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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 […]

Late Pixy Accounts from Devon November 24, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Late Pixy Accounts from Devon

Here is some late pixylore from a collection written in 1982. The author is the very fine Theo Brown, an outstanding folklorist. We’ve tried here to quarry experiences of those known by TB rather than the normal Devon folklore fodder, which can be found in ‘all’ the books. 1) Pixies present a difficult problem. What […]

Headless Coachmen and Crime August 7, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
Headless Coachmen and Crime

In the Middle Ages they had the wild hunt, the insanely nasty cavalry that rode across the sky. Then, come the early modern period, when everyone had ‘grown up a bit’ and men with shag and swords were so, well, ‘medieval’, that they moved on. They started seeing, instead, headless horsemen out on the toll […]

Pixy Music on Dartmoor July 15, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
Pixy Music on Dartmoor

  This is a fascinating story from Dartmoor in 1921. A director of orchestra has decided to walk out from a musical boot camp and try his hand at composing in the middle of the heather. It is there that he has a very strange experience: this  one is dedicated to all lovers of auditory […]

Things that Go Baring-Gould in the Night July 3, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Things that Go Baring-Gould in the Night

Beach has been having a LOT of fun recently reading the autobiography of Sabine Baring-Gould, an eccentric and very capable Victorian/Edwardian clergyman who was once described on this blog in the company of a werewolf. Here, instead, is SBG’s collection of material relating to the Old Madam who haunted his family mansion, Lew Trenchard Manor […]

The Great Snake Scare of 1828 May 16, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
The Great Snake Scare of 1828

A cute little WtH story from deepest Devon (Tavistock) about a cryptid snake. Beach knows that nineteenth-century newspapers had a great time making up serpents and other monsters, cue ‘the 200-foot-long Hideous Ice Worm‘ with hat tip to Invisible. But in this case local tradition seems to have done the job for them. I think […]

Lost in Transmission May 4, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
Lost in Transmission

Words echo through the centuries like coins dropped down an infinite well. And as they are passed on they are smoothed and confused in the mouths of the people. The best examples we have of this are, of course, placenames: in the space of eighty generations Londinium becomes London, Mamucium becomes Manchester and Euboricum becomes […]

Pixie-Led in the South-West April 16, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Pixie-Led in the South-West

Beachcombing is back to the fairies. One subject that has intrigued him through this spring is the rare fairy-phenomenon of being ‘pixie-led’, one particularly associated with the south-west of England: hence the name as ‘the pixies’ are the fairies of Cornwall and Devon. To be pixie-led is to be led astray by the good folk […]

Hibernating Hirundines March 19, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Hibernating Hirundines

Beach gave some publicity, a couple of years ago, to the question of swallows and other hirundines sleeping in the winter rather than migrating. It is all a lot of burnt toffee, of course, but entertaining and it represents a last stand of the ‘old’ country against the ‘new’ science: men in pitchfork marching up […]

Mermaid Killing in Exeter February 24, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Mermaid Killing in Exeter

Beach recently stumbled upon yet another nineteenth-century British mermaid article. ‘…the most extraordinary, the most minute (I had nearly said the most recent), and certainly the most domestic of all stories of Mermaids, as well as that in which the veracity of the narrator is the most completely pledged for the accuracy of the detail, […]

Mermaid at Exmouth Eats Boiled Fish September 29, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Mermaid at Exmouth Eats Boiled Fish

Beach is crashing into his autumnal flu so here’s a bit of mermaid that requires relatively little writing. Most mermaid accounts from the British Isles come from the Celtic fringes. How refreshing then to come across this from the gentile waters of Exmouth Bay in 1812. The day of yesterday being very fine, I joined […]

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