A mummified hand amputated from a cheating gambler has been stolen from its display case at a popular country pub.
The macabre relic was unearthed during a renovation of the Haunch of Venison in Salisbury, Wilts., 99 years ago.
Since then the severed hand, which clutches a pack of 18th-century playing cards and is rumoured to be cursed, has been on display in a locked glass case.
However, it was stolen from the 684-year-old pub last week and barman David Prodger has appealed for it to be returned.
He said: ”It’s kept locked in a cage, so whoever took it must have come prepared to unscrew the locks.
”We’ve got a big group of school children waiting to see it who are going to be very disappointed.”
Pub owner Antony Leroy added: ”Visitors here often comment on feeling strangely cold in certain parts of the building and staff are regularly frustrated when items are moved or hidden, only to reappear a few weeks later.
”It is thought that the Demented Whist Player is tormented by the loss of his hand, which was severed in a card game because of cheating.”
The severed left hand was first discovered when the Haunch of Venison underwent significant renovation in 1911.
It is believed to have been dismembered from a gambler who was caught cheating during a game of Whist.
The ghost of the Demented Whist Player is rumoured to haunt the pub.
* The severed hand went missing in March 2004 but was returned six weeks later.