Tag Archives: witch

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

The Jezebel Curse

Plot

Sarah Clarke was intensely jealous of her talented siblings Steve and Charlotte. So when Sarah accidentally conjured up the evil Jezebel Jordain who was drowned as a witch in the 17th century, she saw an ideal opportunity to use Jezebels’ powers to bring down Steve and Charlotte.

Notes

  • Photo story

Appeared

  • The Jezebel Curse – Suzy: #58 (15 October 1983) – #63 (19 November 1983)

The Book of Shocks and Shivers [1982]

  • The Book of Shocks and Shivers – Debbie PSL: #49 [1982]

Plot

Patsy Wood has talented siblings, so at times she feels quite ordinary beside them and wishes that she was good at something too. Despite her siblings or classmates winning prizes, she is not jealous and shows her good nature by genuinely being pleased for them and she shows her thoughtfulness when she finds a spectacles case and returns them to it’s owner. It is this act of helpfulness that actually leads to a lot of trouble for Patsy! The owner is a strange woman and Patsy finds the cottage she lives in quite creepy. Still not wanting to be rude, when the woman says she will grant her wishes, she does make a wish – that she could be different. The old woman woman sends Patsy on her way with a children’s picture book.

Patsy soon forgets all about the encounter and doesn’t notice when she knocks the book off her shelf, before going to school the next morning. At school, Patsy begins bragging about her sister and her dad’s new car. Her friends are also not happy with Patsy, when they miss their bus, waiting for Patsy to finish tidying her appearance. Then later at youth club netball game Patsy makes nasty comments about the other team’s appearance. At home Patsy wonders what made her act in such a way. She then notices the picture book on the floor, open on a page with a picture of a peacock. She finds it strange that she was acting proud and vain like a peacock, but thinks it’s silly to think there’s a connection. The next day, Patsy’s sister, Lorna, is looking through the book and leaves it open on an owl page. Meanwhile Patsy surprises herself by remembering all the answers for a history test, unfortunately it surprises her teacher too, who thinks she cheated! As she’s never been in trouble before the headmistress takes her word, but expects  this better standard of work across all her subjects if this is the result of her making an effort. Later on a charity walk, the mist starts coming down and Patsy thinks they should turn back. She can’t persuade anyone else to come with her and while she is safe, she later finds out she missed out on a lot of fun. The others sheltered at farmers house, helped the police find missing children and completed their charity goal. It is after this that Patsy finds the book opened on the owl. So the next day she decides to try opening up to a page herself.

She chooses a bee as she thinks being “busy as a bee” can’t cause much trouble. But she is wrong as she insults a friend by not stopping to chat and a big tidy spree means she misses out on a picnic, she also gets in trouble with her mom for not helping her sister. She decides to return the book, but the cottage has disappeared! She wonders if the old woman was a witch, because she can’t think of any other explanation. Not able to return the book, she hides it under her bed instead. Things are going better now that she’s back to normal, she’s even nominated for class service award because of her cheerfulness and helpfulness. But at home Mom is tidying Patsy’s room and comes across the book, she puts it back on the shelf, but it falls open on a picture of a mule. Straight away Patsy refuses to help a new girl out and stubbornly takes her time in changing room after a prefect tells her to hurry up, causing her to miss her bus. She gets the next bus but her English teacher sees her refuse to give up her seat for an old lady. Her teacher will no longer recommend her for the award, meaning she will lose out because of the book again.

Patsy tries to get rid of the book throwing it in the bin, but it falls out when the bin collectors come around, opening on a picture of a fox. Patsy soon finds herself slyly getting out of class by feigning sickness and getting a girl in trouble for making a joke about her. She finds the book by the house and once again tries to get rid of it by throwing it in the river, while out with her family but her Lorna, finds it. Her brother teases her about it looking at a page of two crossed stick, this makes her bad tempered, she even insists she will walk home. She throws the book in a bin on the way home. Again the book returns to her as it has magically got her name and address written inside it. She tries to hide it in the wardrobe, but of course it doesn’t stay hidden long. This does work out better than some of the previous pages, as she becomes as courageous as a lion. She speaks up to tough teacher and rescues a cat from a tree. She goes on to rescue a girl from a mine shaft, she gets unwanted attention from reporters because of this. Even if it did good, Patsy doesn’t want to be turned into something she’s not. Looking through the book she comes up with the idea to stick her own picture on a blank page. That day Patsy is happy to be herself and she returns home to find the book has disappeared, the spell has been broken.

