Simply glancing in the direction of this painting ensured you’d leave thinking about it for hours, or perhaps days, on end. Those who owned it fared far worse.
The Hands Resist Him is one of the few paintings I’ve ever looked at in my life that send chills down my spine from one simple glance. The painting depicts a young boy, stone-faced hollow-eyed, and looking toward the painter. The boy is standing beside a girl doll-like creature, holding a strange device with wires coming from the top of it. Behind them, in the darkened windows, hands can be seen apparently reaching out for the child. The hands are so small and creepy, many believe they are the hands of children.
Some believe that the painting depicts the boy and the doll as having progressed. They say that the doll has progressed into a real girl and the boy into an old man. The painting was commissioned as part of a collection, and the prequel ‘The Hands Invent Him’ depicts the artist as a boy with the characters of the original painting viewed from behind the glass door. The series ends with “What Remains” (2021).
The painting itself is undoubtedly creepy, but what’s perhaps eerier are the stories of what has happened to those who have come in contact with it throughout the years.
The History of The Hands Resist Him
The Hands Resist Him in fact has very normal beginnings, and was painted in 1972 by artist William Stoneham who at the time was in a contract to produce two paintings a month for $200 each. In 1974, the painting was taken to Beverly Hills California where it was put on display at the Feingarten Gallery. It was here that it was reviewed by art critic Henry Seldis for the Los Angeles Times, and then purchased by actor John Marley.
A few years after Marley bought the painting, the art critic for the Los Angeles Times who had previously reviewed the piece, Henry Seldis, died. It is also reported that the gallery owner of the gallery where ‘Hands’ was was displayed, the Feingarten Gallery, also died. Both of these deaths were within a year of the show.
Then, in 1984, John Marley also passed away. At this point, the painting disappeared, not resurfacing until 2000 when it got listed on eBay as a haunted painting.
Breaching the Realm
This eBay listing was made as to the owners at the time claimed that the reason they were selling the painting was that the boy and the doll would fight each other in the night, terrifying their four-year-old daughter.
The couple even went as far as to set up a motion-sensing camera in the room for three consecutive nights and claimed that they captured the boy escaping in fear from the doll in the painting, and coming into the room.
Many believe that this was a marketing ploy from the couple in an attempt to sell the painting for the highest price, even going so far as to warn bidders on the item not to do so if they were “faint of heart” or “unfamiliar with supernatural events”. The listing received over 30,000 views, many people even reporting that looking at the painting made them feel ill or upset.
Eventually, the painting was sold to a buyer in Michigan for $1,025. The buyers’ motives for purchasing such a distressing artwork remain untold, they are reportedly keeping it safely locked away in storage, and perhaps even more interestingly, refusing much, much bigger offers to buy it.
The Inspiration Behind The Hands Resist Him Haunted Painting
William Stoneham painted the haunting scene using an old photo of himself at age five in a Chicago apartment. The hands in the window are said to be ‘other lives’, the glass door being the thin veil between waking and dreaming. The doll-like girl is an imagined companion, or guide, through the realm. The title comes from a poem written by his then-wife, which reads in part, “The hands – resist him, like the secret of his birth.”
Stoneham’s opinion is that the deaths surrounding his supposed “haunted” painting were a coincidence. Despite this, the success of the painting led to many more commissions for more works. It seems as though Stoneham’s connection and appreciation of the “collective unconscious” perhaps breached the boundary between people, inciting imagination, if not actually breaching the realm between the imagined (or painted) and the physical.