There is no greater freedom for a wily 14-year-old than having the house to yourself.
It was 2004, and the sun had just set on a long, tired Saturday in Tennessee. My parents escaped into the night to gamble away their money, leaving the house to me and the cats. I was often home alone, but I relished the solitude very much. Here I was, the master of my small ranch house domain, and no one could dictate how much soda I drank or how long I was on the computer. And how I did love that monstrous computer! Even by early millennial standards, it was a bit of a dinosaur. Giant, bulbous monitor, keys loud like galloping horses, and a pair of offensively big and awkward speakers. All perched on an unreliable desk shoved against the wall.
I had just relocated the PC from one wall to its opposite. Originally, the way it was positioned, anyone could walk in and see whatever I was perusing on my monitor. Although I was a considerably innocent young lady, I didn’t care for that antagonistic stare over my shoulder. Now, my PC sat where no one could see it unless privileged and invited… to some extent. I was getting used to the new setup, feeling smart and adult by my decisiveness, but there was a wrongness to it. I’m getting used to it, I thought. At my right shoulder, the bedroom doorway was open to blackness, the end of the hall. Take a left turn out that doorway, and the hall continued to the living room and kitchen.
Have you ever felt watched? For the first time in my house, I did. I was excited, that’s all. Lots of things excited me. Horror movies and all the fantastic things that hide in the dark were in my blood. Caffeine was in my blood, too. In a spree of Pepsi and good humor, I would dash down the hallway to the cold glow of the kitchen light, snatch up a bag of chips and another soda, and bound back to my bedroom laughing to myself.
When one Pepsi was consumed and nary a chip was left, I would race down the hall for another. Our kitchen was a galley kitchen, so I could race through one side and out the other, barely stopping to slide on the tile as I avoided the short stop to the carpet. Then, back up the hall, I ran like a racehorse in the final furlong. I was ridiculous, but no one could see me. This was my game.
I was doing it again: down the hall, through the living room, skating into the kitchen. Then everything froze, and my stomach sparked with nausea. I saw it. I saw hands.
I saw a pair of white hands wrapped around and gripping the pantry door, and when I entered the kitchen, they slipped between the wall and the pantry as if someone was hiding there. The pantry door was no more than a foot-and-a-half wide, and the space between the wall and the door was no bigger than six inches. I knew, in all my logical mind, that no one was there. I knew no person could be that thin, that conniving, that impossibly wraith-like to be right behind that door.
It took everything in me to take a breath, walk to the pantry door, and close it. I knew what I saw. I knew the hands were really there. I knew I had felt someone watching me. I quietly walked back to my bedroom and locked myself in for the night. I didn’t want to think about the hands. I blamed the caffeine. My brain must have been going wild, and in a momentary lapse of reality, I saw something that wasn’t there. That was enough to explain it away, but it still ruined the loveliness of lonesome for me for quite some time.
Last October, I returned to my hometown for my sister’s wedding. Life had moved me far away enough that going home had become inconvenient for everything but significant events like this. To be back in that hall, in its almost paranormal shade, was unsettling. I marveled at all that had changed since I was a girl. Nothing was “home” about it, and in its metamorphosis, the memories withered away, too.
My sister staggered out of the bedroom on high heels, swinging the hem of her wedding dress around as she tried to get traction on the new hardwood floors. “I remember when I saw those hands right there,” she laughed, gesturing to a corner in the foyer. “Do you think this house is haunted?”
I did a comedic double-take. You saw hands? I saw hands! Simpatico!
I don’t recall my sister ever mentioning seeing the hands, but we probably spoke shortly about it long ago and chose to forget it for the sake of our Christian parents. Which one of you brought a hands demon in the house? Guilty, Mom. In that moment, though, I was charmed. It reminded me of the sisters in The Haunting of Hill House, and then I remembered how that season ended.
Since my experience with the hands, I have been seeing posts pop up all over Reddit and other communities, coyly asking about disembodied hands. I couldn’t shake the thought of other people like me seeing these hands. Everyone knows about the black-eyed children, the Hat Man, the shadow people… No one talks about the disembodied hands. Who are they? What are they? What do they mean? Why just hands? Is this psychological? Is it metaphysical? It’s a phenomenon whose accounts are too similar in nature to disregard.
This happened one Saturday afternoon when I was alone at home… I was excited to be alone, as it was an opportunity to sneak a call on the home phone. Back then, I was almost never allowed to use the home phone to make calls as it was costly. So I took the phone into my room and I called this guy I had been chatting to back then… I saw a hand that appeared out of nowhere next to me and bashed my bed a total of 3 times. This happened so fast I barely had any time to register what was happening…
One night, my sister and I were having a few glasses of wine when I was visiting her, and I decided to tell her about the hand. I expected her to laugh at me and think it was ridiculous. But she actually didn’t. She looked at me and said “hmm… thats weird.” And then she told me a story of this thing that used to happen to her and my brother when they were very little. They were between the ages of 5-8. She said that they used to believe that there was this scary hand in some rooms of the house, especially the passageway off the bedrooms, that would sometimes appear and chase them out.
