William Fryer Harvey was born in 1885, in Yorkshire, England to a well-to-do Quaker family. He was educated at Balliol College Oxford where he eventually obtained a medical degree. After traveling abroad to recover from bad health, he published his first book of short stories entitled MIDNIGHT HOUSE (1910). Serving as a surgeon-lieutenant in World War I, he was awarded The Albert Medal for Gallantry for saving the life of an officer from a boiler room. Unfortunately his lungs were badly damaged during the rescue, which would plague him from then on. He died in 1937, at age 52. An altered version of his short story “The Beast with Five Fingers” was turned into a feature film in 1946, staring Peter Lorre.
1- “Across the Moors” (1909) – A servant is sent to walk four miles to fetch a doctor from a nearby farm to attend a child’s appendicitis attack. This means she must cross moors which are rumored to be haunted. When she arrives she finds the doctor has already left and cannot be reached. She is forced to make the return trip alone until a traveling clergyman meets her on the way. He walks with her and tells an unsettling tale about his last journey though the moors.
2- “August Heat” (1910) An artist draws the image of a despondent fat man being sentenced by a judge. Later the artist goes for a walk. The intense heat of the day causes him to stop where a tombstone carver is working on a marble slab for an exhibition. The carver looks exactly like the fat man the artist drew earlier. The name on the tombstone is that of the artist’s, along with his correct birth date. The death date is that very day. The carver claims he carved the first name that came into his mind. The two strangers try to figure out the meaning of the mysterious events. This story was adapted for the radio programs SUSPENSE and SLEEP NO MORE.
3- “The Beast With Five Fingers” (1919) – Adrian Borlsover was a kind well-liked man, who although blind, was unusually adept with his hands. This allowed him to do amazing things, such as tell the color of ribbons, or identify types of flowers by simply running his fingers over them. Two years before Adrian’s death he developed the psychic ability of automatic writing. When he fell asleep, his hand would grasp a pen and start writing things that were unlike him. His nephew Eustace Borlsover stayed with him off and on to help out. Upon one visit, his uncle seemed different, older and fearful. One evening Eustace placed a pencil and blank notepad beside Uncle Adrian’s hand. It snatched the pencil and began writing. The scene that follows is among my favorites in horror literature. It is as follows:
(The hand writes) “Blundering Borlsovers, unnecessary unnatural, extraordinarily eccentric, culpably curious.”
“Who are you?” asked Eustace in a low voice.
“Never you mind,” wrote the hand of Adrian.
“Is it my uncle who is writing?”
“O my prophetic soul, mine uncle!”
“Is it anyone I know?”
“Silly Eustace, you’ll know me soon.”
“When shall I see you?”
“When poor Adrian is dead.”
“Where shall I see you?”
“Where shall you not?”
Later Adrian dies, and Eustace receives a box containing the severed hand along with a letter from the people in charge of Adrian’s burial. They claim they received a letter reversing Adrian’s desire to be cremated, instead asking to be embalmed, with the hand cut off and sent to Eustace. The hand has a life of its own, able to scuttle about, climb things, write messages and kill. This is a great story about a possessed hand that is cunning, elusive, and evil.
4- “Ankardyne Pew” (1928) – Some clergymen go to stay at a secluded residence attached to a church by way of a secret passage. The house and church are being renovated to serve as their new residence and parsonage. The place seems haunted however. The sounds of a bird-like squalling is often heard, ghostly images of a man defacing one of the church’s monuments is seen at night, and a burning sensations occurs on the tongue of the residents. One of the clergymen does some investigating to try and solve the mystery behind the haunting of Ankardyne Pew.