A Great Tale for Halloween – The Hand by Guy de Maupassant

Happy Halloween, everyone! My spooky gift to you today is a classic horror tale by the brilliant Guy de Maupassant. It could well be the springboard story from which all those campfire “Hairy Hand” stories began.

Enjoy….and keep your doors and windows locked tonight!

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The Hand is a gruesome and creepy story about the mystery surrounding the death of an enigmatic Englishman named Sir John Rowell. The good sir, it seems, was fond of hunting. Quite fond. And Maupassant drops a solitary creepy line on the reader to emphasize the point, ‘I have also frequently been man-hunting.’ I find this story rather unnerving. If scary campfire stories are your thing, you are going to enjoy this popular “horror” story.

All were crowding around M. Bermutier, the judge, who was giving his opinion about the Saint-Cloud mystery. For a month this inexplicable crime had been the talk of Paris. Nobody could make head or tail of it.

Bermutier, standing with his back to the fireplace, was talking, citing the evidence, discussing the various theories, but arriving at no conclusion.

Some women had risen, in order to get nearer to him, and were standing with their eyes fastened on the clean-shaven face of the judge, who was saying such weighty things. They, were shaking and trembling, moved by fear and curiosity, and by the eager and insatiable desire for the horrible, which haunts the soul of every woman. One of them, paler than the others, said during a pause:

“It’s terrible. It verges on the supernatural. The truth will never be known.”

The judge turned to her:

“True, madame, it is likely that the actual facts will never be discovered. As for the word ‘supernatural’ which you have just used, it has nothing to do with the matter. We are in the presence of a very cleverly conceived and executed crime, so well enshrouded in mystery that we cannot disentangle it from the involved circumstances which surround it. But once I had to take charge of an affair in which the uncanny seemed to play a part. In fact, the case became so confused that it had to be given up.”

Several women exclaimed at once:

“Oh! Tell us about it!”

Bermutier smiled in a dignified manner, as a judge should, and went on:

“Do not think, however, that I, for one minute, ascribed anything in the case to supernatural influences. I believe only in normal causes. But if, instead of using the word ‘supernatural’ to express what we do not understand, we were simply to make use of the word ‘inexplicable,’ it would be much better. At any rate, in the affair of which I am about to tell you, it is especially the surrounding, preliminary circumstances which impressed me. Here are the facts:

“I was, at that time, a judge at Ajaccio, a little white city on the edge of a bay which is surrounded by high mountains.

“The majority of the cases which came up before me concerned vendettas. There are some that are superb, dramatic, ferocious, heroic. We find there the most beautiful causes for revenge of which one could dream, enmities hundreds of years old, quieted for a time but never extinguished; abominable stratagems, murders becoming massacres and almost deeds of glory. For two years I heard of nothing but the price of blood, of this terrible Corsican prejudice which compels revenge for insults meted out to the offending person and all his descendants and relatives. I had seen old men, children, cousins murdered; my head was full of these stories.

“One day I learned that an Englishman had just hired a little villa at the end of the bay for several years. He had brought with him a French servant, whom he had engaged on the way at Marseilles.

“Soon this peculiar person, living alone, only going out to hunt and fish, aroused a widespread interest. He never spoke to any one, never went to the town, and every morning he would practice for an hour or so with his revolver and rifle.

“Legends were built up around him. It was said that he was some high personage, fleeing from his fatherland for political reasons; then it was affirmed that he was in hiding after having committed some abominable crime. Some particularly horrible circumstances were even mentioned.

“In my judicial position I thought it necessary to get some information about this man, but it was impossible to learn anything. He called himself Sir John Rowell.

“I therefore had to be satisfied with watching him as closely as I could, but I could see nothing suspicious about his actions.

“However, as rumors about him were growing and becoming more widespread, I decided to try to see this stranger myself, and I began to hunt regularly in the neighborhood of his grounds.

“For a long time I watched without finding an opportunity. At last it came to me in the shape of a partridge which I shot and killed right in front of the Englishman. My dog fetched it for me, but, taking the bird, I went at once to Sir John Rowell and, begging his pardon, asked him to accept it.

“He was a big man, with red hair and beard, very tall, very broad, a kind of calm and polite Hercules. He had nothing of the so-called British stiffness, and in a broad English accent he thanked me warmly for my attention. At the end of a month we had had five or six conversations.

“One night, at last, as I was passing before his door, I saw him in the garden, seated astride a chair, smoking his pipe. I bowed and he invited me to come in and have a glass of beer. I needed no urging.

“He received me with the most punctilious English courtesy, sang the praises of France and of Corsica, and declared that he was quite in love with this country.

“Then, with great caution and under the guise of a vivid interest, I asked him a few questions about his life and his plans. He answered without embarrassment, telling me that he had travelled a great deal in Africa, in the Indies, in America. He added, laughing:

“‘I have had many adventures.’

“Then I turned the conversation on hunting, and he gave me the most curious details on hunting the hippopotamus, the tiger, the elephant and even the gorilla.

