A Curious Invitation present London Month of the Dead
THE FIVE-FINGERED BEAST - The Sinister History of the Hand of Glory
A Live, Illustrated Zoom Talk with Historian Dr. Shane McCorristine
Tuesday 5th October 2021 at 7:00 pm

From ‘Thing’ in the Addams Family to Dr. Strangelove’s ‘alien hand’, contemporary audiences are familiar with images of sinister, dismembered hands. But this grisly gothic motif can be traced back to a medieval legend: the ‘hand of glory’ was a pervasive and rooted northern European folk belief that the severed hand of a hanged man (in its most common articulation) could give its owner magical powers when it was turned into a candle. These powers varied according to region and time period, but were, among others, said to make housebreakers invisible and the house’s inhabitants unable to wake up.

In this talk Shane McCorristine will set out the origins of this ancient superstition, before turning to the particular reasons why the hands of executed criminals were thought to have magical or virtuous powers by hangmen, apothecaries, healers, witches, and thieves in the early modern period. Dr McCorristine will examine the extent to which hands of glory were actually used and look at how the severed and animate magical hand became an important theme in nineteenth-century literature.

Tickets £5 including a 20% donation toward a host of restoration projects at Kensal Green Cemetery. Please click here to purchase.

Dr Shane McCorristine
Shane McCorristine is a Lecturer in Modern British History at Newcastle University. An interdisciplinary historian, his research focuses on the 'night side' of modern experience. Drawing approaches from cultural history and the medical humanities, he explores social attitudes toward dreams, ghosts, death and the supernatural. He is the author of Spectres of the Self: Thinking about Ghosts and Ghost-seeing in England, 1750-1920 (Cambridge University Press, 2010), Spiritualism, Mesmerism, and the Occult, 1800-1920 (Pickering & Chatto, 2012), and most recently, The Spectral Arctic: A History of Dreams and Ghosts in Polar Exploration (UCL Press, 2018).

PLEASE NOTE - This talk will take place virtually via Zoom. Ticket sales will end at 5:00 pm BST on the day of the lecture. A link to the conference will be sent to the email used at checkout at 3:00 pm BST on the day of the event. Please email suzette@acuriousinvitation.com in the event your link fails to arrive. .