The Devil’s property portfolio

April 12, 2012

An unlikely property mogul, the Devil nevertheless boasts an extensive portfolio including a mountain, a set of cascading waterfalls, several pools and a sinkhole.

Prince of Darkness, Lord of the Underworld, Beelzebub’s BFF, Old Nick; whatever you want to call him, the Devil’s one of Earth’s most long-standing property developers, only lagging a couple of thousand years behind God – the brains behind the ‘God’s Own Country’ brand (itself profiled in a previous Travel PR blog).

While picturesque parts of the world are regularly deemed to be deserving of the Almighty, his arch rival tends to have his name given to geographical quirks of the landscape. Not only do these features often stand out like a pimple on an otherwise beautiful phizog, but they are almost all freaks of nature which have left geologists stroking beards and racking craniums for years.  Refusing to be discouraged however, the Devil now boasts an impressive real-estate portfolio with boltholes on almost every continent…

As well as a frying pan in Cornwall (he’s also the inventor of numerous canapés: devils on horseback, devilled eggs and devilled ham, to name but a few), a punchbowl in Surrey and a mountain (or big hill) in Berlin, Old Nick also lends his moniker to the following weird-and-wonderful international landmarks.

The Devil’s Arse, Peak District National Park, UK: so-called because of the allegedly flatulent-sounding noises that used to emanate from deep inside this cavern. The name of this unholy place was officially changed to ‘Peak Cavern’ in 1880, so as not to offend Queen Victoria upon her visit to the region to attend a concert in the cavern (not to be confused with The Beatles’ first club in Liverpool). At 60ft high, 100ft wide and 340ft deep, the mouth of the cavern is the largest in Britain and offers spectacular acoustics for local events, including the Christmas celebrations which happen here throughout December each year.

The Devil’s Sinkhole, Texas, USA: an underground, well, sinkhole, south-east of Rocksprings in Texas’ Edwards County. The Devil’s Sinkhole (christened thus and discovered in 1876) has a 60ft-diameter opening which expands into a 310ft-deep underground chamber big enough to fit two jumbo jets. Understandably, the sinkhole has attracted climbers and ‘spelunkers’ (potholers) from across the world, as well as bat enthusiasts looking for undisturbed caves.

The Devil’s Chimney, Gloucestershire, UK: a limestone rock formation on the outskirts of Cheltenham, the Devil’s Chimney has baffled geologists for over a century by the way it seems to defy patterns of erosion. Several legends surround its incarnation, including a local tale that it was where the Devil used to sit and throw stones at Sunday churchgoers. One day his plan backfired, so the story goes, and the stones were propelled back, burying him under a tall stack of heavy rock. It is traditional for visitors to leave a coin for Old Nick, to keep him from coming above ground and causing mischief.  
NB: the Devil has another chimney in Australia – a 25m-high volcanic rock formation – which is a sacred place for the Aboriginal people of the New England Tablelands.

The Devil’s Swimming Pool, Zambia: a natural rock pool located at the very top of the Victoria Falls, where the waters of the Zambezi River plunge over 100m into the gorge below. Between September and December, travellers can safely swim to what appears to be the very edge of the Falls without tumbling over. The Devil’s Swimming Pool is a favourite with daredevils and photo-bloggers (as a quick Google search quickly proves).

The Devil’s Tower, Wyoming, USA: located in the Black Hills of Crook County, this imposing 1,200ft-high, flat-topped tower has been revered by Native Americans for centuries and officially protected by the US Government since 1906. Similar to the Devil’s Chimney (but on a significantly bigger scale), the Tower has confounded geologists for over a century – the simple question being “just how does a 1,200ft lump of igneous rock find itself in the middle of a sedimentary rock bed?” (I know!). One theory posits that the Tower is the remains of a prehistoric volcano, or some sort of volcanic plug. Alternatively, one Native American legend explains the rock’s being by saying that, once upon a time, a few girls hid atop a large rock to escape some bears. They prayed for the Great Spirit to save them, at which point the rock raised towards the sky. Considering how hard this rock is to climb – even with ropes – this story doesn’t fully explain if this solution was actually helpful in the end…

The Devil’s Town, Kuršumlija, Serbia: Why have one tower when you can have a whole demonic municipality? Đavolja Varoš or the ‘Devil’s Town’ – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – features 202 towers (also known as earth pyramids and hoodoos) clustered together on the side of Radan Mountain, near Kuršumlija. Located beneath these bizarre formations is a natural spring with high mineral content, one where the Devil supposedly peddles his acidic ‘Devil’s Water’, at a pleasant pH 1.5 (that’s a little milder than sulphuric acid).

(Anthony Sebastian)