The Handprint in Blood


Last week it was my turn to answer live Q&As on the Genealogical Crime Mystery Book Club Facebook page (f you aren’t already a member do check it out. It’s a great place to recommend books and to pick up recommendations. Tomorrow evening at 7pm it’s Steve Robinson’s turn).

A couple of the questions for me were about the inclusion of the supernatural in my books and how did I become interested in the subject. I replied that I have always had a curiosity around the subject, partly because of events during my schooldays.

My school was a converted stately home, that included part of the original structure built in 1490. For a group of impressionable schoolgirls, this was fascinating. Soon into our first year we were inducted into the many tales of the weird, spooky and downright scary. One such was that there was supposed to be a handprint in blood on one of the walls in the old hall. This was our dining room. It was the typical shape of a medieval hall, with a vaulted room. One end was supposed to have originally had a minstrel’s gallery. The handprint was supposed to have been the result of a gruesome murder (of course!).

Like many before us, my group wanted to know how the story of how the famed handprint had come to be on the wall, so we held seances, without, we hoped, the teachers ever finding out.

As a twelve year old, to see a glass whizzing around a set of letters was the most bizarre, terrifying and exciting experience – ever! Little has outdone it since. I can’t remember any of the messages, and now I am quite sure that some of my mates were pushing the glass.

It was a privilege to be in such magnificent surroundings, but our education including nothing about them.

We never found the story or indeed I have not since found any story of such a murder, in medieval times or since and it was probably no more than a schoolgirls’ attempt to glamourize our surroundings. I still visit the building when I can and as always, am amazed that I spent five days a week in a place so full of history.

The building is Tredegar House in Newport, which serves as the role model for Knyghton House in the Maze novels. It’s a National Trust property now. Well worth a visit if you are ever in South Wales. If you do visit, remember to visit the old hall, see if you can work out where the handprint in blood is supposed to be!

Picture of Mary Jones

Mary Jones

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