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  • Transit of Venus October 4, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Transit of Venus

    Beachcombing had some fun earlier in the summer with the most famous act of nineteenth-century spiritualism: Daniel Home’s floating escapade back in 1868. He recently came across this description of a rival levitator, Agnes Nichol Guppy (obit 1917) and her famous ‘transit of Venus’.  Note that this took place some three years after Home’s own […]

    Holy Gunpowder October 3, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Holy Gunpowder

    ***Thanks to Chris*** Beach was recently sent a link to Io9 and a remarkable couple of late renaissance images of devils and angels using gunpowder. As the Io9 writer notes – a writer who deserves most of the credit for what follows – the devil ‘packing heat’ is particularly delicious. We include below the wood cut and […]

    The Queen of Cuba, Mermaids and a Far-Swimming Slave October 2, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Queen of Cuba, Mermaids and a Far-Swimming Slave

    ***Thanks to Invisible for the gem below*** 7 August 1871 this appeared in the Brooklyn Eagle, having apparently been excerpted from the Richmond Dispatch. The story’s title was Saved by Mermaids: A Story which Lacks Confirmation, one way of being polite about an enjoyable farrago. Apologies ahead of time for the racist tone of parts […]

    Beachcombed 28 October 1, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Beachcombed
    Beachcombed 28

    Dear Reader, Difficult month here among the Beachcombings as news of ill health haunts the family and term kicks up all the dust imaginable: think dry sand stretch after a motorbike race. Fairies have been placed on hold after an  intense elfen summer and Beach himself has turned back to more conventional history: you can […]

    The Origins of One-Foot September 30, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    The Origins of One-Foot

    ***Dedicated to Leif*** Humanity has the habit of peopling the edges of its maps with unusual creatures: the ‘there-be-dragons’ phenomenon. We have previously on this blog looked at dog-heads, for example, both in relation to India and Ethiopia. Dog-heads can be explained, as perhaps can unicorns and even dragons and cyclops. But how do you […]

    Suicide at Saipan: How Many? September 29, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Suicide at Saipan: How Many?

    The most famous act of mass suicide in the twentieth century, are probably the extraordinary deaths that followed on the fall of Nazi Germany and the Jones Town massacre. However, one localised example from the Second World War in Asia trumps both of these in horror and intensity. Though not a ‘home’ island, Saipan had […]

    Lord Ferrers and the Silk Rope September 28, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Lord Ferrers and the Silk Rope

    Beach read the following description of an execution this summer and it has remained in his mind so vividly that he thought that he would share it here. Lord Ferrers (obit deservedly 1760) was a bad lot who used to put fireworks in his wife’s bed (he loathed her) and eventually shot a steward who […]

    Child Sacrifice in Carthage September 27, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Child Sacrifice in Carthage

    Beach is getting dangerously topical. First, there was the discovery of Richard III’s bent body, next to Jesus’s wife and now an old obsession of his, Carthaginian child sacrifice is breezing through the newspapers. In fact, the right of the ancient Carthaginians to sacrifice their children has just, it seems, been outlawed by some Pittsburgh […]

    Hell Fire and Death Bed Cobblers September 26, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Hell Fire and Death Bed Cobblers

    ***Thanks to Tom W*** Beach has lived through a couple of death bed scenes and what he remembers most from those dreadful occasions is the immense sense of peace. But in history, it seems, there is anything but peace in the final minutes of life. Indeed, the most extraordinary things are always happening to the dying. […]

    Never Fall Asleep in a Hungarian Cemetery September 25, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Never Fall Asleep in a Hungarian Cemetery

    Beach recently gave some publicity to Walter Starkie’s excellent Raggle Taggle. Here is a vampire story from the book. Our hero (Walter) has fallen asleep in a cemetery when he is woken by a man. He was a strange little old man like one of the goblins in Grimm’s fairy stories. He walked with bent […]

    Long-Knife Victims September 24, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Long-Knife Victims

    Beach has several times over the years enjoyed the nonsense that historians spout about numbers. How many people lived in Roman Britain. How many witches were dragged to the stake in the burning years. How many Christians were sold in the slave markets of northern Africa in modern times? The sheer range of numbers is […]

    Jesus Christ and Naked Men September 23, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Jesus Christ and Naked Men

    All the fuss about Jesus’ wife the other day, put Beach in mind of an earlier controversial Biblical find, one that is, in many ways, more exciting. In 1958 a (then) young Biblical scholar Morton Smith (obit 1991) was working in the library of the Monastery of Mar Saba on the West Bank when he […]

    Crowds #5: POWs September 22, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Crowds #5: POWs

    Beach has offered several posts showing crowds: orators, crowd art, off-to-war and religion. Here is the fifth in the series, crowds of men who have just been captured by the enemy. Pictures are mostly from the two world wars, because POWs do not seem to have excited much interest prior to this and because photographs […]

    Christ’s Wife September 21, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Christ's Wife

    ***Thanks to Larry, Amanda, Southern Man and PJ*** The news came in yesterday afternoon courtesy of three or four emails sent in by readers. The email line: ‘Breaking News Alert: Ancient papyrus suggests Jesus was married’. Wth! Beach spilt his Bacardi and Rum all over his keyboard and walked around the room in a stupor. […]

    Hostage Taking in Ancient and Medieval Times September 20, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    Hostage Taking in Ancient and Medieval Times

    When we think of hostages today we tend to think of men with pistols using some poor innocent as a human shield. But in the ancient and medieval world hostage-taking was formalised. Conquered territories would give up children of notables who would be conveyed to an enemy capital or castle and who would then be […]

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