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Brooklyn, New York

Martense Lane Rock

This seemingly unremarkable boulder is said to bear the hoofprint of the devil himself. 

Uprooted outside an unrelated church, this innocuous boulder showed up one day outside the gates of Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery, moved there to honor a 400 year old folktale.

The legend has a few different tellings, but a couple of versions seem to be prominent. One version of the story says that a man was walking along what was then Martense Lane, in Brooklyn’s early Dutch days, when he came upon a stranger with whom he got into an argument. At the end of the altercation the stranger was angered and stomped his foot on the ground. Instead of leaving a footprint, it left behind a hoofprint, revealing the man’s true identity: he was the Devil. According to another popular version of the story, which is actually printed on the plaque near the rock, the Devil lost in a fiddling contest and stomped his foot in anger, leaving the hoofprint behind till the end of time.

Whatever the story, the cloven indentation became the stuff of legend. When a boulder was found near a local church that appeared to have an oversized hoofprint in it, it was assumed to be the folkloric rock. Believers in the tale moved the rock to where they believed was the site of the original diabolic argument, what is now Green-Wood. At first the boulder was just dumped outside the cemetery’s fence without ceremony, but was soon taken in and even given a plaque explaining the its folktale origins. It’s an appropriately spooky resting place for one very eerie rock.

Know Before You Go

The rock can be viewed from 5th Avenue and 36th Street through the fence of the cemetery or you can enter the cemetery from 4th Avenue and follow Maple Avenue under the bridge. Once on the other side of the bridge turn right off the path and climb the hill; the rock is partially obscured by bushes.