In the spirit of All Hollows, it’s time to indulge in a ghoulish tale from the darkest depths of the West Country, so dim the lights, lock the doors, and check under the bed, and prepare yourself for the legend of The Hairy Hands…
The highway from Princetown to Two Bridges on Dartmoor passes through one of the remotest and eeriest stretches of the moor. It was here that a spate of mysterious deaths occurred, the first in 1921, when a doctor from the nearby prison suddenly swerved on his motorbike and was killed instantly just past a small bridge that crosses the East Dart river. Strange reports followed: motorcyclists complaining about being struck and a farmer who nearly crashed his tractor after being attacked by “some kind of wild clawing beast”.
It was an account by a young army officer that really got people talking. Having got lost during a training exercise in a sudden thick fog, he was relieved to pick up the road to Princetown. When he arrived at the small bridge at the bottom of the hill, he spoke of feeling an icy chill and felt the sudden urge to run. It was then that he felt a pair of huge, powerful hands around his neck, crushing his windpipe with tremendous force. In his struggle, he fell from the bridge into the freezing water and it was only then, in the dark trashing torrent, that he felt the giant hands relent.
The most frightening account came from a couple of newly-weds touring Dartmoor on a caravan holiday. When their vehicle broke down, the husband decided to follow the signs to Princetown by torchlight and told his wife to stay in the car and lock the door, and under no circumstances should she open it. They had parked just before the small stone bridge that crossed the river. Wrapped up under blankets, she was comforting herself with the thought of her returning husband when she heard a heavy thump on the roof of the car. She frantically fumbled for her torch and shined it towards the passenger side window where she was met with a terrifying sight. A pair of huge hairy hands were clawing at the glass. Being a woman of faith, she had the presence of mind to draw a cross on the inside of the misty window, and much to her relief, the hairy hands retreated and vanished into the night. Her husband found her three hours later, huddled and tearful in the footwell and unable to speak coherently. All she could do was point to the huge handprints on the outside of the frosty window.
So that’s the tale of Dartmoor’s ‘Hairy Hands’, make of it what you will, but if you find yourself on the highway between Princetown and Two Bridges, you might want to think twice before crossing the river. Happy Halloween from all at Toad Hall Cottages.