The Monkey's Paw

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"The Monkey's Paw"
AuthorW. W. Jacobs
Genre(s)Horror, short story
Publication dateSeptember 1902
TextThe Monkey's Paw at Wikisource

"The Monkey's Paw" is a horror short story by author W. W. Jacobs, first published in England in the collection The Lady of the Barge in 1902.[1] In the story, three wishes are granted to the owner of The Monkey's Paw, but the wishes come with an enormous price for interfering with fate.[2]

It has been adapted many times in other media, including plays, films, TV series, operas, stories and comics, as early as 1903.[3] It was first adapted to film in 1915 as a British silent film directed by Sidney Northcote. The film (now lost) starred John Lawson, who also played the main character in Louis N. Parker's 1907 stage play.[4]


Illustration for "The Monkey's Paw" by Maurice Greiffenhagen, from Jacobs' short story collection The Lady of the Barge (1902)

The short story involves Mr. and Mrs. White and their adult son, Herbert. Sergeant-Major Morris, a friend who served with the British Army in India, comes by for dinner and introduces them to a mummified monkey's paw. An old fakir placed a spell on the paw, so that it would grant three wishes but only with hellish consequences as punishment for tampering with fate. Morris, having had a horrible experience using the paw, throws it into the fire, but the sceptical Mr. White retrieves it. Before leaving, Morris warns Mr. White of what might happen should he use the paw.

Mr. White hesitates at first, believing that he already has everything he wants. At Herbert's suggestion, Mr. White flippantly wishes for £200, (around £6,000 today), which will enable him to make the final mortgage payment for his house. When he makes his wish, Mr. White suddenly drops the paw in surprise, claiming that it moved and twisted like a snake. The next day, Herbert leaves for work at a local factory. That night, an employee arrives at the Whites' home, telling them that Herbert had been killed in a terrible machine accident that mutilated his body. The company denies any responsibility for the incident, but makes a goodwill payment to the family of the deceased. The payment is £200, the amount Mr. White had wished for.

A week after the funeral, Mrs. White, furious with grief, insists that her husband use the paw to wish Herbert back to life. Reluctantly, he does so, despite great unease at the thought of summoning his son's mutilated and decomposing body. An hour or so later—the cemetery being two miles away—there is a knock at the door. As Mrs. White fumbles at the locks in a desperate attempt to open the door, Mr. White becomes terrified and fears "the thing outside" is not the son he loved. He makes his third and final wish, that the knocking would stop. It stops. Suddenly, he and Mrs. White open the door to find that no one is there.

Notable versions in other media[edit]

Nina Quartero in a publicity still from the 1933 film version

The story has been adapted into other media many times, including:

Variations and parodies[edit]

A great number of novels, stories, movies, plays and comics are variations or adaptations of the story, featuring similar plots built around wishes that go awry in macabre ways, occasionally with references to monkeys' paws or to the story itself.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Monkey's Paw - story by Jacobs". Encyclopaedia Britannica.
  2. ^ "David Mitchell on The Monkey's Paw by WW Jacobs – short story podcast". The Guardian. Presented by Claire Armitstead, Story read by Ben Hicks, Produced by Susannah Tresilian. 5 January 2018.CS1 maint: others (link)
  3. ^ "The Eternal Grip of Creepshow's 'Night of the Paw' (S1E5)". 25YL. 24 October 2019. Retrieved 20 November 2019.
  4. ^ a b Workman, Christopher; Howarth, Troy (2016). "Tome of Terror: Horror Films of the Silent Era". Midnight Marquee Press. p. 158. ISBN 978-1936168-68-2.
  5. ^ Jacobs, W. W.; Parker, Louis N. (1910). The Monkey's Paw: A Story in Three Scenes. London: Samuel French, Ltd. p. 5.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Richard J. Hand (5 June 2014). Listen in Terror: British Horror Radio from the Advent of Broadcasting to the Digital Age. Oxford University Press. pp. 35–36. ISBN 978-0-7190-8148-4.
  7. ^ a b c Alan Goble (1 January 1999). The Complete Index to Literary Sources in Film. Walter de Gruyter. p. 241. ISBN 978-3-11-095194-3.
  8. ^ Workman, Christopher; Howarth, Troy (2016). "Tome of Terror: Horror Films of the Silent Era". Midnight Marquee Press. p. 209. ISBN 978-1936168-68-2.
  9. ^ Jewell, Richard B.; Harbin, Vernon (1982). The RKO Story. New York: Arlington House. p. 57. ISBN 0-517-546566.
  10. ^ "Not lost !". Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  11. ^ Soister, John T. (2004). Up from the Vault: Rare thrillers of the 1920s and 1930s. McPharland. p. 133. ISBN 9780786481859.
  12. ^ "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour: The Monkey's Paw - A Retelling (1965) - Robert Stevens - Synopsis, Characteristics, Moods, Themes and Related". AllMovie.
  13. ^ "Orson Welles Great Mysteries: Volume 1". Network.
  14. ^ Winter, Douglas E. (13 November 1983). "Pet Sematary By Stephen King (Doubleday. 373 pp. $15.95.)". The Washington Post. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  15. ^ "The Monkey's Paw (1988)".
  16. ^ "BBC Radio 4 Extra - Christopher Lee's Fireside Tales, The Monkey's Paw". BBC.
  17. ^ Aiming high with Kagbeni. NepaliTimes (04 January 2008). Retrieved on 2020-12-20
  18. ^ Crimmins, Deirdre (21 June 2014). "THE MONKEY'S PAW plays its cards right". Film Thrills. Retrieved 18 November 2021.

External links[edit]