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Headless Witch Zombies in Nineteenth-Century England! April 16, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Headless Witch Zombies in Nineteenth-Century England!

Strangehistory has given some publicity in the past to the peculiar custom, found throughout the English-speaking world and beyond, of blood-letting to break witchcraft: the victim must draw blood from the witch, preferably from the face. It would be pointless to give yet another example of this barbarity. But though blood-letting features in the following […]

Rabies and Dog’s Liver Cure April 11, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Rabies and Dog's Liver Cure

Rabies vanished from Britain in the very early twentieth century and bar some unlucky exceptions has not returned since: just 22 have died since 1902. But in the nineteenth century it was a serious menace and people, particularly children died on a fairly regular basis. Here is a rabies account from the 1860s and deep […]

The American Civil War: An Exceptionally Nice Conflict? April 10, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
The American Civil War: An Exceptionally Nice Conflict?

The American Civil War was a grim event: of this there should be no question. Perahps 400 thousand young men were killed, who would have contributed to the future of their country/countries. There was lasting bitterness, particularly in the South, where even today there are debates about Confederate Flags and northern culpability. For an outsider, […]

Brought Up By A Tree April 9, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Brought Up By A Tree

This story dates to 1706 and seems, at least, to Beach just too incredible. It is enjoyable though, in a kind of my-foster-dad-was-an-oak, murder-will-out way. The scene of the occurrence is laid at a nameless place in Essex [note not named!], in the neighbourhood of which a gentleman was in the habit of amusing himself […]

Human Trousers from Iceland April 8, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Human Trousers from Iceland

Regular readers of this blog will know the name ‘Leif’, who always sends in excellent copy about Viking culture, correcting my excesses and offering new perspectives. Leif recently sent in these reflections on Lappish breeches (extraordinary and horrific picture at the foot of this post) after my post on a human drum. Here we return […]

Hari-Kiri at the Hague? April 4, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Hari-Kiri at the Hague?

In 1907 three Korean representatives travelled to the Netherlands to persuade the powers meeting at the Hague Peace Conference to revoke Japanese hegemony over Korea. Their leader was Yi Jun (aka Ri Jun, Yi Chun, pictured left) and he and his two colleagues were devastated to learn, upon arrival, that they would not even be […]

Expert Opinion on Deadly Free Fall March 28, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Expert Opinion on Deadly Free Fall

Of course, medical and scientific opinion more generally has been proved wrong time and time again over the centuries with red faces enough all around. But Beach stumbled on an early twentieth-century example that had entirely escaped his notice. He quotes from Peter Hearn’s excellent Sky High Irvin: The Story of a Parachute Pioneer. Strange […]

Madame Caillavah and Her Nineteenth-Century Gold Detector March 26, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Madame Caillavah and Her Nineteenth-Century Gold Detector

In that unholy mess of blood and tradition-killing, the French Revolution, there was much sacking of national treasure houses and attempts by ‘reactionaries’ and guardians to keep some of those treasures out of the hands of the Convention. One such event took place in 1793 at St Denis when looters went over the entire Cathedral […]

Ghostly Stone Throwing in Kent, 1918 March 24, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Ghostly Stone Throwing in Kent, 1918

Digging and paranormal episodes seem to come together with a frequency that would be all together suprising if you had never met an archaeologist. Here is a nice case from 1918: the report appears in a northern English scientific periodical. I was first attracted to it by the mention of fairies in the title of […]

Forgotten Kingdom: Inbetween Saddleworth March 22, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
Forgotten Kingdom: Inbetween Saddleworth

Saddleworth is a late entrant in the Forgotten Kingdoms series. A stupendously beautiful patch of Pennine land in the north of England, it sits uneasily on the border between the White Rose County, Yorkshire and the Red Rose County, Lancashire. Saddleworth is, in fact, a reminder of how differences between communities are messy not clean-cut: […]

A Strange Camera Obscura at Blackpool March 21, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
A Strange Camera Obscura at Blackpool

The camera obscura was already being written about in ancient times, there is an Italian renaissance illustration of one as well: the best page I’ve found online, if you are new to this, is here. But I’ve recently come across a nineteenth-century example that I simply don’t understand. This comes from a very fine book […]

Human Drum at Rennes March 18, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Human Drum at Rennes

***Thanks to Tokyobling for putting me onto this story and too many others like it*** Had a pretty disturbing week looking at the use of human skins in witchcraft and book covers: things that Beach, in his alloyed innocence, just didn’t realize existed. However, of all the human skin stories I ran across the strangest […]

Unofficial Law and Order March 16, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Unofficial Law and Order

Beach has recently been researching out in the bogs of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Ireland so far beyond the pale that children are occasionally incinerated as changelings and there is one alleged case of a legal agent being stoned to death! This was a traditional rural society ruled over as much by priests as by the […]

British Truth and American Lies? March 14, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
British Truth and American Lies?

If you look through the American press from the 1800s you will sometimes come across outrageous stories about ghostly happenings, about strange sightings and about impossible creatures. The most famous example of this is, of course, the moon hoax of 1835. In Britain you have similarly outrageous stories about, say, fairy encounters, about sea serpents […]

Witch Ducking and Three in a Bed March 12, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Witch Ducking and Three in a Bed

This may not be the last witch killing in Britain, that seems to have taken place some months before. But this is my candidate for the last attempted witch ducking in the UK in 1880! Susan Sharpe, the ‘witch’ apparently brought the case to court because she was frightened that the local community, or elements […]

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