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  • Fairy Human Relations: Dangerous Reflections October 29, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Fairy Human Relations: Dangerous Reflections

    ***Dedicated to Chris with question marks*** There is a modern idea that fairies are the spirit of vegetation, the spirits of the land. Human beings, meanwhile, are their polluting, urbanizing neighbours. The two represent, respectively, the forces of life and entropy and are on a permanent collision course. Traditional views of European fairies were rather […]

    The Earthquake Ghost October 28, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    The Earthquake Ghost

    Odell is a small village, now in the English county of Bedfordshire. Here is a nice nineteenth-century case of ghost hysteria. For two or three weeks the neighbourhood Odell has been put into an extraordinary degree of excitement by the description of a supernatural visitation, at the village alehouse. To such a pitch had this […]

    Late Witch Ducking in Bedfordshire October 26, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Late Witch Ducking in Bedfordshire

    Just to put the following events in perspective. The last witch certainly executed in England – there are some subsequent doubtful cases – dates to 1682: the last witch executed in Scotland dates to 1727. In 1735 witchcraft ceased to be a supernatural crime in England. Yet, 12 July 1737, The Monthly Chronologer reports the […]

    The Smith’s Ghosts October 24, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Smith's Ghosts

    This account from 1838 is interesting in combining obituary and folk story. We are in the deep, dark Irish west. Blacksmiths are always slightly tainted figures in traditional societies, muttering charms to the ferrous lumps on their forges. On Friday, the 7th instant, the remains of Patrick Cormack, a blacksmith, were borne through Nenagh, from […]

    London Polt October 21, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    London Polt

    We are in London in 1847, in a religious family. The whole of the neighbourhood of Black Lion Lane, Bayswater is ringing with the extraordinary occurrences that have recently happened in the house of Mr. Williams in the Moscow Road, and which bear a strong resemblance to the celebrated Stockwell ghost affair in 1772. The […]

    Counter Factual: Pre-War Politicians and Television October 20, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Counter Factual: Pre-War Politicians and Television

    A modern politician needs to be convincing on television. That these qualities matter was famously demonstrated in the first debate between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy in 1960, where radio listeners believed that Nixon had won the contest, but television watchers, shocked by Nixon’s five o’clock shadow, claimed that Kennedy had beaten his Republican […]

    Flying Girlfriend, Frightened Boyfriend and the Witch Orgy October 19, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Flying Girlfriend, Frightened Boyfriend and the Witch Orgy

    Beach has recently become obsessed with stories about witches’ flying exploits. Here is a tale (sounds almost a folk tale) from the pen of the dreadful Jean Bodin, one of Europe’s most important sixteenth-century witch theorists. There was… at Lyons a young noblewoman a few years ago, who got up at night and, lighting the […]

    Real Tree Trunk Deaths October 18, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Real Tree Trunk Deaths

    There are several nineteenth century legends about bodies trapped in the hollow of trees. These seem to be, for the most part, urban legends. But there are some unquestionably factual accounts. It must be quite difficult to die within a tree, but clearly some people managed it. Beach concentrated on Britain. Are there other factual […]

    Scooby Doo Crime 4#: The Skeleton Robber October 17, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Scooby Doo Crime 4#:  The Skeleton Robber

    This is a story about the countryside around Portsmouth in the UK in 1825. It belongs to our Scooby Doo series of crimes: i.e. local hoodlums using the supernatural while carrying out illegal activities. A curious attempt at robbery took place a short time since, near this town. A Gentleman, returning home after spending the […]

    Georgian Magic School October 13, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Georgian Magic School

    The Magus by Francis Barrett (London 1801) is a typical work of modern magic: plagiarized from earlier works with badly drawn Hebrew letters strewn about like rice at a wedding. But the author Francis had one novel feature in his book. His announcement of, Beach can barely hold back his excitement, a magic school in […]

    The Snake Tree October 11, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Snake Tree

    Beach was innocently looking for stories about human bodies in trees. This one has no human body, but it seemed too good to waste. A correspondent of the Horticultural Times contributes the following account of the so-called snake tree, which is said to exert such a terrifying influence upon the natives of the Mexican Wilds. […]

    Wolstanton, Ghost Assault and Real Battery October 10, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Wolstanton, Ghost Assault and Real Battery

    A nice folklore/ghostlore story from the English Midlands. The peaceable village of Wolstanton, near Newcastle [Lyme], vulgarly called ‘Hoositon,’ has, the last four or five weeks, been disturbed by a very ill-behaved ghost, which, (it is confidently said), has been knocking, scratching, &,c. at a most tremendous rate; and not driven away in the mean […]

    Bosom Serpent Curses October 8, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Bosom Serpent Curses

    We have looked here before on several occasions at the bosom serpent, the notion that certain animals and particularly reptiles and amphibians could dwell in the stomach or elsewhere in the human body after entering through the nose, mouth or in some rarefied cases the vagina. Usually you get bosom-serpented because you have it coming […]

    Ghost Pills! October 6, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Ghost Pills!

    How do you get rid of supernatural worries: call the priest, the alienist or the local bobby? Why no, you buy a tube of nineteenth-century vitamin pill, of course! This at least was the solution offered by one Irish newspaper in 1840. The belief in supernatural appearances has generally prevailed during the superstitious ages has […]

    Victorian Urban Legends: Bodies in Trees October 4, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legends: Bodies in Trees

    Kay Massingill has recently offered to readers of Forteana Exchange a series of body in tree stories. The earliest seems to be this one from 1873 and they carry on into the 1920s. The tale typically has it that someone, perhaps escaping from danger, climbs into a tree, then cannot get out. That brings us to […]

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