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  • Murder Will Out: Unusual Bleeding Corpses December 4, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Murder Will Out: Unusual Bleeding Corpses

    This passage comes from one of Beach’s recent favourites (for which he must thank Mike G), the Athenian Mercury. The AM was a late seventeenth-century journal that has been described as the first advice column in history. Readers would write in questions and the editors, a cabal of level-headed Londoners, would then do their best to […]

    Salamander Experiments in Rome December 3, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Salamander Experiments in Rome

    A short note today from a curious book entitled Salamandrologia published in 1683 in Nuremberg, about, of course, Salamanders, p. 116, the mythical fire dwelling lizard: it is a surprisingly long work and worth browsing through. Here is one fragment. It would be good to trace the original down in Italian, German or Latin. It […]

    Child Murder in a London Church? December 2, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Child Murder in a London Church?

    This is an extraordinary story about child murder in a London church. In fact, the real story here – thinking of this site’s interest in urban legend and rumour – is the power of a freak event involving bodies to whip a working class area into a frenzy, but we’ll get to that…. In August […]

    Index Biography #36: Prize a book November 30, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Index Biography #36: Prize a book

    ***Melissa got this, scroll down for the result*** 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 […]

    Immortal Meals #30: Avendaño’s Anxious Banquet November 29, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Immortal Meals #30: Avendaño's Anxious Banquet

    Imagine going to a banquet and not being sure if you are to eat or be eaten. Welcome to the world of Andrés de Avendaño y Loyola, a seventeenth-century Franciscan who walked into the territory of the Itza (a forgotten kingdom previously celebrated on this blog) in 1696. Avendaño was brave. Many other missionaries had […]

    Victorian Urban Legend: Pickpocket Death November 28, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legend: Pickpocket Death

    Beach has taken great joy over the years in celebrating the Victorian pickpocket. This figure, a positive urban legend magnet, offers a lot of fun to the casual reader. Here is a particularly nice story, the hero (or antagonist?) is Mr White a good and honest preacher. He has been told that a man is dying […]

    The Ghost in a Tree November 26, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Ghost in a Tree

    This little account appeared in Wilkinson and Harland, Lancashire Folk-lore (1867), 164. But they were quoting a story that had appeared in a newspaper in 1856. Beachcombing has been unable to trace the original, but honestly he didn’t try that hard. Will it be credited that thousands of people have, during the past week, crowded […]

    The Cuckold, the Painted Belly and the Lusty Merchant November 25, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Cuckold, the Painted Belly and the Lusty Merchant

    This is a weird sixteenth-century story/anecdote/joke about marital infidelity. It is also, frustratingly, only 95% complete. The punch line is missing. Beach has ‘translated’ the text into modern English. The original text though is in the screen capture below. Please email any serious mistakes. A cunning painter was living in London, and he had a […]

    Image: The Tsarina and the Prostitutes November 24, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Image: The Tsarina and the Prostitutes

    This photograph is one of the most iconic from the Great War in Russia. Tsarina Alexandra and her two elder daughters, Olga and Tatiana, were photographed in 1914 in nurses uniform as hostilities began. Nor was this an empty boast, a bit of easy propaganda for Russia’s rulers. Alexandra and especially Olga and Tatiana worked for […]

    Exploding Witch Bottles November 23, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Exploding Witch Bottles

    Witch bottles were ceramic or glass or (sometimes) iron bottles into which a cursed man or woman put parts of their own body and sharp objects. Parts of their own body might be hair, nails and, classically, urine. Sharp things might be nails, pins and thorns. The logic behind all this was that the curser […]

    Sadistic Supernatural Creatures November 18, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Sadistic Supernatural Creatures

    The Auld Lord was a creepy monster associated with Lowther in Westmorland (the old English county between Lancashire and Cumbria). The Auld Lord spent most of his time spinning around the countryside with headless outriders and running his coach down impossibly steep inclines. But when back at home at Lowther Hall his dark side would […]

    Napoleon in Wales November 17, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Napoleon in Wales

    Beach recently offered up the gem of a story that Göring, of all people, had hidden out in a British bomb shelter in the second world war. At that moment he alluded to the fact that in a previous period the British had been convinced that Napoleon himself had visited Britain on the eve of his […]

    Witch Murder Terror at Soham (and Horseshoes) November 15, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Witch Murder Terror at Soham (and Horseshoes)

    A story from the depths of East Anglia (1843), one of the more isolated parts of the English countryside in the 19 Century. A rather amusing and novel occurrence was related to us the other day. A young man, the son of Mr. Elsden, a respectable tradesman of Soham, was walking from that place to […]

    Napoleon III Survives Death November 14, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Napoleon III Survives Death

    Beach was so moved to discover that Marshal Ney  had not really been killed in 1815 that he went out looking for other unlikely survivors. This is one he dredged up from, of all places, Leeds Times (19 Apr 1873), 8. Napoleon III it will be remembered had come to Britain in 1871 after being […]

    Queen Victoria, Dead Again November 13, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Queen Victoria, Dead Again

    Queen Victoria, like Shakespeare’s cowards, died many time before her death in 1901. Beach has, in his career as a nineteenth-century voyeur, often stumbled over references to one or other corner of the Empire convincing itself that Victoria had died before time. You can well imagine how it happened. A misunderstanding in a tiny village, […]

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