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  • 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 […]

    The Victorian Ancestor of an Internet Scam June 5, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Victorian Ancestor of an Internet Scam

    Here is a nineteenth-century version of a modern internet scam. The gentry who have more brains than money, and less honesty than either, are now, it seems, calling in the services of the telegraph to promote their purposes. A gentleman writes to the Times showing the modus operandi, which appears to be altogether new. The […]

    Urban Legend: the Clock Trick February 24, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Urban Legend: the Clock Trick

    One newspaper report includes this precious Victorian story, which Beach has been unable to track down elsewhere. It is satisfying so there must be other versions out there. There is an old story of a thief who, engaging the landlord of a country tavern a bet that he could not sit in front of clock […]

    The Naked Dancing Thief: Con or Urban Legend? January 8, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Naked Dancing Thief: Con or Urban Legend?

    The following is a report from Reuters from Turkey from June 1937. Pretending to be a ghost, a beautiful young woman in Istanbul, who appeared naked at night in the house of a priest, and danced before him, has made big haul money and other valuables. When he first saw what he described as a […]

    White Woman of Bell Island December 27, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    White Woman of Bell Island

    Beach recently had the immense pleasure or reading John Widdowson’s If You Be Don’t Be Good, a collection (and analysis) of bogeys used by Newfoundland parents in the interwar and immediate postwar. JW’s purpose was to examine how parents controlled their children in Atlantic Canada, particularly through folklore. But he also picked up many fascinating, […]

    Morris Dancers from Hell December 18, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Morris Dancers from Hell

    Imagine that you have a problem in your west African village. A witch is believed to be among you, or worse still someone has been indulging in cannibalism. How do you deal with such miscreants: there is no police force with the resources, and the local chief is at the end of his tether. Well, […]

    The Subscription List Swindle November 25, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Subscription List Swindle

    This particular swindle should have gone in the post on British provincial swindles, but Beach loves it so much that he kept it apart to do honour to its creator, Mr Hartley, somewhere still picking oakum in purgatory. First, though a little background on the subscription system. If, in the nineteenth century, a striving author wanted […]

    Scooby Doo Crime 4#: The Skeleton Robber October 17, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Scooby Doo Crime 4#:  The Skeleton Robber

    This is a story about the countryside around Portsmouth in the UK in 1825. It belongs to our Scooby Doo series of crimes: i.e. local hoodlums using the supernatural while carrying out illegal activities. A curious attempt at robbery took place a short time since, near this town. A Gentleman, returning home after spending the […]

    Stolen Horses and the Cunning Man October 15, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Stolen Horses and the Cunning Man

    Cunning men were the healers and magicians of the English countryside from the middle ages up until the reign of George V. They had various jobs: including making love potions, casting birth charts, healing animals and individuals, and undoing witchcraft. However, the activity that got them most in the newspaper was their talent for finding […]

    Wolstanton, Ghost Assault and Real Battery October 10, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Wolstanton, Ghost Assault and Real Battery

    A nice folklore/ghostlore story from the English Midlands. The peaceable village of Wolstanton, near Newcastle [Lyme], vulgarly called ‘Hoositon,’ has, the last four or five weeks, been disturbed by a very ill-behaved ghost, which, (it is confidently said), has been knocking, scratching, &,c. at a most tremendous rate; and not driven away in the mean […]

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