Tag Archives: curse

The Hateful Hands of Heather Smith [1979]

  • 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)

Plot

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.

Thoughts

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.

 

 

 

Friendless Fiona [1986]

  • Friendless Fiona – Nikki: #64 (10 May 1986) – #72 (5 July 1976)

Plot

Fiona Scott was a popular, outgoing girl while her friend Tara Martin was much quieter and shy. Mrs Martin worked at a Folklore Museum and Fiona thought she looked a bit like a witch. Mrs Martin was also very protective of her daughter, so when Tara has an accident on her bike, she blames Fiona. It was Fiona that convinced Mrs Martin to let Tara come on a bike ride after Fiona had seemingly fixed her brakes. After the accident Mrs Martin said Fiona was not to see Tara again and if she had her way she’ll be left without a friend in the world. Soon after incidents begin to happen to make believe Fiona that Mrs Martin had actually put a curse on her and soon she’d be friendless just like Mrs Martin promised!

Fiona has a bad day worrying about Tara, and she is snappy with her other friends. She falls out with her friend Kim about a party and next she annoys people by being overly cautious. Her trying to be careful actually make things worse, when she distracts her friend Christine who is up a tree trying to get her Gran’s cat, the cat falls hurting itself.  It becomes pretty clear that Fiona is becoming her own worse enemy. When Marie’s sister marks her for lateness she tries to get back at her by pretending the Head needs her as a joke, but that causes her to miss an audition. She is nervous about cycling and is convinced by Debbie to go on cycle but then Debbie thinks her nervousness was ploy to get John the boy she likes, as she cycles with him. When a new girl Sharon joins, she tries to make sure she doesn’t mix with others so they don’t turn her against Fiona, but then it turns out one of those people is her cousin!

So it continues, each episode a different friend is lost. Such as when Fiona and Rachel volunteer at a nursery and on the rainy day she tells kids story, but the next day is sunny and Rachel thinks they should run about. While they argue about it a kid has accident. When she joins a drama she ends up taking over her friend Jackie’s part after an attempt of helping her rehearse goes wrong. Things do get better when Jackie gets her part back, and Fiona becomes friendly with Nigel but after some accidents at rehearsal,  Nigel thinks she’s trying to cause trouble. She decides she has to go to Mrs Martin and ask her to remove the curse. She has surprise when she gets to the Martins, Tara is home from hospital and Mrs Martin is being friendly. It turns out Tara readjusted the brakes on her bike because she thought they were too stiff, so it wasn’t Fiona’s fault. Mrs Martin didn’t place a curse she just said things out of worry. Fiona realise her attitude to her friends changed because she thought they blamed her for accident. Now she knows there’s no curse everything goes back to normal and best of all she has her best friend Tara by her side again.

Thoughts

While some instances, her friends are being unfair, such as Fiona being nervous about a bike ride as it was first one since accident, then she didn’t deserve to be accused of boy stealing when she gains a bit more confidence cycling. A lot of the time though, Fiona really does make things worse for herself and makes herself unlikeable. One of the worst examples of this is when she thinks Marie’s sister should not mark her up for being late and keeps arguing about it and then playing the “joke” on her, causing her to miss out on a good opportunity.  She says mean things about her former friends to Sharon in attempt to keep her to herself. She also comes across as defensive and always having to have things her way, when Rachel wants to play games with the kids in the nursery, she gets in a huff, thinking she should be the one to decide. Or with the play insisting that Jackie stay longer to practice together causing them to be late to class and get detention, while Fiona finishes her work quickly and gets to go to rehearsal. She never questions her own behaviour because she blames it on an outside force, the “curse”.

The friend of the week formula can get a bit tiresome especially when Fiona comes across as unsympathetic at times. I was glad to see at the end it wasn’t actually a curse and it was Fiona’s own behaviour that caused her to lose friends. It does make her  a bit more sympathetic as we realise that worry over her friend (who she has been unable to see), her own guilty feelings projected, making her think her other friends blamed her, and the harsh words by Mrs Martin are all the root of her self destructive behaviour. Once these are worries are lifted her attitude changes and she can begin to mend friendships.

 

 

 

The Curse of Carlos

Plot

When a Spanish ship  was lured on to the rocks a curse was placed on anyone who tried to steal the gold she carried! Years later, Joan’s sister, Maggy, dived with three Americans to recover the gold, but two of the party were drowned. Joan and the other American, Tim, returned but Maggy remained unconscious and icy cold!. The daughter of Juan Carlos then appeared to Joan in a dream and told her that her sister wouldn’t recover until the gold was returned to the wreck. So Joan followed Tim, who had the gold coins, to London, where she discovered that Tim had been mugged and the coins stolen!

