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  • 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 […]

    Death by Boggart (or Meningitis)? February 7, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Uncategorized
    Death by Boggart (or Meningitis)?

    This is a one of these stories where the problem is not with the facts but with interpretation. As it involves human facts it is not a very happy story: be warned a little girl dies. We are in 1871 in Ashton-under-Lyne just outside Manchester. Mr F. Price is the coroner and he held his […]

    Red Fairies #3: Do NOT Use the Chimney February 4, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Red Fairies #3: Do NOT Use the Chimney

    One curious folklore tradition survives about ‘the red fairies’. This is David Pennant our earliest extensive source. The traditions of the country respecting these banditti, are still extremely strong. I was told that they were so feared, that travellers did not dare go the common road to Shrewsbury, but passed over the summits of the […]

    Red Fairies #2: A People Apart? February 3, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Red Fairies #2: A People Apart?

    One of the most curious aspects of the Red Fairy legends in the belief that the Red Fairies survived up until the nineteenth century as a race apart in the locality. This was elevated to high pseudo-science. Here is a passage from The British Race (1909) In Merioneth there is a red-haired, ruddy-skinned people, with […]

    The Bogle and the Gamekeeper January 28, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Bogle and the Gamekeeper

    Regular readers will know that Beach has a pronounced weakness for the collision of the supernatural and the legal system: be this in Africa, Ireland or Britain. Here is a lovely case from Scotland in 1889. Five miners were charged yesterday, Falkirk Sheriff Court, with poaching on the lands of Mr William Forbes of Culendar, […]

    Churn Milk Peg January 21, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Churn Milk Peg

    There are few greater pleasures than bringing half- or three-quarter forgotten British bogeys back from the dead. Churn-Milk Peg was a psychotic old dear who would sit in glades of nut trees and smoke a pipe, waiting for children to come along to pick from her trees: ‘churn milk nuts’ were unripe nuts. In as […]

    Bosom Serpents and False Operations January 20, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Modern
    Bosom Serpents and False Operations

    Bosom serpents refers to the belief that an animal, typically a reptile or amphibian has taken up residence in a human body. Two truisms to start with. First, there is no way that these animals could live in a human body. Second, if the patient believed in the BoS, the doctor had to deal with […]

    The Last English Hobbits? January 16, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Last English Hobbits?

    Ludchurch (aka Lud’s Church, Lud Church) is not a church. It is a haunted ravine in the English midlands, Staffordshire, that has been frequently associated with the supernatural. The photo above will hopefully give some idea of what it is like. It has also been associated with an underground race of hominids in caves that […]

    The Noontide Hag in Luton! January 10, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Noontide Hag in Luton!

    Walter Scott refers, in one of his poems, to ‘the noontide hag’, a creature he explains in a note as ‘a tall, emaciated, gigantic female figure, is supposed, in particular, to haunt the district of Knoidart’ and ‘which, contrary to the general rule of ghostly creatures, appeared in the full blaze of noon.’ Quite how […]

    The Boom of the Bitterbump January 3, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    The Boom of the Bitterbump

    Beach has recently been going through modern folklore books for the northern English counties (Lancashire, the three Ridings, Northumberland etc etc). Of forty or fifty books he has so far taken to bed he has been struck by their rather low quality. There are not many awful books, but most are offensively mediocre: these people, remember, […]

    Pre Dating Naked Emma in the Pool December 19, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Pre Dating Naked Emma in the Pool

    This description from Judge, Some West Surrey Villages, 34, introduces us to the ghost of the Silent Pool at Albury near Guildford (Surrey, Southern England) and also some of the problem associated with it. When we quit Albury Park and the old church, we are within a few yards of the Silent Pool, which is said […]

    Witch Blood Scratching and Keeping? December 12, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Witch Blood Scratching and Keeping?

    Beach has over the years collected, particularly with the help of readers, a number of stories of blood spilling and witches. The idea is that by spilling blood, typically taken with a bramble, you can cure the witch’s overlooking. There are though some variations on this theme, including to judge by this report from 15 […]

    A Canadian Fear Census December 10, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    A Canadian Fear Census

    John Widdowson is one of our finest British folklorists and some of his most interesting work has been on how to scare the living bejesus out of ten year olds. Indeed, his first book had the winsome name If You Don’t Be Good and describes how parents, in the 1960s and 1970s, in Newfoundland (Canada), […]

    Witchcraft and European Penis Theft December 3, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Witchcraft and European Penis Theft

    The Malleus Maleficarum (1485) is the classic witch hunter’s book. It is the first ‘convincing’ attempt to place witches in a diabolical formula with magically affected victims at one end, the devil in the middle and large and roaring fires at the other. The author, though, Heinrich Kramer, very naturally sucked up a lot of […]

    Hating Medieval Cats #2: The Rod Cat November 5, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Hating Medieval Cats #2: The Rod Cat

    A few days ago Beach started the hunt for cat hating in the Middle Ages. Here is a second text from Etienne de Bourbonne (aka Stephen of Bourbon) who has sometimes appeared here before. Etienne was a Dominican inquisitor and so is something of an expert, let’s say. Auvergne is in central France. Similarly something of […]

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