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While the world of gaming is full of excellent horror games designed to keep you up at night, often, the scariest memories in gaming are the ones you were never expecting. From the Ancient Cistern in Skyward Sword to Yeta the Yeti in Twilight Princess to… all of Majora’s Mask, the Legend of Zelda franchise is no stranger to these unexpected moments of horror. But for as unsettling as all of these moments can be, none are quite as bone-chilling as Dead Hand from Ocarina of Time.
This horrific creature lurks underneath Kakariko village, waiting for a poor player to climb down the well and get the fright of their life. Its gruesome appearance is only worsened by the way it grabs you tight and unhinges its giant maw to attack – no need to wonder why its ghoulishly white skin is splattered with blood.
Sure enough, for something so low-res, Dead Hand managed to scare scores of children playing an innocent adventure game; and me as a fully-fledged adult. So, let’s take a closer look at the source of all my nightmares and how to conquer it in this Dead Hand Zelda guide.
Who (or What) is Dead Hand?
Locations: Bottom of the Well, Shadow Temple, Ganon’s Castle (Master Quest only)
Item Drops: Lens of Truth, Hover Boots
Dead Hand is a recurring mini-boss in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time that can be found in the dungeons Bottom of the Well and the Shadow Temple. You have to face Dead Hand twice to beat the game, once as a child to obtain the Lens of Truth and once as an adult for the Hover Boots, both key game items.
Dead Hand is a monster with a disturbing appearance: a vaguely anthropomorphic creature with white skin smeared with red which is assumed to be blood. It has a wide jaw with huge teeth which unhinges to bite you. While the arms attached to the main body end in stumps, the ‘hand’ part of its name comes from its many hands that sprout from the ground. They’re the same white and red as the main body and bend over to grab you while it attacks.
In the 3DS remake of Ocarina of Time, Dead Hand’s model has been updated and arguably made less scary. The red splotches are less pronounced, and the softer textures remove an element that made the model from the N64 game that much more unsettling. However, I would argue that the most significant contributor to Dead Hand’s fright factor is the accompanying atmosphere from the dungeons it’s found in, particularly the Bottom of the Well. This is far from missing in the remake, so new players looking for an authentic experience won’t be disappointed despite the change.
Where Do You Find Dead Hand?
In the regular versions of Ocarina of Time, Dead Hand can be found in two locations: Bottom of the Well and the Shadow Temple. If you’re playing the Master Quest version of Ocarina of Time, however, it also makes a brief cameo in Ganon’s Castle behind the water door. Only its hand shows up, which has some… interesting implications. Dead Hand is, as the Spirit Temple, conceptually fun as you have to face it once as a child and once as an adult. So let’s start with facing him as a child.
Bottom of the Well – The Lens of Truth
The Bottom of the Well is where you obtain the Lens of Truth, a pink and purple magnifying glass that allows you to see through illusions like fake walls and hidden chests. It’s only accessible as a child Link but requires you to use the knowledge gathered as an adult to access it. We always love a good time paradox.
You’re directed to the well once you’ve accessed the Shadow Temple. You don’t get far before encountering false walls and puzzles with hidden answers that drop you into pits if you do them wrong. Luckily the game gives you a hint about how to deal with this: ‘The Shadow will yield only to one with the eye of truth, handed down in Kakariko Village.’
If you do as the game tells you and return to Kakariko Village to ask around, an old man in blue behind the Skulltula house will point you in the right direction. He tells you the tale of an old man who was said to have an eye that could see the truth and that his home used to stand where the well is now. However, if you look down the well as an adult, you’ll find it completely blocked off by boulders. But was it always like this? After a quick trip to the Temple of Time, you’ll find that, as a child, the well isn’t blocked. Unfortunately, it’s full of water which… shouldn’t be unusual but is currently a little inconvenient. Don’t worry, though; accessing the well is easy.
Song of Storms
As an adult, go to the windmill in Kakariko Village and talk to the Phonogram Man (known as Guru Guru in other games). He’ll rant about some ‘Ocarina Child’ that messed with the windmill in the past. I wonder who that could refer to? Pull out your ocarina, and he’ll teach you the song the ‘Ocarina Child’ played. This is the ‘Song of Storms,’ which, unsurprisingly, summons great winds and rain. It is also my favorite song in the entirety of the Legend of Zelda franchise, which is impressive as this franchise has some fabulous music.
Cutting short my rant about the Song of Storms, you can now go back in time and complete our little time paradox by playing the song in the windmill. This will cause the windmill to start spinning rapidly and drain the well of water. Which… doesn’t make much sense, but it is still the least strange thing that has and will happen.
