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  • Snuff Urban Legend? July 14, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Snuff Urban Legend?

    No not the cinematic kind of snuff! This story appeared in 1870 and enjoyed wide circulation in all British newspapers. A Wolverhampton contemporary records what seems to be a new trick upon railway travellers. The other day, a passenger from Wolverhampton to Bilston, after having been drawn into conversation by couple of respectable looking fellow-travellers, […]

    Ghost Cars July 13, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Ghost Cars

    There is lots of interesting burbling about technology and ghosts. How long does it need for a new technology to become hauntable? When will the first call centres or internet hubs get their poltergeists? To us today that wonderful Dickens story ‘The Signal Man’ is a straightforward ghost tale. But part of its daring back in […]

    Horse God in Early Modern Cornwall! June 24, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Horse God in Early Modern Cornwall!

    In 1595 a Spanish raid on Cornwall in South-western England took place under Captain Carlos de Amezola. Amezola landed his men at Mount’s Bay and burnt several ships, churches and hundreds of houses in Penzance, Newlyn, Paul and Mousehole, some of the most westerly English settlements. This small act of warfare was, of course, absolutely […]

    Enemy Gives Medal for Ship Sinking June 17, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Enemy Gives Medal for Ship Sinking

    There are very occasional instances of enemy officials reporting on the gallantry and heroism of opposite numbers. The Irish Captain Roope of the HMS Glowworm was, for example, given his Victoria cross in part because of the testimony of a German captain, Heye, whose ship had been rammed by Roope in 1940. However, there is […]

    Could Germany Have Successfully Invaded Britain, 1940? June 13, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Could Germany Have Successfully Invaded Britain, 1940?

    The greatest month in German history (militarily speaking) began 10 May 1940 with the attack in the west and ended 14 June when the Wehrmacht entered Paris. Yet that month was clouded by Britain’s survival. Hitler had two ways to pacify Britain: first, he could break Britain militarily (invasion); second, he could convince Britain to withdraw […]

    The Poisoned Bowl and the 5000 Letters May 29, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Modern
    The Poisoned Bowl and the 5000 Letters

    Beach has not offered up a rogue researcher for some time: the last was mummy maker, Bob Brier, a year ago. Rogue researchers, for the uninitiated are those men and women, with doctorates, who do things that others in their discipline might consider eccentric. To call someone a ‘rogue researchers’ is a sign of the […]

    The Mysterious Erich von Richthofen May 18, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Mysterious Erich von Richthofen

    The King and Country debate has been described previously on this blog. It was a talk at Oxford Students’ Union 9 Feb 1933, which saw 275 to 153 students vote for the motion ‘that this House will in no circumstances fight for its King and Country’. This surprisingly pacifist stance from a major British institution attracted […]

    Downey’s Death: Killed by Imagination May 16, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Downey's Death: Killed by Imagination

    Beach stumbled across this story a couple of weeks ago and thought he’d put it up for the practical jokes tag. There was much interest in the nineteenth century about how the psychological impression of death could cause death. Somewhere Beach has read a French version of this (can anyone help: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT […]

    Wild Man Circus Fakery May 9, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Wild Man Circus Fakery

    The wild man was a staple of nineteenth-century circuses and penny shows. This personality was typically black, mostly undressed and the possessor of a cannibal’s grin. He (and it was invariably a male who took on the role) would stomp back and forth in his cage every so often lunging at some unwary child, allowing […]

    Execution by Cannon May 5, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Execution by Cannon

    Human beings have long showed remarkable ingenuity at getting rid of their fellow human beings, especially perhaps human beings that they do not like. Once the cannon was invented it was only a matter of time before someone tied a prisoner to the front and lit a fuse, blowing his body into a constellation of pain, the […]

    Balloon Bridge Across the English Channel, c. 1850 April 25, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Balloon Bridge Across the English Channel, c. 1850

    This story appeared in British newspapers in September of 1850. It was one of several attempts, attempts that had been going on since Napoleon had considered invading England and that would continue until the Channel Tunnel was finally drilled through, to do away with the English Channel. Any dolt can build a tunnel or a […]

    The Failure of Appeasement April 2, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Failure of Appeasement

    Appeasement is the policy of giving smiles, kisses and gifts to neighbours to prevent war. In some moments of history it has worked (Dane-geld and Roman bribery beyond the frontiers); in some periods it has failed. A conspicuous example of a failure is the attempt by Britain to stroke its European friends and enemies into […]

    Teetotallers Unlucky at Sea March 27, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Teetotallers Unlucky at Sea

    In 1914, a month into the First World War, a British ship the Fisgard II was lost in a gale (not through enemy action) in the English Channel. Sixteen of the sixty four abroad were drowned. There followed an inquest and inquiries and, as sometimes happens, the crew began to make sense of things in […]

    Books and the Ghost March 11, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Uncategorized
    Books and the Ghost

    Aspenshaw Hall is an elegant, still standing, eighteenth century home in Derbyshire central England. It came to the attention of this blog because of a rather charming ghost story. A mile distant, and not far from Ollersett pit, is Aspenshaw Hall, which for many years was empty. It is in the middle of a wood […]

    Selling Children in the 1800s March 10, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Selling Children in the 1800s

    An amazing report from Oldham, 1888: On Monday evening a woman about 40 years of age was seen in Curzon Street with two children, one in arms, and the other, about three years old, walking by her side. From what transpired it appeared that the woman wanted to sell her children, and thereupon a large […]

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