The Hairy Hands of Dartmoor

Dartmoor’s bleak and desolate terrain has given rise to a host of folk stories and legends. The Hairy Hands are a pair of ghostly, disembodied hands said to be responsible for the unusually high number of accidents on a particular stretch of road close to the hamlet of Postbridge, Devon.

While rumours of something strange on that stretch of road date back to the turn of the century, the first incident directly linked to the legend of the hairy hands was in June 1921, when a Dartmoor Prison doctor was killed after he lost control of his motorcycle and veered off the road. His children had been traveling alongside him in a sidecar, and later told police that their father had shouted at them to jump clear of the bike as he struggled with the controls. In a subsequent second motorcycle crash on the same stretch of road, a pillion passenger described seeing a large, hairy hand tug on the handlebars, causing the crash.

Accidents continued in the same place, with many victims describing their vehicle suddenly swerving or losing control as if someone had tugged at the steering wheel. Some claim to have seen or felt large, hairy hands either snatching at the wheel or pulling at the driver. The entity has also menaced campers in the area, with one young woman in 1924 describing waking in the night to see a large hand crawling up the caravan window. Later stating that it gave off an unmistakable sense of an intention to harm her and her husband, she made the sign of the cross and the hand retreated.

Rufus Endle, author of a book on Dartmoor Prison, told fellow author Michael Williams that he had been driving near Postbridge when a pair of large, hairy hands grabbed the steering wheel. He struggled with them for control of the car, ultimately avoiding a crash, after which the hands disappeared. On telling the story, he asked that it not be published until after his death, for fear of ridicule for the claims.

Most versions of the story do not specify the origins of the hands, although some speculate that they are the ghost of a man that was killed in a crash or an escaped inmate of Dartmoor Prison. The local council presented a far more mundane explanation, finding that the camber of that stretch of road is unusually pronounced, and it has since been adjusted. Local people living nearby maintain an alternative theory; that drivers not familiar with the area travel too fast and are unable to safely navigate the narrow, wall-lined road.

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