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  • 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 […]

    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 […]

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