Magickal Compendium – Supernatural Encounters – Haunted Objects – The Hands That Resist Him Painting

At one time or another in your life, you’ve probably read a scary story or watched a horror movie in which a statue or painting came to life. Such a thing, as we all know, is not possible. That is, of course, if we keep our minds firmly planted in the realm of logic. The following events occurred someplace outside of that safety net; a place where all that we know of the world is set aside and something truly remarkable, and terrifying, takes over. This story first came to light in February of 2000 when a piece of art, known in the world of urban legends as ‘The Haunted Painting,’ went up for sale on a popular online auction site.

Titled ‘The Hands Resist Him,’ the work depicts a young boy standing in front of what appears to be a storefront or tenement building. The doors behind him boast a number of glass panes. On the other side of the glass, eleven hands can be seen pressed up against the windows. The boy is not alone in the painting. Standing off to his right, is a life-sized doll. His companion sports a blue dress, wavy brown hair and blank eyes that stare ahead at nothing and everything. In her hands, she holds a discombobulated cell battery; its wires springing madly in all directions.

The sellers of the unique art piece posted a disclaimer along with the listing. According to them, the painting was cursed. They implored buyers to look the other way if they were fearful of the supernatural. This item, they assured the public, was not for everyone. If their claims were to be believed, the two figures that were featured in the picture had the ability to leave the canvas when the notion struck them. The boy especially could not be contained. The owners believed that he often stepped out of the painting and into the world of the living to escape the thing he feared most: the doll.

To back up their claim, the sellers included stills that appeared to show the exact same painting with one glaring omission. The disembodied hands were still present, as was the doll, but the boy had vanished from the scene. Apparently, that hadn’t been the only time that the painting had transformed. The listers alleged that they had witnessed a scenario in which the doll could be seen holding an object in her hand other than the battery. According to them, she had been pointing what appeared to be a gun at the terrified boy as he tried desperately to find a way off of the canvas.

Normally, such an unlikely scenario would have been dismissed as a hoax or ploy to ensure snaring the highest bidder. In this case, as unbelievable as it seemed, people sat up and took notice. One reason was the visceral reaction that many experienced when they viewed the image online. Over thirty-thousand potential buyers saw the listing and, in turn, the pictures of the item itself. An alarming number of those who laid eyes on the depiction of the boy and the doll suffered attacks of nausea, dizziness, vivid dreams, night terrors and severe anxiety soon afterwards. One young woman who viewed the original listing with her father claimed that, just as she declared the story to be a ridiculous hoax, all of the lights in the house suddenly went out.

All that is, except for the one that continued to illuminate the computer screen as it displayed the image of the boy and his doll. Even with its questionable history, the painting sold for $1,025. The lucky buyer was Perception Gallery in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Curious about the painting’s beginnings, the curator contacted the artist who had been responsible for the infamous work. Bill Stoneham was surprised when he received the first of many communications from the gallery owner.

The History

When informed of the painting’s supposed dark history, Stoneham had no explanation as to why the piece he had created in 1972 had been a source of distress for its owners. The artist did offer one bit of trivia that caught the curator off-guard. Stoneham mentioned, matter-if-factly, that the owner of the first gallery to have featured the painting died prematurely, as did the art critic who attended the first public showing.

When asked to explain any deep meaning behind “The Hands Resist Him,” Stoneham said that he had been inspired to create the piece after coming across a childhood photo of himself taken at the age of five. The hands that can be seen reaching from behind the glass represented opportunities, both taken and missed. Every road available in life was meant to be presented by those hands that reached out from nowhere and implored the boy to decide which paths to take. The child, with his back turned to the myriad of possibilities, is unaware of what is being offered.

The doll’s purpose was to act as a guide for the boy. She was sent to lead him along life’s pathways. If those who owned the painting in later years were correct, she abandoned that role for another. In the end, she acted as his captor, keeping the boy bound to one place for eternity. It is theorized that this is why the battery has been destroyed, the wires all pulled out. What had been intended as a power source for the doll was no longer needed once she began to draw strength from a sinister force, as yet unknown.

