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  • Late Storm Bellringing May 12, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Late Storm Bellringing

    Enjoy this short extract from a Sheffield newspaper about a folk practice in Devon in south-west England: 28 July 1899. Bells it will be remembered were for the supernatual like alcohol for bacteria: they drove away witches, fairies and, of course, storms… There is a curious survival in that pretty, quiet little south country place, […]

    The Rudest Diplomatic Letter Ever Written? May 10, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Rudest Diplomatic Letter Ever Written?

      ***Thanks to Chris from Haunted Ohio Books for putting me onto this story*** There are many uncertainties about the letters that follow, so let’s give the orthodox version, then the letters themselves and move on from there. In the 1670s the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire in cooperation with the Khan of the Crimea […]

    Wild Man Circus Fakery May 9, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Wild Man Circus Fakery

    The wild man was a staple of nineteenth-century circuses and penny shows. This personality was typically black, mostly undressed and the possessor of a cannibal’s grin. He (and it was invariably a male who took on the role) would stomp back and forth in his cage every so often lunging at some unwary child, allowing […]

    Hortatory Names May 8, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Hortatory Names

    Hortatory names were names given by Puritans in South-East England and, to a much lesser extent, in New England in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. A hortatory name exhorts correct Christian behaviour with the few syllables of the first name available. A tame example might be Hope Smith, a more dramatic example might be Nicholas If-Jesus-Christ-Had-Not-Died-For-Thee-Thou-Hadst-Been-Damned Barbon, […]

    Bizarre Seventeenth-Century Jury List May 7, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Bizarre Seventeenth-Century Jury List

    There follows a jury panel list from Sussex in the UK dating to the seventeenth century. A simple question: what is wrong with it? Beach has placed the forenames in bold and the surnames in italics: the final names are the local towns. Accepted Trevor of Norsham Redeemed Compton of Battle* Faint-not Hewit of Heathfield […]

    Execution by Cannon May 5, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Execution by Cannon

    Human beings have long showed remarkable ingenuity at getting rid of their fellow human beings, especially perhaps human beings that they do not like. Once the cannon was invented it was only a matter of time before someone tied a prisoner to the front and lit a fuse, blowing his body into a constellation of pain, the […]

    The Manufacture of Chinese Wildmen May 4, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Manufacture of Chinese Wildmen

    This comes from a British newspaper and 1892. It appeared in a curiosity column along with an item on marrying trees (really!). All this to say that this material should probably be treated with circumspection if not downright superstition. Or perhaps someone recognizes an obscure Chinese custom or institution: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com Beach would […]

    Hono Heke, A Maori Chief from Ireland?! May 3, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Hono Heke, A Maori Chief from Ireland?!

    In the Middle Ages the Irish were for ever finding Gaels in surprising parts of the world. The soldier who pierced Christ’s side on the cross was Irish, Simon Magus was an Irish druid, etc etc.  It is a shock to find, though, that this endearing habit lasted into the nineteenth century. In June and […]

    Self Serving Capital Punishment May 2, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Self Serving Capital Punishment

    Where are our modern executioners? Most people would have problems answering this because there are no modern executioners as such, at least in the US. There are guards (who get overtime), there are governors, there are wardens, there are doctors and, outside some death chambers, there are members of the general public and journalists. It might […]

    Searching for Mrs S***k*n*us April 30, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Searching for Mrs S***k*n*us

    Can anyone please help with this one? Beach will send a 75 Euro voucher for the first person who manages to get a convincing candidate in a British census return. ***note this has now been solved*** Walter, My Secret Life, is an eleven volume work of pornographic autobiography describing a Victorian gentleman’s ‘romps’. As the ‘gentleman’ in […]

    The Hanging Bed April 28, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Hanging Bed

    Ohio’s premier anomalist, Chris Woodyard has just put up a post on an unusual method of execution in the nineteenth-century press, the cone of death, and she has two earlier posts, including the needle mask, praying to death, squeezing to death and smothering to death. Every ‘funny’ bone in Beachcombing’s body tells him that there […]

    Ash Magic April 27, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Ash Magic

    Your little boy is ill. The doctors can do nothing (this is the nineteenth century) and money is, in any case, short. What on earth do you do. Well, the folk answer, and one that is almost certainly as efficacious as Victorian medicine, is to look for an ash tree. This account comes from Somerset […]

    Illinois Lion Man April 26, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Illinois Lion Man

    Imagine that there is a wild man out in the local woods. However, this guy is not your normal naked wimp, dirty with matted hair, who fell on hard times blah blah blah. He wears a lion mask, steals carpets and sports a nifty yellow black mini skirt: and this is 1874. Beach would put […]

    Balloon Bridge Across the English Channel, c. 1850 April 25, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Balloon Bridge Across the English Channel, c. 1850

    This story appeared in British newspapers in September of 1850. It was one of several attempts, attempts that had been going on since Napoleon had considered invading England and that would continue until the Channel Tunnel was finally drilled through, to do away with the English Channel. Any dolt can build a tunnel or a […]

    Life on Mars, c. 1900: Rainmakers and Unicorns April 20, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Life on Mars, c. 1900: Rainmakers and Unicorns

    In 1897 one Mr West of Shirland Road, Paddington London began a series of seances to discover the truth about life on Mars. H.G.Wells’ War of the Worlds had just come out and perhaps the ‘spirits’ wanted to calm human fears about the red-skinned ones. In any case, a Martian named Silver Pearl offered to […]

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