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  • Victorian Urban Legend: Pickpocket and Boa Constrictor April 5, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legend: Pickpocket and Boa Constrictor

    This is a lovely tale. An elderly chap meets a young man in a tram car who confesses that he was once a pickpocket. He gives the story of his conversion. I was lounging about, when in came a gentleman with a long basket. It was the most curious basket I had ever seen, with two […]

    Evans-Pritchard and the Witch April 4, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Evans-Pritchard and the Witch

    Beach wants to induct E. E. Evans-Pritchard into his Rogue Researchers club for an experience that befell the great British anthropologist during his field work in Africa. This passage comes from his famous first chapter in Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic among the Azande (1937). The experience is probably from 1925 or 1926: I have only […]

    The Mason’s Worst Task April 2, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Mason's Worst Task

    This story has haunted Beach more than any other in the last month. Is it true, fiction or an inspired urban legend? In either case it would be a brilliant detective story. Beach was reminded of Sherlock Holmes and the Engineer’s Thumb (pub 1892). It appeared in 1894 in the Wicklow People (11 Aug). Enjoy […]

    In Search of the Anomaly Gap, 1700-1800 March 29, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    In Search of the Anomaly Gap, 1700-1800

    Beach has noted before on this site the way that in the enlightenment there is an ‘anomaly gap’. It becomes, from about 1700 to 1800, unfashionable to speak about the paranormal, even in jesting terms. Actually this is a very approximate rule. In Beach’s experience some forms of the supernatural are acceptable. For instance, ghosts […]

    Nude Ghosts March 28, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Nude Ghosts

    We looked recently at the phenomenon of ghost larks, young men and women, pretending to be ghosts for various motives. On that occasion the sub category of nude ghosts were missed out entirely, but as bizarre history is an exercise in completion here goes. An interesting number of ‘ghosts’ turned out to be local streakers. […]

    A Green Stranger or Angel or Fairy? March 27, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    A Green Stranger or Angel or Fairy?

    Lots of supernatural creatures from the Green Knight to aliens are green: and the general, though by no means universal opinion of folklorists has been that green is for vegetation. Here is one reference from the late 17C* that has  confused Beach. We are in Westmorland in north-west England and this is from a one […]

    Review: The Lost Story of the William & Mary March 26, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Review: The Lost Story of the William & Mary

    There is a new series of history books, products of the internet age, that have amateur historians putting together works that are, often, better than those by professional historians. The reason for the success of these amateurs is simple. They concentrate on contemporary sources, sources that are now increasingly available online for those ready to […]

    Victorian Urban Legends: Wellington’s Breeches March 25, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legends: Wellington's Breeches

    Nice 19C story. Mrs. Loudon was lately in the neighbourhood of Strathsfieldsaye, and being always anxious to visit spots remarkable for fine specimens of the vegetable world, and hearing that she was likely to gratify her taste at the gardens of the Duke of Wellington, she wrote to His Grace, conveying her special desire to […]

    The Copper Piece Spell March 24, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Copper Piece Spell

    Location: this spell is attested in a court case from 1856 (Anon 1856) from the West Riding of Yorkshire. The spell had been carried out by a famous Leeds cunning man, Harrison, and his client, William Dove, had unfortunately graduated onto murder on the advice of his master, a crime for which he would later […]

    Granddad Became a Seal March 21, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Granddad Became a Seal

    Busy day here as the students are to be crucified in a ritual quiz. Here is a curious seal story from Ireland; there are, Beach thinks, other British or Irish story of humans becoming animals at death, but he can’t find them. Can anyone help? drbeachcombing At yahoo DOT com I don’t exactly know whether […]

    Exploding Pipes March 20, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Exploding Pipes

    Bored, got nothing to do? Here’s a thought. Why not blind a friend for a lark? There are a couple score newspaper stories from 1850-1950 of workmen, companions and complete strangers giving victims pipes that have been doctored with gunpowder. Typically the smoker puts a match to the shag of tobacco, takes a deep breath and […]

    The Eternal Mystic March 19, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    The Eternal Mystic

    Beach is eternally worried about mystics, people who have or believe that they have paranormal powers. Where do they come from? What do they mean? Most studies of ‘mystics’ put them in a historical tradition. The Cunning Man in the English or, for that matter, New England countryside in the 1700s draws on Christianity, Anglo-Saxon […]

    The Train, the Turnip, the Knife and the Girl March 18, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Train, the Turnip, the Knife and the Girl

    A busy day today so here is a little 19C story: A practical joke of a strange kind was played recently on a young lady travelling in first class railway carriage in the West Riding of Yorkshire…. She had the carriage to herself until, at the station from which the train had a long run […]

    Vulva Bread Spell March 17, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Vulva Bread Spell

    Location: this spell seems to have been used throughout the west Midlands and North of England. Aim: to seduce a man or to cement a sexual relationship with a man. Ingredients: flour, water, salt, a good sense of rhythm and an ample backside. Method (i) young woman makes bread (ii) when the bread is ready […]

    Victorian Urban Legend: The Egg Ring March 16, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legend: The Egg Ring

    Beach has recently been looking at ring stories in his quest for Victorian urban legends. Here is one that sounds simply impossible: though if any poultry experts want to contradict: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com A doctor, residing in Moringa, in Australia, writes to the Revue Sanitaire to solicit the attention of naturalists to the […]

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