The Giant’s Knock

An excerpt from Jake and the Giant Hand.

Summer, 2014 / No. 33
Illustration by Pete Ryan.
Pete Ryan

What you have to know about this ghost story is that it’s weird and more than a little scary. But this is how the story was told to me, so I really can’t change it. You’ve been warned. Imagine if you will, a dark summer night, a swamp, a lonely cabin, and a mysterious Tap! Tap! Tap! in the woods.

Kate’s flashlight bounced along the path. Jake struggled behind with Gus, his grandpa’s hound dog. The woods were dark, and a little creepy. There was swamp all around, waiting to grab you.

“Where is this new cabin, Kate?” Jake asked.

No one would ever be able to find it if they didn’t know exactly where to look. Jake gulped.

“Don’t worry . . . the swamp creature hasn’t killed anyone for a few years,” Kate laughed.

Jake pulled Gus along a little faster. Kate’s flashlight bounced along the path, then . . .

Tap! Tap! Tap!

“W-w-what’s that?” Jake whispered.

“It’s a woodpecker, Jake, geesh, calm down!”

They walked further along the dark path . . . then, up ahead, a glow in the trees. The cabin!

Jake was glad to see warm light spilling out into the dark night. As they got closer, a creepy white grin leapt out at Jake. He gasped and hesitated. Leaning up against the cabin wall was a white skull and antlers. It stared and grinned at Jake in the light from the window. Kate pointed at it.

“That’s a moose skull and antlers Chris and I found back in the swamp last year. Dad is going to help us hang it above the door. It’s really old, since it’s bleached so white from the sun.”

A skull?

“That’ll . . . uh . . . look great above the door,” Jake said, trying to sound impressed.

The moose skull was a little gruesome, and it came from the swamp. The huge skull stared at him with empty eye sockets. Jake pretended to like it, but he hoped it didn’t give him nightmares. He had to think about something else. There was a huge, muddy circle leaning beside the moose skull.

“What’s that?” Jake asked.

“We don’t know. We found it yesterday in the swamp. It’s really heavy, though. It might be metal. We still have to wash it off.”

A gold glimmer caught Jake’s eye, deep under the mud. Jake thought the circle looked familiar somehow.

Kate opened the cabin door. Her twin brother, Chris, was in the kitchen cooking. It smelled fantastic.

“S’mores!” Chris said happily. “Do you like chocolate and marshmallows and graham crackers, Jake?”

Jake smiled. At least the inside of the cabin seemed normal.

“Of course!”

He dropped his backpack in a corner, and Gus flopped down and fell asleep. The three friends ate delicious s’mores until Kate finally said it was time for ghost stories and unrolled her sleeping bag in the middle of the floor. Chris and Jake unrolled their sleeping bags too.

Kate switched off the overhead light and brought out a flashlight. Chris turned off the little stove and the cabin got dark and spooky. The flashlight beam bounced off the walls, jiggly and strange.

Jake sat on his sleeping bag and pulled out his own flashlight. He was glad—so very glad—that his grandpa insisted he take it along.

“O.K., this is a true story . . . it happened around here a long time ago.”

“Is it about the swamp creature?” Jake blurted out. He really didn’t mean to, but he couldn’t help it.

Kate shook her head. “No, that’s last year’s story. Besides, everyone knows that story isn’t real. This story I’m going to tell you is real. It’s about a farmer’s field . . . and a giant hand,” she began.

Chris lay on his sleeping bag with his hands under his head, looking at the ceiling. He guffawed. “Oh, not this story, Kate. It’s stupid! It’s not even scary!”

Kate scowled at her brother.

“It’s true, Chris. And it’s creepy. Now, quiet and listen.”

Jake was more interested in creepy than scary. His mind started to wander to swamp creatures. He sat up straighter.

Kate went on in a quiet, whispery voice.

“O.K. This is a true story, and it happened a long time ago right around here. One day a farmer and his son woke up to a terrible sound. It got louder and louder. They were too scared to get out of bed, it was so loud. It was like chainsaws, like a million worker bees, like a sound you recognized but didn’t want to be real. They tiptoed downstairs . . . the noise was coming from the kitchen! Slowly they opened the creaky old kitchen door . . . and peeked inside. . . .”

The flashlight flickered on Kate’s face as she spoke. Her eyes looked dark, her forehead huge and weird. Jake clutched his own flashlight, his eyes wide.

“Do you know what was in there? The grossest thing you can imagine,” Kate breathed.

“N-n-no. What was it?” Jake whispered.

FLIES! Millions of huge, huge flies! They came in the open window. There were so many flies, the farmer and his son couldn’t open their eyes, and they couldn’t open their mouths to scream for help. The flies were everywhere, buzzing in their faces, sticking to their skin, crawling in their ears, clinging to the ceilings and walls.”

“Gross,” Jake said in a tiny squeak.


