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The Hands Resist Him: A Haunted Painting that Spooked the Virtual World for Decades

BY Tanveer Khan March 15, 2019

One photograph from an artist’s personal collection, which he turned into a painting, has created quite a buzz on the Internet since the last nineteen years. And the reason for it is quite hair-raising. Unlike other stories that seem to come straight out of horror movies, the story of this particular painting titled ‘The Hands Resist Him’ is a mystery that hasn’t found a plausible answer yet.

Story of the painter

Born in Boston in 1947, William Bill Stoneham never knew who his biological parents were. When he was nine months old, he was adopted from an orphanage. His new family took him to Chicago and later settled in California, where the artist switched jobs, being an independent painter to even working in the film industry. Though William, fondly known as Bill, struggled to make a living as a professional painter, as it did not fetch him enough money. Things then changed for the better for him in the year 1972, when Charles Feingarten Gallery contacted him, under a two-year contract, to produce two artworks each month for a fee of USD 200. With a deadline to chase, Bill could not think of any other option but to pick up an old photograph of his as an inspiration to put on canvas.

His first wife Rhoann had penned a poem in 1971, based on Bill’s sad experience of never having seen or met his biological family. The line from the poem – ‘The hands – resist him…’ caught Bill’s attention and he decided to name one of his creations after his wife’s emphatic lines. With a family to feed and a looming deadline, Bill decided to go for a self-portrait.

He picked out an old photograph from a family album, in which he was five years of age, and painted it with a few modifications to hand it over to the gallery. But despite having displayed several of his other paintings at a one-man show at the Charles Feingarten Gallery, only his ‘The Hands Resist Him’ sold at the gallery. Well-known actor John Marley purchased his piece of art for a huge sum. But Bill’s story did not end there.

What is the painting about?

‘The Hands Resist Him’, measuring 36”x 24”, is an oil on canvas artwork, which depicts a young boy in front of a panelled door, with a sad-looking, life-sized doll standing beside him, holding a broken dry cell in her hand. Several hands are pressed against the panelled door from the inside, where the two figures stand in dim lighting. As per Bill’s interpretation of the painting, it depicts his younger self, standing at a doorway, which is the dividing line between the real world and a world of fantasy. The doll is his escort, which will guide him on to the other side, while the hands depict either alternate lives that the boy could have beyond the doorway or several possibilities awaiting him on that side. The hands also represent the endless opportunities Bill could have beyond the door, which he couldn’t have in real life as an adopted child.

The Hands Resist Him painting by William Stoneham

The Hands Resist Him painting by William Stoneham. Darren Kyle O’Neill)

How did the painting become viral?

In the year 2000, a woman from California, who only mentions herself as Lucy, found the original painting abandoned near an old brewhouse. Saddened by the condition of such a fine piece of artwork, she took it home. Soon strange things began to happen in her home. Her four-year-old daughter came to her with complaints that the people in the painting did not let her sleep at night. She claimed that the boy and the doll from the painting would come alive each night and fight in her room. Alarmed at what she had heard, Lucy and her husband decided to put up a motion-triggered camera in their daughter’s room to check if what the little girl had said was true or just another one of her nightmares.

And surprisingly, the pictures did show supernatural occurrences. One had the young boy leaving the painting as if he had been threatened by the doll. In another photograph, the expressionless doll, now seemingly angry, had been holding a gun and pointing it towards the boy, instead of the dry cell, which was actually painted in the original. That was when Lucy decided to let go of the painting and immediately listed it for auction on eBay, though with a warning that the picture was cursed. The news of the strange, haunted painting spread over the Internet like wildfire and more and more people got interested in having a look at it.

Haunting stories associated with the painting

After the painting was listed on eBay with the admonition, curious buyers and some non-believers, who wanted to have a brush with the supernatural, tested it for themselves. One buyer said that he fainted at the sight of the painting. Another buyer said she felt like her throat was being tightened by an external grip. One potential buyer saw the listing on his computer and said that the moment he saw the painting on the monitor, it turned white and a blast of heat began to emit out of it. He even began crying for no reason. A lot of people admitted to having difficulty breathing when they first saw the painting, while many others said that their children became uncontrollable and began to scream when they saw ‘The Hands Resist Him’ on the computer screen.

When news reached Bill…

Many bidders tried their best to lay their hands on the painting, but a gallery owner in Michigan, Kim Smith, bought the piece of art for USD 1025. It was then that his inbox started flooding with emails pertaining to people’s own experiences with the haunted painting. He quickly got in touch with an artist named Bill Stoneham, who it turned out, was the actual artist of the original painting. It was also when Bill got to know that a simple painting he had created years ago had come back to him amid all the weird reactions of people and stories of bizarre happenings.

The final fate of The Hands Resist Him painting

The now septuagenarian Bill Stoneham, who works only at his home studio in Washington, says he never knew his artwork had stoked up such chatter on the Internet after he sold it off to John Marley. He had heard of deaths of people who tried to own ‘The Hands Resist Him’, but shrugs the news off as mere coincidences. Though he created sequels of the same painting, he doesn’t know what happened in the process that his oil painting became a matter of such intrigue in all these years. Today, the artwork is still in Kim Smith’s possession, who says that he neither wants to sell it off nor has he experienced any kind of paranormal activity because of the painting. Smith’s sons do not want to keep the ‘most haunted painting in the world’ in their family home and so the original artwork today rests in the back room of their Perception Fine Art Gallery, carefully locked away, only making an appearance on special occasions.

A book titled ‘The Hands Resist Him: Be Careful What You Bid For’ by Darren K. O’Neill, lists all the supernatural experiences of people in a story format for the world to read. Even a movie based on Bill’s painting was made, but nobody knows what led it to become so eerie that the world refuses to take a look at it.

Enjoyed this article? Also, check out “The Haunting Visage of the Bélmez Faces: An Anecdote of Lost Souls or Purported Skullduggery?“.

Recommended Read:
The Hands Resist Him: Be Careful What You Bid For | By Darren Kyle O’Neill

Fact Analysis:
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