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  • Expert Opinion on Deadly Free Fall March 28, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Expert Opinion on Deadly Free Fall

    Of course, medical and scientific opinion more generally has been proved wrong time and time again over the centuries with red faces enough all around. But Beach stumbled on an early twentieth-century example that had entirely escaped his notice. He quotes from Peter Hearn’s excellent Sky High Irvin: The Story of a Parachute Pioneer. Strange […]

    Madame Caillavah and Her Nineteenth-Century Gold Detector March 26, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Madame Caillavah and Her Nineteenth-Century Gold Detector

    In that unholy mess of blood and tradition-killing, the French Revolution, there was much sacking of national treasure houses and attempts by ‘reactionaries’ and guardians to keep some of those treasures out of the hands of the Convention. One such event took place in 1793 at St Denis when looters went over the entire Cathedral […]

    Ghostly Stone Throwing in Kent, 1918 March 24, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Ghostly Stone Throwing in Kent, 1918

    Digging and paranormal episodes seem to come together with a frequency that would be all together suprising if you had never met an archaeologist. Here is a nice case from 1918: the report appears in a northern English scientific periodical. I was first attracted to it by the mention of fairies in the title of […]

    Forgotten Kingdom: Inbetween Saddleworth March 22, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Forgotten Kingdom: Inbetween Saddleworth

    Saddleworth is a late entrant in the Forgotten Kingdoms series. A stupendously beautiful patch of Pennine land in the north of England, it sits uneasily on the border between the White Rose County, Yorkshire and the Red Rose County, Lancashire. Saddleworth is, in fact, a reminder of how differences between communities are messy not clean-cut: […]

    A Strange Camera Obscura at Blackpool March 21, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    A Strange Camera Obscura at Blackpool

    The camera obscura was already being written about in ancient times, there is an Italian renaissance illustration of one as well: the best page I’ve found online, if you are new to this, is here. But I’ve recently come across a nineteenth-century example that I simply don’t understand. This comes from a very fine book […]

    Human Drum at Rennes March 18, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Human Drum at Rennes

    ***Thanks to Tokyobling for putting me onto this story and too many others like it*** Had a pretty disturbing week looking at the use of human skins in witchcraft and book covers: things that Beach, in his alloyed innocence, just didn’t realize existed. However, of all the human skin stories I ran across the strangest […]

    Unofficial Law and Order March 16, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Unofficial Law and Order

    Beach has recently been researching out in the bogs of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Ireland so far beyond the pale that children are occasionally incinerated as changelings and there is one alleged case of a legal agent being stoned to death! This was a traditional rural society ruled over as much by priests as by the […]

    British Truth and American Lies? March 14, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    British Truth and American Lies?

    If you look through the American press from the 1800s you will sometimes come across outrageous stories about ghostly happenings, about strange sightings and about impossible creatures. The most famous example of this is, of course, the moon hoax of 1835. In Britain you have similarly outrageous stories about, say, fairy encounters, about sea serpents […]

    Witch Ducking and Three in a Bed March 12, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Witch Ducking and Three in a Bed

    This may not be the last witch killing in Britain, that seems to have taken place some months before. But this is my candidate for the last attempted witch ducking in the UK in 1880! Susan Sharpe, the ‘witch’ apparently brought the case to court because she was frightened that the local community, or elements […]

    Immortal Meals #13: Buttock Eating in Milton (Berkshire) March 10, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Immortal Meals #13: Buttock Eating in Milton (Berkshire)

    Patriotism is a very fine thing, but it can also make men and women act like asses: or even worse, chop off parts of their rumps and eat their own cooked flesh…. This patriotic feast, the latest in our immortal meals series, took place in 1650 or possibly in 1649 at Milton in Berkshire. Five […]

    Russian Fireball Weirdness, 1663 March 8, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Russian Fireball Weirdness, 1663

    Really, UFOs are so often so boring. How many times does the mother ship of the Krill turn out to be a dead mosquito smudged on the kitchen window? But every so often a sighting comes along where you think: what on earth (or rather in the sky)… There follows one of the very best […]

    Brazen Heads and Medieval Robots? March 7, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    Brazen Heads and Medieval Robots?

    In the Middle Ages there emerged two kinds of artificial humans into the Christian imagination: the real thing needs, unfortunately, to be dismissed with Aztec jet planes and Pharonic nuclear bombs. First there were moving statues, brass and gold figures that were somtimes found guarding treasure hordes or, what might loosely be called, fairyland. These […]

    Fairies, Arson and Banknotes in Co. Donegal March 6, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Fairies, Arson and Banknotes in Co. Donegal

    One of the great things about fairies in traditional communities is that they make for the perfect alibi. If someone pushes down the landlord’s fence then, of course, it was the fairies that did it. If a man is a beaten out walking along a midnight lane then the fairies did it. If a boy […]

    Whose Child? March 4, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern
    Whose Child?

    The machinery of human reproduction means that (save in exceptional circumstances) there may be doubt about the father, but there can be no question as to a baby’s mother. But the whole doubt about the father thing is a serious issue, particularly if you live in a society where blood lines are taken seriously. This […]

    American Indian Map Making: A Rare Talent? March 3, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    American Indian Map Making: A Rare Talent?

    Mapmaking is often seen as a modern, even a western preoccupation. But, of course, map-making, albeit with rather different rules, has existed in other cultures from the earliest times. This is true even in hunter-gatherer societies where permanent records are slighter and more difficult to achieve. After all, the hunter-gatherer depends more on knowledge of […]

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