Imagine the year is 1925 and it is a dark winters night, the sky is clear and the air is cold, a frost is starting to bite at the whitening verge side. You and your partner are driving along the B3212 between Postbridge and Two bridges after visiting friends in Moretonhampstead. This old turnpike road was once known as the ‘Carters Road’ because a man called Carter built it. The car is freezing and to keep out the moorland chill you both have heavy coats and thick gloves. On the left the moon is peering up over Arch tor and the combination of it’s yellowish beams and the dim car headlights a pair of fiery eyes are gleaming in the middle of the road. As you get nearer a brown hunched figure stands transfixed, those blood red eyes just stare deep into your soul. Your partner screams and you grab the brake, the heavy rubber tyres slide across the icy surface. Seconds seem like minutes as the vehicle glides gracefully sidewards along the bumpy road and stops just short of the static monster of the night. Gradually your racing heart slows down and your senses return, and there a red deer, transfixed with fear in the glare of the headlights, stands quivering. Your partner is not sure whether to laugh or cry, the deer regains its wits and gracefully bounds off towards Archerton Bog, the swishing of the icy grass is the only sound that betrays the path of the animal.
If it was not so cold you would take off your gloves and light a cigarette, but there are many miles to go before you sleep so onwards speeds the little car. The headlights pick out the small Higher Cherrybrook Bridge in the distance and you can see the sharp right hand bend leading into it. Knowing the road is icy you gently apply the brakes and select your course, allowing for the hard granite parapet of the bridge. Suddenly and for no reason the car sharply veers to the left hand side of the road, you grip the wheel tighter and notice a pair of severed hairy hands clamped around it. No matter how hard you try to force the car back onto the road the hands stubbornly steer it towards the verge. A sickening jolt announces that the car has just left the road, this is followed by a nerve grating screeching sound as the willow branches scratch along the side of the vehicle. Eventually the car crashes to a halt, steam billows hissing up into the cold night air and there is silence, a stomach churning silence. Nervously you glance at the steering wheel those putrid, ghostly hands have vanished as quickly as they appeared. You check your partner, she is as white as the big moon that is hanging over the moor, the smell of hot oily water and burning rubber flares your nostrils… Congratulations you have just met the ‘Hairy Hands of Dartmoor’!
Some time around the early 1900’s a series of unexplained accidents were reported along the stretch of the B3212 road which runs from above Postbridge to Two Bridges. Cyclists said how suddenly the handlebars of their bikes were wrenched out of their hands, forcing the bike into the ditch. Pony and traps were also forced off the road and onto the verge. Drivers of cars and motor coaches were experiencing the same occurrences.
In the 1920’s a woman staying in a caravan parked in the ruins of Powder Mills was woken one night and saw a hairy hand creeping up the window, she made the appropriate sign of the cross and the dismembered limb vanished. A car was then found upturned in the ditch with its driver dead at the wheel, the cause of the accident was never established.
In 1921 Dr Helby from Princetown was driving his motorcycle and side car when near to the entrance of Archerton it was suddenly forced out of control and crashed. In the sidecar were two daughters who some say were the daughters of the Deputy Governor of Dartmoor Prison whilst others suggest it was his own two daughters.. The two girls were tossed out of the sidecar thus receiving minor injuries but sadly the doctor was killed, the cause of death being a fractured skull. At the inquest the coroners verdict was that the accident was due to the wheel spokes and axle of the motorcycle breaking up.
Not long after this tragic event and Army Officer was injured when his motorcycle was driven off the road, he lived to tell the tale and the one he told was that of muscular, hairy hands clamping over his and forcing the bike into the verge. The Daily Mail soon picked up the story and the ghostly events became headline news. In a letter to the Western Morning News of the 24th of October 1921 the Dartmoor authoress, Beatrice Chase gave her opinion as the the cause. She suggested that: “these things may be due to magnetic rocks, of which there are many on Dartmoor. This extraordinary season may have increased or altered the magnetic currents. It would appear to have some connection with metal, and the steering wheel or handle bars would act as conductors, and an electric shock might account for the strange sensation described by the young officer. In the interests of the public, it would be nice if someone with the requisite instruments could test that road from the top of Merripit Hill to Archerton.” The local authorities sent engineers to investigate and repairs were made to the road although this had nothing to do with testing for magnetic currents.
