Dark Shadows: Hand with a Mind of Its Own

The Hand haunts Collinwood!

When Quentin Collins first sees his old friend Evan Hanley hideously disfigured by an encounter with the Hand of Count Petofi, he doesn’t recognize him.

And when Barnabas and Magda tell him that they want to use the Hand to cure him, he’s even more reluctant to go near it than he was when they initially suggested that he allow that grisly object to touch him. What if the Hand does the same thing to him?

It is a tough choice. Which is worse: the risk of possibly permanent horrible physical disfigurement and mental damage, or going all wolfy 2 or 3 nights every month?

You’d think that Quentin would do anything to keep his handsome face from getting mucked up, but as the full moon rises he panics at the prospect of turning into a werewolf again and accepts the touch of the Hand.

It doesn’t appear to do anything; he transforms into a werewolf as usual and goes running around the Collinwood grounds. He menaces, but does not harm, Charity Trask.

These type of attacks have been going on for a few months and the local police are finally prepared to deal with the mysterious, well-dressed beast seen wandering the woods at night. They’ve put out leg-traps and Werewolf-Quentin obligingly steps into one and is captured. He’s taken to the Collinsport Gaol (the sign outside still spells it the British way) and put into a cell.

Edward Collins comes to see what man this creature will transform into in the morning. He doesn’t imagine that the werewolf is his own brother.

When the werewolf does turn back into a man, Edward still doesn’t know who it is. The Hand has played one of its tricks: Quentin has a messed-up face and a blank mind.

Evan Hanley with his face ruined“The most grotesque man I’ve ever seen!” Edward will describe him later. But Edward hasn’t seen Evan Hanley lately. (The make-up isn’t as good; Hanley’s face looks genuinely mangled and Quentin’s just looks like they slapped some lumps of putty on haphazardly.)

With Barnabas’s help, putty-faced Quentin escapes from the jail and is out and about again. With some vestiges of his identity intact, he heads for his home.

Other things have been going on at Collinwood lately. Only a few weeks have passed in the show’s time since Mrs. Minerva Trask was poisoned–less than a month, going by the interval between full moons and Quentin’s transformations. The Reverend Trask has been wooing Judith Collins since the day after his wife’s death and after this brief mourning period, he proposes.

Even though she is the owner and mistress of Collinwood and in no way needs her brothers’ approval to get married, Judith wants to avoid arguments and attempted obstructions from Edward and Quentin. She and Trask go into town for a quick, private wedding ceremony. Judith only informs her family that she’s the new Mrs. Trask when she returns with a ring on her finger. Her brothers object, but there’s nothing they can really do about it.

The late Minerva Trask, however, can. She appears to Judith from her wedding day in ghostly form, lays out games of solitaire on tables when no one’s looking, and eventually draws Judith to her grave in the cemetery to possess her.

It’s not revenge on the second Mrs. Trask that the first is after; Judith, after all, had nothing to do with her murder. Judith, possessed by Minerva, accuses her husband, saying that he and Hanley were behind her poisoning. She says this in front of Edward, who thinks that his unfortunate sister must be mad.

Edward phones the family lawyer, who happens to be Evan Hanley.

By this time, Hanley has recovered his wits and has stolen the Hand to try and get his old face back. He’s gone into hiding at his own home; when Edward calls, he tells him he’s too busy to come to Collinwood right now. He certainly can’t say that he can’t possibly go out in public with his face looking like that–not to mention one eye dangling out on his cheek.

And yet, he does show up at Collinwood a short time later and his face is fine. It’s not clear to me if it just changed back, or if he made some kind of bargain with the Hand; he’s very reticent when people who saw what the Hand did to him ask about it afterwards.

Minerva Trask’s ghost has accomplished what she meant to do and leaves Judith, but her accusation doesn’t help either herself or Judith. It only puts Judith in a position for Trask to make her his next victim. He and face-fixed-up Hanley agree to gaslight her. Once she’s committed as insane, Trask will be master of Collinwood and the lawyer will get his cut.

