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John Farkas: Fire Boy! April 20, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
John Farkas: Fire Boy!

John Farkas’ name seems to have flared up very briefly in history and then to have died down again just as quickly. Many of the things associated with John (Janos?) were, let’s say, poltergeist tricks and not that remarkable. But what about the fire? Note that this newsreport dates to 1921 and appeared in the […]

Flirty Fishing: Evangelical Prostitution April 19, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
Flirty Fishing: Evangelical Prostitution

The Children of God were a rather silly American Christian group, born in 1968, that went, however, almost immediately off the rails, rode down the sidings and ended up chugging along in the blackest, grimiest ditches known to human experience. They specialized, for one, in unusual sexual practices. Some of these are too sordid to […]

Britain and Pearl Harbor April 18, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Britain and Pearl Harbor

The whole question of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor has been mired for years in conspiracy theories. There are, naturally, huge problems with said conspiracy theories not least the motive of the American leadership in allowing the destruction of an important part of their Pacific Fleet; it is not as if Japan was being […]

Fiume under D’Annunzio: An Incubator of Evil April 17, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Fiume under D'Annunzio: An Incubator of Evil

***Dedicated to Ray G*** Everyone has dreamed of walking through Kublai Khan’s ice palaces or straying into the outer reaches of Dante’s paradise (after St Bernard has spoken) or, for those with a rural bent, strolling through the wood of Keats’ nightingale. But one early twentieth-century community spent the best part of eighteen months in […]

The Spy Who Loved Me? Semen and Espionage April 13, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
The Spy Who Loved Me? Semen and Espionage

By WW2 Britain had the best spy and espionage service in the world: one that helped end the war in 1945 rather than 1946 or 1947. However, in WW1 it was still amateur hour. MI6 was just five years old when the guns of August thundered and there was a great deal of improvisation by […]

A Jewish Hitler? April 7, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
A Jewish Hitler?

One of the most interesting ‘urban legends’ about Hitler is that the fuhrer was himself part Jewish: a notion perhaps helped along by his particularly unaryan features. It would, as a matter of fact, be truer to say that Hitler may have had Jewish ancestry. The ambiguity comes about not from Hitler’s maternal side but […]

Gordon Selby: The Luckiest Survivor of WW2? April 2, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Gordon Selby: The Luckiest Survivor of WW2?

Long, long ago I did an article on the unluckiest individuals in history. But spurred on by the Gannet Club I’ve started to think in terms of the luckiest and I’ve come across an absolute winner, Gordon Selby, a much decorated son of a Wiltshire farrier. GS (obit 2007) was twenty when the Second World […]

The Index Biography 5#: Prize = A Good Book March 31, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
The Index Biography 5#: Prize = A Good Book

The Index Biography is a new form of biography pioneered by this blog and introduced in a previous post. The creator must find a biography of a famous individual from history, they must turn to the index and write down eight peripheral facts about the individual’s life. We offered up previously here Sheridan le Fanu and Joseph […]

Totalitarian Leaders, Urban Legends and Motorbikes March 29, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Totalitarian Leaders, Urban Legends and Motorbikes

Totalitarian states put their leaders at the very heart of civic life as symbol and reality of fascism/Nazism/communism (or whatever other nightmare a country has fallen into). One of the consequences of the popular focus on the duce/fuhrer/stalin is that the individual citizen comes to feel a special warmth for the head that they might […]

Expert Opinion on Deadly Free Fall March 28, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Expert Opinion on Deadly Free Fall

Of course, medical and scientific opinion more generally has been proved wrong time and time again over the centuries with red faces enough all around. But Beach stumbled on an early twentieth-century example that had entirely escaped his notice. He quotes from Peter Hearn’s excellent Sky High Irvin: The Story of a Parachute Pioneer. Strange […]

Declaring War in WW2: National Styles March 23, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Declaring War in WW2: National Styles

The characters of countries are reflected in their cuisines, their clothes, and their soap operas, so why not in their declarations of war? Thought it might be fun to see whether this notion stands up and so this morning ran through every WW2 declaration of war that I could find from 1 September 1939 through […]

Forgotten Kingdom: Inbetween Saddleworth March 22, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
Forgotten Kingdom: Inbetween Saddleworth

Saddleworth is a late entrant in the Forgotten Kingdoms series. A stupendously beautiful patch of Pennine land in the north of England, it sits uneasily on the border between the White Rose County, Yorkshire and the Red Rose County, Lancashire. Saddleworth is, in fact, a reminder of how differences between communities are messy not clean-cut: […]

Unofficial Law and Order March 16, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Unofficial Law and Order

Beach has recently been researching out in the bogs of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Ireland so far beyond the pale that children are occasionally incinerated as changelings and there is one alleged case of a legal agent being stoned to death! This was a traditional rural society ruled over as much by priests as by the […]

The Stalags: Israeli Holocaust Erotica March 15, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
The Stalags: Israeli Holocaust Erotica

Literature has some pretty bizarre dust balls under the bed – roadkill cookbooks, Marxist-Leninist poetry… – but there are few things that compete with the so-called ‘stalags’, Israeli erotica based around Nazi murder camps. In the late 1960s Israel was experiencing holocaust delerium: sweating out the killing of six million Jewish Europeans just two decades […]

Molotov, Poetic Justice and Outer Mongolia March 13, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Molotov, Poetic Justice and Outer Mongolia

There is always some fun seeing people placed in hells of their own making, hells that they amply deserve. Of course, there is the whole ‘live by the sword, die by the sword’ thing: Samuel K. Doe, president of Liberia being tortured to death on celluloid; Gaddafi meeting his end in a culvert (‘God forbids […]

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