So I was in my bedroom. I went to sit on my bed when I looked at my ajar door. I have never hallucinated and the lighting was good, but hanging over the top of the door was a hand. A female hand… After 15 minutes the hand was gone… And of course the hand didn’t have an arm or body.
I believe I was fourteen years old at the time. So I was using the computer in a room upstairs in my house… Also most importantly, there were 3 small square doors on the left and right walls for storage… all I see is the storage door just very slightly ajar… For some reason I felt the need to shut the door/investigate, and when I grab the little knob of the door I see a hand. I recall it looking humanish. 5 fingers, a thumb, but still I remember it looking grotesque…
One day, I was in my playroom playing by myself while my grandma was sitting in the living room and my grandpa was at work. Suddenly, I saw a disembodied hand appear out of thin air over the top of my Barbie Dream House. The hand was closer to the size of an adult’s hand. If the hand had a visible arm or body attached to it, it was hidden behind the dollhouse, out of my view. I was frozen with terror as I watched the fingers of the disembodied hand rapidly dance as it quickly moved back and forth, from one side of the dollhouse’s roof to the other. Finally, I stood up screaming and ran out of the room to my grandma.
I never saw the disembodied hand again after that, but I will never forget it. I often wonder if it was a ghost haunting my dollhouse that day, or perhaps some kind of trickster entity visited me. I’ll never know.
— Tanjrina Arena, “The Hand”
Creepy But True: Tales for the Campfire
My husband, son and myself were living in the crappy apartment in Provo that I have mentioned in another story. My husband worked graveyards at Stouffer’s and would get home at around 4 or 5 a.m. Depending on how quickly he could clean the machines used to make and mix food. One night at around 2:30 I woke up and turned over onto my other side facing the door to our bedroom. Much to my surprise I noticed a man’s fingers and part of his hand curled around the edge of the door just above the door knob. Just as if someone were standing outside the room and were about to pull the door the rest of the way open. I called out my husband’s name and the hand let go of the door and was gone from view.
This has happened to me too and that memory is vivid AF. They were white gloved hands like Mickey Mouse but somehow more just menacing.
These are only some accounts that I grabbed from sources like Reddit and paranormal books and websites. Indubitably, there are others out there lost to time or unspoken. They all share similar features with only some characteristics of the hand changing. More often than not, the witness is entirely alone. The witness ranges in age between a young child to a teenager, rarely an adult. The witness is engaged in an activity that has their focus and is interrupted by the hands’/hand’s appearance. Sometimes there is one hand; often, both hands appear.
The hands are disembodied, generally at the wrist. The hands are positioned in a way that makes it difficult to perceive if they are attached to a body or positioned in a way that makes it impossible for them to be attached to a body. The hands are either completely white (as if gloved), shadowy black, or a grotesque green or rotten color. The hands are either gripping a wall, a door, or an angle of furniture, etc. If they aren’t gripping anything, they are sometimes mobile and move about in a dexterous fashion, almost like a spider. The incident is fleeting and remarkable enough that the witness is adamant that it occurred.
Whatever these hands are, they must have some significance to their witnesses. I am familiar with The Addams Family and the devilish Thing. But Thing never seemed that frightening. He was amicable in nature and sometimes wise. The hands I saw did not feel wise. They were intrusive, deliberately stopping my folly. They were violating me as they spied on me in my antics, completely uninvited. It reminded me of the fiendish hand in The Evil Dead, the one that Bruce Campbell had to wrestle with after lopping the offender off. Still, I hadn’t seen the movie until much later. I’m not sure what influence I had on what I saw, if any at all, other than caffeine.
Whoever these hands belong to, we can unanimously agree that their presence isn’t a positive experience. But is that just perception? In the Dictionary of Symbolism constructed by Allison Protas, Eric Jaffe, and Geoff Brown, hands have a deeper meaning intrinsic to many of us. Hands are expressive, and in that expression is a semblance of power. When we talk, we gesture. We touch and manipulate our world with hands. It makes sense, then, that an entity would manifest in an obvious, spider-like shape that creeps and “speaks” to our primordial brain with the smallest flick of a digit.
With any luck, and with a little sage and many happy thoughts, perhaps the hands will finally congeal with their bodies and scare us properly with the foremost thing we are good at recognizing: faces.
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