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  • Facts, Myths and Jean McConville May 8, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    Facts, Myths and Jean McConville

    The Jean McConville case is now history in as much as it took place over forty years ago: but it is living, bleeding history and in the last days it has landed an important Irish politician in the cells and rocked the peace process in the six counties. For non-British and non-Irish readers, who may […]

    Duelling Schoolboys May 7, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Duelling Schoolboys

    Duelling is really all about grown men acting like complete asses. However, at least in one case in 1874 it appears that early teens in Lincolnshire, the UK emulated their elders. One Gerald Maurice Burn shot, 7 March 1874, at George Seagrave, both boarders at a local school run by a reverend no less. Burn […]

    Hawker and the Pixy? May 6, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Hawker and the Pixy?

    We have visited Robert Hawker before on this blog, not least in his gadding about as a mermaid. However, there follows a peculiar episode in which he claims to have seen a supernatural creature in a letter written in 1856 (or was the experience 1856, the source Byles Life and Letters is not clear?). R.A.J.Walling […]

    1937 Cornish Black Dog Scare May 4, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    1937 Cornish Black Dog Scare

    The phantom dog of Linkinhorne was one of the south-western dandy dogs that have terrified locals since time immemorial. What is particularly interesting though about this dog from the past is that it returned in 1937 and caused a local panic. Here are a number of the best stories from the outbreak. The first reference […]

    Last Casualty of the Great War? April 22, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Last Casualty of the Great War?

    The last death in the Great War took place, as is often the case with such conflagarations, long after most of those involved had put down their weapons. 21 June 1919, the German High Fleet had illegally scuttled itself at Scapa Flow in Orkney, the island group to the north of Britain. The aftermath was […]

    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 […]

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