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  • Beachcombed 38 August 1, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Beachcombed , trackback

    building beach

    Dear Readers, Very short note as Beach prepares to head off to battle. A builder has overcharged ancient father in law by some 60,000 euros and all energy today is about preventing the worst from coming to pass: Beach has been compelled to promise he will not hit anyone (!) or even raise his voice. Mrs B is also ironing a shirt: it seems shirts intimidate builders. After that holiday so contact (and particularly replies to emails) will be intermittent. Live long and prosper in August! As always below are the best 10,000 words from the last month with thanks to readers for links and other interesting pointers.


    PS Just haven’t had time to put up replies to sabres, atrocities and murder photograph. They’ll go up later today hopefully and be included in next month’s round up.

    Edam Mermaid: Amy Freeborn  writes in: Hello there, I’ve just come across your Dutch mermaid story post while conducting my own mermaid-related internet research. I have a copy of a UK newspaper Letter to the editor from 1721 which mentions a Dutch mermaid, which I assume is perhaps  the same one in your article. The text from the newspaper is as follows: In the History of the Neatherlands, viz, the Dikes were broken down near Campen by an inundation in 1403, and when the inundation returned, a merwoman was left in Dermert Mere, and the milkmaids who used to cross the Mere with boats when they went to milk, saw a human head above water, but believed their eyes deceived them, till the repeated sight confirmed their assurance, whereupon they resolved one night to watch her, and saw that she repaired to a soggy place, where it was ebb and near the tide; whereupon, early in the morning they got a great many boats together, and environed the place in the form of a half moon, and disturbed her, but she attempting to get under the boats, and finding her way stopped up by slaves, and other things on purpose, faltered, began to flounce and make an hideous deafening noise, and with her hands and tail sunk a boat or two, but at last tired out and taken; the maids used her kindly, and cleansed the sea moss and shells from off her, and offered her water, fish, milk, break &c. which she refused, but with good usage in a day or two, they got her to eat and drink, though she endeavoured to make her escape again to sea; her hair was long and black, her face humane, her teeth very strong, her breasts and belly to her navel were perfect; the lower parts of her body ended in a strong fish tail. The Magistrates of Harlem commanded her to be sent to them, for that the Mere was in their jurisdiction: when she was brought thither, she was put into the town-house, and has a dame assigned to her to teach her. She learnt to spin and show devotion at prayer, she would laugh, and when women came into the town house to spin with her for diversion, she would signify by signs she knew their meaning in some sort, though she could never be taught to speak. She would wear no clothes in summer; part of her hair was fillited up in a Dutch dress, and part hanged long and naturally. She would have her tail in the water, and accordingly had a tub of water under her chair made on purpose for her. She eat milk, water, bread, butter and fish; she lived thus out of her element (except her tail) fifteen or sixteen years: her picture was painted on a board with oil, and hangs now in the town-house of Harlem, with a subscription in letters of gold, giving an account when she was taken, how long she lived, and when she died, and in what church-yard she was buried. Their Annals mention her, and their books have her picture; and travelling painters draw her picture by the table. I wonder if such an oil painting indeed exists? I would love to see it, as well as a picture of the Edam statue you mention, which again, I assume is the same mermaid as the one detailed above. Thanks Amy!

    Cunning Folk: Jonathan from A Corner wrote in, ‘This time your review of Emma Wilby’s _Cunning Folk_ caught my eye. You don’t say in the review and I don’t know whether Wilby makes use of any evidence from England in the actual pre-Christian era, but if she had read, for example, John Blair’s excellent _The Church in Anglo-Saxon Society_ (which I am, I suppose, almost contractually obliged to support but which is great, if full of distracting details) she would find there strong evidence from the burial customs of the pre-Christian Anglo-Saxon populations (or, given how many were probably locally-descended, perhaps post-Christian would be better…) of her cunning folk; Blair identifies a tendency for the isolated burial of women, especially young women, on the edge of cemeteries, with a large number of amulets or jewellery-case-type items that *very* occasionally have organic residues in them that might have been herbs etc. Now Blair also uses the anthropology of shamanism to colour in this picture, and both he and Wilby are presumably informed at some level by folk tales of wise women (a term which, as with so many other of the series’ depictions, I now inevitably imagine after the instance in Blackadder), but all the same, at least the evidence for it Blair is dealing with is definitively pre-Christian… And it sounds as if it would help prop up Wilby’s case, if any props were needed. As ever, however, getting medievalists and modernists to read each others’ work on the same country seems to be harder than getting them to read 1950s ethnographies of Polynesia etc.! Thanks JJ

    Gabaldon: MC writes in with a personal memory: Between 1958 and 1962 I lived in Jacksonville, North Carolina right next to Camp Lejeune, a major Marine Corps base. When From Hell to Eternity came out, a friend and I went to see it and Guy Gabaldon appeared on stage afterards to answer questions. He said that the movie was true, more or less, though they had Hollywoodized some parts of it. (I recall a scene where Gabaldon sees a civilian woman about to jump from the cliffs and suddenly her face morphs into that of the Japanese woman who helped raise him. I also don’t recall very much from the film about Gabaldon getting soldiers to surrender, mostly it was about the civilian suicides which were to be repeated on Okinawa. One of the banzai charges on Saipan was fronted by a large group of locals who had to charge the American forces or be killed by the Japanese. Anyways…) We listened to Gabaldon; we were teenagers looking for the halo of light that surrounds a real hero. Afterwards, my friend, whose father was a career NCO, shrugged and said, “Just another jarhead.” Sic transit something or other. Thanks MC!!

