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  • The Index Biography #21, Prize a Good Book August 31, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    The Index Biography #21, Prize a Good Book

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

    Butter Tricks and Witches August 29, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Butter Tricks and Witches

    Here is a silly story from nineteenth-century Wales followed up with a serious point: or as serious as this blog ever gets. Mrs. Braithwaite [of Caergwrle, Flintshire] supplied a Mrs. Williams with milk, but a short time ago refused to serve her, and the cause was as follows: Mrs. Braithwaite had to that time been […]

    Sentries and Ghosts August 28, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Sentries and Ghosts

    While recently writing on the Tower of London ghosts Beach learnt something. Sentries see ghosts: there was the case from 1817 and the second case from the 1850s. The following list is limited to the British newspapers from 1875-1900 and represent a very quick survey: 1877 Aldershot: a ghost was repeatedly seen by sentries at […]

    Review: Victorian Studies in Scarlet August 27, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Review: Victorian Studies in Scarlet

    Best read of the summer? For Beach an easy choice, Richard D. Altick, Victorian Studies in Scarlet: Murder and Manners in the Age of Victoria. OK it was first published in 1970 but what is forty years between friends? Altick, who died in 2008, was a maverick academic: it would be great to induct him, sooner […]

    The Longest Surviving Medieval Heresy August 26, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    The Longest Surviving Medieval Heresy

    Imagine this. You wake up one morning in 1216 and say ‘to hell with it’. You walk into the local square of piazza stand on an upturned wheelbarrow and talk to your neighbours about the cosmos. Perhaps you’ve learnt that Christ married Mary Magdalene and had twins; or that the angels are worms in universal […]

    Early Bionic Ear August 24, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Early Bionic Ear

    Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen (obit 1676) was a seventeenth-century German author with a penchant for fantasy. Here is an invention dreamt up for one of his novels. In Simplicius Simplicissimus (published 1668) he wrote this extraordinary passage. And when I had fancies, and lay awake many a night thinking how might contrive new finds […]

    Origins of the Trickster August 22, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Origins of the Trickster

    Beach has recently become intrigued by the Trickster, those wonderful figures found in world mythology who pass beyond the normal rules laid down by society and cause fun and trouble by turns. Tricksters are perhaps particularly associated with Amerindian myths but they are everywhere. For example, there seems, in the Christian tradition, to have been […]

    Wild Men from Elsewhere August 19, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Wild Men from Elsewhere

    So far there have been two wild men posts: one on wild men from Britain/Ireland and one on wild mem from North America; there have also been some case studies: for any of these follow the wild man tag. These are some extras from around the world. Beach would be, it goes without saying, very […]

    Why Do Welsh Ghosts Jump? August 18, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Why Do Welsh Ghosts Jump?

    Supernatural beings occasionally, like the rest of us, jump. In some cases, e.g. Spring Heeled Jack and the Devil, this seems to be a key characteristic. In other cases it is there in many descriptions: e.g. American wild men. Then, with other bogeys it is only an occasional activity: e.g. fairies and ghosts. However, Beach […]

    American Wild Men August 17, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    American Wild Men

    The first in the series was for Britain and Ireland. Here is, instead, the US. Note that this would need to be read side by side with Chad Arment’s work on historical Big Foot. There is some overlapping. 1851: Greene County (Arkansas), a supernatural sounding man covered in hair runs away from farmers jumping 13 […]

    Victorian Urban Legends: The Wrong Bed August 16, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legends: The Wrong Bed

    The Wrong Bed urban legend is self explanatory: a man or a woman get in the wrong bed in the wrong room in the wrong house, inevitably with someone of the opposite sex. That this story did the rounds in Victorian times there should be no surprise. What is incredible is that the story was […]

    The Mystics and Joe Bloggs August 15, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern, Uncategorized
    The Mystics and Joe Bloggs

    From 1889-1892 the Society for Psychic Research asked a series of 17,000 Britons (of all classes and both sexes), whether they had ever had a ‘hallucination’, that is hearing or seeing someone who was not actually there and yet while ‘awake, and not suffering from delirium or insanity or any other morbid condition obviously conducive […]

    Witch Violence in Nineteenth-Century Cumbria August 14, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern, Uncategorized
    Witch Violence in Nineteenth-Century Cumbria

    A modest attempt to shed some light on a peculiar act of near murder from Yorkshire, August 1874. We are at Garsdale in Cumbria in one of the wildest parts of the UK and Levi Abbott an excavator on the railway (navvy?) is in court because he has wounded Ellen Bowers, his landlady who kept […]

    Witching Spiders from Suffolk August 13, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Witching Spiders from Suffolk

    This witching story from the late seventeenth-century is interesting for two reasons: first because it is inherently weird and creepy; second because it may be the source for one of the greatest twentieth-century horror stories. Frightened of spiders? Then go click away. At St. Edmund’s Bury, in Suffolk, Sept. 6, 1660, in the middle of […]

    Victorian Urban Legend: The Coffin Trick August 11, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legend: The Coffin Trick

    This is an absolutely brilliant story, but probably not a very good scam. That suggests that we are dealing here with a nineteenth-century urban legend. According to the New York Herald, a charitable gentleman his lately been imposed upon in the most shameful manner in Boston. Meeting a woman in one of the streets in […]

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