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The Hand Of Glory

Scary Books: The Haunters & The Haunted
: HENDERSON'S "Folk Lore"

One evening, between the years 1790 and 1800, a traveller, dressed in

woman's clothes, arrived at the Old Spital Inn, the place where the mail

coach changed horses, in High Spital, on Bowes Moor. The traveller

begged to stay all night, but had to go away so early in the morning

that if a mouthful of food were set ready for breakfast there was no

need the family should be disturbed by her departure. The people of the

se, however, arranged that a servant maid should sit up till the

stranger was out of the premises, and then went to bed themselves. The

girl lay down for a nap on the longsettle by the fire, but before she

shut her eyes she took a good look at the traveller, who was sitting on

the opposite side of the hearth, and espied a pair of man's trousers

peeping out from under the gown. All inclination for sleep was now gone;

however, with great self-command, she feigned it, closed her eyes, and

even began to snore. On this the traveller got up, pulled out of his

pocket a dead man's hand, fitted a candle to it, lighted the candle, and

passed hand and candle several times before the servant girl's face,

saying as he did so: "Let those who are asleep be asleep, and let those

who are awake be awake." This done, he placed the light on the table,

opened the outer door, went down two or three of the steps which led

from the house to the road, and began to whistle for his companions. The

girl (who had hitherto had presence of mind enough to remain perfectly

quiet) now jumped up, rushed behind the ruffian, and pushed him down

the steps. She then shut the door, locked it, and ran upstairs to try

and wake the family, but without success: calling, shouting, and shaking

were alike in vain. The poor girl was in despair, for she heard the

traveller and his comrades outside the house. So she ran down again,

seized a bowl of blue (_i.e._ skimmed milk), and threw it over the hand

and candle; after which she went upstairs again, and awoke the sleepers

without any difficulty. The landlord's son went to the window, and asked

the men outside what they wanted. They answered that if the dead man's

hand were but given them, they would go away quietly, and do no harm to

anyone. This he refused, and fired among them, and the shot must have

taken effect, for in the morning stains of blood were traced to a

considerable distance.

These circumstances were related to my informant, Mr Charles Wastell, in

the spring of 1861, by an old woman named Bella Parkin, who resided

close to High Spital, and was actually the daughter of the courageous


It is interesting to compare them with the following narrations,

communicated to me by the Rev. S. Baring Gould:--"Two magicians having

come to lodge in a public-house with a view to robbing it, asked

permission to pass the night by the fire, and obtained it. When the

house was quiet, the servant-girl, suspecting mischief, crept downstairs

and looked through the keyhole. She saw the men open a sack, and take

out a dry, withered hand. They anointed the fingers with some unguent,

and lighted them. Each finger flamed, but the thumb they could not

light; that was because one of the household was not asleep. The girl

hastened to her master, but found it impossible to arouse him. She tried

every other sleeper, but could not break the charmed sleep. At last,

stealing down into the kitchen, while the thieves were busy over her

master's strong box, she secured the hand, blew out the flames, and at

once the whole household was aroused."[14]

But the next story bears a closer resemblance to the Stainmore

narrative. One dark night, when all was shut up, there came a tap at the

door of a lone inn in the middle of a barren moor. The door was opened,

and there stood without, shivering and shaking, a poor beggar, his rags

soaked with rain, and his hands white with cold. He asked piteously for

a lodging, and it was cheerfully granted him; there was not a spare bed

in the house, but he could lie on the mat before the kitchen fire, and


So this was settled, and everyone in the house went to bed except the

cook, who from the back kitchen could see into the large room through a

pane of glass let into the door. She watched the beggar, and saw him, as

soon as he was left alone, draw himself up from the floor, seat himself

at the table, extract from his pocket a brown withered human hand, and

set it upright in the candlestick. He then anointed the fingers, and

applying a match to them, they began to flame. Filled with horror, the

cook rushed up the back stairs, and endeavoured to arouse her master and

the men of the house. But all was in vain--they slept a charmed sleep;

so in despair she hastened down again, and placed herself at her post of


She saw the fingers of the hand flaming, but the thumb remained

unlighted, because one inmate of the house was awake. The beggar was

busy collecting the valuables around him into a large sack, and having

taken all he cared for in the large room, he entered another. On this

the woman ran in, and, seizing the light, tried to extinguish the

flames. But this was not so easy. She blew at them, but they burnt on as

before. She poured the dregs of a beer-jug over them, but they blazed

up the brighter. As a last resource, she caught up a jug of milk, and

dashed it over the four lambent flames, and they died out at once.

Uttering a loud cry, she rushed to the door of the apartment the beggar

had entered, and locked it. The whole family was aroused, and the thief

easily secured and hanged. This tale is told in Northumberland.