Judith is haunted by Minerva's 'ghost'Instead of simply playing mind-games on Judith, the evil pair build on what’s already happened. Minerva’s true ghost is gone, so Hanley conjures up a ghost-like image that’s under his control. It follows Judith everywhere, silently sewing most of the time but creepy all the same.

Trask has to pretend he doesn’t see it, and he makes sure that no one else–like Edward, Beth, or the children–has a chance to see it. He insists to Judith that it’s only an hallucination created by her own fears.

This is when disfigured Quentin escapes and comes home. Once he’s in the familiar surroundings of Collinwood, his memory begins to return as Hanley’s did, but when he meets his horrified and already emotionally distraught sister, he can’t convince her that he really is Quentin. He does, however, see the “ghost” and tells Judith so.

Not that this saves Judith from being committed.

Quentin next turns to Hanley, who denies having the Hand even though it’s in its box in one of his desk drawers. After a brief struggle in which he knocks his former friend out, Quentin finds the box fairly quickly–but before he can open it, a new character enters the show.

He’s a swarthy young man in a cape with a wavy-bladed knife; he introduces himself as Aristede and his knife as the Dancing Lady, and he’ll just take that box with the Hand in it, thank you very much.

Angelique pops in and out of the story as the plot requires, and she shows up now to help Quentin steal the Hand back from this dark and mysterious stranger. She also offers to cure Quentin of his werewolf curse if he’ll marry her; I guess she’s finally over Barnabas, or else the muttonchop whiskers have worked their magic on her. She’s been winning her way back into the Collins household by telling them that, like Charity, she was under the vampire Barnabas’s control but is free of him now, and that that engagement is definitely off.

Angelique and her wax voodoo dollAngelique gets the Hand by “accidentally” meeting Aristede on the foggy Collinsport docks that evening and telling him that she’s a traveling puppeteer. Flirtatiously, she offers to show him her craft, whips out one of those little voodoo dolls she keeps for spell-casting, tricks him into handing over his scarf, and chokes the doll with it; Aristede chokes too, until he agrees to tell her where the Hand is.

After she’s gone to get the Hand, another new character appears to pick Aristede up off the street and smack him around for being such a fool. Actually, it’s a familiar actor, Thayer David, who normally plays the various Stokeses depending on which time period we’re in; in this new role, he’s got dark glasses, a curly white wig and beard, and a jovial air of menace. He kind of reminds me of Sydney Greenstreet in The Maltese Falcon, for he’s been searching for the Hand all over the world for a long, long time.

These two aren’t working with the gypsies whom Magda stole the Hand from–as Barnabas, Quentin, et al first thought–but have some agenda of their own.

When the older gentleman shows up at Collinwood soon afterwards, he introduces himself to Edward as a friend of a friend from England, and gives his name as Victor Fenn-Gibbon. Edward invites him to stay. Angelique is there when he arrives, and has the pretty inlaid wooden box that contains the Hand with her–and Victor recognizes it.

Quentin the WerewolfAt the first opportunity, he follows her over to the old house to peek through the windows while she and Quentin try to make the Hand repair his messed-up face. But things don’t go as they hoped. The Hand, as Magda has repeatedly warned people, has a mind of its own. Angelique can’t control it, and it plays another of its tricks. Quentin is changed back into a werewolf even though the moon isn’t full that night.

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Author: Kathryn L Ramage

Kathryn L. Ramage has a B.A. and M.A. in English lit and has been writing for as long as she can remember. She lives in Maryland with three calico cats named after the Brontë sisters. In addition to being the author of numerous short stories, reviews, essays, and period mystery novellas, she is also the author of a series of fantasy novels set in a dukedom called the Northlands on an alternate Earth whose history has diverged from ours somewhere during the medieval period.