Gambling with the Devil
Location: French Mill Lane, near Shaftesbury
Up Jumped the Devil!
The Devil often appeared in many disguises, so he could trick his unfortunate victims into a false sense of security before revealing his true identity. Villagers and town folk in North Dorset will always remember a certain incident that took place around the mid seventeenth century at an old barn situated along a track known as 'French Mill Lane' between the town of Shaftesbury and the village of Cann. It was this secret location that the local lads did congregate to drink and gamble.
One Sunday a group of men from the villages decided to meet secretly there to play a game of cards. In those times it was regarded a sin to play any activity on a Sunday and especially gambling. The young men disregarded this and once seated they started to play. When the cards were dealt out a stranger entered the barn and asked if he could join in. The man dressed in distinguished clothes and with an air of nobility surrounding him, at first made the young men feel uneasy, but after assessing the stranger they decided to accept him into the game, all of them hoping to win a large amount of money from this wealthy looking gentleman.
Half way through the game it was the stranger's turn to deal. Upon shuffling the deck he accidentally dropped one of the cards - the Four of Clubs or as it is often known as the Devil's bedpost' as it was regarded as the unluckiest card of the pack. When he bent down to pick up the card, one of the young men sitting beside him glanced down in horror to see the ebony edge of a cloven hoof. The young man jumped up and shouted to his friends what he had just discovered. The smell of brimstone quickly filled the air and the young men soon realized who their mysterious player was! Terrified they fled the barn vowing never to return there or play cards again.