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  • Killer Rabbits June 22, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Killer Rabbits

    Beachcombing’s father in law, a few days ago, actually managed to trip over a snake. He thought it was a piece of rope… In celebration of this unlikely event and in memory of sheep killings Beach now declares open season on rabbit killers. We’ve already had the terrors of supernatural rabbits, but what about the […]

    The Kaiser and the Crowned Prince June 20, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Kaiser and the Crowned Prince

    This story may or may not be true: but as all good Victorians would tell ‘it might as well have been’. The Emperor of Germany is, of course, that world destroyer Wilhelm II, and the tale is absolutely at one with his martinet, aggressive nature. It might be worth noting that at this date the […]

    The Renwick Cockatrice June 18, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Renwick Cockatrice

    Renwick is a pretty Cumbrian village with one bizarre episode in its past: a duel between a local and a deadly cockatrice in the first decade of the seventeenth century. There are a good many references to this legend in the nineteenth century. But the earliest written version appears as an aside in  Hutchinson’s History of the […]

    The Baby and the Fairy Bush June 17, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Baby and the Fairy Bush

    This is a heartbreaking notice from one of the Irish papers, 1862. First a little background. The Irish countryside had literally hundreds of ‘fairy trees’ (particularly thorns) and ‘fairy bushes’, which were associated with ‘the good people’: one such Fairy Bush appears here, though Beach has found no trace of it in other records. Second, […]

    Tread on Her Toes: And Other Regency Seduction Tips June 16, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Tread on Her Toes: And Other Regency Seduction Tips

    Beach ran across this guide to seduction while searching for proof about the ancient science of mole divination. The date is apparently Regency (early 1800s?). There is some nonsense about marriage not debauchery, but then we get down to the sexual brass tacks and there isn’t a vicar or congregation in sight. First, your likely […]

    French Witch Burning, 1886 June 15, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    French Witch Burning, 1886

    Many moons ago, Beach began the long search to find the last witch killing in history. He quickly narrowed down to Western witch killing, because of course, there are many killings in Africa and Asia to this day. Every so often he thinks he has come close, but then another inconvenient and later murder falls […]

    Dead Rats, Stoned Teachers and Sergeant Monday June 14, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Dead Rats, Stoned Teachers and Sergeant Monday

    Sergeant Monday was a festival in the north-western English town of Kendal for the installation of a new mayor. Basically this was a Saturnalia for the children of the town: and by ancient convention any students in school would be ‘battered out’ by older boys, who would intimidate teachers into silence. Hundreds of kids would then […]

    How Long Did Our Ancestors Live? June 13, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern, Prehistoric
    How Long Did Our Ancestors Live?

    Life expectancy is a tricky thing. Every demographer knows that, in the modern world, the difference between a national life expectancy of 40 in country A and 70 in country B is predominantly about how many children die in their early years of life. If you look at life expectancy for fifteen year olds then […]

    Wolfe and the Seargent June 12, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Wolfe and the Seargent

    This little snippet comes from 1827 and Hone’s Table Book. It describes, of course, the death of that great British hero, James Wolfe, just outside Quebec, in 1759, one of the most famous moments of the march of Empire. But it adds a detail that most Wolfe’s biographers have ignored… It is related of this […]

    Victorian Urban Legends: A Sexual Misunderstanding June 11, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legends: A Sexual Misunderstanding

    Beach has long searched for erotic or sexually-charged Victorian urban legends in vain. It is not, of course, that the Victorians didn’t tell them. The problem is that the Victorians seem to have been averse to putting them into print. Only the wrong bed sometimes emerges. But what about this: ‘the kiss-me misunderstanding’? As the […]

    More Men in the Moon June 10, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    More Men in the Moon

    Franz von Gruithuisen (obit 1854) is a bizarrist’s hero. Here is a brief summary of his published work on the inhabitants of the moon in 1824. A few years ago, professor Gruithausen, of Munich, wrote an essay to show that there are many plain indications of inhabitants in the moon. In answer to certain questions, […]

    All the Fun of the Fair June 8, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    All the Fun of the Fair

    This is an early nineteenth-century list (1826) of the things that folk got up to in a fair at Hungerford. It sounds so much better than those fairs that appear on the edges of American films, or the dreadful ‘carnivals’ that Beach was dragged to as a child. The writer comes back, time and time, […]

    The Headless Bear and the Woman Who Became a Hoop June 7, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Headless Bear and the Woman Who Became a Hoop

    Headless bears must be one of the strangest of all British bogeys. Where do they come from, what do they mean? This is a question for another day. But here is the single most detailed account of an encounter with one. The events described too place 9 May 1584 in the house of one Stephen […]

    The Victorian Ancestor of an Internet Scam June 5, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Victorian Ancestor of an Internet Scam

    Here is a nineteenth-century version of a modern internet scam. The gentry who have more brains than money, and less honesty than either, are now, it seems, calling in the services of the telegraph to promote their purposes. A gentleman writes to the Times showing the modus operandi, which appears to be altogether new. The […]

    The Man Who Lived with the Fairies? June 3, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Man Who Lived with the Fairies?

    Here is a fairy reference that is worth spending some time over. In 1919 a northwestern English scholar published this short note. In academic terms it translates into, ‘look I don’t have time for this nonsense but somewhere out there someone will be interested and, God knows, this is out of the ordinary’. No one […]

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