B3212 "Hairy Hands Bridge" Cherry Brook Bridge, Dartmoor, Devon - May 21, 1986
The Hairy Hands is a ghost story/legend that built up around a stretch of road in Dartmoor in the English county of Devon, which was purported to have seen an unusually high number of motor vehicle accidents during the early 20th century.
The legend of the Hairy Hands concerns a bridge over the Cherry Brook on the B3212 – the former Princetown to Moretonhamstead turnpike.
According to the story surrounding them, the Hairy Hands are a pair of disembodied hands that appear suddenly, grab at the steering wheel of a moving car or the handlebars of a motorcycle, and then force the victim off the road. In some cases the hands are described as being invisible.
Since around 1910, drivers and cyclists have reported suffering unusual accidents along the road between Postbridge and Two Bridges. In many cases, the victims reported that their vehicle had jolted or swerved violently and steered off the side of the road, as if something had taken hold of the wheels and wrenched it out of their control.
In most instances, the victims ran into a verge and survived. Their experiences remained a local curiosity, until June 1921, when Dr. E.H. Helby, the medical officer for Dartmoor Prison, was killed when he lost control of his motorcycle combination. Two young girls, children of the prison governor, who had been riding in the sidecar, survived. Several weeks after Dr Helby's death, there was another incident in which a coach driver lost control, injuring several passengers who were thrown out of their seats. Then, on 26 August 1921, an army Captain reported that a pair of invisible hands had taken hold of him and forced his motorcycle off the road. After which the story was picked up by newspapers in London and the story became known nationwide.
In Supernatural Dartmoor by Michael Williams, there is a story told by journalist and author Rufus Endle. He claimed that, while driving near Postbridge on an unstated date, "a pair of hands gripped the driving wheel and I had to fight for control." He managed to avoid a crash and the hands disappeared as inexplicably as they had come. He requested that Williams not publish the story until after his death, for fear of ridicule.
Not all reported incidents occurred in moving vehicles. In one incident, in 1924, a woman camping on the moor with her husband reported seeing a hairy hand attempting to gain access to her caravan during the night. She reported that the hand retreated after she made the sign of the Cross.
The Cherry Brook Bridge is also where the Lych Way – Way of the Dead, a Corpse Road, crosses the river. This is an ancient long distance footpath which crossed Dartmoor and enabled bodies to be taken to Lydford Church.
Having crossed this bridge countless times morning, noon and night over many years I can’t say I have seen anything odd. The walling on the on the western site of the bridge has been repaired a few times in that period but it is probably due to drivers driving too fast misjudging the slight bend on the western side of the bridge and hitting the parapet.