Whatever religion you follow, or do not follow, the existence of an arch-demonic being in folklore across time, space and culture is undeniable.
5 – The Devil’s Bible
Made from more than 160 animal skins and needing two people to lift it, Codex Gigas, also known as the Devil’s Bible, was allegedly written in just one night.
Herman the Recluse was a 12th century Bohemian monk. Legend has it that he was walled up inside of his cell, condemned to atone for his sins by inscribing holy texts for the rest of his days. To complete the great task more quickly and release himself from an early grave, the monk made a pact with the Devil.
With the Devil’s aid, the monk supposedly wrote the book in a single night. The first half of the tome comprises the entire Latin Vulgate Bible. The remainder is a bizarre mixture of Ancient medical treatises, encyclopedias, chronicles and magical formulae. The colossal Codex even contains a portrait of Lucifer, purportedly drawn by the fallen angel himself.
In experiments conducted to recreate the work, it has been estimated that reproducing the calligraphy alone, without the illustrations or embellishments, would have taken 5 years of non-stop writing. Most scholars believe that, working at a regular pace, it should have taken the monk around 30 years. However, academics have remarked at the stability of the handwriting found throughout the book. The suggestion being that the Devil’s Bible must have been written over a very short period of time.
4 – The Possession of Elizabeth Knapp
Born in Massachusetts around 1655, Elizabeth Knapp worked as a household servant for the local Reverend. To all who met her, Elizabeth was nothing more than an ordinary young woman. That was until the Devil came calling.
It was when she was 16 years old that Elizabeth began to show signs of demonic possession. Samuel Willard, the Reverend whom she served, documented the case in great detail. First the girl experienced pains throughout her body. She would yell out, grabbing her leg, her breast, her neck. Often she would exclaim that she was being strangled. Elizabeth would suffer nighttime fits, reporting to have witnessed ‘two persons’ walking around her as her body convulsed unnaturally.
One day, Elizabeth confessed to the Reverend that it was the Devil himself who was stalking her. She claimed that he had promised her money, youth, ease from labor, and the ability to see the world. He had presented her with a book of blood covenants, which were signed by other women who had been unfortunate enough as to sign away their souls. However, Elizabeth exclaimed that she had been unable to do all that Satan had asked of her: namely to kill the Reverend Willard and his family.
As Winter approached, the possession escalated. During one of her violent fits, Elizabeth began talking in a strange, deep voice. Willard wrote in his journal how the girl’s mouth remained closed as her throat swelled up. In his mind, the Devil, ‘talked through her body’.
What makes this case particularly interesting is the detailed and scientific approach which the Reverend employed. He called in medical doctors and learned men on several occasions in order to try to find a cure for Elizabeth’s symptoms. Possession by the Devil was a conclusion only reached after all other options were exhausted.
In one of his concluding journal entries, Willard stated that Knapp’s temperament was unnatural and therefore diabolic.
3 – The Devil’s Footprints
In February 1855, the people of the Exe Estuary in Devon, England awoke to discover the Devil’s hoofprints trodden into the snow.
The cloven-shaped marks covered a distance of some 40 to 100 miles. Houses, rivers, haystacks and other obstacles were traversed straight over. The diabolic footprints even appeared on the tops of snow-ladened roofs and high walls, as well as leading up to and exiting drain pipes. News of the unexplainable event reached as far as Australia. An extract from a newspaper there exclaimed in confusion that: ‘the footprints were to be seen in all kinds of unaccountable places’.
Investigators have commented that if the tracks really extended for close to one hundred miles, no human being would have been able to follow their entire course in a single night.
According to Trewman’s Exeter Flying Post, the case was ‘An excitement worthy of the dark ages’ and they published a piece on the ‘foot-tracks of a most strange and mysterious description’. Others, however, thought little of the story’s excitement, and more of its infernal meaning. In the town of Dawlish a group of tradesmen were so distressed that they armed themselves with ‘guns and bludgeons’. On the morning of the 9th of February, they took off in pursuit of the mysterious footprints.
At the time, bizarre theories were circulated in order to distract local parishioners’ concerns about a visit from the devil. The local Reverend Musgrave explained the event away by blaming the footprints on a couple of escaped kangaroos from a private menagerie.
However, he later recanted in a letter addressed to a London newspaper:
‘I found a very apt opportunity to mention the name of kangaroo, in allusion to the report then current. I certainly did not pin my faith to that version of the mystery […] but the state of the public mind of the villagers […] dreading to go out after sunset […] under the conviction that this was the Devil’s work […] rendered it very desirable that a turn should be given to such a degraded and vitiated notion […] and I was thankful that a kangaroo [… served] to disperse ideas so derogatory’
— Rev G. M. Musgrove, letter to The Illustrated London News, 3rd March 1855
Until this day, nobody has been able to explain who – or what – visited the people of Exe Estuary that night.
2 – The Gateway to Hell
Houska Castle of the Czech Republic was built with only one purpose: to encase the Gateway to Hell.
Built in the middle of nowhere, this imposing Gothic structure was constructed with no fortifications, no water, and no kitchen. When it was completed in the 13th century, it had no occupants. Instead, the castle is fortified inwards, with its chapel built over a huge, bottomless pit acclaimed to be the entrance to Hell. Its sole purpose is to keep the Devil and his demons at bay.
Historic witness reports attest to demonic half-animal, half man creatures dragging themselves out from its depths. Others reports describe dark, winged creatures pouring out from the endless chasm in order to terrorise the local populace.
According to local legend, when construction on the castle began local prisoners who were sentenced to death were recruited to discover more about the mysterious hole. If they allowed themselves to be lowered by rope into is dark depths they would receive a pardon. However, when the first of the inmates was lowered, he began screaming after just a few moments. Those holding the rope dragged him back to the surface. The man had wrinkles and his hair had turned white. In a few mere seconds, he had aged by over 30 years. The unfortunate man died of unknown causes a few days afterwards.
During the 1930s, the Nazis supposedly occupied the castle so as to conduct occult experiments with dimensional portals. Years later, during renovations, several Nazi officer skeletons were found there.
In the modern day, the castle’s ghostly, as well as demonic, residents are well-known and have attracted many paranormal enthusiasts. Sightings include mysterious beasts, a headless black horse and a distressed spectral woman. Beneath the cellar it is claimed that there are non-human remains of the demons who have managed to claw their way out of Hell.
1 – The Devil’s Handwriting
According to modern knowledge, there is only one specimen of Satanic calligraphy in existence.
This curious extract first appeared in 1523, taken from an Italian text which describes an encounter between Ludovico Spoletano and the Devil. Spoletano allegedly summoned Satan, requesting that he use his body as a vessel to write clear and legible answers to a series of questions asked of him. However, the King of Hell refused to cooperate, and instead snatched the pen into midair so as to rapidly scrawl the answers himself.
What the Devil wrote was indecipherable: a series of diabolic scrawls that seems as though it should read from left to right. After being passed onto several learned men without success of decryption, the text disappeared into abeyance.
As of today, no one has been able to decode the text or make a convincing case for it being a hoax.
However, academics have identified traces of some of the manuscript’s characters in Amharic, a language spoken in its purity in the province of Amhara, Ethiopia. According to legend, this was the primeval language spoken in Eden.