April 13th – The Festival of Shaking the Strangler’s Hands

If you believe in the supernatural and want to reduce your chances of dying a horrible death, then today’s festival is for you. Head down to the Chapel of Our Lady of Wise Sayings, and today you will have a chance to shake one of the mummified hands of Arneld the Strangler, thereby granting yourself protection from their death grip for another year. If you are particularly concerned for the welfare of others in the City, you could even stay with the priestesses for their vigil.

Arneld the Strangler was, as his name might suggest, a serial killer who murdered his many victims through strangulation with his oversized hands in the late 1740s. His victims were initially local prostitutes who had not joined the Steadfast Union of Sex Workers (and who therefore lacked the protections that the Union offered), and it was not until he focused his attentions on wealthy ladies that his crimes were properly investigated. After his seventh victim, Arneld was eventually caught by a priestess from the Chapel (Joanne Gladhome) who laid a classic ‘honey pot’ trap, then incapacitated him with a kick to the nether regions and a following crack on the head with a heavy frying pan. She claimed to have been inspired by one of the wise sayings of Saint Arliene the Just, the ‘Lady’ of the Chapel, ‘If it ys a manne ye wysh to beste then look ye no furthyre then betwyne hys legges.’

Depending on whether you believe the stories, Arneld did not stop at seven victims. On the day of his execution, the 13th of April 1748, Arneld turned to his capturer, Gladhome, and asked to shake her hand. ‘You done me up right proper,’ he said, ‘I admire that.’ She laughed and shook his hand. He then turned to shake the hand of the executioner, who maintained a professional stance and refused. Arneld chuckled as his head was placed in the noose. ‘You’ll regret that,’ he said. The Chapel took the oversized hands from Arneld’s corpse as a memento and relic that attested to the power of the Lady’s sayings.

According to the stories, the executioner was found dead in his home two days hence, having been strangled to death by a large pair of disembodied hands. There were indeed reports in the papers of a hangman who had died on the night of the 14th, as a result of a peanut-related anaphylactic shock at popular local restaurant, The Three Geese. According to the paper the shock had caused swelling of the neck and airways, which had been compounded by a too-tight collar, resulting in death by asphyxiation, so it is easy to see how this might have turned into the stories that surround the mummified hands today.

A number of other deaths in the City have been attributed to the hands (most of which were actually committed by copycat killer Henry Matheson), and there have been various alleged sightings, in which the hands either crawl along on the fingers or float as if their body was invisible. In 1967 a drunk driver who crashed his automobile into a hothouse (which was to host a rare plants exhibition the next day), causing huge amounts of damage, claimed that the hands had appeared and taken control of the steering wheel, driving him off the road. Some ‘survivors’ of the hands say they were corporeal, visible, whilst others claim they were invisible, and could only feel their effects. For this reason, people having an asthma attack are often said to be suffering from ‘an attack of Arneld’s Hands.’

The festival today came about in 1821, when the Chapel became sick of people asking for the cabinet they were kept into be opened so that the hands could be shaken. This act is thought to ward away any misfortune associated with the hands, as Gladhome remained unhurt by the hands for the entirety of her very long life. As most reports of mysterious deaths attributed to the hands happen tomorrow, it was decided that today and only today would folk have opportunity to shake them. Today is the Chapel’s busiest day, and as compensation for the trouble the priestesses charge a small amount for a handshake, along with which visitors are given a leaflet containing fifty of Saint Arliene the Just’s wisest sayings. In recent years foreign visitors from cities where there is no Municipal Health Service have travelled to shake the hands in the hope that this will cure their various breathing conditions. The priestesses have placed various signs about the place that refute this false hope, but this does not stop the visitors coming, or the priestesses taking their money.

Other festivals happening today:

  • ‘Every Narwhal Dies’ – A Festival of Esoteric Sayings
  • The Festival of Promiscuity
  • The Festival of Leaf Spinning