The Hairy Hands of Dartmoor

Myth and Legend

The Hairy Hands of Dartmoor

Dartmoor is an eerie and lonely place, with many reputed ghosts and ghouls to terrify the unwary traveller or solitary farmer. One of the oddest of the potential spooky experiences is an encounter with the Hairy Hands.

Between Cherrybrook and Postbridge in Devon, a lonely stretch of the B3212 road runs over the leviathan folds of Dartmoor. There have been numerous reports on this stretch of a presence, and, on various occasions, drivers, motorcyclists and cyclists have fallen prey to a mysterious pair of disembodied hairy hands. They are said to appear suddenly, grab the steering wheel or handlebar and attempt to guide the hapless traveller off the road. In some cases the hands are described as being invisible.

These chilling stories have been told since about 1910, but became more widely known after a reported fatal accident in June 1921.

Dr. E.H. Helby, the medical officer for Dartmoor Prison, was killed when he lost control of his motorcycle combination. Two young girls, children of the prison governor, who had been riding in the sidecar, recounted that he had shouted at them to jump out as he fought to regain control, and they watched him wrestle the handlebars before they managed to leap clear.

Several weeks after Dr Helby's death, there was another incident in which a coach driver lost control, injuring several passengers who were thrown out of their seats. Then, on 26th August 1921, an army Captain reported that a pair of invisible hands had taken hold of him and forced his motorcycle off the road, after which the story was picked up by newspapers in London and became known nationwide.

The hands were next seen in 1924 when campers in a Caravan just north of Plymouth were awoken. The woman said she saw a large hairy hand crawling up the window 'with evil intent'. Terrified she made the sign of the cross and the hand vanished.

After these stories appeared in the national press, several investigations were carried out into the road. It was eventually determined that the accidents were most likely due to the camber of the road's surface, which reached dangerous levels in places and was duly altered.

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