It was a dark, but not stormy, night, which was a good thing because it had also been a long night at the pub and I was feeling a little dizzy as I got into the cab. I was thrilled to see that Big Dave was driving. I’ve mentioned Big Dave the cab driver previously and it was always fun to ride with him, especially at night when he seemed even more inclined to tell an interesting story. As we left Grantham behind and drifted into Lincolnshire countryside he jerked the wheel hard into a turn.
“Sorry about that,” he said. “I think the hairy hand got hold of me for a moment.”
The sharp turn had brought everything into focus and I sat forward.
“What’s the hairy hand?”
“A legend. More a Devonshire story really but I think you’ll hear it anywhere there’s a lot of accidents. People say they’ve been seized by a ghost hand and that’s what caused them to go off the road.”
“And it’s hairy.”
We both laughed. Adolescent warnings of hairy palms crossed my mind but I also thought of disembodied hands in film. For most people I suspect The Addams Family comes to mind, and I really do think there should have been a special Academy Award For Best Performance By A Disembodied Extremity given in 1990 for that performance. There’s also an odd but fun anime film, Vampire Hunter D, in which the hero’s hand can detach itself and go off on its own. In between those is Bruce Campbell’s runaway hand in Evil Dead 2. And then there’s Doctor Terror’s House of Horrors, a British horror film I first saw as a teenager. It’s stayed with me because it’s an anthology of stories including one about an artist and a critic. The late great Christopher Lee plays the art critic who trashes an artist’s work and then is terrorized by the artist’s dismembered hand. As an amateur art critic myself I take it as a warning.
It’s a fun film and I wonder if that part of it was inspired by hairy hand legends. Or maybe there’s just something about the hand that makes us think of it taking on a life of its own.
I’m giving you and this clip a hand right now, Chris.
A big hand to you too, both in appreciation and apology for making both your comment and an earlier version of this post temporarily disappear.