the devil deals a black hand


For 400 years the Haanappel family of Doesburg in Holland have had the palms of their hands turn black six months after they are born. Doctors say this is the result of a gene mutation, but local folklore maintains that a Haanappel saved a church from fire by ringing the bells, burning his hands as he slid down the bell rope. The Devil, in his anger, cursed him and his heirs forever. 


This is a royalty free image from Getty Images. A “rights-managed” image of  Jaap Haanappel can be seen here

A 1908 newspaper report tells of a different group of  “Black Hands” 

“New York has a large population of Italians. Dumped ashore from the big immigrant ships, they settle in the slum districts of the metropolis.

This class is made up of criminals. Some of them have served prison sentences at home. Others have led lives of brigandage in the Sicilian or lower Italy style without being caught.

The symbol of their threat is a black hand impressed upon the letters that they send to their victim. Scarcely a day passes without as least one murder, attempted murder or job of dynamiting in New York by the members of the famous organization.


While the Milli family** of central Italy have no connection with black hands or gene mutations they do seem to suffer from a jinx. On 17 January 1949 a woman in the family died, as happened on the same day in 1959 and 1969. On 17 January 1978, misfortune struck a year early when Giuseppina Milli died of a heart attack. On 17 January 1989 the remaining family members planned to book themselves into hospital……***

*** story found in Incredible Phenomena published by Orbis Press 1980


*** tetherdcow tells us that jinxes and the like are all hokum

Published in: on March 14, 2009 at 7:05 am  Comments (33)  

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  1. ‘The Devil, in his anger, cursed him and his heirs forever.’

    I find it hard to believe the devil would be that petty

  2. Many years ago, I recall watching a B&W film called (I think) “The Black Hand”.

    There are a number of films listed so I don’t know which it was but the one scene I vividly recall was some sort of festival in this Italian (or Sicilian, I guess) town and a little girl is dressed like an angel and suspended over the street on a wire. If I remember correctly, there is some sort of shooting on the street, some sort of vendetta carried out. You don’t actually see the shooting, just see the little angel reacting to it.

  3. That’s a bit lame for the devil, don’t you think? A drawing of a dick on his face would have been far more entertaining.

  4. hi Mudhooks, welcome to the gimcrack. that movie sounds good. I like things being implied rather than always shown in graphic detail.

  5. For all the devil knew, they might not mind black hands. And when they reach the Pearly Gates … the Good Lord would know they done a good thing! Seems a pointless curse for the devil to make.

  6. ??
    The Getty Images shot looks like the hands of a normal African, on the “rights managed” one it’s impossible to tell whether the hands are dark or not. Or am I just reallly dense and missing the joke entirely?

  7. No you’re not dense. I don’t think the image I’ve shown is anything to do with the Haanappel’s. I wanted to post the image of the boy but I don’t think I’m allowed to do that with a “rights managed” one am I?

    Agree that you can’t really tell if the boy’s hands are black or not but the photo is so “of its time”

  8. I find the picture of a somewhat portly nurse underneath a picture of male genitalia and surrounded by chainsaws, rather disturbing.

    Can we have the nice nurse back please?

  9. Mme Inkspot (who does not know, nor need to, about Wheels and Dollbaby) gave me that Strange Sisters birthday card once.

    There are too many coincidences in my life.

  10. Every woman should have at least one item from Wheels and Dollbaby in her wardrobe. Even if it’s just a brooch

  11. wheelsanddollbaby…I love the fact that the description of the site is “Clothes to Snare a Millionaire” How’s that working out for you myra?

    It’s not at all. I’ve been wearing their designs for nearly ten years now and all I’ve ever attracted is penniless artists.

    Money is overrated anyway.

  12. The Black Hand was also a Serbian secret society with ties to the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand (add to your revenge files, nurse).

    Is that nurse in the last photo performing vasectomies or circumcisions, and what is her connection to black hands, other than the fact that she is clearly an evil, evil nurse?

    she has no connections to Black Hands. she is, however, employed by the hospital that the Milli family planned to check into in 1989…..

  13. I thought about majoring in brigandage at university. But the Communications department had a radio station and that sold me.

