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  • 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 […]

    Foreign Swindles in the Nineteenth Century September 29, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Foreign Swindles in the Nineteenth Century

    More in our swindlers series. Bread Trick: X in Russia goes to a jewelers and gets 4000  roubles worth of goods. He can only pay 500 but asks the owner (the victim) to come to the bank for the rest. At the bank he reminds the banker that they had spoken before and says ‘can […]

    British Provincial Swindles in the Nineteenth Century September 25, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    British Provincial Swindles in the Nineteenth Century

    More in our swindlers series. Bee Trick: X carries bees around in a matchbox and releases them onto young wealthy women. The bee attaches to the dress that X pats down, then Y picks their pockets while they are distracted. Sus Adv, 2 Sept 1851, 8. Betting Man: X goes to working class houses announcing […]

    Human Pixy-Leading in Suffolk September 24, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Human Pixy-Leading in Suffolk

    As noted before in this place Suffolk, where this story took place, is part of East Anglia in which witch traditions were particularly strong. In fact, so strong were these witching traditions that sometimes they blotted out other parallel traditions. Fairylore, for example, are difficult to dig up in this part of England. Take this lovely […]

    US Swindles in the Nineteenth Century September 23, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    US Swindles in the Nineteenth Century

    More in our nineteenth-century swindlers series. Confess: X writes to hundreds of bank clerks across the country saying that he was in receipt of tens of thousands of dollars left by a banker to help bank clerks who had embezzled money. Many bank clerks replied admitting that they had done so at which point X blackmailed […]

    Scooby Doo Crime 3#: the Good Ladies Rob a Peasant September 17, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Scooby Doo Crime 3#: the Good Ladies Rob a Peasant

    Imagine a single story that manages to combine three favourite Beachombian tags: crime, fairies, and practical jokes. Enjoy. And similarly, as people in a certain parish in the diocese of Besançon [north-east France] believed in parallel things, some jokers dressed up as women and, appearing in this way, they entered the house of a rich peasant […]

    Review: Victorian Studies in Scarlet August 27, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Review: Victorian Studies in Scarlet

    Best read of the summer? For Beach an easy choice, Richard D. Altick, Victorian Studies in Scarlet: Murder and Manners in the Age of Victoria. OK it was first published in 1970 but what is forty years between friends? Altick, who died in 2008, was a maverick academic: it would be great to induct him, sooner […]

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