When I was in grade school, I was lucky enough to go to summer camp. I made great friends, loved all the activities; swimming, boating, crafts (especially wood carving), cooking over a camp fire, and best of all, telling scary stories around a camp fire late at night. We would toast marshmallows and burn our lips on them, all the while listening what we felt were the scariest stories in the world. No one would dare to say that the stories frightened them; I think that we all feared that if we admitted that they scared us, the stories would end for good, and we just couldn’t risk that.
So, for your Halloween enjoyment, I present to you a classic horror tale from those magical days of camp fires in the dark, “The Hairy Hand.” Enjoy….
The Hairy Hand
Legend has it that during the Civil War, a Rebel officer was fighting hand to hand with a Union soldier named John Jacob Machlin, both armed only with knives. They were the last survivors of one of the bloodiest battles in the war, and bodies lay all around them. Both were near exhaustion when Machlin cut off the Rebel officer’s right hand. The men fell panting to the earth; the Rebel soldier was rapidly bleeding out.
Machlin watched as the Rebel soldier grew pale. Suddenly the man gripped his sleeve. He said, ”The ring on my right hand was given to me by my wife, Matilda. Please see that she gets it back.”
He saw Machlin staring at the thick gold ring with greed in his eyes. He said, “if you do not give the ring to my Matilda, there will be a curse upon your entire family. All of your children and grandchildren will be killed and your line will die out.”
Machlin snorted in derision, and the Rebel officer died, his eyes staring at him. Machlin wound the severed hand in the Rebel soldier’s cravat and placed it into his rucksack, but not before he had removed the ring. He weighed it in his hand, and thought of how much money he could get for it.
When he returned home, he sold the ring. With the money from it, he built a beautiful house on a hill, and brought his new bride to it. They had a long and happy marriage, five healthy children, and, later on, seventeen grand-children. The house was dubbed Machlin Manor.
Every so often, he thought of the Rebel soldier and how he had taken the hand away and never bothered to find Matilda and give her the ring. For some reason, he kept the soldier’s severed hand in a locked box, tucked away in the attic.
On Machlin’s 30th wedding anniversary, all his children and grandchildren were in the house for the celebration. Champagne flowed like water, and all the tables groaned under the weight of roasted turkeys, hams, roasts of beef, fried chicken, tureens of fresh vegetables, several gallons of soup, also cakes, pies, cookies and pastries. After eating all he could, Machlin’s favorite grandson, Wilbur, went up to the attic and found the box. He was a clever boy, and had an engineer’s mind. He wanted to know how everything worked, and spent a lot of time taking things apart and putting them back together again.
When he found the locked box, he thought to ask his grandfather what was in it, then decided to pick the lock himself. When the box was opened, all he saw was the old and frayed gray and gold cravat, covered with rusty stains. Curiously, he pulled at the material, and the dried hand, covered in thick dark hair, tumbled out.
Wilbur screamed, but at the first sound, the hairy hand flew to his neck and quickly strangled him. The hairy hand pulled itself along the floor like a giant spider. When it came to the stairs, it fell to each step with a thunk. It crawled into the large room where all the other grandchildren lay sleeping. One by one, the hairy hand strangled each one.
Quietly, it crept into the largest guest bedroom where all the ladies were lying across the huge bed, dozing. The hairy hand quickly and quietly dispatched each one.
The hairy hand crawled into the drawing room where Machlin and his sons and sons-in-law were lazily smoking cigars and talking politics. The hairy hand flew to Machlin’s neck and began to squeeze the life out of him. Shouting, the men jumped to their feet and tried to pull the hand off the man’s neck, but could not.
They watched helplessly as Machlin was strangled. The hairy hand flew to each man, and nothing could stop it from killing each one.
Its dreadful work done, the hairy hand went back up the stairs and into the attic. On the wall just above the baseboard, it scrawled this message in the dust: “The Machlin line is dead.” It crawled into the box and pulled the lid down over it. When all the bodies were discovered, the house became known as the Machlin Mystery Murder House.
The house stood vacant for years. One day, a young family came to see it. The price had been lowered year after year, and it was a price that the young family could afford. They fell in love with its old-fashioned grandeur, and were thrilled that there were so many bedrooms, as they had six children.
As they signed the paperwork with the realtor, they smiled to each other, happy with the purchase. The realtor shook all their hands, saying, “Welcome to your new home, Machlin family!”
Happy Halloween, everyone!