    Peter, etc: Jonathan from A Corner writes, As regards Peter, Mohammed and Abraham walking into a bar, I mean over the Urals, you are presumably aware of the best medieval attestation of competitive missionary activity, that recounted in the thirteenth-century Russian Primary Chronicle to explain how the variously Slavic and Norse forebears of the Rus’ lords of Novgorod and Kiev wound up Christian? Here it was a four-way battle, as missionaries arrived from the Bulgars (Muslim, apparently!), the Germans (Latin Christian), Khazars (as you may know, almost inexplicably, Jewish) and Greeks. Khan Vladimir is unimpressed by the way the Jews’ God has treated them, the Germans are much too keen on fasting, and the Muslims, although they promise a lot in the next world, require the Rus’ to abandon pork and wine, and as Vladimir is made to say, “Drinking is the joy of the Rus’. We cannot exist without that pleasure.” Then the Greeks come along and tell horrible stories about all their rivals, run briefly through the Creation narrative and the Fall and Incarnation. But Vladimir, though swayed, is cautious, and sends ambassadors to inspect the faith of these peoples as it is actually practised in their countries, except the Khazars who were clearly never in the running, and basically the sheer amount of gold and art in Constantinopolitan worship clinches it, and that’s why Russia’s Orthodox, though the Chronicler still manages to slip in the God of Battles motif by allowing Vladimir to take Cherson by means of a divine revelation and then bargain the baptism he means to have anyway for marriage to a Byzantine princess, in whose presence he then experiences a miraculous cure! God had obviously spent some time thumbing through the folklore motif index for this one. You will detect that the Chronicle, whose translation you can find online here: is a famously `inventive’ source, but if one was to apply it to your question all the same, one other advantage Christianity might have in your hypothetical situation is dietary restrictions, lack thereof; no kosher, no halal. Of course there’s Lent, but in some ways that’s rationalisable as a way of conserving supplies. (And seriously, if you don’t know the Chronicle, you’ll thank me, it contains many magicians and pigeons swindled by a vengeful Varangian princess used as incendiary bombs, as well as the conversion story, princes’ skulls turned into drinking cups, and much much more.). Thanks J!

    Enclave London: Jonathan from A Corner writes ‘Enclave London as a theory has always rather attracted me, and when I first met it it was based not on the archaeology or its absence–though that 2005 cremation cemetery is news to me!–but on two things, firstly the annal in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for 457 that has a defeated British army retreating to London, implying it was British and defensible still, and on a  ring of supposedly early place-names (Yeading, Harrow, and others less local to where I grew up) roughly on the modern line of the M25, none ever having been big places, suggesting almost an organised perimeter. This was the theory of Keith Bailey, who put it in an article about Middlesex in a 1986 book  called _Origins of Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms_ which you may well know–if not it’s solid stuff, even now. Of course there are problems: the 457 date must be  constructed, because no records would have kept in an Anglo-Saxon milieu so early, the dating of types of place-names is contested and must, always, have been subject to exceptions. But in an odd way the strongest argument for London as some kind of surviving centre is the name name Middlesex, the Middle Saxons. By the time we see this unit it had already gone; London was in the control of the East Saxons and/or Kent by 600, and British still in `457′. Somewhere in the middle there was an `Anglo-Saxon’ people in the Greater  London area, and there’s not a lot of time for them to have set up and then died out! Of coure, there’s only a problem really if one wants to see a population movement of any scale, but increasingly work on Lincoln and Bamburgh and their respective kingdoms (Lindsey and Bernicia) suggest less a settlement and more a local military governor’s family becoming kings in an Anglo-Saxon manner, in a can’t-beat-’em-join-’em style that meant changes of  clothing style, religion and sometimes names. Hard to prove either way, very much debated of course, but it would fit both enclave London and this early cemetery (which might yet allow us to say Middle Saxons existed…) Thanks JJ!

