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  • The Fortune Teller and the Children Tax May 19, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Fortune Teller and the Children Tax

    This appeared in a news report from 1888 A remarkable trial has been opened in the city of Mexico [i.e. Mexico City]. During the past year an old woman, living in a little town near the capital, has been exacting a monthly tax trom the fathers of families to prevent her from taking the lives […]

    Swearing Fetuses and the English Sausage Seller May 17, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Swearing Fetuses and the English Sausage Seller

    A nasty little episode from the late 1860s and London with a most curious annex. A sausage seller gets roughed up by a group of young London Jews, after saying something anti-semitic. This led to a trial. When his wife or ‘missus’ was called into the witness box though, something rather peculiar happened. To corroborate […]

    The Cuckold’s Horns May 16, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    The Cuckold's Horns

    ***Thanks to Ricardo and Neil for help with this post*** The cuckold’s horns is a sign, usually indicated by two fingers placed over the head, of a man whose wife has been unfaithful. In many countries – not least the UK, see photo – the actual symbolism has been forgotten and only the offence remains. […]

    Telegraph Wire and Oasis Jewellery May 15, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Telegraph Wire and Oasis Jewellery

    Governments and multi-nationals have long had problems with locals (particularly criminally-inclined locals) stealing their wire. Most collectors get out their pliers because, say, copper is worth a lot of money. But in the early years of electricity and telegraph wire there were other reasons for stealing: more principled and practical reasons. Take Thomas Stevens’ description […]

    Homemade Beer at the Vampire Inn May 13, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Homemade Beer at the Vampire Inn

    Every so often, as your eye is running down the columns of documents past, you run into an unlooked for detail that you just can’t leave alone. It happened to me a week ago when I was checking through the records of bankrupt British businesses from 1869 (as you do). In that year on Hampton […]

    Duelling Schoolboys May 7, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Duelling Schoolboys

    Duelling is really all about grown men acting like complete asses. However, at least in one case in 1874 it appears that early teens in Lincolnshire, the UK emulated their elders. One Gerald Maurice Burn shot, 7 March 1874, at George Seagrave, both boarders at a local school run by a reverend no less. Burn […]

    Hawker and the Pixy? May 6, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Hawker and the Pixy?

    We have visited Robert Hawker before on this blog, not least in his gadding about as a mermaid. However, there follows a peculiar episode in which he claims to have seen a supernatural creature in a letter written in 1856 (or was the experience 1856, the source Byles Life and Letters is not clear?). R.A.J.Walling […]

    Fighting the Plains Trains May 3, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Fighting the Plains Trains

    The transcontinental railways across the American plains not only made a nation, but destroyed the way of life of hundreds of free indigenous peoples living there. The train made military control of the interior easier and, of course, the train also brought the buffalo killers: the Federal Government and its agents had long understood that […]

    11 Burning Libraries: Book Lovers Beware April 29, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    11 Burning Libraries: Book Lovers Beware

    This blog has pioneered a series of burning libraries: books that didn’t make it (23 to date)… But what about real burning libraries? Libraries that, at some point in Antiquity or the Middle Ages, were gutted by fire, accidental or deliberate. I have included here a list of eleven devastatingly bad ‘burning libraries’ or ‘burning […]

    High Noon at Carcassonne April 28, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    High Noon at Carcassonne

    Carcassonne is a stunning medieval town in the south of France, famous today for the attrocities carried out there against the Cathars, or those who were believed to be Cathars, in the thirteenth century. However, I recently ran across this news story from 1894 and the most recent in our practical jokes series: long time […]

    A Pre-Christian Custom in Eighteenth-Century Scotland? April 26, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    A Pre-Christian Custom in Eighteenth-Century Scotland?

    A recent article on Chris’  Haunted Ohio Books quoted an eighteenth-century source for an unusual form of Scottish divination: the whole passage (from Martin Martin, obit 1718) is well worth reading, as is Chris’ thoughts on the same. But one bit particularly stood out: it relates to the Hebrides. The second way of consulting the […]

    Jan Ziska, the Human Drum? April 23, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Jan Ziska, the Human Drum?

    One-eyed Jan Ziska was one of the wildest and the best of the generals of the late medieval religious wars. As a Hussite he defended his people, predominantly Czechs, from carnivorous Catholic neighbours and his enemies breathed a huge sigh of relief when, in 1424, JZ was struck down by the plague. However, one of […]

    John Farkas: Fire Boy! April 20, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    John Farkas: Fire Boy!

    John Farkas’ name seems to have flared up very briefly in history and then to have died down again just as quickly. Many of the things associated with John (Janos?) were, let’s say, poltergeist tricks and not that remarkable. But what about the fire? Note that this newsreport dates to 1921 and appeared in the […]

    Headless Witch Zombies in Nineteenth-Century England! April 16, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Headless Witch Zombies in Nineteenth-Century England!

    Strangehistory has given some publicity in the past to the peculiar custom, found throughout the English-speaking world and beyond, of blood-letting to break witchcraft: the victim must draw blood from the witch, preferably from the face. It would be pointless to give yet another example of this barbarity. But though blood-letting features in the following […]

    Rabies and Dog’s Liver Cure April 11, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Rabies and Dog's Liver Cure

    Rabies vanished from Britain in the very early twentieth century and bar some unlucky exceptions has not returned since: just 22 have died since 1902. But in the nineteenth century it was a serious menace and people, particularly children died on a fairly regular basis. Here is a rabies account from the 1860s and deep […]

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