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  • Two Monmouth Moments May 21, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Two Monmouth Moments

    The Duke of Monmouth was the illegitimate son of Charles II and a bit of a ‘tosser’ to use the northern vernacular: he looks, in the portrait above, like an underwear model trying to be ‘hot’, or a nineteen year old who has just made it into a boy band. There is no question that he was […]

    The Greene County Wild Man May 20, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Greene County Wild Man

    When we think wild men most readers will think sasquatch and yeti: when people in the nineteenth century (and before) thought wild men they thought lunatics or hermits who had gone to live in the wood and who had lost touch with humanity. Perhaps in mythic terms there is not that much difference? However, this […]

    The Durham Serpent May 19, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Durham Serpent

    Here is a weird little story that allegedly appears in St Nicholas’ Parochial Register, Durham for 1568. Mdm. that a certain Italian brought into the cittie of Durham, the 11th day of June, in the yeare above sayd, a very great strange and monstrous serpent, in length sixteen feet, in quantitie and dimentions greater than a […]

    Downey’s Death: Killed by Imagination May 16, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Downey's Death: Killed by Imagination

    Beach stumbled across this story a couple of weeks ago and thought he’d put it up for the practical jokes tag. There was much interest in the nineteenth century about how the psychological impression of death could cause death. Somewhere Beach has read a French version of this (can anyone help: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT […]

    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 […]

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