    Scooby Doo: Chris from Haunted Ohio Boos, ‘And where to start with cock-and-bull burglars? There was a spate of this in the US in the mid-1860s. Theo Paijmans is your man for this category, beginning with this star article’ Chris continues ‘ I’ll be covering the sequel in my forthcoming The Ghost Wore Black: Ghastly Tales from the Past. Here are a couple more tales: One night last week a man was aroused by an unusual noise in his yard, and went out and found that some one had broken open his meat house and was making off with his meat. He hailed the supposed thief, but found to his astonishment that he had waked up the most unearthly looking four-legged customer he ever beheld. At first he was tempted to leave the field to the intruder; but not liking to loose [sic] his meat, he concluded to make at him. He was met by a most ferocious growl. He at once ran to the house, got his gun and blazed away at the monster. The shot had about the same impression on it as would be produced by shooting green peas against a brick wall. The devil uttered an infernal growl, shook his chains, spit sparks of fire from his mouth, and filled the air with the smell of brimstone. The unearthly manifestations of [the] demon made the hair stand on the man’s head; but he could not bear to lose his bacon. He then, nothing daunted, determined to have another fire at the devil, and took the precaution to put a Minnie ball in his gun. The shot took effect directly in the eye of the monster, and he rolled upon the ground a lifeless corpse. Upon examination, it was found to be a negro man, wrapped in a mule-skin, which he had padded and fixed up, to render it impervious to shot, and the fire and brimstone was but an artifice intended to frighten away intruders, while he committed the robbery. Flake’s Bulletin [Galveston, TX] 22 March 1866: p. 1 The town of Maple Grove, Wis., is excited over a recent Sunday occurrence there. The people were mostly at church, and in one house a twelve-year old boy was the only occupant. During the absence of the family a man came to the house completely enveloped in a beef hide, with horns, tail, and all complete, and so fitted that nothing else could be seen. It was known in the neighborhood that the occupants of this house had money, and there was there at the time about $200. The object disguised in the hide told the boy that he was the devil, and that he had come after his money and he must give it to him. The boy answered that he could not have the money. The devil then told the boy that he would have him and kill him if he did not bring out the money. The boy then stepped into the house as if he was about to comply, but instead of bringing the money he brought a gun and shot the man dead in his tracks. The boy then ran to the nearest neighbor, and, finding only a woman there, told her he had shot the devil at his house. The woman went with the boy, and found that the devil whom the boy had shot was her husband. Galveston [TX] Weekly News 11 June 1877: p. 3 There is much similarity among the accounts in this category. Does that suggest that it’s likely they are just jocular tales? From a practical point of view, it seems to me that a sneak-thief would call more attention to himself with horns and sparks and sulphur than they would by, well, sneaking, not to mention the lack of mobility and sight while gamboling around in a hide. Here’s another, although this one has less sulphur and probably more truth. A SURPRISED ROBBER How He Was Captured By An Express Messenger. Deadwood, S.D., Jan. 28 A train robber named John Dalton was captured by one of the Northwestern express messengers today. Dalton had himself expressed on the inside of a stuffed buffalo, but his game was spoiled by his removing one of the animal’s glass eyes, through the socket of which he stuck a six shooter, covering the messenger. The latter, however, escaped from its deadly range, and leaped upon the back of the stuffed animal. The back caved in and he dropped on the robber inside and sat on him until the next station was reached, when he was turned over to the authorities. The safe contained $50,000. Evidently Dalton had confederates who were to act at his signal. They have not yet been apprehended. San Diego [CA] Union 29 January 1894: p. 1 More details are given in an article from the Omaha [NE] World Herald 28 January 1894: p. 1 in which he is called Joe Dalton and adds, “The fact that the man who shipped himself from Omaha to the Black Hills about two months ago as a corpse, to save half the fare required of a live uncoffined man, has not been heard of, leads to the belief that he and Dalton are one and the same.” And, finally, a bull’s form was used for a different kind of imposture in “The Shape-Shifting Ghost of Bloody Run.” Then, the Count: ‘Regarding your fake ghost, the dreaded “Radcliffe Shag”, I was immediately put in mind of Black Shuck, also sometimes referred to as the Shug-Monkey, of which this clearly a variant. However, I was also reminded of a curious case in which a similar imposture had fatal consequences. After a little difficulty because I got it mixed up with the much better-known Cock Lane Ghost aka “Scratching Fanny” (another potentially NSFW combination of search-terms!), I remembered that what I was after was a case you might like to write about if you haven’t already – the Hammersmith Ghost. I hope this helps – Esoteric Otto.’ Then Jameson, ‘Beach, first you forgot one of your better efforts then let me quote from Karl Bell: ‘Yet not all hoaxes were merely mischevious pranks, for some supernatural tales were supposedly perpetuated for illicity commercial gain. In Norwhich smugglers were believed to have exploited local tales of the phantom horseman’s association with Hassett’s Manor House at Thorpe for their own benefit. The house was associated with strange sights and sounds and it was said that there were doors within the building that could never be opened. These accounts kept people away from the smugglers’ hiding place, the house a useful depot for conveying their contraband to their contacts and fences in Norwich. This suggests how new hoaxes were linked back into existing genuine accounts for authoritative resonance, reversing the idea that legends tend to filter down through time in one direction. With smuggling in Hampshire at its height between 1780 and 1840, local historians have similarly indicated that many oft eh county’s nineteenth-century ghost stories derived from smugglers seeking to frighten people away from their activities, 68-69. And here is a contribution that I picked up this morning: ‘The old days of coaching had many an adventure on St;iiidedge Hills, but none of this terrible character. Bed Brook, famous as a starting point for trail hunts at the time when these things ran high in Saddleworth, had many little scrimmages. It is a lovely spot on the moors, lying due south from the Great Western Hotel, approached from Huddersfield in the old days by the Moorcock Inn, just beyond which was a toll bar, and it was said that the keeper of this gate was in league with the footpads who pestered the road by waylaying such us were not strongly protected — sometimes extracting money by threats and at other times by fears. An old stager told the writer, when out on a friendly hunt, that one of the modes was for one of these men to dress in a white sheet to represent a ghost, and in this manner become a terror to all the travellers on the mad, but his time came at last at the hands of a rough wagoner, who had begged a pair of besom shafts at the Moorcock Inn. When this sturdy fellow came to the fatal Red Brook, out came the ghost in due form to tax and frighten; hut this Jehu had faced these hills too often to be fright- ened, neither was he soft enough to pay ransom. Seizing the stronger of these two shafts he belaboured this chap so unmercifully that in penitence and exhaustion he prayed for mercy, which was duly granted on an abject promise that he would never do so any more. As a mark of surety he was tied beyond the wagon and taken on to the next public-houses to be shown what a poor despicable thing the boggart of Red Brook was. He was never seen again, and his condign punishment was just sufficient to deter any other from following what proved to be such an inglorious ending. John Sugden, Slaithwaite notes of the past and present (Manchester: Heywood 1905), 214-215’ Thanks to Jameson, Me, the Count and Chris!

