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  • The Spectres of Souther Fell 6: Folklore August 8, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Spectres of Souther Fell 6: Folklore

    There have been a couple of attempts to explain Souter Fell in terms of local folklore traditions, though this barely featured in our two main sources. The first explanation appears in volume one of Moncure Daniel Conway, Demonology and devil-lore (New York 1879): Thus it may be noted that, in the instance just related, the […]

    Historical Children Scarers July 2, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Historical Children Scarers

    ***Dedicated to Invisible*** Parents have scared children for generations with conjured horrors: the fairies, the black boggart, Jenny Greenteeth and many, many more. However, Beach today wants to look at a very select category. Historical personalities who were so horrific (or at least were imagined to be so horrific) that parents could credibly say: ‘Get […]

    What is a Headless Bear? June 28, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    What is a Headless Bear?

      There are many different kinds of British bogeys, but one of the oldest attested is the fearsome ‘headless bear’? The most famous record of this monster is, without any question, Shakespeare in Midsummer Night’s Dream: Sometime a horse I’ll be, sometime a hound, A hog, a headless bear, sometime a fire; And neigh, and […]

    Dead Rats, Stoned Teachers and Sergeant Monday June 14, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Dead Rats, Stoned Teachers and Sergeant Monday

    Sergeant Monday was a festival in the north-western English town of Kendal for the installation of a new mayor. Basically this was a Saturnalia for the children of the town: and by ancient convention any students in school would be ‘battered out’ by older boys, who would intimidate teachers into silence. Hundreds of kids would then […]

    Regency Love Signs May 28, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Regency Love Signs

    These were some interesting love tips from early nineteenth-century Britain. The sources is included, below, with apologies and joy, it is terribly wonderful. The good and bad signs are mixed naturally. If the maid has the first and last letters of her forename the same as the first and last letters of gentleman’s surname this […]

    Plague Oak at Wrexham (and Fairies) May 12, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Plague Oak at Wrexham (and Fairies)

    There are a number of fairy oaks in Wales, as Chris from Haunted Ohio Books, previously illustrated. But this one, the fairy oak of Wrexham, is particularly interesting because of a curious legend associated with it. This article appeared in a book of Welsh poems in 1837. Apparently the fairy tree had grown on a […]

    Burning Libraries: Lost Yorkshire Folk Collection May 10, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Burning Libraries: Lost Yorkshire Folk Collection

    Beach has frequently pointed to burning libraries, lost books or in this case lost sheaves of papers. First, let’s introduce the author ‘Ariel’ writing in the Blackburn Standard in 1892. ‘Ariel’ wrote a column for this publication from the late 1880s and then right through the 1890s apparently ending in 1900: normally termed ‘Passing Notes […]

    Hare Horror in Furness! Return of the Supernatural Bunnies April 14, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Hare Horror in Furness! Return of the Supernatural Bunnies

    Beach has recently been enjoying the splendour of supernatural rabbits and hares. Yes, dear reader, do you remember the thud of paranormal poltergeist bunnies? What about the legendary Baum Rabbit? Or the Welsh ghost rabbit as big as a sheep? Or Boudicca’s sacrificial hare? Or the Mann witch trial hare? However, everything that he has […]

    Huge Erratic Boulders: the Westmorland Thunderstones April 10, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Huge Erratic Boulders: the Westmorland Thunderstones

    Thunderstones are a well known European and, indeed, international phenomenon, flint arrowheads or stone axes which were believed, by our early modern ancestors, to have descended from the sky in lightning storms. The typical praxis was that a sheep would be killed by a bolt of lightning and the family would discover, near the animal, […]

    Boggart Stones and Boggart Smells April 2, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Boggart Stones and Boggart Smells

    Joseph Wright has, in his Dialect Dictionary, this absolutely unexpected definition for ‘boggart stones’, something associated with Eastern Lancashire (the ‘e. Lan. 1’ in his reference is to a local word list from those parts, A Glossary with Rochdale and Rossendale Words, the relevant entry for which is put in a screen capture below). Wright’s […]

    Penis Nests March 19, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Penis Nests

    We have previously visited a remarkable passage in Malleus Maleficarum (1485) where that work’s author, Heinrich Kramer, describes a penis theft: or rather a penis illusion, because Kramer claims the penis is still ‘there’ but hidden. That account was apparently based on a witness: this account sounds like folklore. Finally, what shall we think about […]

    Late Somerset Witch Caught as Rabbit March 6, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Late Somerset Witch Caught as Rabbit

    Beach has long tradition of posts of unusual nineteenth-century accounts of the survival of witchcraft in Britain and Ireland. Here is one from Bridgewater, Somerset (the south-west), which appeared in Notes and Queries in 1853. A cottager, who does not live five minutes’ walk from my house, found his pig seized with a strange and […]

    Tom Dockin, Iron Toothed Child Killer February 25, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Tom Dockin, Iron Toothed Child Killer

    Here is another in our series of the minor monsters of British mythology, the terrible child-eating ‘Tom Dockin’. The name ‘Tom Dockin’ was associated with Sheffield (in what was then the West Riding of Yorkshire) and seems to date back at least to the late eighteenth century on the evidence of this intelligent-sounding correspondent, John […]

    Where is the Dorset Ooser? February 18, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Where is the Dorset Ooser?

    The Dorset Ooser is a simply terrifying horned head/mask that was once kept in the village of Melbury Osmond: it so shocked a man there in the mid nineteenth century that he jumped through a window and almost died from his wounds. As can be imagined there are some very colourful theories about its purpose […]

    Bogey Lanterns February 11, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Bogey Lanterns

    The whole question of where pumpkin heads or Jack o’ Lanterns come from is fascinating. No one has been able to drag the date convincingly back beyond the nineteenth century and the point of origin is very generally: ‘Britain’ or ‘Ireland’ with constant references to ‘the Celtic areas’, with the implication that the tradition is […]

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