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  • Late Storm Bellringing May 12, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Late Storm Bellringing

    Enjoy this short extract from a Sheffield newspaper about a folk practice in Devon in south-west England: 28 July 1899. Bells it will be remembered were for the supernatual like alcohol for bacteria: they drove away witches, fairies and, of course, storms… There is a curious survival in that pretty, quiet little south country place, […]

    Dangers of Treasure Hunting in Sixteenth-Century Devon April 12, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Dangers of Treasure Hunting in Sixteenth-Century Devon

    Ancient mounds and barrows evoked mixed feelings in your average yokel in the medieval and modern period. On the one hand you, might find treasure: gold, silver and coins from the Empire or even before. On the other, though, you were likely to get flattened by whatever dragon or spirit guarded the hole in question: […]

    The Horror of Electric Lights January 18, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Horror of Electric Lights

    New technologies bring fears with them, of course, and often for very good reasons. Electricity was no exception. You could understand the presence of electrificed objects causing fear, but more refined is the fear of electic light. This particulary story come from 1890. A family in Ottery (Devon, UK) had been terrorised by the new […]

    Late Witch Attack, 1924 September 16, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Late Witch Attack, 1924

    ***This post is dedicated to Jill*** This blog has long had an interest in witchcraft from western Europe and particularly bizarre late examples of witchcraft including alleged human sacrifice in Britain during World War II and even some witch killings in the nineteenth century. Here is a case of late witchcraft scratching: it was sincerely […]

    Speaking Fireball in Luton (Devon) September 11, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Speaking Fireball in Luton (Devon)

    Beach so liked the fireball stories from last month that he has been looking for some more and came across this incredible encounter from southern Devon, 1836. He was hoping for mad papists and great balls of flame, instead he got sincere yokels at midnight and omens. Still a great story. The author is a middle […]

    Animal Sacrifices in Christianity?! August 4, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    Animal Sacrifices in Christianity?!

    Christians don’t sacrifice animals, do they? There is some uncomfortable stuff to do with sacrificing Christ in the mass: particularly if you believe in transubstantiation. But that’s a man/god. Yes, Christians routinely kill animals either directly or as consumers: the growth of vegetarianism in the west in the last century has nothing to do with […]

    The Horror of 69 Charlotte Street June 16, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Horror of 69 Charlotte Street

    One of our occasional series of ghost stories from the English press. This one appeared in 1940 – as if a World War wasn’t enough to keep you busy – and relates to Devonport (Plymouth) in the south-west. Note that the south-west is over-represented in English newsreports of Fortean affairs. Relieved peace once more reigns […]

    Remembering and Forgetting Robert Herrick June 5, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Remembering and Forgetting Robert Herrick

    Robert Herrick is famous today for his bit part in The Dead Poet’s Society, where he makes Robin Williams look good (briefly). But he had a much greater range, writing about sex, alcohol, sex, death, sex, folklore, sex and (rather unconvincingly) God. Basically, his poems smelt of semen and noone who has ever read his […]

    Dragons in Sixteenth-Century Devon? June 2, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Dragons in Sixteenth-Century Devon?

    Challacombe is a small village to the west of Exmoor in Devon in the south-west of the UK. On the edge of the moor there are many ‘hillocks of earth and stones, cast up anciently in large quantity’, i.e. prehistoric burial mounds. So far so normal, this is a classic landscape in a marginal agricultural area, that […]

    Science, Neurology and Being Misled by Fairies May 23, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Science, Neurology and Being Misled by Fairies

    All European fairy traditions have two features: kidnapped children (the changeling tradition) and misled travellers (the pixy-led tradition). Being pixy-led (a Cornish or Devon term originally but one that has come to apply to a much wider area) varies in different parts of the continent. But typically, it unwinds as follows. A man or a woman […]

    Do Black Dogs (with burning eyes) Hate Fairies? August 19, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Modern
    Do Black Dogs (with burning eyes) Hate Fairies?

      Beach is very gradually dipping his big toe into the world of black dogs: those fearsome creatures with eyes as big as saucers burning like fire seen out and about in the British countryside. The key guide is Trubshaw’s Explore Phantom Black Dogs that has a number of fascinating essays including an introduction by  […]

    Review: Barry, Witchcraft and Demonology July 17, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Review: Barry, Witchcraft and Demonology

    Witchcraft is extraordinarily popular in history faculties: there can be few first grade universities that don’t offer either a course on witchcraft or a course that has a witchcraft component. But caveat emptor, actually most of these courses are not about witchcraft, but about the witch hunt, in which tens of thousands of men and […]

    Weird Jobs in the 1881 UK Census July 7, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Weird Jobs in the 1881 UK Census

    Spent the night and early morning looking for a much loved missing tortoise: mission accomplished at 6.42 amdist tears and recriminations. How do you punish a tortoise? This morning trying to come down from too much chocolate and coca cola. Took to racing through the 1881 census looking for unusual jobs and strange households: winding […]

    Witches and Brambles May 9, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Witches and Brambles

    This is a summary borrowed from Owen Davies’ excellent Witchcraft, Magic and Culture. In December 1924, Alfred John Matthews, aged forty-three, a small-holder of Clyst St Lawrence, Devon, appeared at the Cullhompton petty sessions for scratching and drawing blood from Ellen Garnsworthy, a middle-aged, married woman of the same village. Matthews had a sow which […]

    Luck, Shysters and Jack O’Lantern February 8, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Luck, Shysters and Jack O'Lantern

    As this year’s epiphany gift Beach put up the only two numbers of a Fortean magazine from the 1940s entitled New Frontiers: we couldn’t host this on the website because of an upload limit, and we had to trust some external site which proved unreliable. Thanks to our webmaster, Raoul, the magazine though has now […]

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