VitaminQ - a temple of trivia lists and curious words
Vitamin Q: the book!
~ Tuesday, October 14, 2003
At last, some severed hand trivia:
1 A Hand of Glory was a device often used by burglars as recently as 200 years ago. Made from the severed hand of a hanged man, it was used as a holder for a candle made from a magic recipé including human fat and spices. It was said to open doors and ensure that householders fell into a deep sleep.
2 Around 1900, W W Jacobs' wrote 'The Monkey's Paw' (probably adapting an earlier folk tale) which tells of a cursed, embalmed paw which gives the owner three (dangerous) wishes.
3 A film from Michael Caine's quiet years, The Hand (1981) tells of an artist who loses his hand in a crash, only to discover it is following him and committing terrible crimes.
4 The third act of Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus may be the goriest in any play. One of the many difficulties in staging it is producing a realistic spectacle of Titus' hand being lopped off.
5 The cover photo of my second collection of poetry had to be in black and white, otherwise the entangled fingers looked more like a pile of severed hands.
6 Even within the last decade, the embalmed severed hand of John Kemble (a Catholic martyr later made a saint) has been removed from a coffin in Hereford and used to 'cure' priests with terminal illnesses.
7 A game played last century by girls in boarding school dorms was to pass round - bed to bed, in the dark - a 'dead man's eye' (a peeled grape) and a 'dead man's hand' (a rubber glove filled with water).
8 A similar glove is sometimes frozen in the US at Hallowe'en, the iced 'severed hand' being daubed with fake gore and served with blood-red fruit punch.
9 The Belgian city of Antwerp may derive its name from a word meaning 'throwing hands' after the legend of a giant who cut off the hands of those who refused to pay a toll over the river, until a Roman soldier bested him and cut his off, throwing it into the water. A huge fountain in the city depicts the scene.
10 The 'Red Hand of Ulster' supposedly derives from a race between invaders to claim land. The chief who was losing cut off his hand and threw it ashore, thereby gaining rights on the area.