The Hand from the Grave

The Willful Child

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

There was once a child that was stubborn and did not do what his mother wanted. For this reason God was displeased with him and caused him to fall ill, and no doctor could help him, and in a short time he lay on his deathbed.

He was buried in a grave and covered with earth, but his little arm came forth and reached up, and it didn't help when they put it back in and put fresh earth over it, for the little arm always came out again. So the mother herself had to go to the grave and beat the little arm with a switch, and as soon as she had done that, it withdrew, and the child finally came to peace beneath the ground.

The Hand on the Grave

J.D.H. Temme

In the village church at Groa-Redensleben, one hour from Seehausen, immediately inside the entrance, on the left side of the door hanging on a stone pillar, there was a wooden tablet, painted black, and with the following inscription:
Exodus XX
Behold, thou wicked child
What is here displayed;
A hand that does not decay,
For he, whose hand it was,
Was a wayward child,
Such as exist even today.
This son struck his father,
And he has as a reward,
That his hand is hanging here,
Guard thyself from such shame.

On the tablet's edge, encircling the inscription, are the words:
Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

Beneath the tablet there is an iron chain, about a half yard long, from which is hanging a human hand, which was cut off at its rot. Its color is ashen gray; its skin and flesh are totally dry. The following legend is told about it:
Before the Thirty Years' War there lived in Groa-Rebensleben a pious man who had a very wayward son. This son not only ridiculed his father's admonitions, but his belligerence went so far that he abused his own father. Once he even lifted his hand against him as the father way praying to God for his repentance.

And it came to pass that the wayward don suddenly fell dead to the earth, as a visible sign that Heaven would not allow his wickedness to go unpunished.

He was buried the next day, and then an even greater miracle occurred. Suddenly a hand appeared from the grave, the same hand with which he had struck his father, as if it could find no rest beneath the earth.

All who saw this happen fled in terror, and no one dared return to the churchyard, for the hand did not return to beneath the earth. It was a gruesome sight, the way it extended from the grave, stiff, pale, cold and silent, but still an articulate witness as to how the Lord punishes sin.

As last the authorities ordered that the hand be whipped with switches, in the belief that such a punishment would suffice and would lead to redemption. The order was carried out, and the hand bled until the earth turned red, but it would not return to the grave.

Then they had it chopped off and hung it in the church with the tablet described above so that it could serve as a lesson for future generations.

A Hand Grows from the Grave

A. Kuhn and W. Schwartz

In the church at Lunow, three quarters of a mile from Oderberg, there is a chopped off, dried up hand on display. It is clenched into a fist and holds a switch between its fingers. It comes from a son who in a godless manner had once struck his father. God himself punished him, for when he died and was buried, his hand emerged from the grave.

However often they reburied it, it always reappeared. Finally they beat it with a switch, thinking that it would then return to beneath the earth, but that did not help. Therefore, they chopped off the hand, put the switch in its fist, and placed it in the church at Lunow as an eternal warning to godless children.

A Hand Grows from the Grave: Three Legends from Mecklenburg

Karl Bartsch

  1. Once there was a boy who struck his mother, whereupon he died. After he was buried, his hand grew out of the earth. Then the mother was told that she should beat the hand with a switch. The mother did this, and the dead boy pulled his hand back under. But the next day the hand was always there again. Finally, the executioner had to come and chop off the hand. They put it in a box and kept it in the church.
  2. A child's hand, wrapped in a silk cloth, is kept behind the alter in the church at Petschow, between Tessin and Rostock. The people there tell how a wayward child had lifted his hand against his parents. The child died soon afterward and was buried. The hand that had been lifted against the parents grew out of the grave. They placed it back beneath the earth several times, but it always reappeared until they finally chopped it off.
  3. In the church at Garwitz, a village in the vicinity of Parchim, behind the altarpiece there is a hand that was chopped off just beneath the joint. The following legend is told about it: A girl abused her parents and even struck her mother so hard that the mother died of the consequences. Soon after the mother's death, the girl herself died. She had lain in the grave for only a few days when her wicked hand emerged. The villagers beat it with whips and a few times it withdrew back beneath the earth. Finally, because it ceased retreating from the whips' blows, they chopped it off. It is preserved even to this day. The flesh has dried firmly onto the bones and the entire hand has a black appearance.

The Withered Hand in the Church at Bergen

A. Haas

A withered hand was kept in the church at Bergen into the first half of the nineteenth century. It came from a father murderer. After the murderer's death, the hand is said to have emerged from the grave. However often they reburied the hand, it always came out again, until finally they chopped it off and put it in the church. Punishment such as this always befalls those who raise a hand against their own parents.

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