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Hand of Glory

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"I found a mummified hand in her room."
"The 'Hand of Glory.' It was supposed to be able to open any lock. It was the right hand of a convicted murderer, cut off while his neck was still in the noose. It's supposed to open any lock... Or so Margaret believed."
Harry Angel and Ethan Krusmark, Angel Heart

A Hand of Glory is a preserved severed hand that can serve as a source of light, either due to its holding a candle (often one made from human tallow) or because each finger has been made into an individual candle. The Hand was often said to have belonged to a hanged man – either his left hand or, if the man was a murderer, the hand that did the deed. Another source is the arm of an unborn child.

The Hand is variously ascribed a number of magical abilities that it is supposed to produce whilst the wick stays lit, generally any power that would be of use to a sneaky thief, including providing a light that only the wielder can see, unlocking any door it comes across, or sending anyone into a household or who looks into the flame to sleep or paralyzing them. Generally an artifact of Black Magic, seen as something that no respectable Gentleman Wizard would own, use, or even want to touch.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Forbidden Worlds #15 had the story The Glory Hand as can be seen here. In the story the hand points to pirate treasure and a demon bound to the Hand protects the wielder from the curse that guards the treasure.
  • Hellboy
    • In Box of Evil, Igor Bromhead uses a Hand to steal a box that had the demon Ualac trapped inside. It paralyzes the homeowner while Bromhead steals the box right in front of him, leaving the Hand behind and forcing his victim to wait for hours before he could move again.
    • Another appears in Being Human, Hellboy has a Oh, Crap! moment when he sees it while Roger remains unaffected because he's "not human". It doesn't help Roger's angsting about not being human.
  • Balberith, Hell's Librarian from the Hellraiser comics created a Hand from the man who summoned her that turned her invisible.
  • The Hand in The Invisibles is a powerful artifact that can open doors in timespace — i.e. open gates to other worlds and ages. It is hinted that the Hand is Jack Frost's hand, who uses it to fold in time like a cursor on a computer screen.
  • The Sixth Gun: Gabriel from the Knights of Solomon is introduced carrying a Hand. Cullen Bunn goes into more detail:
    The infamous Hands of Glory are rooted in such acts of baseless cruelty and black magic that they can put the fear of both Heaven and Hell into the hearts of the bravest men. There are more than a dozen of these severed, pickled hands in the world, all taken from the bodies of hanged murderers. The hands were harvested while the bodies still swung under the light of a full moon. Even now, the sound of creaking ropes or the wind through the trees will cause the long-dead fingers to twitch horribly. It is believed that there is a connection between the hands and the spirits of the legendary Gallows Tree. Where the ghosts of the Gallows Tree are said to possess the gift of prophecy, though, each of the Hands of Glory has a unique property. Each hand is bled, dried, and dipped in wax. When these dead man's candles burn, they can ward off evil spirits, unlock doorways and reveal hidden passages, freeze people in their footsteps, render a speaker speechless, or allow one to travel great distances with a single footstep. Some lore holds that once a Hand of Glory is lit, only mother's milk may extinguish it. Others say that a strong breeze carrying the stink of the grave can douse the light. It is said that should a Hand of Glory be extinguished in this way, the restless dead will quickly rise up in the deepening shadows.
  • Sparrow & Crowe: Dr Xander Crowe replaced his right hand with a hand of glory when he lost it in his second altercation with Adramelech, an ancient Assyrian demon.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Angel Heart: While searching Madame Krusemark's home, Harry Angel finds one that she kept in a box, a hint of the Black Magic that she and Johnny practiced.

  • There's an old English fairytale about the Hand of Glory: an old woman comes to stay at an inn for the night, begging shelter. The servant girl notices that the 'old woman' actually appears to be a man and only pretends to sleep, seeing him light the dead man's hand and start looting the house. She tries to wake her masters and finds them in a charmed sleep. She pours water, then beer, over the hand and it does nothing; she finally pours milk over the hand and puts it out. The landlord wakes and drives the thief away. In one version, the landlord's son shoots the thief and his cronies dead.