Born in Boston, Stoneham had been given up for adoption at birth. He spent nearly a year in an orphanage before finding loving parents to call his own. Soon, the newly formed family settled into a quiet life in the Midwest. Stoneham spent his early years in Chicago where, by all accounts, he led a completely normal and relatively uneventful life. No dark secrets or ominous occurrences tainted his upbringing. Nothing in his past would lead one to believe that he possessed the power to breathe life into images with the stroke of a brush. It had been Stoneham’s first wife who had coined the phrase that would inspire the title of the infamous work.

She wrote a poem that lamented her husband’s time spent at the orphanage being passed over again and again as he waited to be chosen. She had named her prose, “The Hands Resist Him.” In order to support his family, Stoneham had taken work as a commissioned artist in the early 1970s. It was during this period that he painted what would become his magnum opus. Upon its completion, “The Hands Resist Him” was displayed at the Feingarten Art Gallery in Beverly Hills, California. Los Angeles Times art critic Henry Seldis was the first to view and critique the painting. He would die by his own hand in 1978 at the age of fifty-two. Charles Feingarten, the gallery owner, passed away three years later at age sixty from unknown causes.

The next owner of the painting was actor John Marley. He is probably best known for his roles in “The Godfather” and as Ali McGraw’s father in “Love Story.” In the former, he was the unlucky fellow who woke up to find that he was sharing his bed with the decapitated head of a horse. Marley kept the painting for several years before selling it. He died from complications following open heart surgery not long after passing on ownership of the artwork. The couple who would eventually list the piece on the auction site, originally purchased it to adorn the walls of their daughter’s bedroom. Since it depicted a child and a doll, the painting had, for them, looked like something that a four-year old would enjoy seeing in her small world.

The Experiences

They would soon learn that this would not be the case. From the very beginning, the youngster showed an aversion to the painting. She claimed that she couldn’t sleep because the boy and doll fought all night long. She also asserted that the boy would crawl out of the painting to escape the wrath of the doll. The child’s parents were aware that four-year olds are prone to flights of fancy and imagination. Even so, her reactions had been so extreme that they decided to set up motion-detecting cameras in their daughter’s room. If the boy was indeed exiting the painting, they wanted to capture the events on film.

Sure enough, three nights after the camera was put in use, footage was obtained of the boy hopping down off of the canvas and scrambling around the room, looking for a means of escape. Unable to find an out, he eventually returned to his rightful place beside the doll. For her part, the doll seemed to be able to move about in the painting, but could not leave the perimeter of the frame. It all sounds impossible, but the film is said to exist. Whether those who claim to have seen it are being truthful or not is unclear. One thing is indisputable, once the family viewed the footage they chose to remove the painting from their home forever.

The gallery that now owns the artwork keeps it locked away for the good of everyone. They have been offered staggering amounts of money for the piece, but have refused all bids. As of this writing, it remains secured someplace where it can do no harm. Those who have seen the painting first-hand claim that babies cry uncontrollably in its presence. Children shy away from the images. Adults have said that they lose time while in the company of the piece. When they regain their senses, they have no recollection of how much time has passed or what occurred in the interim. Some observers have sworn that they felt they were being touched by invisible hands, presumably those depicted in the painting.

Whether or not “The Hands Resist Him” is indeed a cursed object that somehow brings painted figures to life or simply an elaborate hoax perpetrated by a series of owners is up for debate. What is known is that the work has caused a wide-range of physical and mental reactions in people from all over the world. Some believe that the painting and the powers it allegedly possesses are the result of mass hysteria. After all, when one is told over and over again that an object has qualities that cannot be explained, it is natural to look for those very things.

If you expect a painting to make you feel ill, perhaps it will because you, unwittingly, make it so. There is always the chance, of course, that the painting is everything it is said to be. Art is an amazing and mysterious force. Who’s to say that the hand of the artist doesn’t pass a piece of his or her soul into a work with each swipe of the brush? Perhaps in the dark reaches of his being, in a place he didn’t even know existed, Bill Stoneham summoned entities that now reside inside his masterpiece. Trapped between worlds, the boy and doll are forever bound together, at least as long as the painting remains intact.

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