.”
Once more I seemed to drift into a sleep within a sleep. I woke in the morning, had my early tea, and when my maid gave me my dressing gown preparatory to going to have my bath, she exclaimed: “Oh, Madam, what have you done to your shoulder?”
My nightdress was square-necked and short-sleeved. On my shoulder was the distinct imprint of a man’s hand, discoloured, as if bruised into the flesh!
I was startled—to say the least of it! That evening Miss Jessie Middleton and Dr. Brown Thomson came to supper, and I showed the weird “sign” to both of them.
Later, I told Mr. Blackwood what had happened. He opined to the belief that my experience was real, and that I had actually seen and spoken to the Spirit of Evil.
The mark on my shoulder was visible for three or four days.
The experience has never been forgotten by me, and I particularly remember the dark, melancholy face of my visitor—I should recognize it again at once were I ever to meet “him” or his double again in real life.
Maude M.C. Ffoulkes
The Occult Review, December 1918, pp. 59-60
Mrs Ffoulkes’s experience seems a classic hypnopompic visitation–except for the hand-print. I’ve written before on fiery hand-prints usually thought to be left by souls in Purgatory. They are often generated in the limbo between sleep and waking, which suggests that, like stigmata, they may arise from the subconscious. There are also some accounts of persons waking with injuries after dreaming of those injuries. I assume that is the theme of “Hurt in a Dream,” which I’ve not found.
Just one burning question: If the Devil really was visiting Mrs Ffoulkes to bargain for the two women’s souls, why didn’t he return? His tenacity over the most insignificant souls is well-documented. He’d demonstrated to Mrs Ffoulkes’s satisfaction that he was real, so why not come back and finish the job? And if he was just a recurring dream; why did the dreams not continue?
Other lesser-known visits from the Devil? Assume the likeness of a human being and deliver to Chriswoodyard8 AT gmail.com.
Here are some of this blog’s most popular posts on the Devil, including “The Devil Went Down To Craigslist,” a personal favorite.
Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murdereress Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com.