The Ghostly Hand
Location: St. Peter's Cemetery, Pimperne
The Beast with Five Fingers
William Chafin in his publication 'The Anecdotes and History of Cranboum Chase', 1818. Gives an account of the bloody conflict that caused a ghostly severed hand to terrorise the village of Pimperne.
"On the night of the 16th of December, 1780, a very severe battle was fought between the keepers and deer-stealers on Chettle Common, in Bursey-stool Walk, which was attended with very serious circumstances. A gang of these deerstealers assembled at Pimperne, and were headed by a Serjeant of Dragoons, a native of Pimpeme, and then quartered at Blandford, and whose name was Blandford.
They came in the night in disguise, armed with deadly offensive weapons called swindgels, resembling flails to thresh corn. They attacked the keepers, who were nearly equal in number, but had no weapons but sticks and short hangers. The first blow that was struck was by the leader of the gang, which broke a knee-cap of the stoutest man in the Chase, who was not only disabled from joining in the combat, but has been lame ever since. Another keeper received a blow from a swindgel, which broke three ribs, and was the cause of his death some time after. The remaining, keepers closed in upon their opponents with their hangers, and one of the Dragoon's hands was severed from the arm, just above the wrist, and fell on the ground; and others were also dreadfully cut, and wounded, and obliged to surrender. Blandford's arm was tightly bound with a list garter to prevent its bleeding, and he was carried to the Lodge, where I saw him the next day, and his hand in the window. Peter Beckford, Esq., who was at that time Ranger of the Walk, came early in the morning, and brought Mr. Dansey, a very eminent surgeon, with him, who dressed the wound, and administered proper remedies to the poor patient.
Two young Officers came also in the course of the day to see him. As soon as he was well enough to be removed, he was committed, with his companions, to Dorchester gaol. The hand was buried in Pimpeme churchyard, and, as reported, with the honours of war. Several of these offenders were labourers, daily employed by Mr. Beckford, and had, the preceding day, dined in his servants' hall, and from thence went to join a confederacy to rob their master.
They were all tried by Sir Richard Perryn at the Dorchester assizes, found guilty, and condemned to be transported for seven years; but, in consideration of their great suffering from their wounds in prison, the humane Judge commuted the punishment to confinement in gaol for an indefinite term. The soldier was not dismissed from His Majesty's service, but suffered to retire upon half-pay, or pension; and set up a shop in London, which he denoted a Game-factor's, and dispersed hand-bills at all the public passages, and at all the public places, in order to get customers, one of which he himself put into my hand in the arch-way leading into Lincoln's Inn Square. I immediately recognized him, as he did me; and he said, that if I would deal with him, he would use me well, for he had, in times past, had many hares and pheasants of mine; and had the assurance to ask me if I did not think it a good breeding-season for game. Whether he is living now, I know not; but I know that the person who cut off his hand is alive and well."