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  • Hair Harvests and Hair Theft February 27, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Hair Harvests and Hair Theft

    The hair harvest was the trick of selling your beautiful head of hair, an option open to hirsute young women, to the local barber for a sovereign (or somewhat less). The practice was common enough in Victorian Britain that it appears in a Hardy novel, The Woodlanders, where Marty lops off her hair and sells […]

    Historical Ménage a Trois February 23, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Historical Ménage a Trois

    Beach has recently become fascinated by those who live a ménage a trois, leaving behind the conventional marriage of two and creating something like a marriage of three: a man lives with his wife and lover; a man lives with a gay policeman and his wife… etc etc Such a coupling (tripling) is difficult to pull off today, […]

    Crossing the Rhine and Surrendering: 1793 February 19, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Crossing the Rhine and Surrendering: 1793

    ***Stephen D sent this one in: thanks!*** The following post describes an attempted French invasion across the Rhine at Huningue, just to the north of the Swiss border in September 1793. It goes without saying that amphibious operations are hellishly difficult in modern times. The Huningue operation began with the decimation of the officer ranks. […]

    The Doppleganger and Ghosts of Lower Gornal February 17, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Doppleganger and Ghosts of Lower Gornal

    Lower Gornal is a village in Staffordshire close to Dudley. The following news story appeared in 1881 and relates to what Beach has tentatively termed ghost riots. That ghosts are seen is, of course, absolutely par for the course, particularly back in the nineteenth century when fairy sightings were occasionally reported in local newspapers. But what is special […]

    You Can’t Go Home Again: Aunt Janey and Other Stories February 14, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    You Can’t Go Home Again: Aunt Janey and Other Stories

    Qua campis cervos agitabat sacra juventus/ Incumbit fessus nunc baculo senior./ Nos miseri, cur te fugitivum, mundus, amamus? (‘Here the holy young man who chased deer in the fields, now, stands a broken old man with a stick/ O what wretches! Why, world we love, do you flee from us?’) Alcuin O Mea Cella Beach’s […]

    Two Hebridean Losers Harrow Hell c. 1600 February 13, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Two Hebridean Losers Harrow Hell c. 1600

    Trip away today so a brief post about a rather unusual denouement to a life, Scottish Highland style. Allan was a villainous magician. In fact, we have come across him in the past roasting cats. When Allan was dying on his home island of Mull (in the 1600s though we are in a legendary past […]

    The Hairy Boggart of Weeton February 6, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Hairy Boggart of Weeton

    ‘Boggart’, it will be remembered, is a British north(-western) word meaning ‘bogey’: it was a promiscuous word and covered everything from a ghost to a troll (and sometimes a scarecrow). Individual settlements in Lancashire, northern Cheshire and northern Derbyshire, parts of the Ridings (particularly the West) and surprisingly Nottinghamshire had boggart haunted areas. Sometimes they were glades, […]

    The Eugenics of History? February 5, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    The Eugenics of History?

    Eugenics refers of course to the depressing strand of thinking that says that societies (for which read boffins with bow ties employed by the state) should be allowed to decide which of us can and cannot reproduce our genes. Eugenics was briefly fashionable in the 1920s and 1930s then the Nazis came along and, perhaps […]

    Killing the Witch’s Rooster? February 3, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Killing the Witch's Rooster?

    The most important thing about nineteenth-century witchcraft reports in British, Irish and American newspapers is that they reveal a series of beliefs that were actually practiced, but that were often too intimate and ‘stupid’ to share with a folklorist. The result is that these neglected newspaper reports are the closest that we come to the […]

    The Index Biography #15: Prize = A Good Book January 31, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Index Biography #15: 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 […]

    Naked Christianity January 29, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Naked Christianity

    Beach recently shared the splendours of naked fertility rituals in Missouri from Colonial times to the Great Depression. The author of that article (Vance Randolph, Nakedness in Ozark Folk Belief, The Journal of American Folklore 66, 333-339) also describes what may be spill over into local Christianity. In 1905 a preacher, Jim Sharp from Missouri, […]

    The Lost Tragedy of Anne Boleyn January 28, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Lost Tragedy of Anne Boleyn

    An entry in the burning libraries catalogue… In 1536 Anne Boleyn was executed for sexual betrayal and for plotting the murder of the king, her husband Henry VIII. Beach has examined these extraordinary claims in another post, sufficient to say for now that there was almost certainly no substance to them, but that Henry VIII […]

    Witchcraft and the Walking Toad! January 21, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Witchcraft and the Walking Toad!

    If you want to know what beliefs were really held out in the wilder parts of the English countryside in the nineteenth century there are two important sources: folklore collections and, more to Beach’s taste, legal proceedings. Every so often a member of the British rural classes with conservative inclinations and beliefs, which would have […]

    The Mystery of Ghost Riots January 20, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    The Mystery of Ghost Riots

    This blog has reported many historical ghost stories over the year. Now it is time for a bit of reflection. Let’s pretend that your neighbour John Smith on Treacle Row in London, has reported that he has seen a ghost in a flowing gown running up and down the stairs. Now think carefully about this […]

    The Horror of Electric Lights January 18, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Horror of Electric Lights

    New technologies bring fears with them, of course, and often for very good reasons. Electricity was no exception. You could understand the presence of electrificed objects causing fear, but more refined is the fear of electic light. This particulary story come from 1890. A family in Ottery (Devon, UK) had been terrorised by the new […]

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