David Fitzgerald talks to historian Kevin Dixon about strange tales from Torbay

Lillie Langtry is said to haunt a Torquay care homeLillie Langtry is said to haunt a Torquay care home

Torbay has had it share of witches, devil sightings and ghost stories plus tales of the plain and simply odd!

Historian Dr Kevin Dixon recently joined me on BBC Radio Devon for a journey through some of the more believable... or so he says.

KEVIN, SORT THIS ONE OUT. DOES THE GHOST OF LILLIE LANGTRY WANDER AROUND THESE HERE PARTS?

“Yes, she is a very busy lady. There is a care home in Torquay, which I won’t name but I have spoken to several people who work there and they claim to have seen her ghost.

“There is no evidence that she ever stayed in that house or indeed Torquay. But she also haunts a house in Bournemouth and has the franchise for two or three simultaneous hauntings in London. It seems to be one of those stories that can change location to suit, such as Hitler.”

HITLER?

“It has been suggested that if Hitler had won the war, he would have come to live in Torquay. The legend stated that he wanted The Grand Hotel on the seafront as his European headquarters but if you look into this, several areas have the same tale.

“Simply, when the Luftwaffe bombed an area and a large building was left standing the rumour started that the hotel or stately home or castle had been saved for Hitler to use when he invaded. In Manchester, the rumour went round that it was the Civic Hall. Make up your own story.”

PIXIES AND FAIRIES?

“There’s a lot of old stories about the little folk but did you know pixies only live in Devon and Cornwall as they were Celtic. Elves and fairies were Anglo Saxon who pushed the pixies out after a series of wars.

“The pixies retreated to Dartmoor and Kents Cavern. It does mirror what the Anglo Saxons did themselves, take over the low-lying desirable areas and force the Celts out to the less hospitable lands.”

THE DEVIL’S FOOTPRINTS HAVE ALWAYS FASCINATED ME

“This is a well-known story which happened on February 7, 1855. The ‘hoof’ footprints started over in East Devon, appearing in heavy snow.

“It’s all a little confusing but they seem have appeared in the Sidmouth area, cross the Exe river, over the Teign and ended somewhere in the eastern part of Torquay.

“It was laughed at by the population in London when it appeared in newspapers especially as there is evidence that local vicars called out the militia to track the devil down.

“One theory was that an experiment balloon had escaped and dragged a chain which left the marks.

“It does seem strange that in 1855 that we, the people of this county, should still believe in such things but I was talking to a local electrician who was renovating a house of the same period and came across the corpse of a cat over the doorway, placed there to keep witches out. The old beliefs were still very strong.

WHAT ABOUT THE SASQUATCH?

“I love this one and this was only back in 2006. To be politically correct, an abominable snow person was spotted in Churston Woods.

“For weeks there were a load of witnesses who came forward and described a creature of about 5ft tall covered in hair, on occasions swinging through the trees.

“OK, maybe in a forest of Northern America or Canada but Churston?

“The story got out and now we appear on crpytozoolgical websites. We even had a group arrive to camp out in the woods and found nest which may have belonged to a Sasquatch.”