It was around the year 1910 that a weird and horrific saga began – on what is today the B3212 road, which can be found in the vicinity of the Dartmoor, England locales of Postbridge and Two Bridges. It became known as the mystery of the Hairy Hands. Somewhat disturbingly, a hairy, monstrous and unknown force would time and again violently lash out at unwary passing drivers, and which, in one case, reportedly even resulted in a tragic death for an unfortunate road-user.
In most of the cases, the victims of the frightening phenomenon reported seeing large, hairy, “disembodied hands” manifest out of thin air, firmly grabbing the steering wheel of their vehicles – or the handle-bars of their bikes – and unsurprisingly striking complete terror into their hearts; something which invariably resulted in them being violently forced off the country road. For a decade or so, the events were considered nothing more than a mild – albeit certainly sinister - curiosity for the superstitious locals of the Dartmoor wilderness. That situation would drastically change in 1921, however, when tragedy struck.
In June of that year, Dr. E.H. Helby, who was at the time serving as the Medical Officer at the nearby Dartmoor Prison, died on the same stretch of road when he lost control of his motor-cycle and sidecar, in the latter of which were seated his two children. Helby had just about enough time to warn his children to jump to safety – which they did – before he was thrown from his motor-cycle and instantly killed.
Then, on the dull, foggy day of August 26 of the same year, a young British Army captain – described by the local media as being “a very experienced rider” – was also thrown into the verge of the very same road, after he too lost control of his motor-cycle. Significantly, and incredibly, the captain stated at the time, in response to media questions:
“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. 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.”
And there was much more to come – and none of it was good, either.
In the summer of 1924, the well-known and widely-respected Devonshire folklorist Theo Brown was camping in a trailer, approximately half-a-mile from the road where practically all of the ominous activity was taking place; and, in later life, would detail the particularly nightmarish, and nighttime, encounter that she experienced, and that is directly relevant to the mystery of the Hairy-Hands.
Brown, the author of Devon Ghosts and Family Holidays around Dartmoor, said: “I knew there was some power very seriously menacing us near, and I must act very swiftly. As I looked up to the little window at the end of the caravan, I saw something moving, and as I stared, 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. I knew that the owner of the hand hated us and wished harm, and I knew it was no ordinary hand, and that no blow or shot would have any power over it."
She continued: "Almost unconsciously I made the Sign of the Cross and I prayed very much that we might be kept safe. At once the hand slowly sank down out of sight and I knew the danger was gone. I did say a thankful prayer and fell at once into a peaceful sleep. We stayed in that spot for several weeks but I never felt the evil influence again near the caravan. But, I did not feel happy in some places not far off [sic] and would not for anything have walked alone on the moor at night or on the Tor above our caravan.”
Then there was the story told to the writer Michael Williams, author of the book Supernatural Dartmoor, by journalist Rufus Endle, who maintained that while driving near Postbridge on an undetermined date, “a pair of hands gripped the driving wheel and I had to fight for control.” Luckily, he managed to avoid crashing the vehicle; the hands, meanwhile, simply vanished into thin air. A concerned Endle requested that the story specifically not be published until after his death.
So, what were - and possibly still are - the Hairy Hands? Some sort of malevolent ghost? Evidence of a spectral man-beast - of Bigfoot or werewolf-style proportions? The questions are many. The answers, unfortunately, are few.
But if you ever find yourself driving along Dartmoor's B3212 road, you may want to keep a careful and sturdy grip on the steering-wheel. You know: just in case...