Professor Brian Cox discusses ghosts on Lorraine in 2018
Tens of thousands of trick or treaters will take to the streets this weekend to celebrate Halloween. Many people will be stocking up on sweets, decorating their homes or adding the finishing touches to their costumes. We celebrate Halloween on October 31 each year, an event that dates back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain.
Costumes were worn to fend off evil spirits as the ghosts of the dead returned to Earth.
As far as spooky sightings go, few are as openly hostile towards people as the alleged Hairy Hands.
The legend of the Hairy Hands originated from Postbridge in Dartmoor, on the road now known as the B3212.
Since around 1910, drivers and cyclists have reported numerous unusual incidents on the road that runs between Postbridge and Two Bridges.
The Hairy Hands legend has forced several drivers off the road.
The Hairy Hands is just one of an abundance of legends that haunts Dartmoor.
Legend has it that the victim’s steering wheel or handlebars are suddenly gripped by a revolting pair of hairy, calloused hands that try their hardest to force drivers off of the road and into the unforgiving ditches and verges.
The experiences remained nothing more than a local mystery until June 1921, when the Hands allegedly claimed their first victim.
E.H. Helby, medical officer at Dartmoor Prison, was killed when he was unable to control his motorbike.
His two daughters were travelling in the sidecar and survived. They recalled hearing their father shouting at them to get off the bike as he wrestled to control it.
Drivers on the B3212 have been forced into the unforgiving verges.
Just a matter of weeks after Helby had died, a coach driver reportedly lost control on the road, and several passengers were thrown out of their seats.
The story first became known nationwide in August of the same year when an army Captain reported his motorcycle had been forced off the road by a pair of invisible hands.
He told the local media at the time: “It was not my fault. Believe it or not, something drove me off the road.
“A pair of hairy hands closed over mine. I felt them as plainly as ever I felt anything in my life — large, muscular hairy hands.
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The legend originated from Postbridge in Dartmoor.
“I fought them for all I was worth, but they were too strong for me. They forced the machine into the turf at the edge of the road, and I knew no more till I came to myself, lying a few feet away on my face on the turf.”
The Daily Mail picked up the story shortly after, and it spread across the UK.
Renowned folklore enthusiast Theo Brown was staying in a caravan near the B3212 in the summer of 1924 when she had a harrowing experience.
In her ‘Devon Ghosts’ book, she remembered: “As I looked up to the little window at the end of the caravan, I saw something moving, and as I started, 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.
An investigation seemingly debunked the myth.
“I knew it wished to do harm to my husband sleeping below.
“I knew that the owner of the hand hated us and wished us harm, and I knew it was no ordinary hand, and that no blow or shot would have any power over it.”
She made the Sign of the Cross and the hand disappeared.
Another eyewitness, Florence Warwick, encountered the Hairy Hands in 1962. DevonLive reported she said: “I looked up and saw a pair of huge, hairy hands pressed against the windscreen.
“I tried to scream, but couldn’t. I was frozen with fear.”
Despite the varying tales, the hands are yet to be attributed to any specific purpose besides driving motorists off the road.
Some local versions have, however, attributed them to a man who died in an accident on the road.
After the story appeared in the Daily Mail, investigations concluded the accidents were likely caused by the camber of the road’s surface, which reportedly reached “dangerous levels” in places and was subsequently altered.