Haunted Hands of Devon

by MJ Wayland

It is said that many roads in Devon are haunted, by a phantom either visible or audible to some. Often there is a vague atmosphere of tragedy or evil. One road, Carter’s Road, from Moretonhampstead to Princetown certainly has a haunted history incorporating the story of the “Haunted Hands”.

Ghost Horse and Rider

The tale of a man walking back from Chagford to Princetown sends a slow chill down the back. The lane lies between hedges set high on walls hiding what lies beyond. The man suddenly heard a horse galloping towards him down the lane. He had no light and he could only flatten himself against the hedge and hope the horse would not hit him. There also seemed to be a rider, because he could hear the squeak of the harness. The sounds now came from the back of him, then he realised that he had not seen anything or actually heard it pass him.

There is no doubt that the road and the area surrounding it are haunted by something pretty resentful of modern intruders. For many years there have been unexplained events where people, especially travellers have reported seeing or feeling a pair of huge hairy hands.

Fatal Encounters

The “entity” seems to confine its attacks to motorcyclists. There have been at least two fatal accidents, one, a man riding alone was thrown off his machine and killed. In the second case the rider killed, but a pillion passenger escaped with serious injuries. “I saw a hairy hand touch the handle-bar of the cycle and upset it” said the witness.

The prison doctor at Princetown was killed on the same spot in 1921. Mrs E Battiscombe, the widow of his successor wrote to author Theo Brown in 1961.

“The prison doctor (Dr Helby) was asked to go to Postbridge to attend the inquest on French (who had been thrown from his trap and killed, but on another road). He had a motorcycle and sidecar and took with him two little girls for the ride. They were the daughters of the Deputy Governor. Going down the hill in to Postbridge he was flung off the bicycle and his neck broken. There was no apparent damage to his machine. The children were thrown out on the verge and shaken but not much hurt. Villagers took charge of them and saw them home.”

Another incident was recalled by Mrs Battiscombe:

“ A young man undertook to run in to Princetown on his motorcycle to get something for his landlady. In about an hour he returned to Penlee, very white and shaken, and saying he had had a curious experience. He said that he had felt his hands gripped by two rough and hairy hands and every made to throw him off his machine.”

In 1923 one local wrote the following story:

“It was a cold moonlit night and I was in my bunk in a caravan facing a small window at the end, under which my husband lay deeply asleep in his bunk. I awoke suddenly with a feeling of fear and danger, and quite wide-awake. I knew there was some power very seriously menacing, near us and I must act swiftly. As I at last looked up to the little window I saw something moving and as I stared, my heart beating fast, I saw it was the fingers and palm of a very large hand with many hairs on the joints and back of it, clawing up and up to the top of the window which was a little open. I knew it wished to do harm to my husband sleeping below.

Being a Christian I made the sign of the cross and I prayed very much, at once the hand slowly sank down out of sight and I knew the danger had gone.”

Haunted Hands sightings are very seldom but incidents have been recorded. Manifestations have occurred in Southern Brittany and some Scottish Legends portray Hairy Hands in their stories. In the 1970’s a lorry driver reported a single hand flashing across his windscreen. Partial apparitions occur commonly footsteps, floating heads and even eyes, but hands are not so frequent.

Main references:

Devon Ghosts by Theo Brown (1982 – Jarrold)

Fortean Times

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