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  • An Invisible Library Among the Fairies September 25, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    An Invisible Library Among the Fairies

    Imagine that you have just been captured by the pixies. You are dragged down into one of the underground prisons and thrown into a dim room. However, while banging your fists on the now locked door you see that there is at least one distraction: a rich volume balanced on a circular stand ‘as one sometimes […]

    The Poison Duel 4#: The Medical Origins of the Poison Duel? September 23, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    The Poison Duel 4#: The Medical Origins of the Poison Duel?

    The earliest nineteenth-century poison duel seems to have been that almost fought in 1821 in Virginia. However, there are pre-nineteenth-century records and strangely they concern doctors. The earliest record anywhere that Beach has been able to dig up was an alleged reference in the Iranian poet Nizami (obit 1209). Nizami in one poem (Treasury of […]

    D’Annunzio as Father: the Ballroom Babies September 20, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    D'Annunzio as Father: the Ballroom Babies

    Motherhood comes naturally, says the sage, fatherhood, instead, must be learnt. That is certainly the experience of the present blogger with two young daughters (soon to be, God willing, three) and he was amused to come across this dream in the works of Gabriele D’Annunzio, Italian genius and cad, one of the most self referential […]

    The Poison Duel 3#: Poison at Dawn in Virginia September 19, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Poison Duel 3#: Poison at Dawn in Virginia

    Throughout the poison duels series Beach has noted their essential lack of veracity: that is most seem to be made up or at least there is no respectable proof that they took place. Here, however, is one case that seems quite reliable. There was not, admittedly, a poison duel: but someone suggested such a duel […]

    The Poison Duel 2#: Crossing Poison Pills in Louisiana September 17, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Poison Duel 2#: Crossing Poison Pills in Louisiana

    The following story, reported in 1895, uses assumed names and starts in Louisiana, the cradle of the tall tale: be suspicious, be very suspicious. A man, de Vailliere, approaches a woman to learn that another, Armand, is interested in her. Armand feeling insulted offers a duel: but here brave de Vallierre feels himself on the […]

    The Poison Duel 1#: Introduction September 14, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Poison Duel 1#: Introduction

    The poison duel is a classic of duelling literature. Two men decide to settle a matter of honour using poison as a weapon. Here the exact modality of life and death varies but the basic strategy is as follows: a pill is filled with water, and a second pill is filled with poison (sometimes glasses […]

    Speaking Fireball in Luton (Devon) September 11, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Speaking Fireball in Luton (Devon)

    Beach so liked the fireball stories from last month that he has been looking for some more and came across this incredible encounter from southern Devon, 1836. He was hoping for mad papists and great balls of flame, instead he got sincere yokels at midnight and omens. Still a great story. The author is a middle […]

    More On Cauls and Sacs September 9, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    More On Cauls and Sacs

    Anthropologists have their work cut out for them. Despite the fact that we are all – from the Kalihari Bushman to the Californian surfer – one and the same species, there are so many differences between human societies, as to be almost embarrassing. However, there are a series of important and trivial facts that bind […]

    Swallowed by a Whale? September 8, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Swallowed by a Whale?

    In the late twentieth century whales became cool. They appeared in Star Trek films, people bought cds and listened to whales talking to each other and, of course, undergraduates walked around campuses with ‘No Way Norway’ signs while talking earnestly about boycotting sushi bars. But whales are not only cool but massive and even if […]

    Fake Ghost Battle from Cornwall? September 7, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Modern
    Fake Ghost Battle from Cornwall?

    Beach is in search of a ghost battle, only the ghost battle does not seem to have ever taken place. This is not said in the heavy materialist sense that such things cannot happen: though they probably can’t. It is said with the frustration of six or seven hours spent looking for this mysterious battle […]

    Nietzsche, the Prostitutes and the Piano September 6, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Nietzsche, the Prostitutes and the Piano

    A WIBT moment from the first age of mighty Fred Nietzsche. As a student, aged 21, in February 1865, the moustached one visited Cologne and there he was left, according to his then good friend, and generally reliable witness, Paul Deussen (obit 1919), by a coachman at a brothel. Fred, who claimed that he had […]

    Mysterious Boggart Body Found in Manchester September 4, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Mysterious Boggart Body Found in Manchester

    Beach apologises first of all for three days of animals: cats, killer sheep and now boggarts, but this one really got his curiosity going. The book in which the description is found is Edwardian, but the author is recalling his boyhood in mid-nineteenth century Lancashire on the edge of Boggart Hole Clough in northern Manchester. […]

    Killer Sheep September 3, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Killer Sheep

    Sheep are some of the most benign, unthreatening animals that you can hope to meet. Think of a ewe bleating ineffectually over her young as the farmer comes for his prey, or one of the most pathetic images in the whole of creation, a grown sheep running to suckle when it perceives a threat, almost knocking […]

    Highland Cat Killing and Cat Demons September 2, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Highland Cat Killing and Cat Demons

    There is a long tradition of cats being either pampered by humans or being killed in various ghastly ways. As noted before on this blog – the cat throwing of the Lowlands, for example – cat cruelty was, in the early modern period, institutionalized. Here is one horrific example from the Hebrides. Cat lovers might want […]

    Index Biography #10: Prize = a good book August 31, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Index Biography #10: Prize = a good 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 […]

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