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  • 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 […]

    Burning Library: Galen in Chinese Shorthand August 10, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Burning Library: Galen in Chinese Shorthand

    The Arab writer Ibn al-Nadim included this extraordinary record of contact between east and west in his Index of the Sciences, finished in 988. He is reporting an encounter between a Chinese student, visiting Baghdad, al-Razi, perhaps the greatest of the Persian writers of the golden age, and the writings of Galen, the greatest Mediterranean […]

    The Spectres of Souther Fell 7: Embellishments August 9, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Spectres of Souther Fell 7: Embellishments

    One of the funnest bits of any in depth historical examination of Forteana comes at the end. You turn from the original sources to the later sources, just to have a sense of how big the snowball has got rolling down the hill. Fortean researchers are exceptional at hunting out sources, but rather worse at critically […]

    The Spectres of Souther Fell 6: Folklore August 8, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Spectres of Souther Fell 6: Folklore

    There have been a couple of attempts to explain Souter Fell in terms of local folklore traditions, though this barely featured in our two main sources. The first explanation appears in volume one of Moncure Daniel Conway, Demonology and devil-lore (New York 1879): Thus it may be noted that, in the instance just related, the […]

    The Spectres of Souther Fell 5: Explanations August 7, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Spectres of Souther Fell 5: Explanations

    How do you explain something like the Souter Fell sighting. Let’s simplify for a moment and focus on the 1744/45 sighting where some twenty six locals saw, for the last two hours of daylight, a series of horse men riding up the ridge to the top of the mountain. What options for explanation do we […]

    The Spectres of Souther Fell 4: Reconstruction August 6, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Spectres of Souther Fell 4: Reconstruction

    The great problem with the two accounts we have just given – Anon (1747) and Clarke (1787) – are the contradictions in number and the years of the events. According to Anon there were three events: 1735, 1737 and 1745. According to Clarke there were just two: 1743, and 1744. How do we begin to explain this? […]

    The Spectres of Souther Fell 3: James Clarke Speaks August 5, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Spectres of Souther Fell 3: James Clarke Speaks

    James Clarke wrote a number of late nineteenth-century works on the north west. This comes from one of these: A Survey of the Lakes of Cumberland, Westmorland, and Lancashire published in 1787 Opposite the nine-mile post, on the right hand, is Southerfell; rather smoother than its neighbours, and remarkable for an extraordinary phenomenon, which perhaps […]

    The Spectres of Souther Fell 2: The 1747 Account (Surviving and Missing) August 4, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Spectres of Souther Fell 2: The 1747 Account (Surviving and Missing)

      The first account appeared in the Gentleman’s Magazine 1747, 523-5, in a longer anonymous article on ‘A Journey to Caudebec Fells with a Map and Description of the same’ Souter-fell is a distinguish’d mountain of itself, encompass’d quite round with a turbinated trough, thro’ which the Lender-maken is convey’d. The West and North sides […]

    The Spectres of Souther Fell 1: The Sources August 3, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Spectres of Souther Fell 1: The Sources

    Beach is usually bored by phantom armies. But the Souter Fell spectres of the mid-eighteenth-century have several interesting features. First, the sources are of an unusually high quality. Second, the number of witnesses was allegedly high. Third, there are some interesting links with the folklore of the region. So let’s get on with the details […]

    Caithness Mermaid Mystery 6: There Were Mermaids! August 2, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Caithness Mermaid Mystery 6: There Were Mermaids!

    This is the last in the Caithness Mermaid Mystery, for now. A letter written in the John O Groats, 1849 series. Here we have a trusting soul, James Taylor, who knew all the protagonists… Dublin, 4th May, 1849. Sir, A considerable portion of the John O’Groat Journal being lately occupied by the appearance of those […]

    Beachcombed 74 August 1, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Beachcombed
    Beachcombed 74

    Dear Reader, another difficult month: the strange ebb and flow of ‘luck’ is a fascinating subject. Many hours in hospital after a Dutch friend of Beach managed to break his heel in the Beach garden and needed a translator and a bodyguard (angry nurses). A tortoise escaped and is MIA and another lost an eye […]

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