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  • An Ecclesiastical Harem from Eighteenth-Century Spain August 21, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    An Ecclesiastical Harem from Eighteenth-Century Spain

    The Inquisition  it can’t have been that easy. Mass in the morning, torture in the afternoon and, yet another blasted auto da fe in the evening… Who can blame the good men with the blood red cloth if sometimes they decided to create, let’s call it, ‘recreational space’ for themselves. This extraordinary – and apparently […]

    Naval Blunders August 20, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Naval Blunders

    Beachcombing has been having a bit of a naval season and it was in celebration of this that he picked up Naval Blunders by Geoffrey Regan. Now, of course, books on blunders in history are commonplace. But this is arguably the best of all those with which Beach is familiar, in part because of the […]

    The Famous Benbecula Burial of a Mermaid August 18, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Famous Benbecula Burial of a Mermaid

    Beach hopes this summer and autumn to offer several obscure mermaid texts from the North Atlantic. However, he could hardly do other than include with the most famous of them all: the Benbecula sighting of c. 1830. He also hopes to shed some more light on this sighting with an obscure second source in September. […]

    Female Flyting in the Raj? August 17, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern

    It has been a long day and Beach has not had time to look for this in all the normal works of reference. However, this story (or fiction?) rang no bells and as Beach has – disgrace upon disgrace – never had a Pakistani story before he thought he’d take a risk. A curious custom, […]

    Fairies Investigated in Irish Court August 16, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Fairies Investigated in Irish Court

    Beach has been enjoying himself with fairies these last few months, looking at late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century news-reports from Britain and Ireland. What is curious is that fairies very often appear in the law pages of the newspapers. They do so typically in one of two guises: (i) child abuse because parents believe the child […]

    Flight in Seventeenth-Century Warsaw? August 13, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Flight in Seventeenth-Century Warsaw?

    This is an interesting and largely overlooked reference (Frank) to flight from an English newspaper, c. 1650. The newspaper in question, The Moderate, was typically made up of a good many letters from amateur foreign correspondents and one of these came from Warsaw. It would be fascinating to see if there were any other accounts […]

    Dried Cats August 12, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Dried Cats

    In prehistory there were, by definition, no written records. In antiquity there were few. In the Middle Ages few or several. And, then, from the invention of the printing press onwards, in Western Europe at least, the flood of the written word is almost painful. Yet notwithstanding this deluge, incredibly, there are whole facets of […]

    Changelings and the Law August 11, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Changelings and the Law

    ‘Changeling’, as noted in a recent post, was the name given by country folk on the Celtic fringe prior to children who were bewitched (i.e. ill): they were called ‘changelings’ because it was believed that fairies had come and had exchanged the child with a fairy. Parents’ reactions on having their children spirited away and […]

    Head-hunting German Phrenologists August 9, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Head-hunting German Phrenologists

    ***This post was suggest by Invisible who shares though Beachcombing’s scepticism*** Before plunging into this modern story of head-hunting the reader should be warned. First, the quotations come from a contemporary nineteenth-century English ‘sketch’ (rather than translation) from the French: Jacques Peuchet, Mémoires tirés des Archives de la police de Paris, vol I, 161 ff. […]

    Late (Pregnant) Witch in Devon August 8, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Late (Pregnant) Witch in Devon

    Beachcombing has often tried in this column to date the death of traditional beliefs: be that the death of fairy belief in Ilkley or the death of the werewolf faith in Strasbourg. These things are almost impossible to measure of course. Sources are fragmentary and these kinds of beliefs are in the private world of […]

    Mussolini’s Barber August 7, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Mussolini's Barber

    Mussolini’s Barber is a bizarrist’s wet dream, fifty well-written ‘weird’ stories as told by Graeme Donald ranging from the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 to Vietnam, with a heavy bias towards the Second World War. Long time readers of this blog will recognize many of the tales collected including the twice atom-bombed Yamaguchi, Mussolini’s Irish assassin, […]

    Fifteenth-century European Knowledge of Australia? August 5, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Fifteenth-century European Knowledge of Australia?

    Here is one of these sources that Beachcombing just doesn’t know that to do with. It seems to show knowledge of southern Australia/ Antarctica being shared with a European in Java at the end of the fifteenth century. Perhaps this is not so extraordinary as, after all, knowledge is not discovery: and ‘knowledge’ here could […]

    Death Diaries and Plane Doors August 4, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Death Diaries and Plane Doors

    A diary today from the door of an American transport plane: crazy, yes, but bear with Beach. Its contents act like smelling salts. The door in question was off an C-47 nick-named, for reasons that will soon become apparent, the Flying Dutchman. The FD came down  10 November 1942 in jungle over New Guinea, yet […]

    A Changeling on Man August 3, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    A Changeling on Man

    A fairy child put in place of a human child as witnessed by an outsider on eighteenth-century Man.

    Last Human Sacrifice in Europe? August 2, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Last Human Sacrifice in Europe?

    Beachcombing has often set a Guinness-Book-of-Records-style competition for the last cavalry charge, the last head hunters or the last execution by blade in the west. And recently an email from the Sword and the Beast got him thinking about the last human sacrifice. SandB who has travelled extensively in eastern parts writes: ‘I take the […]

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