  • The Bartimaeus Trilogy book The Golem's Eye: Harlequin carries one such "distinctive candle". When Harlequin uses it to cast a spell to stun anything in the graveyard where they are meeting, Nathaniel protests that he recognises the spell as the Illuminated Circlet and that it does not require a hand of a corpse to cast. Harlequin insists that things like "blood, ritual, sacrifice, death" are at the heart of their magic and are not to be ignored.
  • In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Malfoy notices a Hand of Glory in Borgin & Burkes, a shop known in the series for peddling a variety of... questionable wares. Draco eventually uses it in the Half-Blood Prince for his plan to let Death Eaters into the school.
    "Can I have that?" interrupted Draco, pointing at the withered hand on its cushion.
    "Ah, the Hand of Glory!" said Mr. Borgin, abandoning Mr. Malfoy's list and scurrying over to Draco. "Insert a candle and it gives light only to the holder! Best friend of thieves and plunderers! Your son has fine taste, sir."
  • A Hand also appears in a poem by the same name in the Ingoldsby Legends where it has the power to send a household into a deep slumber.
  • The Hand from The Haunting of Hiram by Eva Ibbotson is a ghostly disembodied hand who wants to become a Hand of Glory. He manages to achieve his goal after being shocked into action, just in time to save Helen from Adolfa by freezing her in place.
    'Every day and in every way I am getting gloriouser and gloriouser,' wrote the Hand with an old piece of stick on the loose gravel. He wrote this ten times a day in the hope that soon he really would become a Hand of Glory, but today his fingers trembled so much that there was no point in going on.
  • In The House With a Clock in Its Walls, the villian Mrs. Izard uses a Hand to momentarily paralyze Jonathan and Mrs. Zimmermann when they and Lewis finally find the hidden Doomsday Clock; she probably killed her human minion Hammerhandle in order to construct it.
  • The Hundred Days: Dr. Maturin is given a hand by a fellow physician that exhibits palmar aponeurosis to the point that the fingers are bent inwards and the fingernails growing through the flesh of the palm. The superstitious crew believe that it is a Hand of Glory and that it is a Good Luck Charm making them upset when the dog eats it.
  • The Iron Dragon's Daughter: Jane crafts a Hand to steal from Galiagante. Those who look into the flames are Brainwashed though the victim only fulfils one request for each wick lit. The hand also opens every lock and since she used one of Galiagante's credit cards in its creation, the hand directs Jane to his wealth (though opulence of his home makes it hard to zero in on his safe).
  • The Laundry Files has Hands of Glory serving as channels for an extradimensional energy source. Not only do they bestow invisibility, they can be used to fire Frickin' Laser Beams, though the later causes the hand to degrade. The Laundry usually gets theirs from stray birds (ever wonder why there are so many one-legged pigeons?), though Chinese political prisoners aren't unheard of.
  • In the Lord Darcy story "The Eyes Have It" Lord Darcy and Master Sean find a Hand in a chest owned by Laird Duncan, the possession of which without a Research Permit from the Church is proof of practicing Black Magic.
  • Referenced in The Mangler, the short story by Stephen King. It's described both literally (as a man's arm is ripped off by the titular machine) and metaphorically as one of several items used to call demons. And it's very, very bad.
  • Neverwhere
    [...] a man thrust what appeared to be a child's severed hand clutching a candle toward him as he passed, muttering, "Hand of Glory, sir? Send 'em up the wooden hill to Bedfordshire. Guaranteed to work." Richard hurried past, not wishing to find out what a Hand of Glory was, nor how it worked[...]