Thoughts

Another supernatural story to finish out this Halloween month. While I like the title, it doesn’t seem to fit with the actual content, I can maybe see the shocks but not too sure where the shivers come into it. To me “shocks and shivers” implies more creepiness/ spookiness, but it is an interesting title, maybe one they didn’t want to pass up. While the book causes problems, both it and the witch aren’t evil and malicious, it is Patsy’s own wish that is the start of the problem. We don’t find much out about the mysterious witch, or why her cottage disappeared, did she really want to grant Patsy’s wish or did she want to teach her a lesson? In any case it does teach Patsy to be happy with herself as the book only disappears after she accepts that. While most pages cause trouble, we can see how others may work out if one was inclined to be different, such as the lion. So it is good that Patsy sees she has good qualities herself and doesn’t need to be top of the class or a hero.

The way the book works is interesting using common idioms to model her behavior. Most of the time the reader sees the picture first and can guess how Patsy will act i.e the fox means she will be “sly as a fox”.  A similar story “The Many Faces of Moppet” has a girl rescue a doll and finds herself acting accordingly to whatever expression the doll makes. In that case it is not something she wished for, and there doesn’t appear to be magic involved, but it does cause just as much problems as Patsy’s book. Patsy makes for a likeable protagonist, even when she wishes she could be as good at something like others, there is never jealousy of the people. Ironically her chance to win something due to her own good qualities is lost because of the book, Patsy hadn’t considered that being helpful and nice were special qualities themselves. I like the resolution of the story with Patsy using her own picture, like many cursed objects, the book cannot simply be gotten rid off to break the spell.

 

Witch Hazel

Plot

Young Hazel Withers was a member of a family of witches, but she had trouble with her spells, partly because she could not read very well. The family sent her to Grandma’s old school in England, and Grandpa turned himself into a cat to go and keep an eye on Hazel. But Whiteways School had changed since Grandma’s day, and it was now a reform school for tough girls!

witch hazel

Notes

Appeared

  • Witch Hazel – Judy: #526 (7 February 1970) – #540 (16 May 1970)
  • Reprinted – Judy and Tracy:  #1338 (31 August 1985) – #1352 (07 December 1985)

Beth and the Bells

Plot:

Susie and Beth Barrow were staying with their Aunt Mary in the seaside town of Barlington while their parents recovered from a road accident. When Beth disturbed the spirit of a local witch, Black Bess, while exploring an old bell tower, Susie realised that the spirit of the witch entered Beth whenever she heard a ringing bell.

beth and the bells

Notes:

Appeared:

  • Beth and the Bells –  Judy and Tracy:  circa #1320 (27 Apr. 1985) – (?)

Curse of the Crow

Plot:

Some 200 years ago, the villagers of Meddington put to death an old woman, Magda, as a witch. She swore revenge through her crow, which had caused nasty accidents. Among the victims of the curse were Melanie Bryant and Peter Grimes, who were determined to prove the evil of the bird to the sceptical present -day villagers.

curse of the crow

Notes:

Appeared:

  • Curse of the Crow  – Judy: #998 (24 February 1979) – #1006 (21 April  1979)

 

Bess of Black Fell

Plot

Bess Turner wanted to turn her inheritance, Black Fell Farm into an  animal sanctuary, but it was haunted by Elda, a witch drowned by the people of Charn village four centuries before. The present-day villagers wanted Bess to fill in the pond, but some swans nested there, and Bess decided to drain it to another place nearby. Dickon Hayter, whose ancestor Elda had loved, tried to help her, but the angry villagers stopped them. The villagers grew even more hostile after the church bell began ringing by itself.

bess of black fell

Notes

  • Art: Oliver Passingham

Appeared

  • Bess of Black Fell – Judy:  #893 (19 February 1977) – #902 (23 April 1977)