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  • You Can’t Keep A Good Man Down July 5, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    You Can't Keep A Good Man Down

    Beach is proud to present this family story from West Virginia from Alan Moses. It took place in 1933. Old Man Bill Mason was my grandfather’s childhood mentor and post-adolescent friend and bootlegger. Bill spent a lifetime doing heavy farm work, his spine arthritic and bent in his old age as a result. When Bill […]

    Iberian Hedgehog Graves May 21, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Iberian Hedgehog Graves

    Aristotle writes in his Politics (7, 2) that ‘among the Iberians, a warring people, they fix obeliskoi in the earth around a man’s grave corresponding to the number that they have killed’. This is a much quoted sentence and one that has caused some confusion over the years because of the translation and mistranslation of obeliskoi. […]

    Victorian Urban Legends: Coffin Games January 18, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legends: Coffin Games

    ***Dedicated to Chris W*** Beach in his tiny hours of research ran across two accounts that feel like Victorian urban legends: a favourite theme of this blog. Note the lack of concrete references. These look as if they were included in a joke column and then recycled as news with some salacious details thrown in… A Sheffield […]

    Victorian Urban Legend: The Coffin Trick August 11, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legend: The Coffin Trick

    This is an absolutely brilliant story, but probably not a very good scam. That suggests that we are dealing here with a nineteenth-century urban legend. According to the New York Herald, a charitable gentleman his lately been imposed upon in the most shameful manner in Boston. Meeting a woman in one of the streets in […]

    Review: The Victorian Book of the Dead March 6, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Review: The Victorian Book of the Dead

    In the last thirty years historians have found a new way to pattern their vast bibliographies. Rather than just include twenty pages in alphabetical order – too easy for the scholarly mind – many have decided, instead, to split the bibliography in two. The first bibliography will be primary sources and the second bibliography will […]

    A Dead American and A Riot in County Cork December 12, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    A Dead American and A Riot in County Cork

    This one’s a gem and reminded Beach of that great Limerick custom of beating up families who dare to bury their dead on the same day. Here we are a bit further to the south, near the normally more sensible Cork, but the problem is still a death. The year is 1867. A riot, originating […]

    Nineteenth-Century Gravegoods in Somerset July 6, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Nineteenth-Century Gravegoods in Somerset

    The burial of children is always extremely melancholy. The very tragedy of putting a loved child in the ground – memories of an Anglo-Saxon grave in Oxfordshire covered previously by this blog – leads relations, siblings and particularly parents to an unusual pitch of grief and in that grief they sometimes make unusual decisions. Certainly, […]

    The Place of Still Born Children November 24, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern, Prehistoric
    The Place of Still Born Children

    Skeaf is a small townland in County Cork in the wild west of Ireland. Looking for information about this little patch of green on the internet gives almost nothing: there are, for example, no houses for sale in Skeaf and no singles looking for ‘hot encounters’, no farmers’ markets and no entries in Craigs List. […]

    Bread and Drowning October 8, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Bread and Drowning

    People drown, almost by definition, in large bodies of water: very few people end their lives in baths or ponds or puddles. This means that there is the problem of how to find any missing bodies. Our ancestor pragmatically used magic to find these lost bodies and it is interesting just how late the magic […]

    Funeral Fights October 5, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Funeral Fights

    ***A dear old friend of this blog, Chris from Haunted Ohio Books has just brought out her latest haunting book: the Ghost Wore Black, if it is anywhere near as good as her last offering expect a review here in the proximate future. To celebrate this funforal (Joycean word?) tale is dedicated to Chris and […]

    Church Porch Devilry October 9, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Church Porch Devilry

    Midsummer’s eve doubtless had significance to our distant pagan ancestors, yoked to the land and to the seasons like oxen. What is striking is how often these traditions survived Christianity, the Reformation and even industrialisation. Take one of Beach’s favourite: looking for the dead-to-come on Midsummer’s Eve. Tradition claimed – traditions that still survive in […]

    The Greatest Curse: Epitaphs for Dead Children July 11, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    The Greatest Curse: Epitaphs for Dead Children

    A very delicate subject this, but one that Beach couldn’t get out of his head having spoken last night to a woman who had lost her only daughter while in her 50s. If the nightmare of all nightmares should happen and a child die what might be written on the gravestone? A 1930s letter page […]

    Suicide and Historical Loopholes April 7, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Ancient, Contemporary, Modern
    Suicide and Historical Loopholes

    Suicide has proved abhorrent to most spiritual traditions. Certainly, the great monotheistic religions and most of the far Eastern religions have condemned ‘self-murder’: cue lots of pulpit bashing and descriptions of hell or unpleasant reincarnations. This begs the question though of what you can do if you live in 500 BC or 500 AD or […]

    A Romani Mystery in Eleventh-Century England March 9, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    A Romani Mystery in Eleventh-Century England

    ***Dedicated to Stephen D*** Our knowledge of the ancient and medieval movements of peoples depends on extraordinarily inadequate contemporary sources and the  deadly (and often unsupported) prejudices of historians and archaeologists. But now, with the use of DNA sampling and other techniques, including isotope analysis, science is coming to the rescue: giving us surprising insights […]

    Gravestones: The Disparate Couple March 5, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Gravestones: The Disparate Couple

    Beachcombing has a thing about Italian cemeteries, which tend to be far more gaudy than their British equivalents, but are often also more moving. There the visitor will find paper or fabric flowers on every tomb, photographs of the resident dead, the graves cared for on an almost weekly basis by relatives, the ‘Christmas lights’ […]

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