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Britain and Pearl Harbor April 18, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Britain and Pearl Harbor

The whole question of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor has been mired for years in conspiracy theories. There are, naturally, huge problems with said conspiracy theories not least the motive of the American leadership in allowing the destruction of an important part of their Pacific Fleet; it is not as if Japan was being […]

Headless Witch Zombies in Nineteenth-Century England! April 16, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Headless Witch Zombies in Nineteenth-Century England!

Strangehistory has given some publicity in the past to the peculiar custom, found throughout the English-speaking world and beyond, of blood-letting to break witchcraft: the victim must draw blood from the witch, preferably from the face. It would be pointless to give yet another example of this barbarity. But though blood-letting features in the following […]

Who Built Offa’s Dyke? April 14, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
Who Built Offa's Dyke?

Offa’s Dyke is an important earthwork that runs along, very approximately, the English Welsh border. Its name comes from the little known (but apparently impressive) eighth-century Mercian king Offa (obit 796). The problem is that the dyke’s name may be a misnomer. Certainly, over the last generation there have been increasingly forceful attempts to wrest […]

The Spy Who Loved Me? Semen and Espionage April 13, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
The Spy Who Loved Me? Semen and Espionage

By WW2 Britain had the best spy and espionage service in the world: one that helped end the war in 1945 rather than 1946 or 1947. However, in WW1 it was still amateur hour. MI6 was just five years old when the guns of August thundered and there was a great deal of improvisation by […]

Rabies and Dog’s Liver Cure April 11, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Rabies and Dog's Liver Cure

Rabies vanished from Britain in the very early twentieth century and bar some unlucky exceptions has not returned since: just 22 have died since 1902. But in the nineteenth century it was a serious menace and people, particularly children died on a fairly regular basis. Here is a rabies account from the 1860s and deep […]

Gordon Selby: The Luckiest Survivor of WW2? April 2, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Gordon Selby: The Luckiest Survivor of WW2?

Long, long ago I did an article on the unluckiest individuals in history. But spurred on by the Gannet Club I’ve started to think in terms of the luckiest and I’ve come across an absolute winner, Gordon Selby, a much decorated son of a Wiltshire farrier. GS (obit 2007) was twenty when the Second World […]

Ghostly Stone Throwing in Kent, 1918 March 24, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Ghostly Stone Throwing in Kent, 1918

Digging and paranormal episodes seem to come together with a frequency that would be all together suprising if you had never met an archaeologist. Here is a nice case from 1918: the report appears in a northern English scientific periodical. I was first attracted to it by the mention of fairies in the title of […]

Declaring War in WW2: National Styles March 23, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Declaring War in WW2: National Styles

The characters of countries are reflected in their cuisines, their clothes, and their soap operas, so why not in their declarations of war? Thought it might be fun to see whether this notion stands up and so this morning ran through every WW2 declaration of war that I could find from 1 September 1939 through […]

Forgotten Kingdom: Inbetween Saddleworth March 22, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
Forgotten Kingdom: Inbetween Saddleworth

Saddleworth is a late entrant in the Forgotten Kingdoms series. A stupendously beautiful patch of Pennine land in the north of England, it sits uneasily on the border between the White Rose County, Yorkshire and the Red Rose County, Lancashire. Saddleworth is, in fact, a reminder of how differences between communities are messy not clean-cut: […]

A Strange Camera Obscura at Blackpool March 21, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
A Strange Camera Obscura at Blackpool

The camera obscura was already being written about in ancient times, there is an Italian renaissance illustration of one as well: the best page I’ve found online, if you are new to this, is here. But I’ve recently come across a nineteenth-century example that I simply don’t understand. This comes from a very fine book […]

Unofficial Law and Order March 16, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Unofficial Law and Order

Beach has recently been researching out in the bogs of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Ireland so far beyond the pale that children are occasionally incinerated as changelings and there is one alleged case of a legal agent being stoned to death! This was a traditional rural society ruled over as much by priests as by the […]

British Truth and American Lies? March 14, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
British Truth and American Lies?

If you look through the American press from the 1800s you will sometimes come across outrageous stories about ghostly happenings, about strange sightings and about impossible creatures. The most famous example of this is, of course, the moon hoax of 1835. In Britain you have similarly outrageous stories about, say, fairy encounters, about sea serpents […]

Witch Ducking and Three in a Bed March 12, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Witch Ducking and Three in a Bed

This may not be the last witch killing in Britain, that seems to have taken place some months before. But this is my candidate for the last attempted witch ducking in the UK in 1880! Susan Sharpe, the ‘witch’ apparently brought the case to court because she was frightened that the local community, or elements […]

Immortal Meals #13: Buttock Eating in Milton (Berkshire) March 10, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Immortal Meals #13: Buttock Eating in Milton (Berkshire)

Patriotism is a very fine thing, but it can also make men and women act like asses: or even worse, chop off parts of their rumps and eat their own cooked flesh…. This patriotic feast, the latest in our immortal meals series, took place in 1650 or possibly in 1649 at Milton in Berkshire. Five […]

McConnel’s Passing: An At Death Encounter? March 2, 2014

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
McConnel's Passing: An At Death Encounter?

11 December 1918 was a sad day in the McConnel family. Eighteen-year-old David McConnel (aka M’Connel in some publications) had perished four days before in a plane crash: just three months after the end of the worst war in history, at a time when his family might reasonably have hoped that he would be safe. Flying from […]

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