Notes

  • Art:  Manuel Carmona Ruiz ?

Appeared

  • The Curse of Carlos – Debbie: #499 (4 September 1982) – #504 (9 October 1982)

Fran – Friend for a Year / Prisoner of Time [1979]

  • Fran – Friend for a Year – Tracy: #03 (20 October 1979) – #15 (12 January 1980)
  • Reprinted as Prisoner of Time – Nikki: #171 (28 May 1988) – #185 (3 September 1988)
  • Main Artist: Carlos Laffond
  • Second Artist: Candido Ruiz Pueyo

Plot

On a Halloween night, Julie Jackson has a party on top of Holly Hill, a place where witches were legend to meet in olden times. Julie has brought an old spell she found in the library which is meant to summon spirits. She is startled by sudden appearance of a girl, causing her to drop the paper into bonfire, before she can recite it. The girl, Fran Gray, joins the party, she has some strange old fashioned sayings and seems to know more about history than modern things. She tells Julie she used to live here a long time ago and has recently returned. She also tells her that 300 years ago witches met at this place and their influence lingers. Julie invites Fran back to her house when it starts to rain. Later after everyone leaves, the Jacksons discover Fran has no home, so invite her to stay. Fran is grateful but she can only be friends with Julie for a time.

The Jacksons end up fostering Fran, but there are many puzzling things about Fran. Julie notices her marking the calendar, she says a year goes by quickly. Fran seems to very knowledgeable, on the first day of school Fran evacuates everyone when she realises the new school has been built on an old mine. Everyone gets out before the school collapses. Reporters want to do a story on her heroism, but Fran shies away from photos and doesn’t want any interviews. At the newspaper office the reporters find an old story about a girl saving children during a bombing, the think the similarities with Fran is curious. With the school closed, Julie and Fran go to stay with her cousin. When they arrive, Fran sees the door plaque for Dr Hawkforth, then when Carol greets them, Fran throws silver dust on her to protect herself from evil. Talking to her family Dr. Hawkforth remembers stories about witches in his family and Fran refuses to stay with them. So they have to leave.

More mysterious behaviour when they go out riding and Fran uses a side sidle. She saves a fox from a hunt as she says she knows what it is like to be hunted. Time passes and soon it is Christmas. Wanting to show her gratitude to the Jacksons Fran digs up old heirlooms to give to them as presents. Christmas is not happy time for Fran though as when the Hawkforths visit, Fran will not interact with them and draws circle around her bed to protect from evil. Seeing the presents Fran gave, Uncle John says he has an old painting of  a woman with the brooch and when Julie tells Fran about it, she says it was her mother, but then says she has no mother and no family. When Julie tries to comfort her saying she has them now, Fran replies that it’s only for a year.  Fran causes more trouble at a New Year when she hypnotizes a rude girl causing her to throw trifle over herself. She says its one of the many things  she learned over the years. When Fran wants to go to Brinton Julie accompanies her and she puts flowers on an ancestors grave. It seems a reporter and pastor are waiting to find out who the mysterious mourner is who leaves flower on the same day over the years on a gravestone too faded to read. On another family outing the girls meet an old woman who is shocked to see Fran as she looks like the girl, Fanny, that they adopted. But Fanny disappeared after a year leaving only a thank you note. They bring some comfort to Mrs Palmer, but Julie again wonders what is Fran’s connection with Fanny.

At home Julie catches Fran putting on make-up to try and look older, and again Fran makes some mysterious comments about some people not getting to be old. Later when out with some friends Fran saves girl from drowning. It seem for a minute, after saving the girl, Fran is going to let the water take her, but then changes her mind, she tells Julie she must follow life through to it’s natural end. Julie begins to get more pieces of the puzzle,when Fran is knocked out by tree rambles about “Don’t burn the witch, spare Sarah Hawkforth until she has freed me”. Then when the Jacksons go looking for a birth certificate for Fran in village she was born in, they can only find a Fran Gray from over 300 years ago. As Fran’s birthday approaches she becomes more unhappy, she promises to reveal everything to Julie soon. Mrs Jackson makes Fran a cake but  the 14th candle won’t light. That night Fran sneaks down to grandfather clock and Julie follows her.  At midnight the hands spin backwards, Fran tells Julie the spell still holds.