    The Wessel Coins: The Count writes in: Now, I had a theory about this, but I won’t bother to say what it was, because while doing a little internet research to confirm it, I discovered a much more plausible explanation. I found a useful article about the little-known fact that late 18th century Australia had such a chronic shortage of currency that just about any coin from anywhere might have been considered legal tender, and valued according to the weight of the metal. My guess is that both types of coin in the rather pitiful Wessel “hoard” were worthless curios picked up by a sailor which suddenly became real money again in the closing years of the 18th century. For an idea of how insanely diverse Australian currency was at this time, have a look here: Polmorphous-Perversely Numismatic Otto. Thanks Count! Woman and child: First up is CS who asks a fascinating question: ‘Are there any examples of similar pictures depicting Allied forces? Short of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Dresden. Something on a personal level like this iconic image.’ The answer Beach would like to give is that the Allies were goodies and so obviously not. But, of course, even a quick flick through the history books will disabuse you of that (or at least any 100% claim). So where are the other images. If not iconic ones at least ones that have potential to be the equivalent. The only ones that stand out for Beach are the images of destroyed German towns, some of which are fairly iconic. Next the great Chris Hale: What a fascinating and chilling post. I don’t have anything to add with respect to the picture itself. It nauseates me that neo Nazis and whoever else tried to use this to imply that Germans didn’t kill millions of non combatants on the grounds that this single image was cropped. Leaving that point to one side – it is true that German EG killings were usually conducted to liquidate a significant number of people. For example: 25,000+ at Rumbula in Latvia in 1941 over three days. These were systematically and efficiently carried out. My stomach turns as I write… I am not an expert on uniforms so wouldn’t feel confident to comment on that. Even if the man with the rifle was not German – he could have been a SS recruited police auxiliary. One correction I would make is that the EG recruits were NOT bloodthirsty psychopaths as I think you say. Many were lawyers, with doctorates – one was an opera singer. This is the core of the moral problem. They were ‘ordinary men’. Thanks Chris and CS! Magpie Parliament: Invisible writes in: Blackbirds at Prayer. Here is the latest form the Parkhurst correspondent: “For the last ten years millions of blackbirds have annually gathered in a cedar swamp near here. “I was in the swamp last week, mending a hedge fence, and made a discovery. They were holding camp meetings, the row of sleek, fine-looking birds on the top of the tallest tree I think were ministers, and as I watched, one of them spread his wings and talked in low, earnest tones, and the multitude bowed their heads. “Then he said something to them in blackbird and all the birds in one tree began to sing and several in the audience also joined in. The services then began and were conducted by an old bird with part of his tail gone. There was some flirting and tittering going on in the back trees, but most of the audience were quiet. It looked to me as though many of the birds were asleep. “When the meeting closed, every bird began to talk, and such chin music I never heard before. Then they flew away to a field of grain and destroyed an acre in ten minutes.” Kennebec Journal. Mexico Missouri Message 24 November 1904: p. 7 Thanks Invisible!

    The Bull: The Count is determined to pour cold water on this and (having thought about it) rightly so: Concerning the legendary Brandlesholme Bull, firstly, I doubt whether the presence of a nearby pub called the Black Bull is relevant. According to one very casual survey of popular pub names, it ranks 49th with at least 103 examples in the UK, though it’s number one in some parts of Lancashire. And if you include any reference to bulls in pub names – the Bull’s Head, for example – they’re very common throughout Britain, and ridiculously common in cattle country, such as Lancashire. Secondly, this story sounds a bit apocryphal to me. Writing a century after the fact, Barton states that it definitely killed one woman, allegedly killed several other unspecified persons, and freely roamed the moor maiming and terrifying numerous people for quite some time. English law both past and present is so torturous to google that I soon gave up trying, but surely in the late 1700s the bull’s owner would have been legally responsible for its actions, and would have been legally obliged to get rid of it as soon as it became a danger to human life, even if he didn’t feel any moral duty to do so? And if it was running wild and nobody would admit to owning it, how hard would it be to hunt down a huge animal that goes out of its way not to avoid people? A more plausible sequence of events is that the bull was well known for being aggressive, and had caused a lot of fear and maybe a few injuries, but when it actually killed somebody, it was promptly made into – well, c. 1780, probably not car-seats. Maybe leather aprons for trainee apocryphal London serial killers? And in the following century, the tale grew in the telling.’ Thanks Count! Women and Trains: Borky writes in: “Solomon brought out a second edition, the year after. This time the young man is dressed as a naval officer” Aye aye Beach you’ve led an innocent life ‘aven’t y’u? Note our hero’s a sailor with “a girl in every port”. Note Pop’s attention’s on Sailor Boy but Sailor Boy’s attention’s completely on M’Lady. Note Sailor Boy’s perky and very much erect ceremonial sword. Finally note Sailor Boy’s hand’s pointing an invisible object directly at M’Lady artfully contrived hands almost as if he’s saying “Fancy a game of trains?” and she’s saying “If I’m to be the tunnel…” You Northerners… so innocent.’ Thanks Borky and thanks to Stephen D for a correction to a surname.

    Weird Jobs: JB writes ‘I spotted a fact that is very unlikely to mean anything but I thought I would pass it on anyway. The name Caloestian is likely the surname that is commonly spelled Kaloustian in Latin script. It is a fairly common Armenian surname. I volunteered at a charity in LA that aids Armenian refugees. I saw this last name frequently spelled every which way. Transcribing Armenian names into English can be quite tricky. It is still not uncommon to see relatives with slightly different spellings of their last name due to the whims of translators and immigration officials.’ Thanks JB!

