After tearing open a wall in a Castleton, North Yorkshire cottage, the owners came across a little more than old wiring and plumbing lines. Nestled into the wall was a mummified hand that’s believed to have magical properties.
As the world’s only known “Hand of Glory” still in existence, it was as rare a find as it is ghastly. A Hand of Glory is typically a mummified, or pickled hand of a hanged convict, common in the 18th century. Typically, it was the left hand, or in the case of murder, the hand that “did the deed.”
Once prepared, the hands are believed to have powers ranging from “render[ing] motionless all persons to whom it was presented,” or unlocking “any door it came across.”
The preparations of the hand can be tricky, though.
Take the right or left hand of a felon who is hanging from a gibbet beside a highway; wrap it in part of a funeral pall and so wrapped squeeze it well. Then put it into an earthenware vessel with zimat, nitre, salt and long peppers, the whole well powdered. Leave it in this vessel for a fortnight, then take it out and expose it to full sunlight during the dog-days until it becomes quite dry. If the sun is not strong enough put it in an oven with fern and vervain. Next make a kind of candle from the fat of a gibbeted felon, virgin wax, sesame, and ponie, and use the Hand of Glory as a candlestick to hold this candle when lighted, and then those in every place into which you go with this baneful instrument shall remain motionless.
According to another source, the process is described as similarly grisly: “Once the blood was drained, the hand was wrapped in a cloth (preferably the winding sheet of a freshly buried corpse) and, according to an old recipe: ‘pickled in salt, and the urine of man, woman, dog, horse and mare; smoked with herbs and hay for a month; hung on an oak tree for three nights running, then laid at a crossroads, then hung on a church door for one night.’”
No matter how the Hand of Glory is “prepared,” finding a human hand in your wall is one seriously freaky find! Here, some more details about this ghastly tradition: