- The Hateful Hands of Heather Smith – Tracy: #01 (06 Oct. 1979) – #13 (29 Dec. 1979)
- Reprinted – Judy: #1523 (18 March 1989) – #1535 (10 June 1989)
On a school trip to Cumner Castle, a guide tells the story of the Cumner tyrants, who locked a witch, Elfrida, in a dungeon and left her to starve and die. Her hand-prints are left on the wall from where she clawed trying to reach the window,and the guide says she left a curse “let mortals beware the evil in my hands”. Jane thinks the story is rubbish but her friend Heather Smith points out the marks on the wall and that her hands fits on them, not knowing that she has now brought the curse upon herself. She soon finds out how real the curse is as later she her hands nearly pushes Jane off the castle roof! (Luckily Jane obliviously moves out of way in time).
Soon whenever the hands wants revenge, no matter how small the infraction, Heather hears the witch’s voice in her head and she can’t control her hands. Like cutting her friend’s hair as she thinks she has been excluded from a party that her friend was invited to or being mean to her young cousin by taking his bear. The hands even hurt Heather when she tries to resist them, like when she tries to post a card to her relative from their Gran, the hands pinch her until she takes the money and throws the card away. While it causes trouble for her it seems no-one else notices, and they always end up blaming something else. When her cousin doesn’t receive the card, he assumes it got lost in the post and not to upset his Gran he thanks her for the card. When her hands ruin a mural painted by a classmate, Sharon, the hands block her from speaking out and Sharon gets in trouble. At a carnival she is going to take a peg up and collapse a tent, the vicar comes along and thinks she is helping to fix it.
At the same carnival she meets a fortune teller, the woman senses the evil in Heather’s hand and refuses to give her fortune. The more Heather tries to resit the more violent the hands are to her, when she tries to resist ruining competitor’s cake at school her hand takes a rolling pin to her other hand. The hands then wants her to push an old woman down a hill in her wheelchair but luckily a neighbour Jim comes by and offers to help with the wheelchair. After a few more incidents, she happens upon an old shop that has a book “Legends of Castle Cumner” and she wonders if it contains a way to break the curse. She goes in to buy the book but the hands of course want to destroy it,she manages to handcuff herself and asks Mr Adams, the shop owner to read anything about the curse. He tells her of a girl a hundred years previously who had been cursed too. A wise woman told her to crush garlic in her hands, place her hands in the prints again and to say “I take back what is mine. No longer shall my hands be your slaves!” Heather follows this advice an is at last freed from the curse.
It’s Halloween time again, so perfect time to look at a story about a witch’s curse (there are plenty to choose from!) and some body horror. As with many of these stories an innocent happenstance causes the protagonist to be cursed and fall under an evil influence which then causes trouble. A big difference to other stories is usually people around the protagonist would notice the change or she would lose all her friends. Not the case here, the evil hands do cause trouble and Heather distress, but no one else notices or if they do they always blame something else. Occasionally people get annoyed but for the most part Heather is deemed such a good person it doesn’t cross their mind that she would do something malicious, like when the vicar catches her with the tent peg at carnival, he assumes someone else loosened it and Heather was fixing it.
Some of the story’s logic is inconsistent like most times she is aware of what her hands are doing and tries to stop them but other times she is taken over completely and doesn’t remember what she did. Being aware of what she is doing but not being able to stop it, is more interesting dilemma in this case, there are some intense scenes like when she beats her own hand with rolling pin. There have been many horror films with possessed hands, although often they were severed already, and many of those films came after this story. Two that come to mind is The Evil Dead II (1987) and Idle Hands (1999), where the protagonists hand become possessed and attacks people, in both these films the protagonist had to cut their hand off and kill it. Heather luckily was able to break the possession without these extreme methods!
In the end things are wrapped up too quickly as she just happens upon a history book with the answer to her problems (although I did like her quick thinking of handcuffing herself). The witch, Elfrida although vengeful, I can feel sympathy to her at the start, as she suffered a terrible fate and those that locked her up were terrible people. But her vengefulness comes across as petty while controlling Heather, she is not on a quest to punish the Cumner ancestors or people like them, instead she makes Heather act out when someone bests Heather at cooking or even for no reason at all, like when she makes her release Mrs Dickson’s bird. But maybe that’s the point, after all they are “hateful hands” they don’t need any more motive than that.