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Pre-Columbian Trips to America? Ballast! January 19, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
Pre-Columbian Trips to America? Ballast!

Imagine the excitement of the archaeologists who had gathered at NA-57 off the Florida coast near Fernandina in 1972. In some offshore piles they had found various bits of ‘rubbish’ from European settlers: ceramics, pipes, glass fragments… Nothing special you might think. But what was unusual was the dating. British settlements began in the area in […]

Purring: A Taxonomy and an Exhibition at Wigan January 15, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Purring: A Taxonomy and an Exhibition at Wigan

This site has a small tag on the history of purring, the sometimes noble and often incredibly ignoble Lancashire marshal art whereby a man repeatedly kicked opponents or victims as hard as he could. We return to the theme today because of the exciting news that a Purring Display is going up in Wigan Museum, […]

The British and Invasions January 13, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
The British and Invasions

I watched a few years ago an even then old documentary in which a  celebrated/notorious British Member of Parliament Enoch Powell interviewed (God knows how they pulled this off) a Soviet general and shared with him an unusual geographical philosophy. EP said that Britain and Russia were both protected by geography, one by water ‘as […]

Welsh Leaf Mould, Pies and Cunning Magic January 10, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Welsh Leaf Mould, Pies and Cunning Magic

A nineteenth-century letter detailing some very unusual goings on at Hawarden on the Welsh borders. On Sunday the 17 inst., it was discovered that some earth had recently been dug up under the east window of the church. At first it was supposed that some still-born infant had been deposited there [!!!]; but on procuring […]

Spirit Photo Fakes: Katie King January 5, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Spirit Photo Fakes: Katie King

The Count (a regular contributor here) is to blame. Beach had hoped to spend just a couple of thousand nano-seconds on spirit photography, but it is so extraordinarily interesting. Last time we looked at some late nineteenth-century photographs where ghostly  loved ones were portrayed with their families in the most transparent fakes.  But what about […]

A Scottish Earthquake Remembered? December 29, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
A Scottish Earthquake Remembered?

David Murray Rose was a late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century historian and, a far nicer word, an antiquarian. This comes from a letter he wrote in 1930 to the Inverness Courier and relates to an obsession of this blog: the degree to which information can be transmitted orally through time. First, the legend. Many years […]

English Vampire in Spain December 27, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
English Vampire in Spain

This article comes from the later 1860s and describes the misfortunes of an Englishman who the locals decided was a Vampire. You have to cross the straits of Gibraltar and probably the Sahara to get this kind of incident today: memories of that fine Luise White book Speaking with Vampires. Lorcea is Lorca in Murcia. […]

The Durham Lights 3#: The Margaret and Jane December 24, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
The Durham Lights 3#: The Margaret and Jane

To finish off this series on the mystery of the Durham Lights we turn to the description, in late December 1866, of the Margaret and Jane’s misfortunes at Whitburn. The public inquiry offers one of the clearest accounts of what mariners actually saw when they talked of ‘false lights’. First, though the ship. We have […]

Was Nessie a Kelpie? December 22, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Was Nessie a Kelpie?

A post a couple of weeks ago on the kelpie of Loch-na-Bestie got Beach thinking about the most famous kelpie in Caledonia. Who else but that stalwart of Scottish tourism, that gift to fake photographers everywhere, the greatest floating log of them all, Nessie?  Yes, it is true that Nessie has been seen, photographed and […]

Montanelli and the Martyrs of Spielberg December 20, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Montanelli and the Martyrs of Spielberg

A wonderful story that could probably only come out of Italy. First, some necessary background. Indro Montanelli was perhaps the finest Italian journalist of the twentieth century: he was able to interview and work with Andreotti, Berlusconi, Hitler, John-Paul II, Mussolini and many other notables whose deeds changed the peninsula and Europe (mostly, being notable, […]

The Durham Lights #2: The Candidates December 19, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
The Durham Lights #2: The Candidates

In a previous post we set out, with some help from Charles Fort and David Clarke the history of the Durham Lights, shipwrecking lights that turned up on the jagged coast at Whitburn (North-East England) in the mid late 1860s and that were only banished with the opening of the Souter Lighthouse in January 1871. […]

Tens of Thousands of Egyptian Mummies in English Soil? December 18, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern
Tens of Thousands of Egyptian Mummies in English Soil?

For the hundreds of thousands of cats and kittens brought up for mummification in ancient Egypt life was brutal and short. Most lived six months to a year and then were either hammered on the head, or more typically had their necks wrung before being tightly bound and sold to the religious perhaps particularly pilgrims, […]

Flying Boy Across the Mersey? December 16, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Flying Boy Across the Mersey?

This interesting but very confusing passage comes from Aubrey’s wonderful Brief Lives. It is, more specifically, from the chapter on a Lancastrian mathematician named Jonas Moore who had been taught by one William Gascoigne (this becomes important). Aubrey includes several fascinating facts including the unforgettable sentence that: ‘Sciatica: [Sir Jonas] cured it by boiling his […]

The Durham Lights #1: Introduction December 15, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
The Durham Lights #1: Introduction

The Durham Lights (aka the False Durham Lights or the Whitburn Lights) are a nice example of a few chance and unclear facts morphing out of control and spawning suspect Forteana. From 1864 to 1870, particularly though not exclusively in the winter, wrecks became common on the Whitburn Steel, some aptly named rocks, between Sunderland […]

Maid of Hatfield: English Shaman Shyster December 13, 2013

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Maid of Hatfield: English Shaman Shyster

This unusual story dates to the reign of Charles II, the son of the unhappiest monarch in the pantheon, Charles I. Beach has decided to include it for two reasons. First, because it reminds him of some of those shamanistic individuals who he has sometimes celebrated as fairy witches; and second because there is almost […]

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