The priest, George Lyde, was unhurt, but his wife “had her ruff and the linen next her body, and her body, burnt in a very pitiful manner.” The head of local warrener Robert Mead struck a pillar so hard the blow left an indentation; his skull was shattered, and his brain hurled to the ground. A “one Master Hill a Gentleman of good account in the Parish” was thrown violently against a wall and died “that night.” His son, sitting next to him, was unhurt.
Some are said to have suffered burns to their bodies, but not their clothes. A dog is reported to have run from the door, been hurled around as if by a small tornado, and fallen dead to the ground.
The village schoolmaster of the time, a gentleman called Roger Hill, and brother of the deceased “Master Hill,” recorded the incident in a rhyming testament which is still displayed on boards (originals replaced in 1786) in the church.
According to local legend, the thunderstorm was the result of a visit by the devil who had made a pact with a local card player and gambler called Jan Reynolds (or Bobby Read, according to the tale recorded at the Tavistock Inn, Poundsgate). The deal was if the devil ever found him asleep in church, the Devil could have Reynolds’ soul. Jan was said to have nodded off during the service that particular day, with his pack of cards in his hand. Another version of the legend states the Devil arrived to collect the souls of four people playing cards during the church service.
The Devil headed for Widecombe via the Tavistock Inn, in nearby Poundsgate, where he stopped for directions and refreshment. The landlady reported a visit by a man in black with cloven feet riding a jet black horse. The stranger ordered a mug of ale, and it hissed as it went down his throat. He finished his drink, put the mug down on the bar where it left a scorch mark, and left some money. After the stranger had ridden away, the landlady found the coins had turned to dried leaves.
The Devil tethered his horse to one of the pinnacles at Widecombe Church, captured the sleeping Jan Reynolds, and rode away into the storm. As they flew over nearby Birch Tor, the four aces from Jan’s pack of cards fell to the ground, and today, if you stand at Warren House Inn, you can still see four ancient field enclosures, each shaped like the symbols from a pack of cards.