    Vindictive Saints: First up is Count I’m not sure how Jewish and Christian holy men compare in rank, but I’m assuming an Old Testament prophet would be at least the equal of a saint. That being the case, the most mean-spirited saint ever would have to be this guy:  Though for sheer irresponsibility in terms of reckless use of miracles, sometimes resulting in fatalities, the runaway winner is none other than Jesus Christ! Only in the Infancy Gospels of course, which are no longer considered Holy Writ. But there was a time when they were! On a related note, for several decades now, superhero comics have been aware that characters whose powers are genetically innate would be impossible for normal human parents to raise – how, exactly, do you cope with a two-year-old who can throw cars, or set fire to you by looking at you when he’s angry? Therefore not only do the Marvel mutants only become superpowered at puberty, but in the DC universe, Superman was retroactively decreed to have gradually acquired his godlike abilities at a similar age (by the way, the character currently known as Superboy is not the same person as Superman). However, back in the day, it didn’t occur to anybody that a toddler who was to all intents and purposes God would be terrifyingly out of control, and the concept was treated humorously in a number of tales that nowadays officially didn’t happen – a 20th century Infancy Gospel?  By the way, I happened to notice a book title which seems apposite:  Chris from Haunted Ohio Book writes in: Oh, but why stop with Wales or Ireland if we are discussing spiritual interpersonal violence? For example, the young Christ in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas/Malevolent Acts striking dead a young boy who ran into him accidentally. The God of Wrath of the Old Testament smiting Uzzah for steadying the Ark of the Covenant, 2 Samuel 6: 7. No good deed goes unpunished…. My vote goes to the vicious Virgins of Italy, images of the Virgin said to be so powerful that they are capable of killing onlookers. They must be placated and are kept veiled to avert disaster. (See Madonnas That Maim: Popular Catholicism in Italy since the Fifteenth Century, Michael P. Carroll.) The Saints of the British Isles, though, do take the biscuit (the Host, if we wish to be irreverent) for smiting their enemies: The misogynistic St Cuthbert, who would instantly punish any woman who came near his shrine. St Columba causing the ships of  English raiders who had despoiled Inchcolm to burst into flames and sink. St Patrick killing Foylge, whose body was then re-animated by the Devil. St Hugh of Lincoln, whose excommunications killed several sinners. Throop, Susanna A. and Paul R. Hyams. Vengeance in the Middle Ages: Emotion, Religion and Feud. Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2010 has a section on vengeful Irish saints.  KJH writes: It is well understood that many of the so-called earlier saints in Christianity would not qualify for the title if subjected to modern standards. The most they might achieve would be a “Blessed” or “Venerable.” Not all saints are born as saints – they go through a developmental period where their deeds, words and actions can fall short of the heroic standard required for sainthood. Even so-called miracles aren’t evidence of sainthood if they aren’t in line with Christian spirituality. As your article points out, culture does play a role. Another example might be the ‘crazy’ saints of early Russia after the Mongolian invasion (google ‘holy fools’). MC writes I haven’t heard of this one actually doing anything particularly nasty, but with a name like that, the potential is there: Lucifer of Cagliari – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Thanks Count, KMH and MC!

    Marching: Prof Michel writes: Just a note on this: When a Roman Legion reached the end of a day’s march, they didn’t just flop down in the grass. No pup tents either. They went into the nearest forest, chopped down the local trees and built an encampment for the night. These things were like small towns, with a ditch, a rampart, a wall. As they left the next morning, they burned it down to deny the use of it to the enemy. Legions were fanatical about never sleeping out in the open (auxiliaries and city cohorts, not so much). Point is, all this must have taken time, time that would not be available for actual marching. Factor that in, and I don’t think you’ll find anything to compare. But as for today, to complete the first phase of your basic training and join the French Foreign Legion you must complete the March Képi Blanc – a 60–75 mile (100–120 km) march in full kit (From Perpignan Training camp at Castelnaudary within 3 days. That’s according to wikipedia but other sources say it is a mere 50 or 65 km and that a 150-200km march (Raid Marché) comes at the end of basic training. Also take a look at this:   I have relatives over there who have done it, though not in the military categories.Louis K writes: Having spent some time in the army (national service), and having had Backpacking as a hobby, plus living in the town of the Four Days Marches, gives some insight in this question. The three foremost are, as you mentioned, Roads, Supply, and Weather. If there are roads, preferably metalled), you can add at least a third to your march distance. So the Romans had an advantage there, as they had this beautiful road network (which was in existence in Italia, parts of Gallia CisAlpina and the Provence , extending into northern Spain , during the Hannibal period). Also they were (more or less) masters of the land, so their supply would have been assured. The Royal Marines and the Para’s had to yomp through some of the most dreadful bog country in the world, with lots of hills, and that in single file, and in (mostly) dreadful weather. Although they did have some resupply, and could not forage, as there was nothing to take (except lots of sheep, i’m told) they did take most of their stuff with them. I’m not so sure the Romans did that, at least not during the march that you mentioned. And if they did, they probably had loads of mules to help carry the Impedimenta. Also it has to do with your physical and mental state. During the American Civil War, the Southern troops were able, time and again, to cover more distance than the Northern troops, thereby surprising sloppy Northern Generals at least twice. The roads and the weather were not a factor here, as they were both using and undergoing the same. And supply was usually better for the Northern troops than for the Southerners. The fact that more Southern troops were from the countryside (where they were working in physical labour jobs), and that more Northerners came from cities (so less used to physical hardship) is sometimes given as a reason for this difference. Having a common goal to believe in also helps. For instance the communist troops in China (against the Japanese and the Nationalists), and the revolutionary and Napoleonic troops in France (before 1807), had better march discipline, less stragglers, and could march further, on average, then their contemporaries, and enemies. I have no examples of spectacular road marches handy, but the things mentioned above are (in my eyes at least) the main variables to measure road marching. By the way, the Four Days Marches, for military personnel, is 40 km, with full (marching) kit.  Civilians do 30, 40 of 50 km. mostly with just rain gear and some food and drink.’ Beach asked whether 100 miles might be doable in 24 hours, say, in Iraq and Louis responded: I don’t know about the miles, but 100 km would be doable. And in winter/cold season, or at night. You would not want to walk that much in the summer heat. And apparently 50 miles is what some people do for fun. Borky writes: Beach it’s a fairly open secret many military round the world prescribe and develop narcotics to enhance soldierly performance especially of their elite units. Nor’s this new because of course ancient Americans used coca leaves hence the term Mexican Marching Powder for cocaine. And of course Ancient Europeans/Africans were all very big on chemical preparations to enhance all kinds of performances. And then there’s the Micah True ttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micah_True and the Rarámuri runners http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarahumara_people who use a type of running where you basically let yourself start to fall then keep the momentum going which allows you to effortlessly cover an enormous amount of rugged terrain such as a ploughed field in an incredibly short time for as long as you like so long as you keep your mind clear of all thoughts and allow no doubt hesitancy or fear to creep in basically no matter how treacherous the terrain looks or becomes you must trust yourself not to misstep otherwise you’ll go catastrophically splat.As well as Abaris and the Arrow of Apollo. Not to mention Tibetan khandromas who abreact space itself ..or from personal experience the sensation the pavement’s turned to a conveyor belt and’s carrying you effortlessly along [instead of sinking under your feet like it’s suddenly turned to sponge] making the two huge rucksacks on your back stuffed with twenty-four huge university texts books seem light as air… or even more straightforwardly streets and roads and public buildings seem to be excised from existence making journeys which should’ve taken half an hour take mere minutes.’ Then Ingo, this is Ingo from Germany, just read your post about the fastest marchers. So, to give you one example, when I was in the Army, my Company (Paratroops) did the ‘Four Days of Nijmegen‘   [see two mentions above], which is, as far as I know, one the hardest events you can do as a military unit. I can’t speak for myself, because I didn’t participate, but my comrades were pretty done. Just take a look :D. Thanks to Ingo, Borky, Louis and Michel!

