The Hand of Glory by Laurie Atkinson

In Whitby Museum there is a man’s hand – pickled. This is a Hand of Glory, cut from a hanged man at the gallows, dried, pickled, and treasured by convicts, conmen, and house-breakers. According to tradition, a candle placed in the Hand of Glory could unlock any door, and rendered motionless all to whom it was presented. It could only be put out with milk, or might burn itself out should its accomplice linger when they should flee…

The moor’s a-dark, the gibbet creaks

and none’s awake upon the heath.

The inn’s asleep, the locks are turned,

but one has not a-bed returned

and on the sill five fingers burn.

Spill the drawers, tear the silk,

grab the silver, drain the milk,

there’s little dark and much to take,

and fingers four ‘fore all awake.

Heed! Have speed, for soon these three

will spit and gutter. End the spree!

The Hand of Glory takes its fee.

And soon there’s dew upon the brow,

two fingers burn from knuckles now

one finger burns, up goes a shout,

one finger more goes