The Hands Resist Him
The Hands Resist Him is a painting created by artist Bill Stoneham in 1972. It depicts a young boy and female doll standing in front of a glass paneled door against which many hands are pressed. According to Stoneham, the boy is based on a photograph of himself at age five, the doorway is a representation of the dividing line between the waking world and the world of fantasy and impossibilities, while the doll is a guide that will escort the boy through it. The titular hands represent alternate lives or possibilities. The painting became the subject of an urban legend and a viral internet meme in February 2000 when it was posted for sale on eBay along with an elaborate backstory implying that it was haunted.
The painting was first displayed at the Feingarten Gallery in Beverly Hills, California, during the early 1970s. A one-man Stoneham show at the gallery, which included the piece, was reviewed by the art critic at the Los Angeles Times. During the show, the painting was purchased by actor John Marley, notable for his role as Jack Woltz in The Godfather. Sometime after Marley's death, the painting was found on the site of an old brewery, by an elderly Californian couple, (as stated in their original eBay listing.) The painting appeared on the auction website eBay in February 2000. According to the seller, the aforementioned couple, the painting carried some form of curse. Their eBay description made a series of claims that the painting was cursed or haunted. Included in those claims were that the characters in the painting moved during the night, and that they would sometimes leave the painting and enter the room in which it was being displayed. Also included with the listing were a series of photographs that were said to be evidence of an incident in which the female doll character threatened the male character with a gun that she was holding, causing him to attempt to leave the painting. A disclaimer was included with the listing absolving the seller from all liability if the painting was purchased.
News of the listing was quickly spread by internet users who forwarded the link to their friends or wrote their own pages about it. Some people claimed that simply viewing the photos of the painting made them feel ill or have unpleasant experiences. Eventually, the auction page was viewed over 30,000 times.
After an initial bid of $199, the painting eventually received 30 bids and sold for $1,025.00. The buyer, Perception Gallery in Grand Rapids, Michigan, eventually contacted Bill Stoneham and related the unusual story of its auction on eBay and their acquisition of it. He reported being quite surprised by all the stories and strange interpretations of the images in the painting. According to the artist, the object presumed by the eBay sellers to be a gun is actually nothing more than a dry cell battery and a tangle of wires.
Stoneham recalls that both the owner of the gallery in which the painting was first displayed, and the art critic who reviewed it, died within one year of coming into contact with the painting.
New paintings in the series
An individual who saw the story about the original painting contacted Stoneham about commissioning a sequel. Stoneham accepted and painted a sequel called Resistance at the Threshold. The sequel depicts the same characters 40+ years later in the same style as the original. A second sequel, Threshold of Revelation, resolves mysteries of the boy's life including that of the doll/girl (perhaps his real sister, discovered late in their lives), was completed in 2012 and can be seen on Stoneham's website. Several years later, a third commission was requested, this time for a prequel. Stoneham created The Hands Invent Him, depicting the artist as a boy who is behind the original painting's door and who holds a paint brush amongst other visual elements. On March 15, 2017, the Haunted Museum in Las Vegas, Nevada, announced it had acquired the prequel painting. All three commissioned paintings can be seen on Stoneham's website The Sequels.
- The Crying Boy, a painting that is also said to be cursed.
- Stoneham, Bill "Haunted Painting" The Hands Resist Him
- Kershner, Jim (2002-10-31) Painting goes bump in the night: Spokane artist's work has become so hyped on Internet it's scary, The Spokesman Review (2007-05-13)
- Bevis, Gavin (06-2002) The eBay Haunted Painting, BBC, 2007-05-13)
- Gilbert, Rowena Hands Resist Him, Castle of Spirits (October 2006)
- John Marley, Internet Movie Database (2007-05-14)
- "The Hands..." Series from Stoneham Studios
- Resistance at the Threshold from Stoneham Studios
- Threshold of Revelation from Stoneham Studios