Whitby's 'Hand of Glory' appears on BBC's QI

The 'Hand of Glory' was discussed on BBC's QI. Picture: BBC.
The 'Hand of Glory' was discussed on BBC's QI. Picture: BBC.

Whitby Museum was thrust into the national TV spotlight not once, but twice this week.

The building in Pannett Park is packed with all kinds of treasures, including the famous ‘Hand of Glory’, which appeared on QI.

The museum also featured on the BBC’s Antiques Road Trip, where they learned about William Scoresby Senior’s development of the crows nest, the role of whaling in Georgian Whitby and the importance of whale oil for both lubrication and lighting in early factories.

The Hand of Glory was on QI when Sandi Toksvig told the panel about it’s magical properties. Alan Davies, Noel Fielding, Russell Brand and Aisling Bea learnt the gory details of how the hand was made and also the legend behind it.

The legend behind the hand tells that the severed hand of a hanged criminal was cut off while their body was still hanging. It was then pickled to preserve it, then when used as a holder for a lit candle it was said to put sleepers into a trance from which they could not wake until the flame went out.

As such, it was said to be a useful tool for burglars and thieves. The only way people could prevent the effects of the hand was said to be by smearing the threshold of their house with the gall of a black cat, the fat of a white hen and the blood of a screech owl. Once lit the candle could only be put out by blood or milk to break the spell.

The hand came into the possession of the museum in 1935.

It had been found some years earlier in 1922 by a local mason named Joseph Ford, who discovered it in a cottage in Castleton.

If you missed the programme, which aired last Friday, you can still catch it, and the extended version QI XL, on BBC iplayer - www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer.

You can also see the real thing at the museum.

It is open Tuesday to Sunday from 9.30am to 4.30pm, with the last admission at 4pm.

The tearoom is open Tuesday to Thursday from 10am to 3.30pm during the winter months.

Whitby Museum is owned and operated by Whitby Literary and Philosophical Society, a charitable body established in January 1823, a period when such societies operated in many British towns.

It was founded by a group of leading Whitby citizens led by the Rev. George Young, a local Presbyterian Church minister, and author of A History of Whitby (1819).