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  • The Republic of the Seven Islands April 19, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Republic of the Seven Islands

    A thalassocracy is a sea power, a realm built around the sea. The word is sometimes used to refer to maritime superpowers, like the British and French empires, but is more typically employed for chains of islands governed by a single king or council. Historical examples include Tondo; or some of the Viking polities from […]

    The Hare that Got Away April 16, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Hare that Got Away

    Here is a short paragraph from the late nineteenth century about Pendle in Lancashire. He who visits Pendle will yet find that charms are generally resorted to amongst the lower classes; that there are hares, which in their persuasion, never can be caught, and which survive only to baffle and confound the huntsman; that each […]

    Hare Horror in Furness! Return of the Supernatural Bunnies April 14, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Hare Horror in Furness! Return of the Supernatural Bunnies

    Beach has recently been enjoying the splendour of supernatural rabbits and hares. Yes, dear reader, do you remember the thud of paranormal poltergeist bunnies? What about the legendary Baum Rabbit? Or the Welsh ghost rabbit as big as a sheep? Or Boudicca’s sacrificial hare? Or the Mann witch trial hare? However, everything that he has […]

    Huge Erratic Boulders: the Westmorland Thunderstones April 10, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Huge Erratic Boulders: the Westmorland Thunderstones

    Thunderstones are a well known European and, indeed, international phenomenon, flint arrowheads or stone axes which were believed, by our early modern ancestors, to have descended from the sky in lightning storms. The typical praxis was that a sheep would be killed by a bolt of lightning and the family would discover, near the animal, […]

    Perugian Witch, 1908 April 8, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Perugian Witch, 1908

    Perugia is a marvelous medieval city in Umbria, about half way between Rome and Florence. The following account of early twentieth-century witchcraft there was not, in itself, remarkable, but Perugia has a special place in Beach’s heart and so he hoped vainly perhaps, that someone could fill in the blanks. The great problem with Italian […]

    The Real Romeo and Juliet April 7, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Real Romeo and Juliet

    It is always pleasant in history to look back to the moment when something began; when the unwinding shoot starts to fracture the seed shell. It is the evening of 26 February 1511 and Antonio Savorgnan and his men are enjoying a ball at his sister Maria Savorgnan’s house in Udine (Italy), Piazza Venerio. The evening is tense. […]

    The Spaw Monster April 6, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Spaw Monster

    This is a ghost account from 1839. It starts simply enough, but it has some remarkable features. One of those singular cases commonly classed amongst the supernatural, has produced a considerable sensation amongst the inhabitant of the district of Middleton and the surrounding villages. The following are a few of the particulars. In a small […]

    The Ghost of Coalville: Women in the Choir April 4, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Ghost of Coalville: Women in the Choir

    The village of Ravenstone (Leicestershire, UK) has, apparently, one church and Beach has not found anything in my books or on the internet about it having ghosts. However, this appeared in 1934. The old parish church of Ravenstone, near Coalville, is said to be haunted. According to villagers, during the evening services an apparition takes shape out […]

    Review: A Word Geography of England April 3, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Review: A Word Geography of England

    When Beach was a little tyke (boy) he used to run out to lek (play) and then he and his friends would go to the shop to buy spice (candy): trousers were ‘togs’ in those not so halcyon days, and missing school was ‘skiving’. Dialect is dead in England (save perhaps in the north-east), but […]

    Boggart Stones and Boggart Smells April 2, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Boggart Stones and Boggart Smells

    Joseph Wright has, in his Dialect Dictionary, this absolutely unexpected definition for ‘boggart stones’, something associated with Eastern Lancashire (the ‘e. Lan. 1’ in his reference is to a local word list from those parts, A Glossary with Rochdale and Rossendale Words, the relevant entry for which is put in a screen capture below). Wright’s […]

    A Milk-Drinking British Boa March 30, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    A Milk-Drinking British Boa

    There are lots of tall tales about snakes and lots of tall tales about snakes taking milk from udders and breasts, but this is unusual for the apparent quality of the witness and its impact in the local countryside. The journalist who wrote, and doubtless loved researching, the initial piece was from the Birmingham Gazette. […]

    Witch Bone Breaking? March 27, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Witch Bone Breaking?

    This story needs to be linked with a veritable collection made on this blog of witch bleeding. Interesting here though that not just blood but allegedly a bone will do the trick. And the date? 14 June 1895. From Lincolnshire comes a story which in these days of compulsory education seems almost incredible. In a […]

    Headless Mine Ghost March 24, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Headless Mine Ghost

    This ghost story comes from a Derbyshire hill town, New Mills. It is deep in boggart country and it is very likely that the miners referred to the ghost as a boggart. Note Ollersett in the top right of the map. We are in 1914, the beginning of the year that would change the world. […]

    Praying a Child to Death March 22, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Praying a Child to Death

    This is particularly strange case from 1893. We are in the far north east of England, but in an urban area and not one particularly associated with witchcraft. Difficult to interpret this in any way: mental illness does not work (easily) because there were two miscreants. Help gratefully received. At the South Shields Police Court, […]

    Real Magic Ring? March 21, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Real Magic Ring?

    This ring perhaps no longer survives, but when it was sketched in the mid nineteenth-century it was rendered thus. The ring divides. The block on the left was apparently a set of jewels that when pressed made the ring open in this fashion: a common trick? Within the ring were written a series of words. […]

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