  14. How did the Haanappels get women to marry them? “Will you marry me and oh by the way, our kids’ hands will turn black. So, what do you say?”

  15. I have brown hands because I refuse to use paper products and, well, that causes a bit of a problem. (Maybe I should use leaves or something).

    Also, from the looks of that book cover, lesbians used to be super hot looking. I don’t see a bit of plaid in that picture.

  16. The irony is that what was once the “slum districts of the metropolis” are now neighborhoods too expensive for a middle-class guy like me to live in.

  17. i think we’re ‘strange sisters’, nursemyra. and thanks for the link to wheels and dollbaby… i’ve dropped 20 lbs since christmas, 30 to go. and when i get there? my reward is going to be something decadent from that li’l website!

    Indeed we are daisyfae. Let’s remind our readers of that once again shall we? 🙂

  18. I have black hands today. I assumed it was because I’ve just had my hair dyed.
    Now I must factor in the possibility that I’ve been cursed by the Devil. Just my luck.

  19. just so long as it’s not because you’re taking iron supplements and using your hands in the same way as tannerleah

  20. Noting wrong with black hands…some people prefer them that way.

    Have to agree with Tom Laird on the portly nurse. Disturbing image on many levels.

    Thanks Nursemyra. As always, a pleasure to visit.

  21. Even though the ‘jinx’ on the Milli family seems supernatural, it’s only because our brains have a lot of trouble not seeing something like this as a pattern. But when you think about the many billions of people who have lived over the last several centuries (when we’ve been able to write and record events like this) it would be statistically peculiar if things like this didn’t happen. And because it seems odd, it gets remembered.

    (In addition, there is the slight, but definitely possible additional factor that Giuseppina Milli’s heart attack (and perhaps other of the deaths) were actually brought about by a hefty amount of superstitious fear; Giuseppina is old, she’s superstitious, January 17th is approaching… uh oh..)

    Statistics is a very strange thing, and our brains are not good with them. That’s largely why people gamble – anyone who truly understands probability and statistics does not gamble. I might blog about this, but briefly, try what is known as The Birthday Paradox:

    At a small party of say, 40 people, what is the probability that two people have exactly the same birthday? The answer is that it’s better than 80%. When 50 people have arrived, the probability is almost 100%. So, in any crowd of 50 randomly selected people you happen to be in, ask everyone when their birthday is and you’ll find that at least two people share a birthday. This seems very weird to our brains, but it is simply because we are not good at understanding how the numbers work. Of course, to me, this is highly fascinating because I am deeply intrigued at how people make mistakes in their perception of the workings of the world…

    Yours in rationality,
    The Reverend.

  22. Reverend, I love you 🙂

  23. Thank you Nurse Myra. You know the feeling is mutual.

    On one additional note, I did a search for information on the Milli family, which revealed another aspect of the story that hadn’t occurred to me, that is, that it may just be a yarn! A piece of pop myth that is recycled and recycled until it becomes ‘truth’.

    Do a search on milli family jinx january 17. I think you’ll be VERY surprised to see what link comes out on top…

  24. Ha Ha…. That’s why I mentioned the name of the book I found it in. you would love it – so much for you to refute. If I’m reading the credits correctly, Paul Sieveking would appear to be the author of this story.

  25. Satan is truly behind the curse. Interesting blog, well done.

  26. none of the devils I know go church


  27. whoops, let me try again…

    none of the devils I know go to church

  28. What a strange tale.

    What a motley crew.

    What a pleasure to visit with you here.

    You are linked in the Aerie.


  29. This does sound like the stuff of 70s horror films which dealt a lot with the devil thank to the success of The Exorcist.

    It is so silly to read about these crazy ideas people had about other races from a long time ago and tried to make a science from it.

  30. >>Paul Sieveking would appear to be the author of this story.

    Yes it has a very ‘Fortean Times’ ring about it. It may indeed be true – the internet doesn’t know everything…

  31. I think we can go back even earlier than the exorcist for pop culture influences. Rosemary’s Baby is what immediately springs to mind. And if pressed even before that in pop culture and certainly in literary culture. It is timeless myth.

  32. I wonder if that nurse is vaguely related to the other power tool story we saw in the comments recently?

  33. *shudder* don’t remind me….

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