There is a tale that later that year a charabanc carrying some tourists along the B3212 had an unfortunate encounter with the ghostly ‘Hairy Hands‘. Apparently the vehicle was merrily speeding along when suddenly it swerved and shot across to the other side of the road and mounted a bank. At this point of time seat belts were not compulsory and so several of the passengers were ejected out of the charabanc, one of which was seriously injured. Afterwards the driver reported that a pair of ghastly hairy hands had grabbed the wheel and forced him off the road.
In the September of 1947 another tragic accident happened near the Cherrybrook Bridge. A young couple from Exeter had visited Princetown where the boyfriend had drunk two or three glasses of beer. They then travelled home on a motorbike and sidecar in which the young lady was travelling. Owing to the fact that her boyfriend had consumed a couple of beers she asked him to drive slowly. For some reason as the motorbike approached Cherrybrook bridge it began to accelerate and lose control. The young girl was flung out of the sidecar onto the grass verge whilst her boyfriend careered on and smashed into the bridge. When assistance came he was rushed into Tavistock hospital where he sadly died from a fractured skull. At the inquest P.C. Tancock of Princetown stated that the couple were perfectly sober when they had left Princetown and that as the machine approached the bridge at speed it went into a ‘wobble’ and the young man was unable to regain control. The verdict was – accidental death. Was this simply an accident or did some mysterious force cause the bike to ‘wobble’ and crash? We shall never know. In 1962 a visitor to Dartmoor, Florence Warwick was tootling along the road when wanting to check her location she stopped the car to look at a map. In her words: “I looked up and saw a pair of huge, hairy hands pressed against the windscreen. I tried to scream, but couldn’t. I was frozen with fear.” In 1962 a visitor to Dartmoor, Florence Warwick was tootling along the road when wanting to check her location she stopped the car to look at a map. In her words: “I looked up and saw a pair of huge, hairy hands pressed against the windscreen. I tried to scream, but couldn’t. I was frozen with fear.”
In 2008 another motorist reported that he saw a huge pair of what looked like hairy paws grab his steering wheel in an attempt to force him off the road. To this present day there are still reports of either spectral hands grabbing the steering wheel or of an evil presence inside the car which in some cases leads to erratic steering.
There is no definitive reason for who or what the hands originally belonged to. One suggestion is that they once belonged to a worker at the nearby Powder Mills Factory which once produced gunpowder. The story goes that this particular man was renown for his large large hairy hands. He was left a large legacy from a relative in Italy which meant he no longer needed to work at the factory. To celebrate the fact he held a party for all his workmates in the evening on his final day at the works. When the celebrations had ended he decided he wanted to keep his tools as a lasting reminder of his times making gunpowder so he went to his workplace to collect them. Due to the volatility of gunpowder the written rule was to never wear hobnail boots where the powder was being made. Simply because the floors were made of granite stone and there was a danger of the hobnails creating a spark which could cause an explosion. On this occasion he with the ‘hairy hands’ forgot this cardinal rule and entered his workplace with his boots on. Sure enough his boots created a spark which ignited the gunpowder causing one almighty explosion, the result of which was that the poor fellow got blown to smithereens. All that was left of him were his ‘hairy hands’ which in one of them still held his tools. The theory of this tale is that it’s his hands that cause all the accidents along the B3212.
As always there are grains of truth in such stories as there were several documented gunpowder explosions at the factory resulting in several deaths and severe injuries. For example in 1851 there was a tragic incident when; “One of the houses at the Dartmoor Powder Works took fire last week. One man was so much burnt that he died shortly after the accident; three other were also much injured, but they are doing well. The man who received the fatal injury has left a wife and five children. The next morning another part of the works was blown to atoms by an explosion.” Bell’s Weekly Messenger, July 19th, 1851. A few years later another fatality occurred due to an explosion when Roger Northcote was killed in the November of 1857.
So if paranormal activity is not the culprit of this phenomenon or fluctuating magnetic currents what is?
STOP PRESS ! STOP PRESS ! STOP PRESS – a world exclusive, whilst driving over the Higher Cherrybrook Bridge I saw the ‘Hairy Hands’, (June 8th 2006), I swung the car violently into the car park, grabbed my camera and went back to investigate. There right in front of my eyes were the two black hairy hands swinging on the barbed wire fence – wow!!!! I put before you the very first photographic evidence of the ghostly ‘hairy hands’ of Dartmoor which I will add, I risked life and limb to get – see above. As with most things, the danger of putting them in the public domain always risks exposure to the arseholes in life and such is the case with the monkey. Some faceless creep has decided to pinch the ‘hairy hands’ and so you will no longer see him!