  • In the Dime Store Magic book of The Otherworld series, Kristof Nast tries to get custody of Savannah and plants a Hand on Paige's property to pressure her into giving in to him. When Savannah wants to use the Hand to sneak out of house, Cortez says that the claims of invisibility are just a myth and that all that it can do is prevent sleeping people from waking (and weakly at that).
  • Very common, often with variants, in the Simon R. Green Verse:
    • Nightside: One of the Salvation Army Sisterhood nuns uses one to access a pocket dimension in Hell To Pay. She pointedly insists that hers was made from the hand of a saint, willingly gifted, hence is neither evil nor cursed.
    • In From Hell With Love, it's revealed that Methuselah was in the Nightside during the events of Agents of Light and Darkness. He stole an angel's hand so that he could use it to open a passage to the afterlife.
      • In another Secret Histories story, one of the many weapons which some enemy Mooks try to use against the Droods is a Hand of Glory made from the hand of a mummy, which was presumably cursed even before being made into one. It's no match for Drood armor, and disintegrates.
    • One of Ghost Finders team leader J.C. Chance's favorite pieces of mystical equipment is a (highly illegal) Hand of Glory made out of a monkey's paw. Opening doors plus wish-granting equals major Reality Warper potential.
    • Forest Kingdom: In book 4 (Beyond the Blue Moon), the Seneschal uses one, which was made from the hand of the first Forest King and hence, has the authority to open any door in Forest Castle including those in the Inverted Cathedral.
  • Moonrunner: at one point, you have the chance of gathering a series of artifacts that could protect you from the Big Bad and his Black Magic: one of such items is a Hand of Glory, which is obtained from the limb of a hanged corpse (which you must get personally) and enchanted by a creepy but helpful Necromancer.
  • Middlegame: Hands of Glory are a recurring motif, used both by the villains and one Anti-Hero to veil their actions. They need to be made from the victims of deliberate, premeditated murder — the gorier the better — and generate a Perception Filter around the wielder and the people they're engaged with that negates even powerful Tracking Spells.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Mentioned in "No Place Like Home" (let's hope in-universe that it has nothing to do with Glory)
    Anya: And the Hand of Glory packs some serious raw power. Better institute a seven-day background check for-
  • Constantine possesses a Hand, which allows the user to wake the dead for as long as the candles burn, but takes a few days off the user's life.
  • The TV Dresden Files adaptation episode "Walls" had a Hand of Glory that could let people walk through walls. Unfortunately it comes with the side effect of a spirit trying to take over them.
  • Lost Girl episode "Fae Gone Wild" a group of Selkies use a Hand to recover their pelts from a safe. The smoke generates a spectral hand that flies through walls to the safe and dispels the enchantment protecting it before opening the door. Unfortunately, the hand then starts choking the girl who lit it, leaving her friends to quickly douse the flames with milk to deactivate it.
  • Poltergeist: The Legacy episode "The Substitute" a group of students create a Hand in a ritual to summon "The Warden" and Father Philip in turn uses the Hand to banish it.
    Philip: Hand of glory, hand of power, conjured in the witching hour. The Warden's work is all unfurled, the Warden must depart this world. And with each douse, I thee confound,and dig thee deeper in the ground. And with the last, I thee command; return to hell without thy hand!
  • In the Supernatural episode "Red Sky At Morning", Bela steals the Hand of Glory from the Sea Pines Maritime Museum. The hand came from a man hung for treason on a ship captained by his brother and acts as his fetter, allowing him to take vengeance on the people responsible for the death of their own family members.
    Dean: A Hand of Glory? I think I got one of those at the end of my Thai massage last week.

