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  • Review: Five Days in London December 19, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Review: Five Days in London

    John Lukacs, Five Days in London, May 1940 (1999) has a simple thesis. The United Kingdom could not have defeated Hitler alone, but she could have lost the war before the Soviet Union and the USA entered as Allies. And she never came nearer to this, according to Lukacs, than 24-28 May 1940 – the […]

    Dunkirk and Golden Bridges December 13, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary

    Dunkirk is one of those moments in recent history that you have to look at sideways to have even a modest chance of understanding and still then there is something that defies analysis. How was it that the British Expeditionary Force, demoralized, bloodied and on the run, with the greatest army of the twentieth century […]

    Luftwaffe Kills A Rabbit, Perhaps December 10, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Luftwaffe Kills A Rabbit, Perhaps

    Little Miss B in seventh heaven last night and this morning as the family has been gifted a small black rabbit. This black rabbit is not destined to have the happiest of lives as LMB insists on watching Disney cartoons with it. Beachcombing, in any case, fell asleep with rabbits and woke up thinking of […]

    Rhyming with Death December 8, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Rhyming with Death

      Death concentrates the mind wonderfully and, at least in the east, a longstanding custom has been to pen a final poem: a last communiqué to the world. This custom stretches far back into the Middle Ages  and perhaps the greatest thing to recommend it is the brevity of the works in question So we […]

    Dud Eighteenth-Century Ghosts December 7, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Dud Eighteenth-Century Ghosts

    On previous occasions Beachcombing has celebrated the way that eighteenth-century and nineteenth century Britons, at least before the spiritualists and Tibetano-philes got started, attempt to mock the superstitious out of existence. He recently came across several examples involving ghosts and fakery that amused him and that involve Somerset on the edge of the south-west. These […]

    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. […]

    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 […]

    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 […]

    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 […]

    Big Bones in Churches November 19, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Big Bones in Churches

    At the end of the nineteenth century the Reverend Wilkins Rees put together a short collection of examples of enormous bones that had found their way into English and Welsh churches. He mentioned five impressive instances, four of which he seems to have seen himself. 1) Foljambe Chapel, Chesterfield Church: ‘This bone, supposed to be […]

    A Dark Age British Sasquatch? November 18, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval