“FLOATING HANDS”

In all seance worth its salt, there were usually more pairs of hands than guests. Floating hands could arise suddenly and from anywhere. You had to be careful not to have your wallet stolen! In the archives of the Society for Psychical Research there are many examples because most of the time spirits did not show full body, and the part of the body that appeared most often used to be the hands. Sometimes they went in pairs, but not always. There were solitary hands, and not because in life the deceased was one-handed. Simply, if with one hand the effect could be produced, why make two appear? However, other spirits were not so saver and showed three, four, five and even six hands, each independent of the other. Each hand did his own thing. There were hands that limited themselves to giving you an envelope with a message or a request from the deceased. There were dancing hands. Other hands could touch you. Others made magical passes over your head. Others played the strings of a lyre or a guitar. On one occasion, as recorded in a file, a hand gave one of the guests such full hand slap that left a mark on his face. Maybe the deceased was not happy with the treatment received in life or had a score to settle with him. Or maybe it was your table companion who, taking advantage of the prevailing gloom (the room where the seance was to be held was barely illuminated), was paying off an old debt. In short, in the seances abounded hands emerged from nowhere. Well, this case that I am going to refer is just an example of the cases recorded in the files of the SPR in which hands were not always as innocent as one would expect from a spirit. 

It turns out that Lord Battinghood organized a weekly séance in his mansion of Mayfair. Not because he was enthusiastic about this type of spiritualistic practices, but because the man was dominated by his wife and, since she had nothing else to do, she had taken a liking to this pastime. The fact is that Mrs. Battinghood had invited a large number of friends, who in turn could be accompanied by other friends, who in turn… In short, in the séances organized in Battinghood mansion, the hosts never knew who got into their house. In these séances of the upper class, the gentlemen wore ceremoniously and the ladies were dolled up at their best and were adorned with their best jewelry. During the séance, this was unimportant: you could have been dressed in a prisoner-striped suit because no one would have noticed, so little light was on these solemn occasions: usually the single candlelight of a candelabrum. But before and after the séance there was enough time to show off your good taste and your wealth. Well, as I was saying, the séances in Battinghood mansion were characterized by the large number of attendees. The hosts did not know them all, far from it, but that was the least of it. The important thing was that the next day would appear a review in The Times, which would record the number of guests and the paranormal events of which they were witnesses. These covered a wide range of possibilities. They could go from the most absolute nothing (what was considered a resounding failure) to the levitation of tables and other furniture and musical instruments of all kinds. And of course they could not miss the mysterious floating hands. In the present case in particular, hands played a leading role. Hands came from all sides, and everyone was very happy because the more hands floating, the longer the review would be in The Times of the next day. And, indeed, the review in The Times was certainly long. But it was not included in the society pages, but in the crime section. Because, in the course of the successful séance, and taking advantage of the prevailing semi-darkness, some skillful hand that did not float had stolen the ladies’ jewelry.

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