  • The Rage album Reign of Fear has the song "Hand of Glory" about the hand.
  • The music video for the Gorillaz song "The Pink Phantom" has one of these sitting atop 2D's piano.

  • The Lives of Harry Lime: In "Hands of Glory", Harry stays in the household of a pair of eccentric old men as part of a con he is performing. He evetually realises that they are planning on murdering him and using his hand to fasion a hand of glory, believing that its light will reveal the location of hidden gold.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Call of Cthulhu
    • In "The Auction" adventure from the Cthulhu Casebook, the investigators attend an Auction of occult items from the collections of bankrupt Austrian nobles at the House of Ausperg in Vienna. The fourth item to be sold is a Hand of Glory that proves to be an authentic artifact but it has no magical powers.
    • In the "Slow Boat" adventure from Fearful Passages, occultist Marcus Raven tricks the investigators into coming with him because a necromancer called Thathmuor is holding his girlfriend captive and says he will only let her go if Raven brings him a some suitable subjects to perform experiments on. Knowing full well that Thathmuor does not intend on holding up his end of the deal, Raven came prepared with a Hand of Glory. The Hand springs to life if group is captured by Thathmuor then scuttles like a spider into a crack in the wall and later opens the magically sealed entrance to Thathmuor's fortress so that a rival necromancer can slay him.
  • In Dark•Matter what a hand of glory does depends on what the original owner did, such as a thief's hand making people fall a sleep, or a magician's hand making the user smarter and more skilled at magic.
  • The Hand of Glory from Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder can be worn around the neck (presumably not alight). It provides an extra place to wear a magic ring (at the cost of being able to wear a magical necklace) along with being able to cast a few spells. Specifically, it casts daylight (makes an object emit light) and see invisibility (Exactly What It Says on the Tin) once a day even though these are the opposite of the usual stealth uses for the Hand. These spells make it more usual for catching a sneak rather then sneaking around.
    • The Glorious Hand from "The Hanged Man" web enhancement for Song & Silence 3E edition book is much closer to the original legends. The candles on each of the fingers of the Glorious Hand light at will, providing light for the user, rapping the Hand on a door or container produces an effect like the Knock spell, unlocking it and it can produce a hold person effect on command, freezing the target in place.
  • Ravenloft features the Hand of Glory, in several different styles. Each different form of the hand has its own special powers — and its own special curses. The Many-Fingered, One-Fingered, Three-Fingered and Unfingered variants appeared in the 2nd edition supplement "Forged of Darkness", then reappeared alongside the Four-Fingered and Two-Fingered variants in the Ravenloft Gazetteer V. Many-Fingered Hands of Glory provide a boost of necromantic magic, but can displace the user's soul when they are extinguished. One-Fingered Hands of Glory increase durability and grant a Healing Factor, but drain life-force when they are extinguished. Three-Fingered Hands of Glory boost the potency of a user's spells, but causes a potentially deadly surge of raw magical energy in the user when snuffed. Unfingered Hands of Glory provide shocking increases in mobility to the user, but age them in exchange for this speed and agility boost. Four-Fingered Hands of Glory are the classic "put people to sleep" variety, but cause nightmares in their user in exchange for their power. Finally, Two-Fingered Hands of Glory allow their bearer to enter the ethereal plane, but serve as beacons for the hostile creatures that throng that eerie otherworld.
  • HORDES: The Gatorman Bokor has a Hand of Glory attack that forces the target to remain stationary, mostly to hold them still so their Shamblers can swarm over them.
  • Hunter: The Vigil has the Hand as a top-level example of the Cheiron Group's Thaumatechnology. Instead of granting invisibility, however, it grants a light that enthralls all who see it. Unlike other examples, the user needs to have it grafted to their wrist first. It's always a bit cold and wrinkled, like you just pulled it out of a bath. Fun times can ensue if you blow the roll to use it — you get stuck staring at it yourself until someone puts it out (the flames don't consume your flesh, but only go out if you stick them in milk). And that's not even going into the cocktail of immunosuppressants required to keep your body from rejecting it.
  • Res Arcana: The artifact Hand of Glory is a severed hand being used as a candle — each finger has a wick in it, with one of them being lit. Its creepiness is highlighted by the fact that it not only gives you quite a few Death essences, but spreads Death to your opponents as well.note 
  • Shadowrun: The 5th edition Street Grimoire details a Necromancy ritual for creating a Hand of Glory that allows the magician to use the skills of the person that the hand was taken from. To reuse the Hand, it must be treated with the blood of magician but doing this can lead to darker forms of Blood Magic. The book also advises against trying to posses more than one Hand of Glory, warning that the Hands may seek vengeance on their creator if not used - idle hands being the devil's tools and all that.
  • Unknown Armies: It can paralyze anyone who looks into the flame as long as it is lit or until the victim is hurt and leaves them with no memory of what happened, but the hand can only be used indoors. Hands of Glory can be crafted by anyone regardless of magical power.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade: The Giovanni can create a Hand of Glory using a level 2 necromancy ritual that can be used to send any mortals inside a household into a deep sleep. Must be handy for feeding.

