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  • Giant Caterpillar Outside Manchester, 1850! November 16, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Giant Caterpillar Outside Manchester, 1850!

    This appeared in a northern British newspaper in 1850 relating to the Manchester area. The monster, so long the object of such contradictory reports, is now proved beyond doubt to be a real living creature. He has been seen on shore by hundreds of spectators, having originally, it is supposed, come up the Bridgewater Canal. […]

    The Last Survivor of the Second World War November 15, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Last Survivor of the Second World War

    Strange History put up a melancholy post a couple of weeks ago marking the day that the last Battle of Britain pilot died. And this is only the beginning… On that very day the newspapers ran with another story commemorating not the last but the oldest Auschwitz survivor’s death. Now the Battle of Britain and Auschwitz involve […]

    The First Sub-Saharan Africans in China? November 14, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The First Sub-Saharan Africans in China?

    The following extraordinary passage appears in a twelfth-century Chinese text, by one Zhu Yu. The text is entitled Pingzhou Chats on Things Worthwhile – the Chinese have such a way with titles – and has several treasures. Consider though this passage and the wildmen. The wealthy in Guangzho maintain numerous foreign slaves. These slaves are […]

    Native North American Vampire? November 13, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Native North American Vampire?

    Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca (obit 1558), on his trips into the wilderness of North America, did not meet a vampire: but he heard about a creature that sounded strikingly like one and that had caused the Indians some problem a generation before, c. 1500. It would be tempting to say that we are referring […]

    Mysterious Hominids in India November 12, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Mysterious Hominids in India

    Another extract – this time eighteenth century – from Beachcombing’s Pygmies, Dwarfs and Fairies series. The following has a certain cryptozoological feel to it: including the fact that the ‘samples’ disappeared into the ether. The creatures in question came from deep in the Indian interior and were brought to Bombay before they inconsiderately died. They […]

    Bristol Discovers America November 11, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Bristol Discovers America

    The most credible claims for pre-Columbian voyages across the Atlantic are those that took place in the generation immediately preceeding Columbus’ trip into the unknown. Take the text of a famous letter that was written in Spanish to an Admiral, almost certainly Columbus in late December 1497. The author is an English sailor, John Day. […]

    National Symbols and Erotics: the Great War November 10, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    National Symbols and Erotics: the Great War

    Nations are often personified: Lady Liberty for France, Uncle Sam for the States, Britannia for the UK. Nor is this new. There is a memorable fifth-century Latin poem that goes through the Roman Empire doling out identities to the different provinces: Gaul, for example, appears as a warrior with two spears. But Beach has recently […]

    The Tara Harpoon: Eskimoes in the Irish Sea? November 9, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval
    The Tara Harpoon: Eskimoes in the Irish Sea?

    ***Dedicated to SD*** Time for a wrong place artefact that has been all but forgotten: the Tara Eskimo Harpoon. An Eskimo Harpoon in Tara? what is ‘wrong’ with that? Well, Tara is in County Down in Northern Ireland and the TEH was found at Millin Bay there in 1927 and was brought along to a […]

    Billesley and Shakespeare: Books, Weddings and Fornication November 8, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Billesley and Shakespeare: Books, Weddings and Fornication

    Many times on Strange History we have looked at the possibility that a small community is capable of remembering a tradition over decades, generations and even centuries without any recourse to writing. And Beach has just stumbled on a possible example of this in the deep English village of Billesley in Warwickshire. There are fewer […]

    The Greatest Heist in History? The Captain of Kopenick November 7, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Greatest Heist in History? The Captain of Kopenick

    Much has Beach travelled in the realms of criminal gold. But rarely has he come across a villain of the quality of Wilhelm  Voigt (obit 1922): the Captain of Kopenick. Let’s begin with the shocked aftermath and then follow Voigt back through one of the most daring robberies in history. 17 October 1906 the German […]

    Madame Tussaud Meets the Guillotine November 6, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Madame Tussaud Meets the Guillotine

    ***Dedicated to Laura: for an excellent background to Madame Tussaud follow this link (and look out particularly for Brad Pitt’s knickers)*** Anna Maria Tussaud (obit 1850) came to Britain in 1802 to show her famous wax impressions as an entrepreneur, but she remained in the country as an exile once the Napoleonic Wars had begun. […]

    Was Chess Invented in Ireland or China or India or…? November 5, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Was Chess Invented in Ireland or China or India or...?

                    There is a general consensus that chess came out of the east, that it arrived in Europe through the Arab Mediterranean and that from there it made its way to the royal courts of France and Germany. Certainly, by the fifteenth century a game that we recognise […]

    Goodwin Wharton and the Fairies November 4, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Goodwin Wharton and the Fairies

    In 1684 the Queen of Fairy was visiting the (fairy) Duke of Hungary in his estate under Moorfields (London), when the Duke hatched a dastardly plot. First he tried to poison her majesty with chocolate and then, having failed to ruin her insides, he attempted to blow up her subterranean palace with gunpowder. If you […]

    Sherlock Holmes in the Blitz November 3, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Sherlock Holmes in the Blitz

    ***Dedicated to Stu*** Some wonderful lunchtimes in the last week re-watching the Basil Rathbone (Holmes) and Nigel Bruce (Watson) Sherlock Holmes films, a series that begin in 1939 with the Hound of the Baskervilles and then went on to Dressed to Kill in 1946, with twelve films and numerous radio dramatisations intervening. Lovers of the […]

    Newgrange and a Hundred Generations November 2, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Prehistoric
    Newgrange and a Hundred Generations

    Newgrange, standing near the Boyne, is one of the great treasures of Ireland and, indeed, of Europe. Built some four thousand years ago by the first Gaels it is mysterious and, when the mist comes in, vaguely malevolent. It is also exclusive. Each year a tiny group of fortunate men, women and children – chosen […]

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