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  • Flying to the Moon on Geese December 5, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Flying to the Moon on Geese

    Beach has heard rumours over the years of Domingo Gonsales’ strange voyage to the moon in the early seventeenth century [1620s], carried thither by a flock of enormous geese. But it was only this morning that he finally settled down to read DG’s adventures: perhaps inspired by the equally fantastic Zambian moon programme. For those […]

    The Zambian Space Programme of 1962 December 4, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Zambian Space Programme of 1962

    One of the problems of looking for the bizarre in history is that, after a while, you’ve read everything before: mermaid funerals in the Hebrides, tick; bats used in bombs against Japan, tick; Roman legionaries in China, tick… But then every so often something comes along that is fresh and that has completely escaped your […]

    Swearing to Mermaids December 3, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Swearing to Mermaids

    A further Scottish Mermaid sighting, dating to October 1809. This one is particularly interesting because there seems to have been a concerted effort to get the local ‘yokels’ – whose testimony is usually reckoned at less than naught – to swear to what they saw. Neil McIntosh in Sandy Island, Canna, states that he has […]

    Case of the Cottingley Fairies December 2, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Case of the Cottingley Fairies

    Joe Cooper, The Cottingley Fairies, 1990. The story is a simple one. In the First World War a young girl named Frances Griffith saw fairies at the brook where she played in the Yorkshire village of Cottingley. In 1917 she and her older friend Elsie Wright were stung by their parents’ refusal to believe Frances. […]

    Beachcombed 18 December 1, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Beachcombed
    Beachcombed 18

    Fraternal greetings to all readers!                                                             1 dec Beachcombing has had a bit of a tense month with various family members falling ill and repeated dreams about escaping from prison. This blog has, as so often, been a welcome distraction, growing appreciably  in terms of regular visitors: indeed, a correspondent wrote in a couple of weeks […]

    Preeminent Horses: Rodney November 30, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Preeminent Horses: Rodney

    Nathan Bedford Forrest… For those who have not heard of this rather frightening individual the ‘Wizard of the Saddle’ was a Confederate cavalry leader in Tennessee and Alabama, who repeatedly surprised Union commanders with his audacious charges and his clever use of dismounted riders. This post pays tribute to Forrest’s most famous horse, Rodney. But […]

    Don’t Play with Fire (in Scotland)! November 29, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern, Prehistoric
    Don't Play with Fire (in Scotland)!

    In prehistoric times early humans – or, depending on which chronologies you follow, man’s ancestors – were not able to create fire but harvested it from natural conflagrations. Even in more recent times – ask any scout who has ever had to start a fire without matches on a camping trip – the creation of […]

    From Vienna to the Baltic in Roman Times November 28, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient

      A couple of rarely examined sentences in Pliny’s Natural History (37,45) give the outline of a grand old Roman adventure in the times of the Emperor Nero (54 AD 68 AD). There are about 600 miles from Carnuntum [Roman camp close to Vienna] in Pannonia to the shores of Germany from which amber is […]

    Spontaneous Human Combustion and Witchcraft! November 27, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Spontaneous Human Combustion and Witchcraft!

    This letter appears in an English journal in 1800 relating to events on 10 April 1744. It is an interesting document because it combines two paranormal facts typically kept apart: witchcraft and spontaneous human combustion. The following narrative will probably amuse some of your readers: though many may think it is a falsehood, it is […]

    Letting Off Steam November 26, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Letting Off Steam

    All societies need moments when kings, citizens and slaves let off steam. The police in the United States allow adolescents to get away with things on Halloween that would land them in a jail cell every other night of the year. The Romans had Saturnalia when masters had to serve their slaves the dinner and […]

    Haunted Chessmen November 25, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Haunted Chessmen

      Invisible writes in with the news that the Lewis Chessmen are about to go on exhibition in New York. And Beach took this as a prompt for one of his favourite archaeological stories. The unnamed Lewis farmer in the following account was one Malcolm ‘Sprot’ Macleod In 1831 a high tide on the coast […]

    DNA Champion November 24, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    DNA Champion

    Our DNA is the damnedest stuff, it gets everywhere: not only forensically but also historically. Just the other day, Beach reviewed the evidence (2010) that one medieval Amerindian woman in Iceland passed on her DNA to eighty modern Icelanders. Then there are plenty of other dramatic examples of DNA spreading through history, especially now that […]

    How to Choose your Bride in the Late Nineteenth Century November 23, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    How to Choose your Bride in the Late Nineteenth Century

    The only advice Beachcombing can ever remember getting from a family member about how to choose a wife was ‘have a good look at her mother: she’ll be like that in fifty years’. The best advice he ever came across in his own reading, meanwhile, was in an Iris Murdoch novel (The Severed Head?): ‘only […]

    Impressionist Heresy in the Soviet Union November 22, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Impressionist Heresy in the Soviet Union

    Beach has spent the day in bed reading books he once loved and in doing so came across this fabulous picture by Sergei Gerasimov (obit 1964). While not normally a big fan of Soviet art, except, of course, for its kitsch value, Gerasimov’s Mother of a Partisan (1943) is worth making an exception over. For […]

    A List of Supercentenarians November 21, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern

      The following list of long-living folks crops up in a book from the very early twentieth-century. Different versions of this same list had already appeared in various publications through the nineteenth century and names seem to have been added and dropped as easily as editors clumped decades onto the supposed Methuselahs: John Effingham, for […]

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