    Allied Atrocities: LTM points out that there were Allied killings carried out at the liberation of Dachau and that dead bodies were photographed (though there was a pretty hasty cover-up): the wikipedia article cited here is of a high quality. He also points to Chenogne, though there we have, I think, no photographs. Thanks LTM!

    Clowns and Crickets: Michael R goes far beyond the call of duty with this one: The clowns appear to have been a traveling side, well known in the 1870’s and 80’s but now lost to the mists: The Clowns appear to have been well enough established to be the subject of special advertisingon a tram, see this photograph from the National Library of Ireland and in the comments beneath an account of a match by the ‘London Imperial Clowns’ in Cork on  Monday 24th and Tuesday 25th August 1874. This a letter from October 24th 1877 refers to the team ‘Casey’s Peripatetics’ (Late Clown Cricketers) setting up a match for the following season:  and this appears to be the match program which gives the names and the counties of the cricketers involved:  Casey’s Peripatetic Clowns appeared to  have played in Burnley on July 4-5th 1880 and 18th July 1881 – links open to give team and scorecard:  This a postcard of another clown team ‘Opening Day‘ April 22nd 1911  Clown cricketers were also  the subject of a Pathe silent news-reel c 1914.’ Then Bob Skinner has a great one: ‘In addition to the cricket matches with clowns, there appears to have been a tradition in the 18th and 19th Century of matches between one-legged and one-armed teams, often drawn from veterans from the armed services. The following from the Stamford Mercury of  17th July 1766 p. 3: “From the London Gazette 15 July […]  Yesterday the grand Cricket Match between eleven one-armed men, and eleven one-legged men, all pensioners belonging to Greenwich Hospital, was played on Blackheath, which afforded the most excellent sport to several thousand spectators. The one-legged men played but the one-armed men ran best; which means that after long and difficult contest victory declared for the onearmed heroes. Several considerable bets were defending on this remarkable occasion.” A further match at Blackheath was advertised in Newcastle Courant of 17th July 1783 p. 2: “A most extraordinary cricket match is to be played on Tuesday next on Blackheath, eleven men’ on a side:-they consist of eleven men with one arm, and eleven men with a wooden leg each.” Another account of a later match is from the Oxford Journal of 13th August 1796,  p. 2. London 11 August […. ]Yesterday, from the novelty of an  Advertisement announcing a Cricket Match to be played by eleven Greenwich Pensioners with one leg against eleven with one arm, for one thousand guineas, at the new Cricket-ground, Montpelier Gardens, Walworth, an immense concourse of people assembled. About nine o’clock the men arrived in three Greenwich stages; about ten the wickets were pitched, and the match commenced. Those with but one leg had the first innings, and got 93 runs. About three o’clock, while those with but one arm were having their innings, a scene of riot and confusion took place, owing to the pressure of the populace to gain admittance to the ground ; the gates were forced open, and several parts of the fencing were broke down, and a great number of persons having got upon the roof of a stable, the roof broke in, and several of them falling among the horses, were taken out much bruised. About six o’clock the game was renewed, and those with one arm got but 42 runs during their innings. The one legs commenced their second innings, and six were bowled out after they got 60 runs, so that they left off 111 more than those with one arm.” Thanks Bob and thanks Michael!

    Gagauz: Judith from Zenobia writes with a real gem: I’m sure you wouldn’t want to forget the 5,000 Romeyka-speakers who live near Trebezon in the Pontic region of Turkey.  Though speaking a dialect said to be close to ancient Greek, they are Muslim and hence avoided the forced exchange of populations in in 1923.  They are obviously a branch of the Pontic Greeks but their (sub)dialect is distinct.  Now, with the Christian Pontic Greeks  resettled in Greece, they are a remarkable fossil enclave in a sea of Turks.  See  also this Independent piece.   Then there is Stephen D: As well as the Catholic Turks of Moldavia, one might mention the Muslim Tatars of Poland (there are still some, I know a girl who saw one of their mosques),  the Transylvanian Germans some of whom have not left for their ancestral homelands, the Catalans of Sardinia, and the Sorbs who still form a Slavic minority in southeast Germany. The Sorbs crop up in Viktor Klemperer’s account of life as a Jew in Dresden in WWII. He and his Gentile wife were saved in the nick of time from deportation by the big bombing raid, which they survived in the surprisingly well-built Jews-only air-raid shelter (yes I know, bizarre, but there were such things), walked out of the burning city discarding his overcoat with the yellow star, claimed when they reached a refugee centre that his coat had caught fire, he had thrown it away and run, remembering too late that all his papers were in it; got replacement papers, and went to (here I come to the point) a Sorbian village to which a maid who had worked for them in Dresden had returned. She sheltered them, and they were accepted by the local Sorbs as being her friends; Klemperer says the villagers talked openly in Sorbian about the impending and greatly wished-for collapse of the Nazi state, confident that no German would understand. Not to mention the minority populations who have now merged with the majority: the Iranian-speaking Iazyges and the Turkic Cumanians who survived in Hungary as distinct groups till the seventeenth century, the Iranian Alans who settled in Britanny, the Irish kingdoms of South Wales, the Saracens of Lucera … Thanks Judith and Stephen!

