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  • Victorian Urban Legends: Music Boxes and Watch Sacks April 25, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legends: Music Boxes and Watch Sacks

    Truly Beach isn’t that interested in this ignorant-native story from India, but the comparison to what is evidently a home grown British urban legend: A good story of a thief comes from Calcutta. ‘The Native,’ as Miss Fox called Major B ‘s servant, stole a musical box, ignorant of its use, and fancying it contained […]

    Sampling the Supernatural April 25, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Sampling the Supernatural

    Anyone who has ever studied the supernatural will know that the way we look at the impossible changes from generation to generation and from place to place. For example, in the nineteenth century in the UK and in the US ghosts often dragged chains, as they had since antiquity: today they do not. In the […]

    The 1883 Dundee Ghost Flap #3: Castoffs April 24, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The 1883 Dundee Ghost Flap #3: Castoffs

    Some peripheral reports from the 1883 Dundee ghost flap. Readers will remember that reports began in late 1882, and that they died out at the quarry in late Jan 1883, after an energetic policeman had intervened. 19 Feb 1883 a Dundee paper reported that the ghost had been caught. If this really was the or […]

    The 1883 Dundee Ghost Flap #2: the Hilltown Ghost April 22, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The 1883 Dundee Ghost Flap #2: the Hilltown Ghost

    Yesterday, Beach introduced the Dundee ghost of 1886. Here is the sequel. All is quiet at Blackness Quarry, but elsewhere in the town evil brews. Here is the main report Two or three weeks ago we drew attention the remarkable doings of an individual who the role of a ghost, and disported himself in the […]

    The 1883 Dundee Ghost Flap #1: Blackness Quarry Ghost April 21, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The 1883 Dundee Ghost Flap #1: Blackness Quarry Ghost

    In early 1883 in Dundee, the coastal Scottish city, a ghost was glimpsed in Blackness Quarry. Here we have a ghost flap, a ghost riot and a ghost hunt all combined. It is an interesting case because contemporary reports were rich in details. This, though, is the only report, known to this blogger, from the […]

    Shakespeare and Fairy Wings April 20, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Shakespeare and Fairy Wings

    In the 1890s Samuel Miller published a series of pamphlets entitled Shakespearian Costumes. The pamphlets were supposed to recreate the historical versions of Shakespeare’s characters from various plays. Indeed, on the title page we are informed: ‘compiled from authentic sources as given by Montfaucon, Royal MSS., Holbein, Zuccaro, Strutt etc.’ Beach does not look forward […]

    Nun Immured in Britain? April 18, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Nun Immured in Britain?

    In mid March 1846 the Hereford Philosophical and Antiquarian Association had a meeting at which the Dean of Hereford Cathedral spoke about some remarkable finds at Hill House, at Woolhope not eight miles from Hereford. He spoke with sadness and, yes, some occasional indignation as human bones had been uncovered there. This was, he suggested, […]

    Gulled at Hull April 16, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Gulled at Hull

    This is a uniquely charming Victorian confidence trick to add to our collection. Enjoy! Hull Fair is acknowledged to be one of the largest of its kind in the country. Thousands of excursionists flock into the city on October 11th, and the succeeding days, and every blackguard, thief, and confidence trickster in the North of […]

    Ghost Funeral in Liverpool April 15, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Ghost Funeral in Liverpool

    This is an unusually well written ghost account from Liverpool. It does not appear to come up in any of Tom Slemen’s work on Liverpool (though Beach waits to be contradicted!). This appeared in the Liverpool Post in 1891. Note that in Ireland (with which Liverpool has strong migrant links) this could almost be a […]

    Dumb Duels #8: Balloon Fights April 13, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Dumb Duels #8: Balloon Fights

    Want to die? Try fighting a duel in a balloon with blunderbusses and ‘without a parachute’. Two aeronauts, recently arrived at New York, Messrs. John Lewis, from England, and Tarteifter, native of Prussia, met about three weeks ago at Johns Woods, where both intended to make public ascents, and at the end of a dispute […]

    Marriage Letter Spells April 11, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Marriage Letter Spells

    Location: Only attested in the English West Country and only found in one source (Anon 1870) Aim: To discover the name of your future spouse. Ingredients: a bowl, water, some paper, pens and scissors, a literate family member. Method: West Country Spell (anon 1870) (i) Get a literate family member to write out all 26 […]

    Big Ben Superstitions April 10, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Big Ben Superstitions

    Big Ben the great bell that rings out from Westminster is a central part of British identity: not least because its chimes have, for many years, sounded on national radio and television programs. It would hardly be surprising then that there are superstitions about Big Ben, but what is surprising is that these seem not […]

    Natural Ghosts April 9, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Natural Ghosts

    These words came from an article in All the Year Round 1869 trying to explain ghosts as problems of sensation. It is unusually well written, and goes into some areas of perception that modern studies don’t deal with: we tend to be obsessed by sight. Next to sight, hearing is the sense most frequently imposed […]

    Victorian Urban Legend: Pickpocket and Boa Constrictor April 5, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legend: Pickpocket and Boa Constrictor

    This is a lovely tale. An elderly chap meets a young man in a tram car who confesses that he was once a pickpocket. He gives the story of his conversion. I was lounging about, when in came a gentleman with a long basket. It was the most curious basket I had ever seen, with two […]

    Evans-Pritchard and the Witch April 4, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Evans-Pritchard and the Witch

    Beach wants to induct E. E. Evans-Pritchard into his Rogue Researchers club for an experience that befell the great British anthropologist during his field work in Africa. This passage comes from his famous first chapter in Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic among the Azande (1937). The experience is probably from 1925 or 1926: I have only […]

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