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  • Morris Dancers from Hell December 18, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Morris Dancers from Hell

    Imagine that you have a problem in your west African village. A witch is believed to be among you, or worse still someone has been indulging in cannibalism. How do you deal with such miscreants: there is no police force with the resources, and the local chief is at the end of his tether. Well, […]

    Review: Atlas of Countries that Don’t Exist December 16, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Review: Atlas of Countries that Don't Exist

    ***Thanks to Ricardo for sending this one in*** One of the most heart-breaking aspects of the rise of ISIL/ISIS/DAESH is the way the Daeshites have butchered their way through the brilliantly coloured mosaic of ethnic, linguistic and, of course, religious tiles, in northern Iraq. In twenty years when the Caliphate has been consigned to the […]

    Black Rock Knocking Ghost December 15, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Black Rock Knocking Ghost

    Lots of ghosts knock, but this one was monotonous in technique and timetable. We are in Black Rock just outside Dublin. During the last four or five weeks, the residents in Blackrock have been kept state of excitement the constant nocturnal visitations of a rival of the ancient spectral denizen of Cock Lane. The place […]

    Witch Blood Scratching and Keeping? December 12, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Witch Blood Scratching and Keeping?

    Beach has over the years collected, particularly with the help of readers, a number of stories of blood spilling and witches. The idea is that by spilling blood, typically taken with a bramble, you can cure the witch’s overlooking. There are though some variations on this theme, including to judge by this report from 15 […]

    Two Centuries of Historical Memory? December 11, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Two Centuries of Historical Memory?

    In the 1980s Beach read an article on Ronald Reagan that described the then President (born in 1911) talking to veterans of Gettysburg as a child. It was a spark on kindling for the historic imagination. Here is a striking nineteenth-century equivalent that has given Beach much pleasure today. It was recorded in 1851 in […]

    A Canadian Fear Census December 10, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    A Canadian Fear Census

    John Widdowson is one of our finest British folklorists and some of his most interesting work has been on how to scare the living bejesus out of ten year olds. Indeed, his first book had the winsome name If You Don’t Be Good and describes how parents, in the 1960s and 1970s, in Newfoundland (Canada), […]

    Victorian Urban Legend: Eating Fido December 6, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legend: Eating Fido

    You all know the story. Young couple go out on their first date and decide to drive out to the twilight lake with a Kentucky Fried Chicken. They arrive and in the dark start chewing on the delicious white meat only for the girl to say that hers tastes strange. She takes a number of […]

    The Word Poltergeist in English December 2, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Word Poltergeist in English

    When did English-speakers start using the word Poltergeist? The conventional answer to this question is in 1848 when Catharine Crowe wrote, in her The Night Side of Nature, the following passage while describing spirits of the dead. [B]ut there is nothing sportive or mischievous, nor, except where an injunction is disobeyed, or a request refused, […]

    Index Biography #24: Prize a book November 30, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Index Biography #24: Prize a 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 […]

    Tony Judt: A Reluctant Historian? November 28, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Tony Judt: A Reluctant Historian?

    Tony Judt wrote twelve fine history books* before his untimely death in 2010, one of them ‘the unmatched and perhaps unmatchable’ (Snyder) Postwar (2005). When he died, after a courageous fight with an impossible illness, eulogiums rained down. But there was a minority opinion that Judt was something less than a new Gibbon. Dylan Riley wrote […]

    What Do Demons Look Like? November 27, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    What Do Demons Look Like?

    Beach really, really, really doesn’t like ceremonial magic, creepy pentagrams and casual acquaintances with books by the ‘Beast’ Crowley on their shelves. But he recently steeled himself to read The Magus (1801) by Francis Barrett, mainly to see what the alchemists and magi had to say about fairylore. There is a lot of material as it […]

    The Subscription List Swindle November 25, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Subscription List Swindle

    This particular swindle should have gone in the post on British provincial swindles, but Beach loves it so much that he kept it apart to do honour to its creator, Mr Hartley, somewhere still picking oakum in purgatory. First, though a little background on the subscription system. If, in the nineteenth century, a striving author wanted […]

    Wesley Ghost #9: Fairy, Witch or Demon? November 24, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Wesley Ghost #9: Fairy, Witch or Demon?

    In previous posts Jeffrey has been explained by this blogger as a product of life in a strictly regulated religious setting, where adolescent girls were yoked to Samuel Wesley’s strict high Anglican ideals. There is a very good chance that this is the key to understanding the poltergeist events and that some sort of poltergeist […]

    Mine Disaster Premonitions at Morfa November 22, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Mine Disaster Premonitions at Morfa

    10 March 1890 one of the worst mining accidents in British history* took place in Morfa in South Wales. 87 miners were killed. A gas explosion had been set off, probably by an unfastened lamp. Interestingly the local community had had forebodings before the explosion. This article came out almost two months later in the […]

    Review: A Trojan Feast November 19, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Review: A Trojan Feast

    Now here’s an easy question on mythology. Tomorrow at noon you will be taken off to the infernal regions by an underworld spirit. You have twenty four hours to prep from the seventy or eighty volumes of mythology on your shelves. What one lesson do you bring away from your reading before you are taken below? It’s […]

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