Early in the twentieth century, a bizarre story began to circulate about a haunting around a lonely stretch of road in rural Dartmoor in England. Starting in 1910, drivers and cyclists began reporting unusual accidents along the stretch of road between Postbridge and Two Bridges. Victims reported that their vehicle had suddenly jolted or swerved before steering off the road. Even more bizarre, victims alleged that it seemed as if some invisible force had taken control of the steering wheel before the accident.
More often than not, victims survived their strange accident largely unscathed save for a case of badly rattled nerves. The road picked up a deadly reputation when Dr. E.H. Helby was killed when he lost control of his motorcycle. Two girls who had been riding in the sidecar survived. Helby was the medical officer of Dartmoor Prison, and the girls were the children of the prison governor. The strange story of Hairy Hands went national when an Army Captain reported that a pair of invisible hands had taken hold of
his motorcycle’s handle bars and forced him off the road.
You will notice that often victims reported that an invisible force made them lose control. Some victims claimed that a pair of hairy, disembodied hands took the wheel, while others simply say it felt as if some invisible force jerked it from their control. One woman reported seeing a hairy hand attempting to gain access to her car while she was camping on the moors with her husband. The ghostly hand disappeared when she made a religious sign. Since the imagery of a hairy, disembodied hand is extremely creepy and unsettling, it’s no wonder that has become the name of the legend. It rolls off the tongue much easier than “invisible force that jerks steering wheels” too.
In any case, after the story went national, officials duly investigated. They found that in some places along the road, the camber or slope of the road way was dangerous in some places. Likely, people who were unfamiliar with the narrow country roads hit these sections of the road going too fast and lost control. The problem was fixed, and this author at least has found no modern accounts of old Hairy Hands being back to his usual tricks. A weird story indeed, but it looks like this one probably stemmed from nothing more malevolent than poor civil planning.