Carol Hawkforth arrives soon after Fran’s birthday, she has been doing some digging  into her ancestors and has found out about Black Sarah a witch burnt at the stake. A black cat arrives at the house, Fran says it’s reminding her she can’t stay longer. Finally Fran tells her story – Sarah Hawkforth lodged with her family, but when her father found out she was a witch he cast her out, she cursed Fran with living forever. Sarah was burnt at stake before Fran could get her to reverse the spell. So as Fran stayed 13 forever all her family and friends grew old and died around her. She then for the next stage of her  endless journey.

Thoughts

It’s that time of year again, to look at some spooky stories. When this story was first printed it started appropriately around Halloween although the reprint started in May! There were two artists for the story, perhaps because I had gotten used to Laffond but I think he did a better job at portraying the wise qualities of Fran and spookier atmosphere. [Update: Thanks for Goof for the artist names, also I just noticed that the Nikki reprint has 2 extra episodes, I don’t know which episodes are extra as I don’t have the Tracy issues to compare but presumably those that were cut didn’t affect the story and may have to do with Lafford’s early death] Of the story titles, I prefer Prisoner of Time, as it keeps more with the mysterious tone. The first episode in Nikki had a cover that  promises it to be the strangest story ever read. I don’t know if that is true but it does come close and the cover was very intriguing. That cover actually takes a lot from the last 2 episodes  so readers must have been anticipating when these story elements would be revealed.

It is quite a detailed story, so my summary just covers main points, but there is lot of strange behaviour and sayings like “love apples” for tomatoes that Fran use. It is very interesting that it turns out Fran was cursed by a witch, as she displays some witchy qualities herself, such as saying a spell on Holly Hill to protect Julie from spirits, her use of silver and circles to ward off evil and her putting girl “under a spell” by hypnotizing her. Early in the story I thought it would be revealed that she was persecuted as a witch by the Hawkforths, especially as she mentioned she knew what is was like to hunted like the fox. So the reveal that she was actually cursed by a Hawkforth witch was well done.  I do wonder if she met some good witches over her time, and that’s where she learned some spells, perhaps she has sought help to break the curse before. We don’t get to learn much about Fran’s past as we only get hints of it throughout the story, so it does leave room for readers to imagine what the last 300 years has been like for Fran, once her secret is revealed.

Some things don’t quite add up though, such as if she has been alive all this time, even if she still likes old fashion things its odd that she is not also knowledgable about modern things. The ending also leaves some questions, as it plays up the difference in age of Julie and Fran, making out that she is so much younger and naive which contrasts to her worldly presence (The switch in artist for the last 6 parts also makes Fran look younger, I don’t know if that is intentional or just their style). With the Jackson’s knowing the truth and ancestor of Black Sarah among them, you’d think they might try to help Fran instead of letting her go, but maybe that would lead to too many questions by authorities. There are some dark tones in the stories, Fran is certainly a tragic and sympathetic figure, having to watch her family die, to never have permanent friends, it clearly distresses her, so much that she even contemplates suicide at one point! Quite heavy stuff. It is a story that feels fresh in comparison to some other witch stories and a captivating read.

 

 

Diane and the Ducking Stool

Plot

“When you feel the splash of water – do the will of Annie Potter!” That is the curse that fell on the mother of Diane Morris, following an accident with an ancient ducking stool. Long ago,  Annie was put to death as a witch and now Mrs Morris was enslaved into taking revenge on the people of Crickley especially the Tiley family. Diane didn’t know about the spell and as her father had died some months before, she blamed this for her mothers odd behaviour.

Notes

  • Artist: Robert MacGillivray

Appeared

  • Diane and the Ducking Stool – Tracy: #253 (4 August 1984) – #259 (15 September 1984)

Shadow of Doom

Plot

Linda and Carol Milne, twelve year old twins, discovered that because of a witch’s curse laid on an ancestor, one of every pair of twins born in the family, was doomed to die before their thirteenth birthday. The curse could only be undone by a strange witch’s necklace made up of thirteen linking pieces. To spare their family the girls kept their discovery a secret and set out to track down the 12 medallions and the chain.

Notes

  • Writer: Marion Turner (under pen-name: Fiona Turner)

Appeared

  • Shadow of Doom – Tracy: #215 (12 November 1983) – #227 (4 February 1984)

Nothing But the Truth

Plot

Georgina Washington’s habit of telling tales backfired on her one moonlight night, when a mysterious old lady cast a spell on her. Whenever the sign of the crescent moon glowed on Georgina’s forehead, she could tell nothing but the truth, however inconvenient it might be.

Notes

Appeared

  • Nothing But the Truth –  Tracy: #142 (19 June 1982) – #149 (7 August 1982)