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The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang online

The Book of Dreams and Ghosts by Andrew Lang


Spiritualistic Floating Hands. Hands in Haunted Houses. Jerome Cardan's Tale. "The Cold Hand." The Beach-comber's Tale. "The Black Dogs and the Thumbless Hand." The Pakeha Maori and "The Leprous Hand". "The Hand of the Ghost that Bit."


Nothing was more common, in the seances of Home, the "Medium," than the appearance of "Spirit hands". If these were made of white kid gloves, stuffed, the idea, at least, was borrowed from ghost stories, in which ghostly hands, with no visible bodies, are not unusual. We see them in the Shchapoff case, at Rerrick, and in other haunted houses. Here are some tales of Hands, old or new.


[Jerome Cardan, the famous physician, tells the following anecdote in his De Rerum Varietate, lib. x., 93. Jerome only once heard a rapping himself, at the time of the death of a friend at a distance. He was in a terrible fright, and dared not leave his room all day.]

A story which my father used often to tell: "I was brought up," he said, "in the house of Joannes Resta, and therein taught Latin to his three sons; when I left them I supported myself on my own means. It chanced that one of these lads, while I was studying medicine, fell deadly sick, he being now a young man grown, and I was called in to be with the youth, partly for my knowledge of medicine, partly for old friendship's sake. The master of the house happened to be absent; the patient slept in an upper chamber, one of his brothers and I in a lower room, the third brother, Isidore, was not at home. Each of the rooms was next to a turret; turrets being common in that city. When we went to bed on the first night of my visit, I heard a constant knocking on the wall of the room.

"'What is that?' I said.

"'Don't be afraid, it is only a familiar spirit,' said my companion. 'They call them follets; it is harmless enough, and seldom so troublesome as it is now: I don't know what can be the matter with it.'

"The young fellow went to sleep, but I was kept awake for a while, wondering and observing. After half an hour of stillness I felt a thumb press on my head, and a sense of cold. I kept watching; the forefinger, the middle finger, and the rest of the hand were next laid on, the little finger nearly reaching my forehead. The hand was like that of a boy of ten, to guess by the size, and so cold that it was extremely unpleasant. Meantime I was chuckling over my luck in such an opportunity of witnessing a wonder, and I listened eagerly.

"The hand stole with the ring finger foremost over my face and down my nose, it was slipping into my mouth, and two finger-tips had entered, when I threw it off with my right hand, thinking it was uncanny, and not relishing it inside my body. Silence followed and I lay awake, distrusting the spectre more or less. In about half an hour it returned and repeated its former conduct, touching me very lightly, yet very chilly. When it reached my mouth I again drove it away. Though my lips were tightly closed, I felt an extreme icy cold in my teeth. I now got out of bed, thinking this might be a friendly visit from the ghost of the sick lad upstairs, who must have died.