    Suicide Ghost: Chris from Haunted Ohio Books sends this one in: Stories of the angry ghosts of suicides (or any ghosts) actually physically attacking someone are rare except in the tabloids and in the luridly entertaining work of Elliott O’Donnell. Most often suicide ghosts rely on glaring, leering, shaking their fists, or just appearing, which, classically, causes the witness to go mad and possibly to also kill himself. Prisons are particularly full of violent suicides and their ghosts. More common still, are stories of the ghosts of murder victims haunting the murderer until he kills himself.  Here is a story excerpted from a chapter on spook lights The Face in the Window, which you so kindly reviewed. People who tangle with spook lights often come away injured or insane so the story is ambiguous as to whether this is actually an attack by the suicide’s ghost. SPOOK LIGHT MAKES SHIFT Oak Harbor, Nov. 23 Port Clinton folk have been taking an active interest in the “spook light” on the Lindsey Rd., five miles southwest of Oak Harbor and eight youths from that place were immediately initiated into the mystery of the light. The spirit of the man who hung himself in the hut nearby, which the light is supposed to represent, did not seem to care as long as they watched from a distance but when they prowled around the bridge it moved out into a field. The youths then began prowling around the abandoned hut and one ventured to open the door and throw a light inside. He did not go very far after opening the door for something hit him on the forehead and sent him staggering back to the support of his comrades. What he said in the excitement following is not clearly recalled by the other members of the party. Deputy Sheriff Eugene Carsten was a member of the party but his experience as a sleuth was not sufficient to solve the mystery. Sandusky [OH] Register 24 November 1922: p. 9 In cases like the following, the narrator usually assumes that the apparition is a delusion and not an obsessed, angry spirit demanding the lady kill herself.  An English lady, moving in the first circles of society, went, in company with her friends, to the opera at Paris. In the next box sat a gentleman, who appeared, from the notice he took of the lady, to be enamoured of her. The lady expressed herself annoyed at the observation which she had attracted, and moved to another part of the box. The gentleman followed the carriage home, and insisted upon addressing the lady, declaring that he had had the pleasure of meeting her elsewhere, and that one minute’s conversation would convince her of the fact, and do away with the unfavourable impression which his apparent rudeness might have made upon her mind. As his request did not appear at the moment unreasonable, she consented to see him for a minute by herself. In that short space of time he made a fervent declaration of his affection; acknowledged that desperation had compelled him to have recourse to a ruse to obtain an interview, and that, unless she looked favourably on his pretensions, he would kill her and then himself. The lady expressed her indignation at the deceit he had practised, and said, with considerable firmness, that he must quit the house. He did so, retired to his home, and with a lancet opened a vein in his arm. He collected a portion of blood in a cup, and with it wrote a note to the lady, telling her that his blood was flowing fast from his body, and it should continue to flow until she consented to listen to his proposals. The lady, on the receipt of the note, sent her servant to see the gentleman, and found him, as he represented, actually bleeding to death. On the entreaty of the lady, the arm was bound up and his life saved. On writing to the lady, under the impression that she would now accept his addresses, he was amazed on receiving a cool refusal, and a request that he would not trouble her with any more letters. Again driven to desperation, he resolved effectually to kill himself. He accordingly loaded a pistol and directed his steps towards the residence of his fair amorosa, when, knocking at the door, he gained admission, and immediately blew out his brains. The intelligence was communicated to the lady, she became dreadfully excited, and a severe attack of nervous fever followed. When the acute symptoms subsided, her mind was completely deranged. Her insanity took a peculiar turn. She fancied she heard a voice commanding her to commit suicide, and yet she appeared to be possessed of sufficient reason to know that she was desirous of doing what she ought to be restrained from accomplishing. Every now and then she would exclaim, “Take away the pistol! I won’t hang myself! I won’t take poison!” Under the impression that she would kill herself, she was carefully watched; but notwithstanding the vigilance which was exercised she had sufficient cunning to conceal a knife, with which, during the temporary absence of the attendant, she stabbed herself in the abdomen, and died in a few hours. It appears that the idea that she had caused the death of another, and that she had it in her power to save his life by complying with his wishes, produced the derangement of mind under which she was labouring at the time of her death; and yet she did not manifest, and it was evident to everybody that she had not, the slightest affection for the gentleman who professed so much to admire her. Possessing naturally a sensitive mind, it was easily excited. The peculiar circumstances connected with her mental derangement were sufficient to account for the delusions under which she laboured. Altogether the case is full of interest. The anatomy of suicide, Forbes Winslow 1840 In this story, again, the vengeful, threatening ghost is seen as the delusion of a dipsomaniac. A Strange Hallucination: An Insane Widow Fancies that She is Pursued by the Ghost of Her Suicidal Husband. Fearful Retribution Resulting from a Wife’s Follies The Maniac Imagines that the Apparition Constantly Demands Money Suicide Waste of Wealth A Strange and Sad History Whether the spirits of the departed return to earth and hover about the footsteps of those with whom they mingled while in the flesh is a mooted question the affirmative of which is taken by comparatively few intelligent persons. However this may be, there existed in a case which came before Justice Milliken yesterday afternoon, certain peculiar feature which would seem to have some sort of bearing upon this matter. A well-dressed, young-looking woman, named Bridget Thompson, was brought into court by a policeman, who stated that he found her wandering about the streets, laboring under either delirium tremens or temporary insanity. She had in her possession upward of $50 in money, and it was thought best that she should be taken care of. She was accordingly placed, for a short time, in a well-lighted cell in the Huron-street Police Station. Here her incoherent mutterings assumed a sort of definite continuity and it was at once observed that she was completely under control of the horrible hallucination that the ghost of her dead husband was dogging her footsteps, reaching toward her a long, bony arm and, in a hollow, sepulchral tone, continually importuning her for “Money, money!” The poor woman would shriek and sob with terror, piteously pleading that she had given it what it so mercilessly demanded. Inquiries were made concerning her history and circumstances and it transpired that she had but the day previous drawn $500 in cash from the bank and that, wandering the streets at night, she had actually cast $300 at the feet of the dreaded apparition, and then fled, no one could tell where.  But it was not until her history was ascertained that the “method in her madness” became apparent, or, rather, that her strange idiosyncrasy was explained. Her experience has indeed been a terrible one, and its tragic details are still fresh in the minds of many residents of this city. Something over three years ago, she was married to a man named Thompson, who was upward of sixty years of age, a kalsominer by trade, and the owner of considerable property in the North division. He had been divorced from his first wife, who had borne him a family of children, who were then grown up, and who, with their mother, are now living in this city. The old man took his bride to his house on Huron street, near Franklin, where he maintained her in comfortable style. His manner toward her was a strange alternation of extreme uxoriousness and intense jealousy, so that her position was no in all respects enviable, and it was thought not improbable that his jealously had some reasonable foundations. The life of the old man and his young wife continued in this checkered course until, but a few months after their marriage, their relations were brought to a close in a manner terribly tragic. They had retired to rest one night when a harsh disagreement arose on account of her persistent refusal to submit to his caresses. In his anger the old man demanded of her that she deliver into his hands the $500 which, in a moment of excessive affection, he had intrusted to her care. She refused; and, as though desirous of fanning his already furious rage, she tauntingly told him she had given the money to her lover. The old man, now maddened beyond control, rushed to a closet, produced a loaded shotgun, placed the muzzle to his head, and declared that, in case of her persistent refusal to yield up the money or disclose the name of her paramour, he would scatter his own brains at her feet. The wretched woman, herself greatly excited by the quarrel, laughed in his face, and jeeringly told him to shoot if he liked; nothing would please her better. Scarcely had the worlds escaped her lips, than the old man planted the muzzle of the gun firmly against his temple, pressed his thumb against the trigger and fired. He had executed his threat. His dead body lay at her feet, his brains spattered upon her night-dress. A lady who resided in the same house, attracted by the high words, stood listening at the door, and herself communicated these facts to the Times reporter, as she testified to them at the coroner’ s inquest upon the body of the suicide. It transpired that a will had been made by Thompson, by which his entire property was bequeathed to his young wife, to the exclusion of his children by his former wife. These heirs contested the will subsequent to his death, and the matter has been in litigation until recently it has been compromised. Bridget receiving $500 in money. This she deposited in the bank, and drew it, and wasted the greater portion of it in the manner already stated. It is affirmed that her life has been dissipated in the extreme since the death of her husband and that the effects of the constant use of intoxicating liquor, coupled with the shock subsequent upon the terrible tragedy with which she was so closely connected, have reduced her to her present condition. It was not deemed proper by Justice Milliken, yesterday afternoon, that she be sent to Bridewell, and the officer having her in charge was directed to bring her case before Judge Bradwell, with a view to the procuring of a commission of lunacy, in order that she may be properly cared for in the county hospital and eventually placed in a lunatic asylum. Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 11 June 1868: p. 4 No, not a lot of physical violence, but rather, emotional threats.’ Thanks Chris!

