Whitby Museum have one, Walsall Museum do and so do I and that’s about it as far as I know. Does anyone else have one? And is there any conclusive proof that they were actually used as described?
For those who don’t know a hand of glory is the hand of an executed criminal which has been turned into a candle. When the candle is placed in a house all the occupants will remain asleep whilst the candle burns. Cue the burglars who come in and make away with everything. At least that’s one version of the story – variants include it petrifies whoever it is handed to and it has the power to open all locked doors.
Supposedly the use of the Hand of Glory dates from 1440 although the name does not crop up until the 18th century where it appears to have been borrowed from an old description of Mandragora root. If you’ve not been to Whitby, Walsall or my house you may not have seen one – possibly the easiest one to see is in the good version of the film The Wicker Man – that’s the one with Edward Woodward and Christopher Lee just in case there is any doubt.
Lets have a look at these three Hands of Glory. The Walsall one is unusual in that it is actually an entire arm.
It was discovered in a chimney of a pub called the White Hart Inn. And in 1965 when it was examined it was discovered to be the arm of a child which had been preserved in formalin and injected with wax. So not the real deal then.
Next up the Whitby hand. Erm it’s a mummified hand with no provenance.
It is one of their most popular exhibits but there doesn’t seem to be any chain of evidence for it being the real deal. So again not the real deal.
Which brings us to mine. Of the three it is the one that looks most like the real deal. It’s a partially mummified hand and it’s been converted into use as a candle.
At least we seem to be getting there. So the chain of evidence? Where did it come from. Easy – it’s mine so I know exactly where I got it from. I bought it from an American gent who makes fake artefacts for circuses and carnivals, a gaff manufacturer. So a definite real link there. Oh, hang on, I guess this means its nothing but a sideshow gaff itself. So again not the real deal.
We’re not doing very well.
So does anyone know of a real Hand of Glory on display? Or how about some genuine evidence of one being used? A court transcript perhaps – ok I know it’s not necessarily definite proof but it may be the best we can get. Unless of course someone reading this has one and they’re willing to put on a non burglary related demonstration!
If you have any information on a real Hand of Glory please get in touch – I’d love to know and if you have one to sell…