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  • Beggar for a Day June 18, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Beggar for a Day

    Beach has long been curious about the begging life and was fascinated to run across this article from 1889 about how difficult it was to make money in London by holding out your hand. A clearly middle class man took a bet with his friends, after dinner, and presumably after taking port, that he could […]

    Review: Meredith Kercher, Amanda Knox and Murder in Perugia May 24, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Review: Meredith Kercher, Amanda Knox and Murder in Perugia

    Nina Burleigh, The Fatal Gift of Beauty In 2007 a young British student Meredith Kercher was murdered in her flat in Perugia, Italy: she had possibly been raped before her death. The crime was a horrible one, but the victim was all too often forgotten in the events that followed. The prosecutors in Perugia decided […]

    Urban Legend: the Magic Letter May 19, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Urban Legend: the Magic Letter

    In the last months Beach has put up a number of posts on possible nineteenth-century urban legends: as they are reported as facts though and as the nineteenth-century was a foreign country (‘they did things differently there’) it is difficult, perhaps impossible with any certainty to distinguish the legendary from the simply bizarre. This is […]

    Victorian Urban Legends: Music Boxes and Watch Sacks April 25, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legends: Music Boxes and Watch Sacks

    Truly Beach isn’t that interested in this ignorant-native story from India, but the comparison to what is evidently a home grown British urban legend: A good story of a thief comes from Calcutta. ‘The Native,’ as Miss Fox called Major B ‘s servant, stole a musical box, ignorant of its use, and fancying it contained […]

    Gulled at Hull April 16, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Gulled at Hull

    This is a uniquely charming Victorian confidence trick to add to our collection. Enjoy! Hull Fair is acknowledged to be one of the largest of its kind in the country. Thousands of excursionists flock into the city on October 11th, and the succeeding days, and every blackguard, thief, and confidence trickster in the North of […]

    Victorian Urban Legend: Familiar Robbers February 16, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legend: Familiar Robbers

    This is a cute story from the States, picked up by an Irish newspaper in 1873. Whether this story is true or false we do not know; but it is said here that recently in the parish of St. Martin, Iberia, or somewhere down that way, an old widow lady, whose children had all married […]

    The Ring Dodge February 3, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Ring Dodge

    This trick is so well known that Beach has seen versions of it on crass TV shows. Still here is the ring dodge in all its pristine glory from 1894. At the London Guildhall, on Monday, Ann Francis was charged with attempting to obtain money by false pretences. Detective Evans, of the Great Eastern Railway […]

    Victorian Criminal Slang January 8, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Criminal Slang

    Beach has been enjoying Pickpockets, Beggars and Ratcatchers by Kellow Chesney on London’s underworld in the teeming, dirty and unmatchable nineteenth century: the illustrations are great too. One of the joys about entering this world is the lively slang used by the underclass. The following come from Pickpockets but also from one of the most […]

    The Crowd Swindle January 3, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Crowd Swindle

    The originality of Victorian criminals is often breath-taking. Here is a particularly fine dodge and something that would have made a quite excellent Sherlock Holmes short story. A remarkable case of attempting to extort money is reported from New York. Some years ago, it may be remembered, a Mr Rosenbaum, in London, was annoyed in […]

    Victorian Urban Legend: Pickpocket Death November 28, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legend: Pickpocket Death

    Beach has taken great joy over the years in celebrating the Victorian pickpocket. This figure, a positive urban legend magnet, offers a lot of fun to the casual reader. Here is a particularly nice story, the hero (or antagonist?) is Mr White a good and honest preacher. He has been told that a man is dying […]

    Victorian Urban Legend: the Wrong Pocket November 5, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legend: the Wrong Pocket

      This wrong pocket story sounds like an urban legend though there are a worrying number of exact facts. Beach is going to try and turn up the story elsewhere and see if it is repeated. Any help? drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com During the running at the Cartmel (North Lancashire) Steeplechases Meeting on Whit-Monday, Mr. Ratcliffe. […]

    Skinny White: the Cleverest Pickpocket in Europe October 28, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Skinny White: the Cleverest Pickpocket in Europe

    Beach continues to enjoy pickpocket stories. This one was told of James White (skinny White) a pickpocket, who died in 1895 and who was ‘the cleverest pickpocket in Europe’. His obituary is willfully quiet about some of his exploits. It for example, tells us nothing of the ‘curious tales’ about his fun at Monte Carlo. […]

    Earliest Optography? September 16, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Earliest Optography?

    Two ideas interested late nineteenth-century crime fiction writers. First, the ridiculous notion that finger prints were unique and that they could be recorded to incriminate this or that thief or murderer; and, second, optography, the sensible-sounding proposition that a murder victim would record the last thing he or she saw on the eye’s retina. Take […]

    Post Mortem Lynching August 12, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Post Mortem Lynching

    This story came out of the Russian countryside in 1890. It should be remembered that this was a period when Russia was cast as an eastern ‘Ireland’ the butt of ‘civilised’ Britain’s jokes. In other words, take with a pinch of salt until a Russian source is found. Can anyone help: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT […]

    Victorian Urban Legend: The Gold Watch July 25, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legend: The Gold Watch

    Crime is the most profitable part of Victorian Urban Legends. Enjoy, for instance, this one, it is an absolute peach: When the office of the City Recorder was filled by Mr. Silvester, it was on one particular occasion the recorder’s duty to try a prisoner for picking a man’s pocket of his purse. The prisoner […]

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