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  • Butter Tricks and Witches August 29, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Butter Tricks and Witches

    Here is a silly story from nineteenth-century Wales followed up with a serious point: or as serious as this blog ever gets. Mrs. Braithwaite [of Caergwrle, Flintshire] supplied a Mrs. Williams with milk, but a short time ago refused to serve her, and the cause was as follows: Mrs. Braithwaite had to that time been […]

    Sentries and Ghosts August 28, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Sentries and Ghosts

    While recently writing on the Tower of London ghosts Beach learnt something. Sentries see ghosts: there was the case from 1817 and the second case from the 1850s. The following list is limited to the British newspapers from 1875-1900 and represent a very quick survey: 1877 Aldershot: a ghost was repeatedly seen by sentries at […]

    Review: Victorian Studies in Scarlet August 27, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Review: Victorian Studies in Scarlet

    Best read of the summer? For Beach an easy choice, Richard D. Altick, Victorian Studies in Scarlet: Murder and Manners in the Age of Victoria. OK it was first published in 1970 but what is forty years between friends? Altick, who died in 2008, was a maverick academic: it would be great to induct him, sooner […]

    The Longest Surviving Medieval Heresy August 26, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    The Longest Surviving Medieval Heresy

    Imagine this. You wake up one morning in 1216 and say ‘to hell with it’. You walk into the local square of piazza stand on an upturned wheelbarrow and talk to your neighbours about the cosmos. Perhaps you’ve learnt that Christ married Mary Magdalene and had twins; or that the angels are worms in universal […]

    Living in Interesting Times: Britain’s Next Five Years August 25, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    Living in Interesting Times: Britain's Next Five Years

    This blogger has followed British politics for the best part of thirty years and things have never been so ‘interesting’: there is a storm building up around the UK, which Britain’s neighbours and allies have been slow to recognise. What has created this storm? Put simply two big things have happened at once: important existential […]

    Early Bionic Ear August 24, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Early Bionic Ear

    Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen (obit 1676) was a seventeenth-century German author with a penchant for fantasy. Here is an invention dreamt up for one of his novels. In Simplicius Simplicissimus (published 1668) he wrote this extraordinary passage. And when I had fancies, and lay awake many a night thinking how might contrive new finds […]

    The Imitation Game August 23, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    The Imitation Game

    The earliest and greatest British victory in the Second World War (building on crucial Polish breakthroughs) was the breaking of the new German code machine Enigma, 22 May 1940, just as the British Expeditionary Force was being surrounded by the Wehrmacht in France. For those of an academic persuasion the achievement is particularly sweet because […]

    Origins of the Trickster August 22, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Origins of the Trickster

    Beach has recently become intrigued by the Trickster, those wonderful figures found in world mythology who pass beyond the normal rules laid down by society and cause fun and trouble by turns. Tricksters are perhaps particularly associated with Amerindian myths but they are everywhere. For example, there seems, in the Christian tradition, to have been […]

    Gort’s Longest Hour August 21, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Gort's Longest Hour

    Long before Tolstoy ruined War and Peace with his reflections on the role of great men in history humans sat down and debated the ability of individuals to influence events. Beach is a bit of a heretic in this. He believes passionately that men and women not ‘impersonal forces’ (whatever the hell they are) make […]

    Flying Fairies, Stolen Wine and the Hat Tree August 20, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Flying Fairies, Stolen Wine and the Hat Tree

    Here is a very modest nineteenth-century Cornish story: it appeared in Robert Hunt, Popular Romances (1865); the piskeys are Cornish fairies (pixies). This tale is not, note, specifically Cornish, there are lots of British versions recorded in the nineteenth century, and one earlier Scottish tale. Our story has especially to do with the adventures of […]

    Wild Men from Elsewhere August 19, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Wild Men from Elsewhere

    So far there have been two wild men posts: one on wild men from Britain/Ireland and one on wild mem from North America; there have also been some case studies: for any of these follow the wild man tag. These are some extras from around the world. Beach would be, it goes without saying, very […]

    Why Do Welsh Ghosts Jump? August 18, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Why Do Welsh Ghosts Jump?

    Supernatural beings occasionally, like the rest of us, jump. In some cases, e.g. Spring Heeled Jack and the Devil, this seems to be a key characteristic. In other cases it is there in many descriptions: e.g. American wild men. Then, with other bogeys it is only an occasional activity: e.g. fairies and ghosts. However, Beach […]

    American Wild Men August 17, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    American Wild Men

    The first in the series was for Britain and Ireland. Here is, instead, the US. Note that this would need to be read side by side with Chad Arment’s work on historical Big Foot. There is some overlapping. 1851: Greene County (Arkansas), a supernatural sounding man covered in hair runs away from farmers jumping 13 […]

    Victorian Urban Legends: The Wrong Bed August 16, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legends: The Wrong Bed

    The Wrong Bed urban legend is self explanatory: a man or a woman get in the wrong bed in the wrong room in the wrong house, inevitably with someone of the opposite sex. That this story did the rounds in Victorian times there should be no surprise. What is incredible is that the story was […]

    The Mystics and Joe Bloggs August 15, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    The Mystics and Joe Bloggs

    From 1889-1892 the Society for Psychic Research asked a series of 17,000 Britons (of all classes and both sexes), whether they had ever had a ‘hallucination’, that is hearing or seeing someone who was not actually there and yet while ‘awake, and not suffering from delirium or insanity or any other morbid condition obviously conducive […]

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