    Burying Irish in Foundations:  Chris from Haunted Ohio Books writes in: I think the same situation of “vampiric legends” associated with colonialism exists in South America. There was a relatively recent panic over gangs stealing fat to be used in European beauty products and Americans kidnapping children for their organs. I think, although I cannot find a reference, that at least one Latin American country banned adoptions to the United States because they feared the children would be killed for organ harvest. A similar story about children adopted by Americans has made the rounds in Russia recently. ‘human cartels” in Colombia.  In Peru there was also a very literal vampire panic over the legend of the unfortunate Sarah Ellen Roberts “Dracula’s Bride,” who was supposed to rise from her Pisco tomb in 1993.  And, back to burying one’s enemies in foundations, I found this gruesome tale from 1840, which sounds like Imperialist propaganda promoting an invasion to overthrow the “petty tyrant.” ALMOST INCREDIBLE BARBARITY  There is a shocking account in the N.Y. Signal, in which the petty despot who governs Ispahan, is described as cruel almost beyond belief. A favorite mode of punishment with this tyrant, is to cage up criminals doomed to expiate their offences with life, and when two or three hundred are thus collected, to build a “groaning tower” as it is called a horrid edifice, composed of alternate layers of stone and human bodies, first a foundation of stone is placed upon the ground, and then a layer of live men and women are placed upon these, and if we understand the operation rightly, covered with lime and mortar. On these are placed another series of stones welt cemented, and then again comes the shrieking victims of an almost unheard of cruelty; and thus the workmen proceed until the tower is finished. One of these now stands at a gate of the city. A traveller who writes from there recently, says that another collection of criminals is making, and in a short time another “groaning tower” will go up. Humanity shrinks from the horrible picture. The Columbia Democrat [Bloomsburg, PA] 25 July 1840: p.  2. Then Jonathan from A Corner writesI have, immediately, to mention Bran the Blessed, whose head was buried under a building by his own order, a legend late retooled for Harold II of England… It is certainly true that the Anglo-Saxons liked burying things in foundation trenches when they started a building or under the collapsed roof of one they were demolishing, but I wouldn’t have thought the relevant cosmology would have been terribly keen on having dead enemies there! Both the Bran story and the various Anglo-Saxon princely burials suggest a sense that the dead retained some of their living identity after burial, in which case you wouldn’t sleep easy with your victims  under the floorboards (unless you were some Anglo-Saxon Fred West of course).  But if by earliest settlers you mean *Normans*, well, obviously that’s  different… Thanks J & C!