    Theme Parks 
  • Concept art for the Witch of Walpurgis portrait at The Haunted Mansion load area included one of these in the background, propped atop the right-hand skull.

    Video Games 
  • Betrayal at Krondor: Glory Hands are used for the Nightfingers spell that steals items from enemies while in combat.
  • In Conquest Of Elysium 2, the necromancer class uses Hands of Glory as catalyst for their more complex necromantic rituals, opening the veil between life and death to summon undead monsters or obtain knowledge. The sequel Conquest of Elysium 4 adds the Markgraf class, who has a hobbit necromancer sidekick that also uses Hands of Glory for their rituals.
  • Everquest: Parts of a Hand of Glory are spread amongst the building wings of Charasis. Once assembled it acts as the master key of Charasis, bypassing the need to pick the locks every time you visit.
  • Fallen London:
    • Hands of Glory can be sent as gifts during the Feast of the Exceptional Rose. Nothing says love like a severed limb that helps you sneak around.
    It is possible that someone plucked an old love from the grave to send you this. More likely they bought it at Hangman's Arch. Possibly it means they value you more than their own right hand. It's hard to be certain.
    • Every so often you might get a Rat of Glory. Containing no actual rats, unless you were exceptionally unlucky and they turned out to be candle thieves.
  • Koudelka: Hands of Glory appear as somewhat rare enemies in the deeps of the Nemeton Monastery. They are actually not hands, but entire arms, that appear to be messily ripped out of their "donors".
  • In MicroProse's The Legacy: Realm of Terror, Slimes will shy away from the light cast by the Hand of Glory. Inconveniently, the same level where Slimes appear also has several points with wind blowing through that will cause the Hand's flames to go out.
  • Solid & Shade: Whilst Grave Robbing there is a small chance of being caught by the local guards unless the player is the lord of the place or carries a Hand of Glory.
  • One of the objectives Thief: The Dark Project is to retrieve Garrett's Hand of Glory from the beggar, Issyt who managed to smuggle the Hand with him into Cragscleft Prison. Downplayed in that the Hand doesn't have any actual supernatural abilities— it's just a Good Luck Charm.
  • Warhammer Online: One of the destruction quests in Ostland is making a Hand of Glory from a candle sacred to Sigmar and the severed hand of a Ghoul, Faethel the Ragged. Being a MMORPG, the Player Character has to go out and gather the parts themselves.
  • Darkest Dungeon: You get three of the "each finger is a candle" variety in the second mission in the eponymous dungeon. They're quest items used to light the Iron Crowns to force the Eldritch Abomination responsible for the game's events to reveal itself before it's fully matured. When you use one, you hear an echoing wail.Fun fact 
  • The Hand of Glory is one of the Relics in the Archeology Dig Site in Board Game Online. it allows you to sacrifice a living item whilst on fire to remove said flame and curse your opponents.
  • The Skyrim mod Legacy of the Dragonborn introduces the hand as a sidequest to The Dark Brotherhood, given to you by an elderly assassin. Aside from recovering the hand from its hiding place, you need to craft the candle it holds from the fat of an unjustly executed man and a drop of your own blood. It bestows invisibility, light and massive bonuses to subterfuge skills, but will kill you if the candle ever goes out... fortunately, the game engine is insufficient for that. Also, your soul will suffer a terrible fate if you die while still officially owning the thing, which is why the current owner is so eager to pass it on.
  • Four Hands of Glory can be found with the Archaeology skill in RuneScape. Gypsy Aris refuses to teach you to use them for anything other than remotely activating luck rings.

    Real Life 
  • There is a Hand of Glory in Whitby Museum (UK)
  • There were the Hand of Glory murders in 1930's Philadelphia, done by a gang that killed (mostly) Italian immigrants after heavily insuring them. They picked most of their targets with the aid of Carina Favato, the 'Witch of Philadelphia' who got tips from the ladies she did tea leaf readings for. She would then threaten them into silence with a Hand of Glory that she owned.