Their seems to be a few versions of stories telling about the “hand of glory”. This one seems to come from ‘About Yorkshire’ by Macquoid. Normally “hands of glory” came from hanged men, and were used by thieves to protect themselves from being detected…
In 1797 A.D., the Spital House inn on Stanmore is said to have been kept by one George Alderson, who, with his wife, and their maid-of-all-work, Bella, managed the establishment.
The inn at that time consisted of a long, narrow building, standing with one end to the highroad. The lower story was used as stabling for the horses of the stage-coaches, which crossed this wild moor on their way from York to Carlisle. The upper story was reached by a flight of steps leading up from the road to a stout oaken door. The deeply-recessed windows were all barred with stout iron bars.
One cold October night, the red curtains were drawn across the windows, and a huge log-fire sputtered and crackled on the broad hearth, and lighted up the faces of George Alderson and his son, as they sat talking of their gains at the fair of Brough Hill; these gains, representing a large sum of money, being safely stowed away in a cupboard in the landlord’s bedroom.
Mrs. Alderson and Bella sat a little way off spinning by fire-light, for the last coach had gone by, and the house door was barred and bolted for the night. Outside, the wind and rain were having a battle: there came fierce gusts which made the old casements rattle, and stirred the red curtains, and then a torrent of rain swept smartly across the window, striking the glass so angrily that it seemed as if the small panes must shatter under its violence.
Into the midst of this fitful disturbance, only varied by the men’s voices beside the hearth, there came a knock at the door.
“Open t’ door, lass,” said Alderson. “I wouldn’t keep a dog outside on a night like this.”
‘”Eh! Best slacken the chain, lass,” said the more cautious landlady.
The girl went to the door; but when she saw that the visitor was an old woman, she opened the door wide and bade her come in. There entered a bent figure, dressed in a long cloak and hood; this last was drawn over her face, and as she walked feebly to the armchair which Alderson pushed forward, the rain streamed from her clothing and made a pool on the oaken floor. She shivered violently, and refused to take off her cloak and have it dried. She also refused the offer of food or a bed. She said she was on her way to the north, and must start as soon as there was daylight. All she wanted was a rest beside the fire: she could get the sleep she needed in her armchair.
The innkeeper and his wife were well used to wayfarers, and they soon said “Good-night,” and went to bed; so did their son. Bella was left alone with the shivering old woman. The girl had kept silence, but now she put her wheel away in its corner, and began to talk. She only got surly answers, and, although the voice was low and subdued, the girl fancied that it did not sound like a woman’s. Presently the wayfarer stretched out her feet to warm them, and Bella’s quick eyes saw under the hem of the skirts that the stranger wore horseman’s gaiters. The girl felt uneasy, and instead of going to bed, she resolved to stay up and watch.
“I’m sleepy,” she said, yawning; but the figure in the chair made no answer. Presently Bella lay down on a long settle, beyond the range of firelight, and watched the stranger, while she pretended to fall asleep. All at once the figure in the chair stirred, raised its head, and listened; then it rose slowly to its feet, no longer bent, but tall and powerful-looking. It stood listening for some time. There was no sound but Bella’s heavy breathing, and the wind and the rain beating on the windows. The woman took from the folds of her cloak a brown, withered, human hand; next she produced a candle, lit it from the fire, and placed it in the hand. Bella’s heart beat so fast that she could hardly keep up the regular deep breathing of pretended sleep; but now she saw the stranger coming towards her with this ghastly chandelier, and she closed her lids tightly. She felt that the woman was bending over her, and that the light was passed slowly before her eyes, while these words were muttered in the strange masculine voice that had first roused her suspicions:
“Let those who rest more deeply sleep;
Let those awake their vigils keep.”
The light moved away, and through her eyelashes Bella saw that the woman’s back was turned to her, and that she was placing the hand in the middle of the long oak table, while she muttered this rhyme:
“Oh, Hand of Glory shed thy light,
Direct us to our spoil tonight.”
Then she moved a few steps away, and undrew the window curtain. Coming back to the table, she said:
“Flash out thy blaze, O skeleton hand,
And guide the feet of our trusty band.”
At once the light shot up a bright livid gleam, and the woman walked to the door; she took down the bar, drew back the bolts, unfastened the chain, and Bella felt a keen blast of cold night air rush in as the door was flung open. She kept her eyes closed, however, for the woman at that moment looked back at her, and drawing something from her gown, she blew a long, shrill whistle ; she then went out at the door, and down a few of the steps, stopped, and whistled again; but the next moment a vigorous push sent her spinning down the steps into the road below, the door was closed, barred and bolted, and Bella almost flew to her master’s bedroom, and tried to wake him. In vain. He and his wife slept on, while their snores sounded loudly through the house.
The girl felt frantic! Then she tried to rouse young Alderson, but he slept as if in a trance. Now a fierce battery on the door, and cries below the windows, told that the band had arrived. A new thought came to Bella. She ran back to the kitchen. There was the Hand of Glory, still burning with a wonderful light. The girl caught up a cup of milk that stood on the table, dashed it on the flame, and extinguished it. In one moment, as it seemed to her, she heard footsteps coming from the bedrooms, and George Alderson and his son rushed into the room with firearms in their hands.
As soon as the robbers heard his voice bidding them depart, they summoned the landlord to open his doors, and produce his valuables. Meanwhile, young Alderson had opened the window, and for answer he fired his blunderbuss down among the men below.
There was a groan, a fall, then a pause, and, as it seemed to the besieged, some sort of discussion. Then a voice called out: “Give up the Hand of Glory, and we will not harm you.” For answer, young Alderson fired again, and the party drew off.
Seemingly they had trusted entirely to the Hand of Glory to keep them safe and unobserved.