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  • The Greatest Heist in History? The Captain of Kopenick November 7, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Greatest Heist in History? The Captain of Kopenick

    Much has Beach travelled in the realms of criminal gold. But rarely has he come across a villain of the quality of Wilhelm  Voigt (obit 1922): the Captain of Kopenick. Let’s begin with the shocked aftermath and then follow Voigt back through one of the most daring robberies in history. 17 October 1906 the German […]

    Madame Tussaud Meets the Guillotine November 6, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Madame Tussaud Meets the Guillotine

    ***Dedicated to Laura: for an excellent background to Madame Tussaud follow this link (and look out particularly for Brad Pitt’s knickers)*** Anna Maria Tussaud (obit 1850) came to Britain in 1802 to show her famous wax impressions as an entrepreneur, but she remained in the country as an exile once the Napoleonic Wars had begun. […]

    Goodwin Wharton and the Fairies November 4, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Goodwin Wharton and the Fairies

    In 1684 the Queen of Fairy was visiting the (fairy) Duke of Hungary in his estate under Moorfields (London), when the Duke hatched a dastardly plot. First he tried to poison her majesty with chocolate and then, having failed to ruin her insides, he attempted to blow up her subterranean palace with gunpowder. If you […]

    Review: Goodwin Wharton October 31, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Review: Goodwin Wharton

    In the spring of 1683, a disgraced scion of an English aristocratic family, Goodwin Wharton met Mary Parish a woman in regular communication with fairies (‘lowlanders’), angels, the dead and, of course, the Almighty. Mary was down on her luck having alienated her spirit guide, having argued bitterly with the royal family of faery and […]

    Welsh Candles and a Ghost October 30, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Welsh Candles and a Ghost

    A couple of weeks ago we travelled to the Church Porch at midnight to see who would die in the coming year. Here is a Welsh equivalent (kind of). Down to the last hundred years it was usual in many a district in Wales to burn candles in the parish church on the eve of […]

    Shakespeare’s First Anne October 29, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Shakespeare's First Anne

    Earlier this year we publicised that famous inventor of the compass, Flavio Gioia, who never, in fact, existed. Today, we offer a parallel tale from English literature: the story of Shakespeare’s first love. We refer here not to that hated appendage, Anne Hathaway, who married the bard after he got her pregnant and eventually got […]

    A Fourteen-Month Pregnancy in Nineteenth-century Cornwall? October 25, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    A Fourteen-Month Pregnancy in Nineteenth-century Cornwall?

    Polperro Press is a small publishing house that produces excellent quality monographs on Cornish themes. If every town of this size – Polperro is an idyllic Cornish port – had a book producing company of a third of this quality historians would be able to give up their day jobs: history, at least western history, […]

    Flying with Diana October 23, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    Flying with Diana

    One of the most fascinating questions about witchcraft belief is the extent to which it was invented by the Inquisition (and other bogey men of our own imaginations); or to what extent it reflected common beliefs held by medieval and early modern European populations. If we accept that the idea of the sabbat and devil-sex, […]

    Mythic Lines at the Alamo October 19, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Mythic Lines at the Alamo

    ***Dedicated to Paul Caspar/ Paul Kaspar of Santiago de Compostela and Austin Fame*** The Battle or more accurately the Siege of the Alamo took place in 1836, as a small band of irregulars, English- and Spanish-speaking, resisted a Mexican attempt to re-impose the Supreme Government’s rule in the territory that was to become Texas. Of […]

    Coins Out of Time October 17, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Modern
    Coins Out of Time

    ***Dedicated to Lehmansterms, whom Beach owes an email…*** An underdeveloped post on the wrong time use of coins. Any other examples gratefully received: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com The following passage comes from a book describing the adventures of an Allied serviceman in Italy in 1943: the serviceman in question had escaped from prison camp […]

    Modern and Early Modern Animal Sacrifices in Britain October 15, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Modern and Early Modern Animal Sacrifices in Britain

    Beach knows that animal sacrifices took place in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain. He has even featured and celebrated a few cases himself, but he was much struck by this list. Can anyone add anything to it? drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com Mr. Henderson wrote his Folklore of the Northern Counties in 1879, and he says: […]

    Egyptologist Meets a Cat Goddess October 13, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Egyptologist Meets a Cat Goddess

    ***Dedicated to Silvia*** Today a cat, a goddess and the great Egyptologist Arthur Weigall (obit 1934). For those who don’t know the name, AW was a British national who got involved in the race for knowledge and treasure in the Nile Delta in the early part of the twentieth century. He worked as an archaeologist […]

    Church Porch Devilry October 9, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Church Porch Devilry

    Midsummer’s eve doubtless had significance to our distant pagan ancestors, yoked to the land and to the seasons like oxen. What is striking is how often these traditions survived Christianity, the Reformation and even industrialisation. Take one of Beach’s favourite: looking for the dead-to-come on Midsummer’s Eve. Tradition claimed – traditions that still survive in […]

    A Phantom Inventor: Flavio Gioia October 5, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    A Phantom Inventor: Flavio Gioia

    Who invented the compass? The Chinese, of course. Sometime between 800 and 1000 that people began to use their lodestones to navigate at sea. But the compass also appears in Europe in the eleventh or twelfth centuries and do we have a case of borrowing (from the far orient, as with playing cards) or independent […]

    Transit of Venus October 4, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Transit of Venus

    Beachcombing had some fun earlier in the summer with the most famous act of nineteenth-century spiritualism: Daniel Home’s floating escapade back in 1868. He recently came across this description of a rival levitator, Agnes Nichol Guppy (obit 1917) and her famous ‘transit of Venus’.  Note that this took place some three years after Home’s own […]

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