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  • The Hobgoblin Club September 21, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Hobgoblin Club

    It is 1891. You are living in a small Cornish village and your neighbours get jumpy every time they see a shadow (‘the ghost…’ etc) and talk darkly of Mother Jones being a witch. Well, in most British villages it was a question of sermons, railway timetables and opening parish schools. But in Ludgvan, close […]

    Mermaid Monday: Connomara Siren September 18, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Mermaid Monday: Connomara Siren

    Mermaid Monday continues with this gem from western Ireland Galway. The earliest record found so far dates to 22 Sep 1819, Saunder’s Newsletter, 2-3 with the title ‘Mermaid’. However, the originally allegedly (non vidi) appeared in the Galway Advertiser 19 Sep. Naturalists have hitherto doubted of the existence of mermaids and mermen; we have it […]

    War Heroes’ Bones for Manure in Scotland September 17, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    War Heroes' Bones for Manure in Scotland

    We have seen on this site, several times, urban legends about body parts being used in industrial production: fat for glass or telegraph wires; body parts for soap, something, of course, found too in the First World War. The following story is a not so elaborate practical joke but the attitudes behind it suggest that […]

    The Origins of Jill the Ripper September 16, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Origins of Jill the Ripper

    There has long been a minority opinion that Jack the Ripper was a woman: the so-called ‘Jill the Ripper theory’. It is often said that the theory begins with William Douglas Steward, Jack The Ripper: A New Theory in 1939. Steward established to his own satisfaction, that Jill was a deranged midwife. But Steward was […]

    1816 Flight Attempt in Paris September 15, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    1816 Flight Attempt in Paris

    Prepare to be humiliated. Your name is Guillaume, the years is 1816, and you have convinced yourself that it is possible to fly with wings attached to your puny arms. Yes, this is the age of balloons, but surely man can climb into the sky practically unassisted? Now you are in a great tradition, a […]

    Annie Kidnapped by the Fairies September 14, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Annie Kidnapped by the Fairies

    A very short post today as Beach has to deal with some pesky leprechauns. Annie McIntire, a venerable county Derry woman, has a sublime faith in the fairies. When being examined at a meeting of the Limavady Pension Committee as to her age, she fixed the time of her birth as Hallowe’en in 1839 giving […]

    Thomas Lucy and Shakespeare’s Lost Ballad September 9, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Thomas Lucy and Shakespeare's Lost Ballad

    Most Shakespeare scholars believe that Shakespeare’s first plays were written in about 1590, a couple of years before the sonnets: Shakespeare would have been 26. But there must have been earlier attempts, now lost apprenticeships in prose and poetry, where Shakespeare learnt his art. It is just possible that we get a distant echo of […]

    Sutherland Fire Ball September 7, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Sutherland Fire Ball

    ***dedicated to Roberto*** This appeared in Blackwood’s Magazine under the title ‘A Southron in Sutherland’, Sutherland being a Scottish county. The year of publication was 1906: the year of the experience was 1882. An unusually vivid account of a fire ball of some kind. Note the way that it rises out of the road. In […]

    Mermaid Monday: Mermaids at Mombasa September 4, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Mermaid Monday: Mermaids at Mombasa

    African mermaids from 1825. It is one of those bulletins from ‘foreign climes’ that provided British newspapers with so much of their copy in the 1700s and through much of the nineteenth century. Note how the mermaids are just slipped in, like the silly item at the end of the news. Aug. 1. The Espiegle, 18, […]

    Drunk Thesps, Faith’s Vomit and a Cake-Caked King September 2, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Drunk Thesps, Faith's Vomit and a Cake-Caked King

    Christian IV of Denmark (r. 1596-1648) was a proactive, alcoholic king and one of the strongest arguments Beach knows for a republic. He got Denmark embroiled in several useless wars but made up for this by renaming Oslo Christiania after himself. In July 1606 this troublesome and vain individual descended on Britain and he and […]

    Index Biography #45: Prize a book August 31, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Index Biography #45: Prize a book

    ***Chris got this, scroll down for answer*** The Index Biography is a quiz 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 […]

    The Nun, the Pickpocket and the French Prison August 29, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Nun, the Pickpocket and the French Prison

    Beach began to write about pickpockets some years ago because of their habit of attracting urban legends. However, he is ever more convinced that there are some good books to be written on the sly-fingered Victorian professionals who plagued London and Paris… Interestingly, English pickpockets were exported to France and the word ‘pickpocket’ was taken […]

    Mermaid Monday: Red Hair Off Mull August 28, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Mermaid Monday: Red Hair Off Mull

    Mermaid Monday again and this week we have a marvel from Mull, a Scottish island in the Inner Hebrides. Note that the Ross of Mull is the neck of land stretching towards Iona and that Beach’s rudimentary Gaelic show two islands with the name Eilean Dubh, the Black Island: one at the centre of the […]

    Transvestite Hunt for Fake Ghost August 27, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Transvestite Hunt for Fake Ghost

    In some ways this is a normal nineteenth century ghost story: we are in 1836. A man dresses up as a ghost; he scares some people; a group of toughs go out and look for him; it ends in tears: the story is entitled, be warned, ‘flogging a ghost’. However, this one has some special […]

    In Search of the Droll-Teller August 26, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    In Search of the Droll-Teller

    The droll tellers were the bards of modern Cornwall. Droll-teller. An itinerant story-teller, news-monger, and fiddler, who travelled from town to town, and village to village. There were two such in Cornwall as late as 1829. In 1865 Robert Hunt gives a description of one of these droll-tellers from an informants who is presumably remembering […]

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