Finding Dead Hand
Now, at long last, you can descend to the Bottom of the Well. This mini-dungeon can be a pain in the neck, and not only because of its spine-chilling atmosphere. It’s chock-a-block with false walls, invisible chests, ReDeads, and hidden pitfalls that will drop you to the lowest floor if you fall in. Thankfully, if you’re not interested in any of the goodies hiding down there, all this stuff is largely optional. The most important thing down here is the monster of the hour: Dead Hand. To find and fight it, you need to lower the water level in the mini-dungeon even further. At the back of the central area, you’ll find a Triforce symbol on the floor in front of a water spout. As has been the case up to this point, this indicates playing Zelda’s Lullaby. Do this, and the water spout will dry up, opening a slew of new pathways. The one we’re interested in is right at the entrance to this central area.
Upon entrance, you probably saw a small pool of water with a chest at the bottom. We can now access this, and you’ll find a small hole you can crawl through. Follow this pathway and defeat the Skulltula on the other side to reach the door to the Dead Hand fight. I’ll cover how to defeat Dead Hand later, but once you do, a chest containing the Lens of Truth will appear. To test it out, you’ll find an invisible chest behind the one you just opened. Inside is 200 rupees, neat!
The Lens of Truth will make ransacking the rest of the dungeon a breeze too, but this whole thing is optional. If you have an encyclopedic knowledge of this game, you can complete it without the Lens of Truth. All this item does is show hidden things; it doesn’t cause them to spawn. However, for new players, I highly recommend obtaining the Lens of Truth, if only so you’re prepared to encounter Dead Hand a second time.
The Shadow Temple – The Hover Boots
Yep, Dead Hand isn’t content with scaring us once; it has to do it twice. This time defeating him will reward you with the Hover Boots. These boots with little wings let you walk in thin air for a few paces. They’re necessary for completing the rest of the Shadow Temple. If you’ve been down the well, you’ve probably been to the Shadow Temple once already. But, quickly, here is how you access it anyway:
After finishing the Water Temple, you return to Kakariko Village to find it on fire, an accurate reflection of the following events. An evil spirit that Impa sealed at the bottom of the well has grown too strong and broken free. Impa has gone to the Shadow Temple to seal it away again, but Shiek says she’ll need your help to do it. You are then taught the Nocturne of Shadows, which you can play to access the Shadow Temple. Once you’ve retrieved the Lens of Truth, return to the Shadow Temple, and you’ll be able to see all the hidden secrets this place holds. However, the first room you encounter has a pit between you and the doorway. To deal with this, we’re going to need the Hover Boots. And what’s guarding the Hover Boots? You guessed it, Dead Hand.
To find Dead Hand this time, turn away from the pit and, using the Lens of Truth, you’ll see a pathway that isn’t the one you just entered through. This will lead you to a crypt-like series of hallways and two doors. One of these doors leads to the dungeon map, guarded by a ReDead and a couple of Keese. The other one, at the far back of the area, leads to round two with Dead Hand, and this time he has more hands. Classic. Defeat Dead Hand to obtain the Hover Boots.
How to Defeat Dead Hand
Onto the big question, how do we defeat this abomination? Thankfully, this boss fight, despite being so unsettling in concept, is relatively easy. So easy that you can escape without sustaining any damage with little skill. The room will be full of hands sprouting from the floor in both dungeons. You find four hands at the Bottom of the Well and six in the Shadow Temple. To start the fight, allow yourself to be caught by one of the hands. It will grab you, and Dead Hand will emerge from the floor and slowly advance as you struggle for freedom.
Escaping is easy; just mash buttons until it lets you go. The main body will advance regardless of whether you’re held down. It’s impervious to attacks until it leans down to bite you, at which point you can whack the living daylights out of it. I was inclined to do this in a startled panic. After it takes enough damage, it’ll recede back to the floor. Rinse and repeat until it dies.
While it’s not easy, you can destroy the hands without letting them grab you by hitting them each time they reach to do so. You can also land hits with well-placed spin attacks. The hands respawn after a while, but the main body will surface if you take out enough of them. You can attack it then without risking restraint. Once you’re armed with the Lens of Truth, there’s another way to defeat this beast. Instead of letting yourself be caught by the hands, use the Lens of Truth to find a black spot on the ground. This is where the main body is hiding. Place a bomb on top of it, and you’ll force the creature out of hiding. If you’re playing Master Quest, this is the only way to defeat Dead Hand in the Shadow Temple. There are no protruding hands in that fight; instead, there are multiple main bodies that can only be lured out using bombs. Which, once again… interesting implications.
The Evolution of Dead Hand
From this point on, I’ll be entering the territory of speculation and theories. Still, I think this is worth discussing, if only because it’s interesting.
