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  • Victorian Urban Legend: The Mourning Trick June 22, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legend: The Mourning Trick

    This is a great story which appears with the heading, ‘Scotch Ghost Story’. We are in Glasgow. Beach has no doubt though that it is a Victorian urban legend. Let’s face it, the tale is so satisfying that if it ever actually happened it would have been abstracted and told to everyone who would listen. […]

    Mumps Spell June 20, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Mumps Spell

    Location: Ireland (Wilde 1888, 199), late nineteenth century Aim: To cure the mumps Ingredients: a piece of rope, an alarm clock, nine black stones, a torch, a holy well. Method: (i) go out with your torch before dawn and find nine black stones (ii) once the sun is up tie the rope into a noose […]

    First Vehicular Suicide? June 19, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    First Vehicular Suicide?

    Beach read this story, tried to forget it but couldn’t. There are two questions. First, did it really happen? 19C British newspapers are usually quite reliable, but 19C French newspapers are not. If this had been clipped from a French newspaper it could have been a complete invention, it would be interesting to see whether […]

    Beggar for a Day June 18, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Beggar for a Day

    Beach has long been curious about the begging life and was fascinated to run across this article from 1889 about how difficult it was to make money in London by holding out your hand. A clearly middle class man took a bet with his friends, after dinner, and presumably after taking port, that he could […]

    The Male Midwives Called Peter and the Empty Box Trick June 17, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Male Midwives Called Peter and the Empty Box Trick

    The Chamberlen brothers were first generation French Hugenots whose father had fled to Britain in 1569: one brother Peter was born in Paris (1560) and the other brother Peter was born in Southampton (1572). Yes, you read that right. Two sons and both were called Peter: a fair introduction to a very unusual family. (And […]

    Tree-Felling Ghosts or Youth Vandalism? June 15, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Tree-Felling Ghosts or Youth Vandalism?

    This is a very confusing story: perhaps one reason for taking it seriously. We are in Orkney in March 1907. There were certainly believed-in ghosts in Orkney but in 1907 there was also still strong belief in trows: the local fairy population. Ghostly happenings have disturbed the town of Kirkwall, the capital of the county […]

    Birth Pangs Spell June 13, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Birth Pangs Spell

    Location: this spell was attested in Salem, Massachusetts, 1670. It was used by one Zerobabel [[great name]] Endicott (Carter 1986, 23). Zerobabel (aka Zerubabbel) was a physician and here we have the sometimes thin line between 17C magic and 17 medicine.* Aim: to relieve birth pangs Ingredients: ale wort, ant nest, ant trowel, pre-heated oven, […]

    Immortal Meals #33: Fairy Feast 1912 June 11, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Immortal Meals #33: Fairy Feast 1912

    Oh to have been there… Walter Yeeling Evans Wentz was an American eccentric and mystic who from 1908 to 1911 studied British, Irish and Breton fairies. Readers may have come across his curious The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries, brought out in November 1911, the single most bizarre book every published by Oxford University Press […]

    Mysterious Coffin Deposit June 10, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Mysterious Coffin Deposit

    John Aubrey (1626-1697) gives this curious description in Remaines (1689). What has he found here? At Priorie St Mary in the parish of Kington St Michael [in Wiltshire], have been formerly, and also lately found upon digging in the garden, in consecrated ground, severall coffins of freestone; they have all a hole, or two in the […]

    Reprieve? June 5, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Reprieve?

    This weird war tale comes from a rather suspect book, Thrilling Stories of the Great Rebellion (1865), about the American Civil War. Note the almost total lack of details here: we are not even told whether this was a Confederate or Union regiment, though given the author’s loyalties we should presume the latter. This could […]

    Woman to be Stoned and Blindfolded Priest June 4, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Woman to be Stoned and Blindfolded Priest

    Unpleasant story warning. This dates to 1834 and incredibly was given in a public talk at the Society for the Conversion of the Jews. It is clearly a legend (there are many European parallels): see below. But Beach is desperately looking for more of the same from fiction or from ‘fact’. A clergyman in London, […]

    A Sieve, a Fairy, a Midwife and a Mystery June 3, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    A Sieve, a Fairy, a Midwife and a Mystery

    So here is a fairy mystery… In Romeo and Juliet Mercutio tells us that Queen Mab is ‘the fairies’ midwife’: a mysterious phrase that has never been explained. Most guides link it unconvincingly to a previous comment of Romeo’s. A much more interesting point of reference is  a fairy poem of Ben Jonson. Beach has […]

    Kitchener’s Sword June 2, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Kitchener's Sword

    Beach has previously celebrated the (entirely unrealistic) myths about Kitchener’s survival from a shipwreck in June 1916. There were a number of theories: namely that the Germans had got him; that Kitchener had been kidnapped in Russia or was secretly helping the Russian army reorganise (perhaps he was killed in the revolution?); or some version […]

    Index Biography #42 May 31, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Index Biography #42

      The Index Biography is a quiz pioneered by this blog and introduced in a previous post. The creator must find a biography of a famous individual from history, they must turn to the index and write down eight peripheral facts about the individual’s life. We offered up previously here Sheridan le Fanu and Joseph Stalin (he of […]

    Chased into a Sicilian Hell May 30, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Chased into a Sicilian Hell

    This is a great supernatural stories from 18C England. The earliest version known to this blogger dates to 1793. Note that this is a much later version that claims to be based on actual records. Beach doesn’t believe that for a second. Ha! It is almost identical and entire passages word-for-word the same. An Account of Mr. […]

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