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  • Pan in Warwickshire?! December 29, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Pan in Warwickshire?!

    In 1885 a neophyte priest William Herbert Seddon arrived at the parish of Painswick in Warwickshire. Seddon had a strong classical background, he appears for instance in that monument of Victorian learning, The Concordance to the Septuagint, as an important contributor. And he was interested to find, on his arrival, that until the early nineteenth […]

    White Woman of Bell Island December 27, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    White Woman of Bell Island

    Beach recently had the immense pleasure or reading John Widdowson’s If You Be Don’t Be Good, a collection (and analysis) of bogeys used by Newfoundland parents in the interwar and immediate postwar. JW’s purpose was to examine how parents controlled their children in Atlantic Canada, particularly through folklore. But he also picked up many fascinating, […]

    Christmas: Waking Up to Liberation December 25, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Christmas: Waking Up to Liberation

    Happy Christmas to all readers. This was Strange History’s photo of the year. A teen (Jewish?) girl photographed by British or Dominion (Canadian?) troops at the liberation of Bergen Belsen’s hospital, 15 April 1945. Frighteningly thin, she has just survived the worst war in human experience, on one of the most dangerous acres of European soil. […]

    Ilse Koch: The Skin Harvester of Buchenwald December 21, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Ilse Koch: The Skin Harvester of Buchenwald

    Ilse Koch, ‘the bitch of Buchenwald’, seems to have been an unpleasant human being. She was a sadist, and she was, as a matter of record, – something almost as serious in the 1940s and 1950s when her reputation was made – ‘promiscuous’: she had opportunities to sate both desires as the wife of the […]

    Morris Dancers from Hell December 18, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Morris Dancers from Hell

    Imagine that you have a problem in your west African village. A witch is believed to be among you, or worse still someone has been indulging in cannibalism. How do you deal with such miscreants: there is no police force with the resources, and the local chief is at the end of his tether. Well, […]

    Review: Atlas of Countries that Don’t Exist December 16, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Review: Atlas of Countries that Don't Exist

    ***Thanks to Ricardo for sending this one in*** One of the most heart-breaking aspects of the rise of ISIL/ISIS/DAESH is the way the Daeshites have butchered their way through the brilliantly coloured mosaic of ethnic, linguistic and, of course, religious tiles, in northern Iraq. In twenty years when the Caliphate has been consigned to the […]

    Two Centuries of Historical Memory? December 11, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Two Centuries of Historical Memory?

    In the 1980s Beach read an article on Ronald Reagan that described the then President (born in 1911) talking to veterans of Gettysburg as a child. It was a spark on kindling for the historic imagination. Here is a striking nineteenth-century equivalent that has given Beach much pleasure today. It was recorded in 1851 in […]

    A Canadian Fear Census December 10, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    A Canadian Fear Census

    John Widdowson is one of our finest British folklorists and some of his most interesting work has been on how to scare the living bejesus out of ten year olds. Indeed, his first book had the winsome name If You Don’t Be Good and describes how parents, in the 1960s and 1970s, in Newfoundland (Canada), […]

    Magic Ritual Disaster, 1983 December 8, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Magic Ritual Disaster, 1983

    Greystone was a converted manor house in Wiltshire (UK) that Gareth Knight (pictured), perhaps the most celebrated post-war British ritualist, used for his magic. From 1977 to 1983 a series of rituals were carried out by Gareth to connect the upper with the lower world: the aim was to bring earth and the underworld back […]

    A Fourteen-Year Second World War?! November 29, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    A Fourteen-Year Second World War?!

    Strangehistory recently featured the longest European war of the twentieth century, that between Greece and Albania (1940-1987). While looking at this Beach was intrigued, nay amazed by the true duration of the Second World War. In fact, this morning his room has taken on a strange orange sheen. For example, how long was Britain at […]

    Tony Judt: A Reluctant Historian? November 28, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Tony Judt: A Reluctant Historian?

    Tony Judt wrote twelve fine history books* before his untimely death in 2010, one of them ‘the unmatched and perhaps unmatchable’ (Snyder) Postwar (2005). When he died, after a courageous fight with an impossible illness, eulogiums rained down. But there was a minority opinion that Judt was something less than a new Gibbon. Dylan Riley wrote […]

    Ritual Murders in Nyasaland November 26, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Ritual Murders in Nyasaland

    The following was a written answer given in a written exchange in the British parliament 13 March 1962. At this date Nyasaland (aka Malawi) was a British territory and would be for another two years. (In the postwar period the British government was often put under pressure over the question of responsibility for colonial possessions […]

    Persuasions of the Witch’s Craft November 23, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Persuasions of the Witch's Craft

    ***Thanks to Stephen D for bringing this book to my attention*** Most anthropologists choose an exotic destination and then head off to live with the Kwang or the Baiga for a couple of years, subsequently using the material they gather there for their doctorates. In the 1980s Tanya Marie Luhrmann, instead, headed from Cambridge in […]

    Dealing with Double Agents The British Way November 21, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Dealing with Double Agents The British Way

    From the 1920s to the 1940s Britain had perhaps the best spy agencies in the world: this was particularly true of its foreign spy agency, SIS or MI6. Ian Fleming, Graham Greene and even John Le Carré’s fiction carry the distilled essence (albeit sometimes shifted to later times) of British triumph against Nazi Germany, Imperial […]

    Review: A Trojan Feast November 19, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Review: A Trojan Feast

    Now here’s an easy question on mythology. Tomorrow at noon you will be taken off to the infernal regions by an underworld spirit. You have twenty four hours to prep from the seventy or eighty volumes of mythology on your shelves. What one lesson do you bring away from your reading before you are taken below? It’s […]

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