“I said:

“‘Are all these animals dangerous?’

“He smiled:

“‘Oh, no! Man is the worst.’

“And he laughed a good broad laugh, the wholesome laugh of a contented Englishman.

“‘I have also frequently been man-hunting.’

“Then he began to talk about weapons, and he invited me to come in and see different makes of guns.

“His parlor was draped in black, black silk embroidered in gold. Big yellow flowers, as brilliant as fire, were worked on the dark material.

“He said:

“‘It is a Japanese material.’

“But in the middle of the widest panel a strange thing attracted my attention. A black object stood out against a square of red velvet. I went up to it; it was a hand, a human hand. Not the clean white hand of a skeleton, but a dried black hand, with yellow nails, the muscles exposed and traces of old blood on the bones, which were cut off as clean as though it had been chopped off with an axe, near the middle of the forearm.

“Around the wrist, an enormous iron chain, riveted and soldered to this unclean member, fastened it to the wall by a ring, strong enough to hold an elephant in leash.

“I asked:

“‘What is that?’

“The Englishman answered quietly:

“‘That is my best enemy. It comes from America, too. The bones were severed by a sword and the skin cut off with a sharp stone and dried in the sun for a week.’

“I touched these human remains, which must have belonged to a giant. The uncommonly long fingers were attached by enormous tendons which still had pieces of skin hanging to them in places. This hand was terrible to see; it made one think of some savage vengeance.

“I said:

“‘This man must have been very strong.’

“The Englishman answered quietly:

“‘Yes, but I was stronger than he. I put on this chain to hold him.’

“I thought that he was joking. I said:

“‘This chain is useless now, the hand won’t run away.’

“Sir John Rowell answered seriously:

“‘It always wants to go away. This chain is needed.’

“I glanced at him quickly, questioning his face, and I asked myself:

“‘Is he an insane man or a practical joker?’

“But his face remained inscrutable, calm and friendly. I turned to other subjects, and admired his rifles.

“However, I noticed that he kept three loaded revolvers in the room, as though constantly in fear of some attack.

“I paid him several calls. Then I did not go any more. People had become used to his presence; everybody had lost interest in him.

“A whole year rolled by. One morning, toward the end of November, my servant awoke me and announced that Sir John Rowell had been murdered during the night.

“Half an hour later I entered the Englishman’s house, together with the police commissioner and the captain of the gendarmes. The servant, bewildered and in despair, was crying before the door. At first I suspected this man, but he was innocent.

“The guilty party could never be found.

“On entering Sir John’s parlor, I noticed the body, stretched out on its back, in the middle of the room.

“His vest was torn, the sleeve of his jacket had been pulled off, everything pointed to, a violent struggle.

“The Englishman had been strangled! His face was black, swollen and frightful, and seemed to express a terrible fear. He held something between his teeth, and his neck, pierced by five or six holes which looked as though they had been made by some iron instrument, was covered with blood.

“A physician joined us. He examined the finger marks on the neck for a long time and then made this strange announcement:

“‘It looks as though he had been strangled by a skeleton.’

“A cold chill seemed to run down my back, and I looked over to where I had formerly seen the terrible hand. It was no longer there. The chain was hanging down, broken.

“I bent over the dead man and, in his contracted mouth, I found one of the fingers of this vanished hand, cut–or rather sawed off by the teeth down to the second knuckle.

“Then the investigation began. Nothing could be discovered. No door, window or piece of furniture had been forced. The two watch dogs had not been aroused from their sleep.

“Here, in a few words, is the testimony of the servant:

“For a month his master had seemed excited. He had received many letters, which he would immediately burn.

“Often, in a fit of passion which approached madness, he had taken a switch and struck wildly at this dried hand riveted to the wall, and which had disappeared, no one knows how, at the very hour of the crime.

“He would go to bed very late and carefully lock himself in. He always kept weapons within reach. Often at night he would talk loudly, as though he were quarrelling with some one.

“That night, somehow, he had made no noise, and it was only on going to open the windows that the servant had found Sir John murdered. He suspected no one.

“I communicated what I knew of the dead man to the judges and public officials. Throughout the whole island a minute investigation was carried on. Nothing could be found out.

“One night, about three months after the crime, I had a terrible nightmare. I seemed to see the horrible hand running over my curtains and walls like an immense scorpion or spider. Three times I awoke, three times I went to sleep again; three times I saw the hideous object galloping round my room and moving its fingers like legs.

“The following day the hand was brought me, found in the cemetery, on the grave of Sir John Rowell, who had been buried there because we had been unable to find his family. The first finger was missing.

“Ladies, there is my story. I know nothing more.”

The women, deeply stirred, were pale and trembling. One of them exclaimed:

“But that is neither a climax nor an explanation! We will be unable to sleep unless you give us your opinion of what had occurred.”

