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  • Non-Existent Werewolf Boy and the Lord of the Forest(s) March 29, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Non-Existent Werewolf Boy and the Lord of the Forest(s)

    Charles Mackay’s Extraordinary Popular Delusions is a wonderful sources for witchery and bizarre history, but Mackay is a poor historian and, a bit like this blogger, references nothing. Take this passage that fascinated Beach. One young man at Besançon, with the full consciousness of the awful fate that awaited him, voluntarily gave himself up to […]

    The Lonely Cottages: Ancoats March 28, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Lonely Cottages: Ancoats

    Beachcombing has a bit of a thing about unsuitable placenames: placenames that may once have been efficient but that by now are simply inappropriate. A favourite example of this is Ancoats in central Manchester. Ancoats for those who have never had the chance to walk on its dirty cobbles was once one of the most […]

    Bleeding-heart Yard and Nineteenth-century London Witches March 27, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Bleeding-heart Yard and Nineteenth-century London Witches

    London legends rarely stretch back beyond the 1800s which is why this one, which is perhaps based on an Elizabethan legend, is such fun. The extract dates to 1841. Let any man walk into Cross-street, Hatton-Garden, and from thence into Bleeding-heart Yard, and learn the tales still told and believed of one house in that […]

    Decisions Within March 26, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Decisions Within

    History takes place between societies, within societies and among groups of individuals. Historians have proved quite competent at measuring these interactions. But what happens when history takes place strictly within a single human heart, in a place where there are no records, no archives or scholars with searchlights, when one decision changes the track of […]

    The Cipher Wheel, Bacon and Digging Up A River March 25, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    The Cipher Wheel, Bacon and Digging Up A River

    There is perhaps no worse sign of enthusiasm than a talented man or woman finding ciphers hidden in celebrated texts. The Bible, Shakespeare, Milton… All have been examined with such passion that only the unimaginative could fail to notice that peculiar patterns emerge when you take the second final word from each penultimate sentence. Beach […]

    Fairy Witches 2#: Bessie Dunlop March 24, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Fairy Witches 2#: Bessie Dunlop

    Here are some extracts from the trial of one of the most interesting fairy witches of them all: Bessie Dunlop who was brought before the Edinburgh Assizes in 1576. This rendering of the trial (into English rather than Scots English) comes from Emma Wilby’s worthwhile: Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits. Bessie’s first confession includes the […]

    Lord Acton’s Lost Work March 23, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Lord Acton's Lost Work

    Lord Acton is often reckoned one of the great historians of nineteenth-century England. Yet he published all too little despite tens of thousands of hours of study: a handful of essays and talks… His great book was to be have been a whig classic, a discussion of the growth of modern liberty. But that book […]

    The Name ‘America’ and Amerigo Vespucci March 22, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    The Name 'America' and Amerigo Vespucci

    There are perhaps a score of different theories as to where the word ‘America’ comes from. These range from various Amerindian etymologies to a Bristol-based merchant with the surname Ameryk! The theory which enjoys the greatest prestige though is that America is based on a feminised Latin version of Amerigo, as in Amerigo Vespucci, the […]

    Dogs of God! Christian Werewolves? March 21, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Dogs of God! Christian Werewolves?

    This is one of those rare times in the early modern witch craze where one feels sorry for the judges.  I mean they turn up at Jurgensburg in Livonia on the Baltic expecting an easy burning: old man widely thought to be a witch hauled up in front of them (though on another charge) and […]

    The Last Witch in Dorset? March 20, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Last Witch in Dorset?

    This news story comes from the first quarter of the nineteenth century and from Bridport (Dorset, UK). It is a particularly vivid bit of witch-hunting from the south-west of the country at a date when these things were quickly vanishing into the past: though there would be another century of such attacks in rural Britain. […]

    Capital Problems March 19, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval
    Capital Problems

    Capital cities should represent a country. They should be the head that directs and controls: unless you live in a properly federal society and there are none of those left. But what happens when capitals come to outweigh and dominate the country that they stand in? Take an example from close to this blogger’s home. […]

    Fairy Exorcisms in the Hebrides March 18, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Fairy Exorcisms in the Hebrides

    ***Huge apologies, this story briefly came out yesterday by accident. I’ve been doubled over with fever*** A scary fairy story from the Hebrides from about 1902. The events described here seem to have taken place on Lewis though the writer is not absolutely clear. Beach stumbled on this while looking for information about fairy dog […]

    Germania: A Nightmare Deferred March 17, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Germania: A Nightmare Deferred

    ‘Egypt’s might is tumbled down/ Down a-down the deeps of thought;/ Greece is fallen and Troy town,/ Glorious Rome hath lost her crown,/ Venice’s pride is nought./ But the dreams their children dreamed/ Fleeting, unsubstantial, vain/ Shadowy as the shadows seemed/ Airy nothing, as they deemed,/ These remain.’ Beautiful poem Mary (Coleridge), but thankfully some […]

    Pimping Your Noble Sister in Wartime Naples March 16, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Pimping Your Noble Sister in Wartime Naples

    Norman Lewis’ Naples ’44 is one of the great works of the Second World War. It describes the most dramatic of places, Naples, under the most dramatic of situations, German and then Allied occupation. Beach was so excited, by his recent playing around with this book, in that tale about Padre Pio the human anti-aircraft […]

    Fairy Witches #1: Joan Tyrry of Taunton March 15, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Fairy Witches #1: Joan Tyrry of Taunton

    Who was Joan Tyrry [Terry]? Beach knows very little, too little, in fact. And everything he does know about this sixteenth-century woman comes from Keith Thomas who in the 1960s visited Wells Diocesan Records and opened the dusty old boxes with A21 and A22 where her trial is recorded. KT never gave a detailed description […]

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