Unlike so many other enemies in The Legend of Zelda, Dead Hands have never shown up in games outside Ocarina of Time, at least in the same capacity. This does make sense, Dead Hand is a famously frightening mini-boss, and this franchise is supposed to be family-friendly. A blood-spattered creature made of pure nightmares doesn’t fit that bill, especially once the games gained better graphics. Nintendo doesn’t want to accidentally slip into the territory of more conventional horror games.
However, I argue that while we never see the name Dead Hand again, we still see it in the spirit in future games (and if you hang on a moment, you’ll see that I just made an excellent pun).
Majora’s Mask and Oracle of Seasons
The game Majora’s Mask is a direct sequel to Ocarina of Time, and that’s obvious just by looking. Not only does the game directly refer to the events of Ocarina of Time, but much of the game’s visual assets are copy-pasted. Majora’s Mask was developed very quickly, and Nintendo was open about reusing the assets to save time and resources so that the game could be more extensive and complete. This then begs the question: if so many assets were reused, why is Dead Hand not in it?
While I can’t prove this, I think the asset was used—kind of. There’s a character in Majora’s Mask known only as ‘???’, and it’s a hand that lives in the toilet of the Stock Pot Inn. It shows up after midnight, and it will ask you for paper… Ew. Get it some paper, and it gives you a Piece of Heart. I suspect that the hand asset used for ??? comes from Dead Hand, with the colors changed from white and bloody to a zombie green. Not only this, but the concept is the same at its core, as we first meet Dead Hand in a sewer.
This wouldn’t be worth talking about, except that this is not the last time ??? shows up in the Zelda franchise. It turns up again in Oracle of Ages. If you’re in the past, you can find ??? in Lynna Village, and it once again wants paper. This is a part of a larger trade quest: you’ll receive the Stink Bag if you give it the Stationary.
But wait, Dead Hand’s legacy doesn’t end here!
The concept of a toilet hand wanting paper shows up once again in Skyward Sword. You’ll find our friend in the toilet at the Skyloft Knight Academy. It’s a ghost called Phoeni this time (see, now my pun makes sense), and she’s a part of the quest ‘Cawlin’s Love Letter.’ If you give her said love letter, she’ll fall in love with Cawlin and continue to haunt him for the rest of the game. She’s so happy about this that you get five gratitude crystals. Yay?
While this isn’t anything I can prove or find evidence from the developers for, I think this evolution is quite self-evident. While the fear factor may have been dialed down (in design if not concept), I feel Dead Hand has had a marked effect on the entire Legend of Zelda franchise. Its legacy is seen even now in modern installments.
Can I Lend You a Hand?
While The Legend of Zelda has a surprising roster of frights to offer, Dead Hand is the most infamous for all the best reasons. We may complain about the things that scared us all as children, but who doesn’t love a good scare? It has kept us talking about Dead Hand all this time, and I think it more than deserves the attention. These huge emotional reactions have the power to stick with us for the rest of our lives. I believe this is the core of why we remember games like Ocarina of Time even as they age.
So yeah, Dead Hand may be a bit of a shock, but it’s a shock worth experiencing. The way it’s continued to influence the franchise even into modern games is evidence enough. And if, like me, you were hesitant to take the plunge and expose yourself to these horrors, then hopefully, this guide has equipped you with everything you need to face it head-on.
Now go out there and defeat what lurks in the dark, lest it gets you first.
Question: Where do you find Dead Hand in Ocarina of Time?
Answer: Dead Hand is found in two locations: Bottom of the Well and the Shadow Temple.
Question: How do you Beat Dead Hand in Ocarina of Time?
Answer: Let yourself be caught by one of the hands to start the fight. The main body will surface from the floor whenever a hand catches you. You can attack it when it leans down to bite you. To escape the hand, repeatedly press any button. If you have the Lens of Truth, you can instead look for the shadow of the main body on the floor and use a bomb to lure it out.
Question: How do you Open the Bottom of the Well in Ocarina of Time?
Answer: The Bottom of the Well can only be accessed as a child Link. As an adult, you must obtain the Song of Storms from the Phonogram Man in the Kakariko Village windmill. Next, play the song inside of the windmill as a child. This will cause the water to drain from the well, granting access to the dungeon.
Question: What is the Lens of Truth in Ocarina of Time?
Answer: The Lens of Truth is a pink and purple magnifying glass with an eye design in the lens. It allows the player to see through illusions such as false walls, pitfalls, and invisible chests. In Ocarina of Time, it can be obtained by defeating the Dead Hand at the Bottom of the Well in Kakariko Village.
Question: What are the Hover Boots in Ocarina of Time?
Answer: The Hover Boots are brown, winged boots with steel toes. They allow the player to walk in mid-air for a few paces after running off a ledge. They are obtained by defeating the Dead Hand inside of the Shadow Temple.