“Yeah, and these weren’t any ordinary flies, either. These were giant flies, like butterflies, like bats, like birds! WAY TOO BIG to be normal. So the farmer and his son took one look and slammed the kitchen door and ran outside, screaming. The air was filled with buzzing like a million chainsaws, it was driving them crazy. But then they saw something even grosser. . . .”

Kate paused. She grinned and the light from the flashlight bounced off her teeth and forehead, making her eyes look huge and empty, like sockets. She looked like a skull come to life.

Jake tried not to think of the horrible moose skull propped up against the wall outside. He stared at her, barely breathing. His flashlight started to shake, and the light on the ceiling trembled like it was crawling . . . with flies! He couldn’t sit still.

Chris was lying on his sleeping bag, looking up at the wooden beams in the ceiling. He seemed bored.

Kate went on, dropping her voice really low.

“They smelled it first. A terrible reek that made them gag. They put their sleeves over their noses and mouths.” She lifted her arm and covered her nose.

“Then they heard the buzzards and crows, screaming and shrieking.” Kate covered her ears, like a loud noise was hurting her.

“Then they saw it. Up in the field. The grossest, most disgusting thing you could ever imagine . . . a huge lump of rotten goo. Just a giant hill of blood and gross gooey stuff. What was it?” Kate demanded.

Jake shook his head, his mouth open. He couldn’t speak.

“The thing was rotten . . . dead. And it was swarming with the biggest flies you’ve ever seen! The farmer and his son covered their noses with scarves, their eyes with goggles, and their heads with straw hats. Then they rode their tractor into the field. Closer and closer they got . . . to the thing. Then they saw it. . . .”

Kate paused and looked at Jake. He was barely breathing. The cabin was so dark and quiet and way out in the middle of the woods. No one was around to help. Anything could be out there . . . waiting. Any enormous, dead, gross thing.

Jake gulped, his heart pounding.

“What was it?” he whispered, clutching his flashlight to his chest.

“It was a giant . . . corpse . . . hand,” Kate whispered back, her voice cracking.

“With five huge fingers, each as big as a tractor. It was just like a normal human hand, except it was as big as a shed. And it was rotting, and it reeked. White bones stuck out where the flesh was missing. The buzzards and crows circled and dive-bombed . . . but the worst part . . .”

“Yeah?” Jake breathed. What could possibly be worse than a huge rotting hand crawling with giant flies?

“It was wearing a WEDDING RING!” Chris shouted in a loud voice that made Jake and Kate jump.

Gus woke up and whined, wagging his tail down low, and slipped over to Jake’s side. Jake put his arm over Gus’s back and stroked him. He was glad to have something to hug; it hid his shaking hands.

“A wedding ring? That’s so creepy!” Jake said.

Chris carried on in his loud, out-of-place voice.

“Yes, a wedding ring. It was huge and it had a message engraved in it. It said, ‘TO M, LOVE L, ON OUR WEDDING DAY.’”

Jake looked at Kate, who nodded. “That’s what they say,” she said solemnly.

It was the single weirdest thing Jake had ever heard.

A wedding ring?

Jake was about to ask how anyone knew what was engraved on the ring, but Chris interrupted him. He was laughing and shaking his head.

“No one believes that story, Kate, a) because it’s impossible, and b) because it’s just stupid. Where did the giant hand come from? How did it end up in the field? What was it doing there? And where’s the proof? Honestly, you think up the stupidest things, I don’t even know where you get this stuff.”

Kate looked hurt. “I’m not making it up! Mrs. Cody, the librarian in town, told us about it at a ghost walk last year. It really happened, like a hundred years ago or something, right around here. Sometimes weird things just happen. There doesn’t always have to be a reason or proof for something weird to happen. It was just some strange thing that happened to a farmer around here, that’s all.”

“O.K., what happened to the hand then? If there was a giant hand in some farmer’s field, where did the bones go? Why didn’t all the news stations in the world come to town to report it? How come you’re the one telling me about it, and not some important historian?”

Jake was glad that Chris was making so much sense. It was a creepy story, but if you thought about it, it didn’t seem real. It was pretty far-fetched.

Kate shrugged as she spoke. “Well, Mrs. Cody said that the farmer and his son hooked the tractor up to the thing and dragged it into the swamp. They just left the horrible hand right there to rot. No one made a big deal about it because they buried it and kept it quiet. And when anyone asked, they denied it ever existed.”

Then two really weird things happened.

Gus woke up and started barking, which made Jake and Kate almost jump out of their skins.

Then something knocked on the window.

Tap! Tap! Tap!

Jake and Kate looked at each other. Jake didn’t make a sound—he couldn’t.

Tap! Tap! Tap!

“You two are such babies,” Chris said.

He walked across the cabin and opened the door wide. A giant hand reached into the cabin, clutching the muddy golden circle from the swamp.

Then a huge voice whispered: “give . . . me . . . back . . . my . . . ring!”

Philippa Dowding’s Lost Gargoyle series of books has been nominated for some of Canada’s top literary awards for children. Her next book is Jake and the Giant Hand. Last updated summer, 2014.