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  • 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. […]

    Review Theory of Irony: How Jesus Led to Moon Golf March 18, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Review Theory of Irony: How Jesus Led to Moon Golf

    A subtitle like How Jesus Led to Moon Golf promises a swish historical read. Beach immediately, in fact, thought of some of Graeme Donald’s history writing and books like Mussolini’s Barber and other stories of the unknown players who made history happen. This proved naïve. Mussolini’s Barber offers some cute episodes from recent history and Graeme […]

    Sister Trouble: The Sacrifice March 17, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Sister Trouble: The Sacrifice

    Apologies for this one. But there is so obviously a good Roald Dahl short story to be had here, the tale needs to be shared. A murder has just been committed at Fontchristiann, near Briancon, France, under very extraordinary circumstances. Two sisters, named Marie and Catherine Ollagnier, aged 45 and 47 respectively, lived together in […]

    Romans in Nineteenth Century Wales?! March 15, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    Romans in Nineteenth Century Wales?!

    There is lots of enjoyable nonsense about the Welsh and the Romans. The medieval Welsh genealogies are full of supposed Welsh connections to Caesar and other luminaries of the Empire. If memory serves correctly Gerald of Wales claims that the Welsh of his time sported Roman hairstyles (or was it their clean beardless faces that […]

    Tjoelicks: Phantom Child Sacrifices in the East Indies March 15, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Tjoelicks: Phantom Child Sacrifices in the East Indies

    This is a fascinating case of a well attested nineteenth- and twentieth-century phenomenon: the connection of bogeymen to new technologies and foreigners (particularly when foreigners had, as in colonial societies, a great deal of power) [1862] A very curious superstition agitates at present in an alarming manner the native population [in Batavia, the Dutch East […]

    The Last Judicial Burning March 13, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Last Judicial Burning

    When was the last occasion on which a western government burnt one of its citizens alive judicially? Well, there are several examples from elsewhere in the world, including a North Korean who was supposedly executed by flame thrower in 2014 and various ISIS murders. However, in a western country on the instructions of a judge? […]

    The Oracle: A Victorian Computer? March 9, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Oracle: A Victorian Computer?

    OK, OK there were no personal computers in 1884. But the following ‘Oracle’ sounds as if it was mapping out, imaginatively, the territory that computers would make for themselves. We are in the UK: our source the Leighton Buzzard Obs, 1 Jan 1884. Dr. Lloyd, the medical officer of St. Giles’s Workhouse, attended before Sir […]

    An Urban Legend: The Vanishing Car March 8, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    An Urban Legend: The Vanishing Car

    This is a very exciting ghost story, because it seems to be an early version of the most famous (and at least to this blogger) the most satisfying modern urban legend: the vanishing hitchhiker: hitchiker picked up who it later transpires was a ghost. Admittedly the story is turned on its head: the driver and […]

    Ergot Madness in Historians March 7, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Ergot Madness in Historians

    Ergot is a fungus that grows on some crops, particularly rye, and is most common in northern temporal climes. When ingested by humans or animals it can cause hallucinations, temporary neurological disorders and circulation difficulties including burning limbs and, in serious cases, gangrene: there are records of peasants who lost all four limbs to ergot poisoning […]

    Late Somerset Witch Caught as Rabbit March 6, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Late Somerset Witch Caught as Rabbit

    Beach has long tradition of posts of unusual nineteenth-century accounts of the survival of witchcraft in Britain and Ireland. Here is one from Bridgewater, Somerset (the south-west), which appeared in Notes and Queries in 1853. A cottager, who does not live five minutes’ walk from my house, found his pig seized with a strange and […]

    Dreaming Death: Early Registration of Death March 5, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Dreaming Death: Early Registration of Death

    This appeared in the newspaper as ‘an extraordinary hallucination’: Beach had very tentatively put it in his list of Victorian urban legends until he verified the existence of Sheriff Balfour. It could alternatively be sure bloody chance; or a murder case (if you close your eyes and squint at it from an unusual angle): any views […]

    The Earliest Cargo Cult? March 4, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Earliest Cargo Cult?

    Cargo cults are Melanesian religious movements centred on the ability of the colonial powers to bring the kind of trinkets that fill shopping malls and dollar stores to the some of the virgin corners of the earth. The first references to cargo cults, the Vailala Madness, which began in 1919, for example, saw Papuans preach […]

    Dead Hands, Live Wens: Latest Record? March 3, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Dead Hands, Live Wens: Latest Record?

    There is a well attested belief that the bodies of executed criminals could heal certain illnesses. This led in past centuries to bits of executed felons being bought, sold and even eaten. Though the most gentle version was as simple as going to the gallows and begging the hangmen to let you run the dead […]

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