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  • The Spaw Monster April 6, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Spaw Monster

    This is a ghost account from 1839. It starts simply enough, but it has some remarkable features. One of those singular cases commonly classed amongst the supernatural, has produced a considerable sensation amongst the inhabitant of the district of Middleton and the surrounding villages. The following are a few of the particulars. In a small […]

    The Ghost of Coalville: Women in the Choir April 4, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Ghost of Coalville: Women in the Choir

    The village of Ravenstone (Leicestershire, UK) has, apparently, one church and Beach has not found anything in my books or on the internet about it having ghosts. However, this appeared in 1934. The old parish church of Ravenstone, near Coalville, is said to be haunted. According to villagers, during the evening services an apparition takes shape out […]

    Review: A Word Geography of England April 3, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Review: A Word Geography of England

    When Beach was a little tyke (boy) he used to run out to lek (play) and then he and his friends would go to the shop to buy spice (candy): trousers were ‘togs’ in those not so halcyon days, and missing school was ‘skiving’. Dialect is dead in England (save perhaps in the north-east), but […]

    Boggart Stones and Boggart Smells April 2, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Boggart Stones and Boggart Smells

    Joseph Wright has, in his Dialect Dictionary, this absolutely unexpected definition for ‘boggart stones’, something associated with Eastern Lancashire (the ‘e. Lan. 1’ in his reference is to a local word list from those parts, A Glossary with Rochdale and Rossendale Words, the relevant entry for which is put in a screen capture below). Wright’s […]

    A Milk-Drinking British Boa March 30, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    A Milk-Drinking British Boa

    There are lots of tall tales about snakes and lots of tall tales about snakes taking milk from udders and breasts, but this is unusual for the apparent quality of the witness and its impact in the local countryside. The journalist who wrote, and doubtless loved researching, the initial piece was from the Birmingham Gazette. […]

    Witch Bone Breaking? March 27, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Witch Bone Breaking?

    This story needs to be linked with a veritable collection made on this blog of witch bleeding. Interesting here though that not just blood but allegedly a bone will do the trick. And the date? 14 June 1895. From Lincolnshire comes a story which in these days of compulsory education seems almost incredible. In a […]

    Headless Mine Ghost March 24, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Headless Mine Ghost

    This ghost story comes from a Derbyshire hill town, New Mills. It is deep in boggart country and it is very likely that the miners referred to the ghost as a boggart. Note Ollersett in the top right of the map. We are in 1914, the beginning of the year that would change the world. […]

    Praying a Child to Death March 22, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Praying a Child to Death

    This is particularly strange case from 1893. We are in the far north east of England, but in an urban area and not one particularly associated with witchcraft. Difficult to interpret this in any way: mental illness does not work (easily) because there were two miscreants. Help gratefully received. At the South Shields Police Court, […]

    Real Magic Ring? March 21, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Real Magic Ring?

    This ring perhaps no longer survives, but when it was sketched in the mid nineteenth-century it was rendered thus. The ring divides. The block on the left was apparently a set of jewels that when pressed made the ring open in this fashion: a common trick? Within the ring were written a series of words. […]

    Review Theory of Irony: How Jesus Led to Moon Golf March 18, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Review Theory of Irony: How Jesus Led to Moon Golf

    A subtitle like How Jesus Led to Moon Golf promises a swish historical read. Beach immediately, in fact, thought of some of Graeme Donald’s history writing and books like Mussolini’s Barber and other stories of the unknown players who made history happen. This proved naïve. Mussolini’s Barber offers some cute episodes from recent history and Graeme […]

    Sister Trouble: The Sacrifice March 17, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Sister Trouble: The Sacrifice

    Apologies for this one. But there is so obviously a good Roald Dahl short story to be had here, the tale needs to be shared. A murder has just been committed at Fontchristiann, near Briancon, France, under very extraordinary circumstances. Two sisters, named Marie and Catherine Ollagnier, aged 45 and 47 respectively, lived together in […]

    Romans in Nineteenth Century Wales?! March 15, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    Romans in Nineteenth Century Wales?!

    There is lots of enjoyable nonsense about the Welsh and the Romans. The medieval Welsh genealogies are full of supposed Welsh connections to Caesar and other luminaries of the Empire. If memory serves correctly Gerald of Wales claims that the Welsh of his time sported Roman hairstyles (or was it their clean beardless faces that […]

    Tjoelicks: Phantom Child Sacrifices in the East Indies March 15, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Tjoelicks: Phantom Child Sacrifices in the East Indies

    This is a fascinating case of a well attested nineteenth- and twentieth-century phenomenon: the connection of bogeymen to new technologies and foreigners (particularly when foreigners had, as in colonial societies, a great deal of power) [1862] A very curious superstition agitates at present in an alarming manner the native population [in Batavia, the Dutch East […]

    The Last Judicial Burning March 13, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Last Judicial Burning

    When was the last occasion on which a western government burnt one of its citizens alive judicially? Well, there are several examples from elsewhere in the world, including a North Korean who was supposedly executed by flame thrower in 2014 and various ISIS murders. However, in a western country on the instructions of a judge? […]

    The Oracle: A Victorian Computer? March 9, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Oracle: A Victorian Computer?

    OK, OK there were no personal computers in 1884. But the following ‘Oracle’ sounds as if it was mapping out, imaginatively, the territory that computers would make for themselves. We are in the UK: our source the Leighton Buzzard Obs, 1 Jan 1884. Dr. Lloyd, the medical officer of St. Giles’s Workhouse, attended before Sir […]

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