The Lake Arrowhead Hand

The following conversation is transcribed from a conversation between me (HS) and my friend/informant (DS).

HS: So what’s your take on The Hand?

DS: Alright so first of all we’ve gotta explain how this lake story came to be. In water skiing, there are different ways of holding the cable that are more efficient than other ways. In some cases, some ways of holding the cable are more dangerous than others. So there’s this way of holding it where you kind of wrap it around your back, but it’s really risky because there’s a risk of you losing your hand if things go wrong. So back in the 1980s, there was this girl who was water skiing in that risky position, right. And she messed up and her hand came right off. My parents talk about this story all the time and I’m pretty sure that it is a true story. The girl even lost her wedding ring because she was wearing it on the hand that she had lost.

HS: So what stories did people start to tell after she lost her hand?

DS: It kind of turned into a ghost story. People around the lake have reported seeing walking hands and all that kind of crazy stuff. They see the old, rusted wedding ring on the hand. They say the hand is still trying to find the body that it used to be a part of. It haunts all night swimmers at Lake Arrowhead and whenever you’re out on the lake at night, and you see a sparkle off in the distance, people wonder if it’s the shine of the ring on the walking hand.


My informant is a friend that I went to high school and now college with. He spends a lot of his summer in Lake Arrowhead and has a lot of folk stories and traditions that he has gotten from the area.


So I was visiting my informant up in Arrowhead last summer and I was with him and seven or eight other people. It was late at night and we were all on a boat in the middle of the lake. Besides us, there was no sound coming from anywhere- complete silence out on the water. It was also almost pitch black, with only small amounts of light coming from the surrounding docks. We were all winding down for the night, kind of relaxed sort of vibe. We all started telling ghost stories and legends that we knew in an attempt to scare one another. Amongst the stories was that of the Lake Arrowhead hand. A year later, I was in need of folklore stories and so I asked my friend to act as an informant for me.


This is the second collection that I have done regarding ghost stories that involve hands, which is an interesting coincidence. I’ve gotten the chance to do a decent amount of reading on the subject of ghost hands in the process and found this example to be compelling for a few reasons. First, this folklore is unique to a small, concentrated population that lives on the crest of Lake Arrowhead. But even though it is local folklore, it still had properties of similar legends from around the world. It is almost as if we take stories from a predisposed list and then augment them to fit our local context, which is a trend that I found to be extremely interesting. I also found it interesting that these folk stories can be generated from true events. The fact that a woman lost her hand in Lake Arrowhead was true, but for some reason, we as humans find it fascinating to add all of this superstition to scary events. Why is that?