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  • Weird War: Lost Maps, Lost Plans June 29, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Weird War: Lost Maps, Lost Plans

    You’ve all had that awful sinking feeling. You’ve prepared your masterful attack with a vast army across the entire front and then some fool goes and misplaces the map: and next thing you know the scrap of paper ends up in the hands of your opposite number, in the enemy  high command. There must be […]

    What is a Headless Bear? June 28, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    What is a Headless Bear?

      There are many different kinds of British bogeys, but one of the oldest attested is the fearsome ‘headless bear’? The most famous record of this monster is, without any question, Shakespeare in Midsummer Night’s Dream: Sometime a horse I’ll be, sometime a hound, A hog, a headless bear, sometime a fire; And neigh, and […]

    Immortal Meals #29: Chair Jumping at Court June 27, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Immortal Meals #29: Chair Jumping at Court

    Colonel Lennox (1819) was a British ne’erdo well who evolved into a capable member of the British establishment eventually starring as Governor General of North America. As a young man testosterone dripped from him as he walked along: he argued, dueled, whored and was a fine wicket keeper… The event below relates to the aftermath […]

    Norfolk Shape Shifter June 26, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Norfolk Shape Shifter

    Here we have a fairly rare thing. A Norfolk ghost story. During the passing of the third decade of the present century [1830s] I had not reached my teens, but distinctly remember that the inhabitants of Thetford generally, and young folks in particular, were greatly alarmed by prevalent report of a frightful monster—which had been […]

    Victorian Urban Legend: The Red Hand and Seven Years in a Cave June 25, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legend: The Red Hand and Seven Years in a Cave

    Beach is absolutely fascinated by this story. It is clearly genuine and it somehow manages to convey a great deal of menace. There are four English counties beginning with ‘W’ (or at least there were): Westmorland, Worcestershire, Warwickshire and Wiltshire. It seems rather futile to look for ‘T’ because ‘W’ may have been to mislead… Much more […]

    Snowball Atrocities #2: Snowball Deaths June 24, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Snowball Atrocities #2: Snowball Deaths

    You can’t go far in snowballing history without dealing with the deaths. European and American newspapers (Beach’s source for most of what follows) are full of snowball fatalities in the nineteenth and twentieth century. For those of us who have perhaps played with snow and lovingly lobbed loose white balls in the direction of family […]

    Killer Rabbits June 22, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Killer Rabbits

    Beachcombing’s father in law, a few days ago, actually managed to trip over a snake. He thought it was a piece of rope… In celebration of this unlikely event and in memory of sheep killings Beach now declares open season on rabbit killers. We’ve already had the terrors of supernatural rabbits, but what about the […]

    The Kaiser and the Crowned Prince June 20, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Kaiser and the Crowned Prince

    This story may or may not be true: but as all good Victorians would tell ‘it might as well have been’. The Emperor of Germany is, of course, that world destroyer Wilhelm II, and the tale is absolutely at one with his martinet, aggressive nature. It might be worth noting that at this date the […]

    The Renwick Cockatrice June 18, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Renwick Cockatrice

    Renwick is a pretty Cumbrian village with one bizarre episode in its past: a duel between a local and a deadly cockatrice in the first decade of the seventeenth century. There are a good many references to this legend in the nineteenth century. But the earliest written version appears as an aside in  Hutchinson’s History of the […]

    The Baby and the Fairy Bush June 17, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Baby and the Fairy Bush

    This is a heartbreaking notice from one of the Irish papers, 1862. First a little background. The Irish countryside had literally hundreds of ‘fairy trees’ (particularly thorns) and ‘fairy bushes’, which were associated with ‘the good people’: one such Fairy Bush appears here, though Beach has found no trace of it in other records. Second, […]

    Tread on Her Toes: And Other Regency Seduction Tips June 16, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Tread on Her Toes: And Other Regency Seduction Tips

    Beach ran across this guide to seduction while searching for proof about the ancient science of mole divination. The date is apparently Regency (early 1800s?). There is some nonsense about marriage not debauchery, but then we get down to the sexual brass tacks and there isn’t a vicar or congregation in sight. First, your likely […]

    French Witch Burning, 1886 June 15, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    French Witch Burning, 1886

    Many moons ago, Beach began the long search to find the last witch killing in history. He quickly narrowed down to Western witch killing, because of course, there are many killings in Africa and Asia to this day. Every so often he thinks he has come close, but then another inconvenient and later murder falls […]

    Dead Rats, Stoned Teachers and Sergeant Monday June 14, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Dead Rats, Stoned Teachers and Sergeant Monday

    Sergeant Monday was a festival in the north-western English town of Kendal for the installation of a new mayor. Basically this was a Saturnalia for the children of the town: and by ancient convention any students in school would be ‘battered out’ by older boys, who would intimidate teachers into silence. Hundreds of kids would then […]

    How Long Did Our Ancestors Live? June 13, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern, Prehistoric
    How Long Did Our Ancestors Live?

    Life expectancy is a tricky thing. Every demographer knows that, in the modern world, the difference between a national life expectancy of 40 in country A and 70 in country B is predominantly about how many children die in their early years of life. If you look at life expectancy for fifteen year olds then […]

    Wolfe and the Seargent June 12, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Wolfe and the Seargent

    This little snippet comes from 1827 and Hone’s Table Book. It describes, of course, the death of that great British hero, James Wolfe, just outside Quebec, in 1759, one of the most famous moments of the march of Empire. But it adds a detail that most Wolfe’s biographers have ignored… It is related of this […]

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