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  • A Royal Ghost: Harald the Something August 26, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern

    viking ghost

    Harald the Fair-Headed (aka Harald Fairhead: obit c. 932) is apparently in that very select group of monarchs who became ghosts after his death. About Harald we know practically nothing, btw, other than that he fathered Eric Bloodaxe and that he won enough battles to make him the first king of Norway. Pity the poor king in a garage, though.

    Moans, rustlings, and tramp of Feet… Ghosts or other supernatural visitations are, as a rule, excellent producers. They generally stage their particular manifestations on earth in such eerie spots as churchyards, moated granges, or blasted heaths. At Sannessjoen, Norway, however, the peace of the inhabitants is being disturbed by spirits who elect to perform in so prosaic a place as the local hotel garage. And not only that. The most appalling lack of artistic seemliness is being displayed by them, for one of the wraiths reported to have been seen is that of no less personage than Harald the Fair-Headed, who (one would think) would least insist upon a becomingly ‘regal set’ for his appearance. According to the local paper, most uncanny happenings have been taking place in tho garage of the hotel. Persons passing it have heard moans, rustlings, and the tramp of feet; indeed, all the incidental effects due to a proper haunting. Others have observed the figure of a white-clad woman hovering near. The climax was reached when a belated wayfarer came face to face with a seemingly endless column of monks filing towards the hotel from the edge of the fjord. This event, according to the local press organ, is a reflection of the landing of Harald the Fair-Headed at Sannessjoen some 800 years ago. (1924)

    The unusual and anachronistic moment in this, otherwise eerie description, are the monks. The monarchs of Norway did not embrace Christianity for perhaps sixty years after Harald’s death and yet here is the good king, marching to his garage with monks either coming out to meet him or escorting him. There is a small chance that the reference is to a later Norwegian king, as the newspaper talks of ‘some 800 years ago’. Possibly there is some confusion with the rather Christian Harald Gille (obit 1136): drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com


    Victorian Urban Legends: In Search of the Sewer Crocodile in Hamburg August 25, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legends: In Search of the Sewer Crocodile in Hamburg

    This story is quite exciting because it is a possible source for the famous crocodiles in the sewer tale. There are reports from the early 1870s about crocs associated with drainage in the US. However, they rarely involve danger or fun. We are in Hamburg, Germany: The police authorities of this city have issued a […]

    Snowball Atrocities #4: Napoleon at Brienne August 24, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Snowball Atrocities #4: Napoleon at Brienne

    Perhaps the single most famous snowball fight in history took place in the winter of 1783-1784 at Brienne in Aube in central France. Brienne at this date was a military school and among the students was a fourteen-year-old Corsican named Napoleon Bonaparte. (Permission given to sigh deeply) Frustrated by the cold and the tedium of snowmen, […]

    Paleo Family Planning Today? August 23, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Prehistoric
    Paleo Family Planning Today?

    There is a whole literature out there on paleo food, the idea that we are digital men and women living in stone age bodies and that we need to eat in a stone age fashion. But what about the idea that we should also live other aspects of our lives as stone agers among the skyscrapers […]

    Stephen King and the Source of Bye Bye Man? August 22, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Stephen King and the Source of Bye Bye Man?

    This is thought fall out from reading Robert Damon Schneck’s Bye Bye Man a few months ago. The most fascinating chapter in the book is the eponymous ‘Bye Bye Man’: Beach described the case in great detail when he reviewed BBM but a quick recap. In 1990 three young adults (two men and a woman) […]

    Medieval Marvels: Italian Dragonets August 20, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Medieval Marvels: Italian Dragonets

    Beach recently ran across this legend in the work of the endlessly fascinating Gervase of Tilbury, an English writer with a penchant for the impossible or failing that the improbable. There is an island in Tuscany pertaining to the domain of Count Ildebrandino, in which there are winged snakes which look like dragons. As soon […]

    First Knocker Record from Wales August 19, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    First Knocker Record from Wales

    Knockers (aka knackers) were the tiny mine spirits described particularly in Cornwall and in Wales. They were sometimes said to be helpers, sometimes hinderers, and sometimes they warned of disasters in the pit. On this last point Beach links here to his description of a nineteenth-century mine disaster in Wales at Morfa. They arrived in […]

    Pig in a Rock August 18, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Pig in a Rock

    This story recalls those rather tedious tales about toads being dug out of rocks but with a much more interesting animal. Perhaps it could be true… On the 14th of December, 1810, several considerable falls of the cliffs, both east and westward of Dover, took place; and one of these was attended by a fatal […]

    Don’t Walk Through That Wood August 17, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Don't Walk Through That Wood

    This is one of those short but really quite terrifying nineteenth-century supernatural stories: the account is very raw. The person who sent in this story reckoned that the adventure had taken place about 1850. We are in Somerset in south-west England. Miss Williams of Over Stowey was returning home from Watchet late in the evening, and near…. her pony […]

    Immortals: Napoleonic Warrior in Russia August 16, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Uncategorized
    Immortals: Napoleonic Warrior in Russia

    Beach has previously enjoyed ‘immortals’ fictional and factional characters who have lived through an improbable number of generations. Here is a likely sounding tale from 30 Jun 1894 (Dundee Eve Tele). A man, who was born 1768, and preserves unimpaired memory, and who was, moreover, in the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars, has a good […]

    Earliest Manuscript Broomstick Witches August 15, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Earliest Manuscript Broomstick Witches

    A few months ago Beach offered the evidence for early images of broomstick riding witches. There are three important manuscript sabbats that come down to us from the period 1450-1500 and that offer the best early visual evidence for the belief that witches attended sabbats by broom. The first of these images dates to about 1450. […]

    Bending Towards Justice August 14, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    Bending Towards Justice

    ‘The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.’ This quotation is one that has followed Beach around for the last few years. It is the favourite sentence of a dear friend and often appears in the media. It was first said by a man of immense moral stature: Theodore Parker […]

    A Nineteenth-Century Hydrogen Bomb? August 13, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    A Nineteenth-Century Hydrogen Bomb?

    Was the first hydrogen bomb designed in the late nineteenth century in France? One contemporary newspaper suggests as much.

    Post Mortem Lynching August 12, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Post Mortem Lynching

    This story came out of the Russian countryside in 1890. It should be remembered that this was a period when Russia was cast as an eastern ‘Ireland’ the butt of ‘civilised’ Britain’s jokes. In other words, take with a pinch of salt until a Russian source is found. Can anyone help: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT […]

    Oakmen Fairy Fakes? August 11, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Oakmen Fairy Fakes?

      ***Sorry this post was accidentally pre-released!*** Ah, there are few things as warming to the heart as duffing up a made up folklore creature and Beach recently came across the oakman, which he now hopes to remove like a tic from the body of folklore. Katharine Briggs in her fairy dictionary writes: ‘There are […]

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