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  • Working Class Professors in the Nineteenth Century February 24, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Working Class Professors in the Nineteenth Century

    Imagine that you are born in the industrial heartlands of England to a working class family in the mid nineteenth-century. Aged six you are already sent out to earn a crust: let’s say you have to drive a donkey for a cruel master. You never get an education worth the name and still by your […]

    Victorian Urban Legends: Sewer Wealth February 21, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legends: Sewer Wealth

    Sewer stories… Several years ago a little German Jew, named Schwartz, believing that in the sewers of New York might be found many articles of value which had been lost, entered them, and for three days wandered through the labyrinth. He was very successful, picking up some 27,000 dols. worth of jewellery, spoons, forks, &c.; […]

    The Kentish Baboon February 20, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Kentish Baboon

    Here is an unusual story from Great Chart, Kent, UK. It is 1858. On Saturday evening week a person in the employ of Mr. E. Greenhill, at Bucksford-farm, Great Chart, was startled by the sudden apparition of what appeared to him to be an extraordinary kind of animal, resembling a large baboon, in one of […]

    The Witch Bottle Spell February 19, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Witch Bottle Spell

    Location: The witch bottle spell seems to have been used against witchcraft throughout much of early modern and modern Europe. Aim: To free a human victim from a witch’s spell by attacking the witch. Ingredients: A bottle, fire, and then various other objects including urine, nails, pins, salt and thatch. Method Ridgewell, Essex (Anon 1859) […]

    Radio Before Radio February 18, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Radio Before Radio

    Many moons ago Beach ran an article on telephony, the use of telephones as a kind of primitive music radio. Essentially telephone owners would subscribe to a ‘channel’ and would then phone into said channel to listen to shows: those of us old enough to remember the speaking clock or telephone weather forecasts were listening to […]

    Irish Fairies in the 1930s: Marrie Walsh February 17, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Irish Fairies in the 1930s: Marrie Walsh

    How long did fairy beliefs survive in different parts of Ireland? And how well did these beliefs survive? In some senses the question should be easy to answer. After all, Ireland has the most detailed folklore records in the world. But unfortunately Irish folklorists were, after independence, more interested in folklore tales and tale types […]

    Victorian Urban Legend: Familiar Robbers February 16, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legend: Familiar Robbers

    This is a cute story from the States, picked up by an Irish newspaper in 1873. Whether this story is true or false we do not know; but it is said here that recently in the parish of St. Martin, Iberia, or somewhere down that way, an old widow lady, whose children had all married […]

    Poker Wallet February 14, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Poker Wallet

    This poker story comes from an extremely rare poker book that has, unfortunately, never been scanned and put online, John Lillard’s Poker Tales. It is perhaps the best collection of poker anecdotes the world has seen and dates to 1896: A certain very well known New Jersey politician – an old man, whose fame extends […]

    Dumb Duels #6: Spanish Duel February 13, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Dumb Duels #6: Spanish Duel

    Beach lived for three glorious years in Spain and there is something very Hispanic about the following Spanish duel. Honour, pain and everyone taking themselves a little too seriously. Two officers have decided to fight. The duellists are fencing experts of unusually high standard, and the bitterness between the two men was so great that […]

    The Invisible Bean Spell February 12, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Invisible Bean Spell

    Location: the spell is described by the English writer John Aubrey in the 1680s. He alleges though that it was from ‘[t]he Jewes’. Aim: to grow a number of magic beans that will render the eater briefly invisible. Ingredients: some black beans, a decapitated human head, a young child. Method Aubrey’s Spell (Aubrey 1881, 102-3) […]

    The Raven Stone Spell February 10, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    The Raven Stone Spell

    Location: tradition found in the Germanic regions of Continental Europe and Scandinavia, and also in parts of Britain. Aim: The collection of the raven stone (korp-sten in Scandinavia, Lloyd 1854, 331) that will render the owner invisible, though note that the stone is also credited with bringing luck and curing humans and cattle of diseases: […]

    Beach’s Book of Shadows February 9, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    Beach's Book of Shadows

    Beach has a heaving filing cabinet full of spells: spells from the Middle Ages, spells from early modern Europe and spells from as recently as the Second World War. Some of these apparently date back to deepest antiquity; some are probably the spontaneous invention of men and women with borderline psychologies and would, as such, […]

    Redhead the Lost Spaniard February 8, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Redhead the Lost Spaniard

    Get ready a human flotsam and jetsam story. A few months ago Beach introduced the Itza, the last independent Indian state in the Americas. The Itzas held out against the Spanish in Guatemala until 1697, a remarkable achievement. When he was looking through the sources he ran across the following reference in Jones, The Conquest of […]

    Was Napoleon III an American?! February 7, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Was Napoleon III an American?!

    Beach has already proved (to no one least of all his own satisfaction) that Napoleon III survived death. But Beach now discovers, to his horror, that Napoleon III was not Napoleon III. This story appeared in the American press in 1858. This was a story given by one Louise Mercier on her sick bed in 1853. […]

    Early Alien Encounter February 5, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Early Alien Encounter

    This is a particularly precious account from the Athenian Mercury, a late seventeenth-century publication. As Beach is always interested in encounters with supernatural entities he thought that he would print it in full: this might stand as an early alien encounter. He likes the way the narrative unwinds. He didn’t see the climax coming. Not […]

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