The judge smiled severely:

“Oh! Ladies, I shall certainly spoil your terrible dreams. I simply believe that the legitimate owner of the hand was not dead, that he came to get it with his remaining one. But I don’t know how. It was a kind of vendetta.”

One of the women murmured:

“No, it can’t be that.”

And the judge, still smiling, said:

“Didn’t I tell you that my explanation would not satisfy you?”

 

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The Ultimate Scary Camp Fire Story

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!

Another Spooky Halloween Story

 To help get us all ready for the spookiest day of the year, here is another great Halloween story!

“Dancing with the Devil,” a Texas Ghost Story retold by S. E. Schlosser

The girl hurried through her schoolwork as fast as she could. It was the night of the high school dance in the town of Kingsville, Texas. The girl was so excited about the dance, and had bought a brand new sparkly red dress for the occasion. She knew she looked smashing in it! It was going to be the best evening of her life.

Then her mother came in the girl’s room, looking pale and determined.

“You are not going to that dance,” her mother said.

“But why?” the girl asked.

“I’ve just been talking to the preacher. He says the dance is going to be for the devil. You are absolutely forbidden to go,” her mother said.

The girl nodded as if she accepted her mother’s words. But she was determined to go to the dance. As soon as her mother was busy, she put on her brand new red dress and ran down to the K.C. Hall where the dance was being held.

As soon as she walked into the room, all the guys turned to look at her. She was startled by all the attention. Normally, no one noticed her. Her mother sometimes accused her of being too awkward to get a boyfriend. But she was not awkward that night. The boys in her class were fighting with each other to dance with her.

Later, she broke away from the crowd and went to the table to get some punch to drink. She heard a sudden hush. The music stopped. When she turned, she saw a handsome man with jet black hair and clothes standing next to her.

“Dance with me,” he said.

She managed to stammer a “yes,” completely stunned by this gorgeous man. He led her out on the dance floor. The music sprang up at once. She found herself dancing better than she had ever danced before. They were the center of attention.

Then the man spun her around and around. She gasped for breath, trying to step out of the spin. But he spun her faster and faster. Her feet felt hot. The floor seemed to melt under her. He spun her even faster. She was spinning so fast that a cloud of dust flew up around them both so that they were hidden from the crowd.

When the dust settled, the girl was gone. The man in black bowed once to the crowd and disappeared. The devil had come to his party and he had spun the girl all the way to hell.

 

 

Halloween Stories – Mooo-Hah-Hahhh!

 

I love Halloween, and always have. I especially enjoy spooky stories about Halloween-ish stuff. Here’s one I just found, called “Amber.” I will add a few more spookalicious tales before the Great Pumpkin rises!

Amber, A Texas Ghost Story -Excerpted from Spooky Texas and retold by S.E. Schlosser

Oh, you hear the stories about how dangerous Ouija boards are, but hey—it’s just a game. Mary waited until midnight to begin our little game, and the four of us—Sarah, Jessie, Mary and me–started by asking all kinds of silly questions.

It was a strange-looking board, covered with letters and symbols. There was a plastic pointer that was supposed to move across the board at the behest of the spirits. The instructions called it a planchette.

Around 1:30am, the planchette suddenly froze in Mary’s hand. It wouldn’t move, no matter how much we pushed and pulled.

Mary turned her frightened blue eyes toward me. “I’m not doing it,” she said, lifting her hands. I grabbed the planchette myself and tried to push it around, but it would not move.

Suddenly, a kind of electric shock buzzed through my fingers. I gasped and tried to pull my fingers from the planchette, but they were stuck. Mary and Jessie both tried to pull my fingers away, nothing helped. The other girls stared with wide, round eyes as the planchette came alive under my fingers and began to move.

“Help.” The words spelled out under my hand. “Help me. Help me.”

The planchette kept moving back and forth between the h – e – l – p continuously, until Sarah cried out: “Who are you?”

“Amber.” The board spelled. “My name is Amber. I am eight years old.”

“What’s wrong?” Mary asked. Her face was so white that all the freckles stood out.

“Water. Danger. Help. Scared.” The words spelled as fast as my hand could move.

“Call 9-1-1,” Mary cried suddenly. “Quick. Amber is in danger.”

By this time, Sarah was gasping into the phone. Then she hung up the phone. “They wouldn’t listen to me,” she told us, almost in tears.

At that instant, my hand was suddenly free from the planchette.

“She’s gone,” I gasped.

“See if you can contact her again,” Mary said urgently. “We need to know if she’s okay!”

I picked up the plastic planchette again. “Amber, are you there?” I asked softly, afraid of what might happen.

After a long pause, it moved slowly across the board and spelled out the words: “Too late.” And after another long pause. “Water. Flood. Drowned. Mobile. Alabama.” The planchette stopped. I knew that Amber was gone.

None of us got much sleep that night. In the morning, we rushed through breakfast and then looked up the Alabama news on the Internet. None of us were surprised to read that there had been flash floods the night before.  I read the names of those who had died in the flood.

One of the victims was an eight-year-old girl named Amber.”