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  • Little Fairy on the Prairie October 15, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Little Fairy on the Prairie

    Beach spends a lot of his time chasing fairies in eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth century books. Because he doesn’t have an exceptional library to hand and because travel is so damn annoying he finds the best thing to do is buy books on the basis of emails from friends and readers; or ‘snippets’ on Google […]

    The Monster of Ryde October 14, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Monster of Ryde

    Some weeks ago Beach had some fun running through twentieth-century British monster stories. Here was one of his favourites. It has everything: a lion’s head, big tracks, a creepy cry and became part of a war-time propaganda campaign. We are at Ryde on the Isle of Wight off the coast of southern England: it is […]

    Flight with Wings in France 1858 October 12, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Flight with Wings in France 1858

    Another in our series of early flight stories. This one comes from France and appeared in the Bradford Observer in 1858. We are informed that a shepherd, residing in a village in the neighbourhood of Langres, who, a few years ago, made some attempt at flying, has just tried a fresh experiment, not alone and […]

    Mermaid Monday: Mermaid in Berlin October 9, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Mermaid Monday: Mermaid in Berlin

    Bit of a melancholy mermaid story this week that has, sorry, little to do with mermaids and nothing to do with the sea. The following story has been published at Berlin under quasi-official sanction [those Prussians!]: ‘On the 15th, the wife of a painter in Old Schonhaus Street, brought into the world a most wonderful […]

    Flight Hoaxes at Norwich October 7, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Flight Hoaxes at Norwich

    Beach recently came across this remarkable hoax from Norwich UK from 1826. The public are respectfully informed that Signor Carlo Grain Villecrop [these sound like foreign names made up by an English writer], the celebrated Swiss Mountain-flyer, from Geneva, and Mont Blanc, is just arrived in this city, and will exhibit, with Tyrolese pole, fifty feet […]

    The Scholar Who Went with the Fairies October 5, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    The Scholar Who Went with the Fairies

    Peter Alderson Smith is an English scholar who in 1987 wrote a really very good book on Irish fairies: W. B. Yeats and the Tribes of Danu. In the middle of the book there is one of these passages where you think: what?!? Beach to help inattentive readers has italicized the relevant clause. Note that […]

    Mermaid Monday: Mermaids Off Islay October 2, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Mermaid Monday: Mermaids Off Islay

    Here is a mermaid story from the Scottish islands 1857 (Anon 1857). The declaration of two fishermen on the Argyleshire coast appears in the Shipping Gazette. They say: ‘We the undersigned, do declare that on Thursday last, the 4th June 1857, when on our way to the fishing station, Lochindaal, in a boat, and when […]

    Fireball in Perthshire? September 29, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Fireball in Perthshire?

    ***dedicated to Roberto*** This story is Perthshire in northern Scotland. It was recorded in 1906 after the even more striking account of the Sutherland fire ball. Late on Saturday night in autumn some seventy years ago, friends of the present writer were engaged in bringing in and stacking their corn. The day had been fine […]

    Victorian Urban Legends: The Spanish Mayor September 28, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legends: The Spanish Mayor

    This story comes from a Spanish correspondent to a Victorian newspaper. This then, if as Beach suspects it is, an urban legend is a Spanish urban legend: note that it is a very old story, versions can be found in many different countries. From Arragon there is a curious story, which, if true, is rather […]

    Teething and the Black Tramp September 26, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Teething and the Black Tramp

    Beach stumbled on the following unlikely superstition. He has never come across anything like it before. The story apparently came out of Exeter in south-western England: 1839. On Monday, as a negro convicted of vagrancy was about being locked up, a servant came into the office, and stating that she came from an opulent tradesman […]

    Mermaid Monday: Ulster Mermaid 1814 September 25, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Mermaid Monday: Ulster Mermaid 1814

    It is Mermaid Monday and here is an Ulster mermaid from the early nineteenth century. Sir, l beg leave to inform you, for the benefit of the curious, that I am happy that have it in my power to set the public mind at rest, respecting the existence of this wonderful animal, having been so […]

    Irish Ghost with Erection September 23, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Irish Ghost with Erection

    There is a minority tradition about obscene ghosts: ghosts that stalk the living for sexual favours; or that even invade their beds. It is very difficult to know how common these ghosts were because prior to about 1970 it would have been just too much to write about them: paradoxically the source-starved middle ages and […]

    A Jack the Ripper Urban Legend September 22, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    A Jack the Ripper Urban Legend

    4 Aug 1941 (barely a month into Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union) this ‘funny story’ appeared in a London newspaper. Perhaps we should think of it as a bit of nostalgia from the times when knives not Nazi bombs were the most dangerous thing in the East End. During the scare caused by Jack […]

    The Hobgoblin Club September 21, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Hobgoblin Club

    It is 1891. You are living in a small Cornish village and your neighbours get jumpy every time they see a shadow (‘the ghost…’ etc) and talk darkly of Mother Jones being a witch. Well, in most British villages it was a question of sermons, railway timetables and opening parish schools. But in Ludgvan, close […]

    Mermaid Monday: Connomara Siren September 18, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Mermaid Monday: Connomara Siren

    Mermaid Monday continues with this gem from western Ireland Galway. The earliest record found so far dates to 22 Sep 1819, Saunder’s Newsletter, 2-3 with the title ‘Mermaid’. However, the originally allegedly (non vidi) appeared in the Galway Advertiser 19 Sep. Naturalists have hitherto doubted of the existence of mermaids and mermen; we have it […]

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