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  • Immortals: Napoleonic Warrior in Russia August 16, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Uncategorized
    Immortals: Napoleonic Warrior in Russia

    Beach has previously enjoyed ‘immortals’ fictional and factional characters who have lived through an improbable number of generations. Here is a likely sounding tale from 30 Jun 1894 (Dundee Eve Tele). A man, who was born 1768, and preserves unimpaired memory, and who was, moreover, in the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars, has a good […]

    A Nineteenth-Century Hydrogen Bomb? August 13, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    A Nineteenth-Century Hydrogen Bomb?

    Was the first hydrogen bomb designed in the late nineteenth century in France? One contemporary newspaper suggests as much.

    Foch and the Twenty Year Armistice: A Myth? July 11, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Foch and the Twenty Year Armistice: A Myth?

    It is one of the most famous sentences of the twentieth century. Marshal Foch on being told of the final conditions of the Paris Peace Conference stated: ‘This is not a peace treaty, it is an armistice for twenty years’ (Ce n’est pas une paix, c’est un armistice de vingt ans). The Oxford Dictionary of […]

    Snowball Atrocities #2: Snowball Deaths June 24, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Snowball Atrocities #2: Snowball Deaths

    You can’t go far in snowballing history without dealing with the deaths. European and American newspapers (Beach’s source for most of what follows) are full of snowball fatalities in the nineteenth and twentieth century. For those of us who have perhaps played with snow and lovingly lobbed loose white balls in the direction of family […]

    French Witch Burning, 1886 June 15, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    French Witch Burning, 1886

    Many moons ago, Beach began the long search to find the last witch killing in history. He quickly narrowed down to Western witch killing, because of course, there are many killings in Africa and Asia to this day. Every so often he thinks he has come close, but then another inconvenient and later murder falls […]

    Sister Trouble: The Sacrifice March 17, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Sister Trouble: The Sacrifice

    Apologies for this one. But there is so obviously a good Roald Dahl short story to be had here, the tale needs to be shared. A murder has just been committed at Fontchristiann, near Briancon, France, under very extraordinary circumstances. Two sisters, named Marie and Catherine Ollagnier, aged 45 and 47 respectively, lived together in […]

    Photo: The Four (and Ciano) at Munich February 26, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Photo: The Four (and Ciano) at Munich

    One of the great twentieth-century photographs. The four men who dominate Europe in late September 1938 stand side by side. On the left, looking as if he has an umbrella up his bottom, there is Neville Chamberlain, British Prime Minister and pioneer of Britain’s disastrous experiment with appeasement. Connoisseurs of the British national character will […]

    Lovers Leaping, Shooting and Drowning January 11, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Lovers Leaping, Shooting and Drowning

    Love suicides are happily today a rare thing. But they were common enough from 1700 to, say, after the Second World War to enter folklore: many places in the English-speaking world have their ‘Lovers Leaps’. (Derbyshire, a small British Midland county has four!) Why were love suicides so popular? Perhaps we can separate the pull […]

    Magician Almost Lynched in France December 23, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Magician Almost Lynched in France

    Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin is often said to be the father of modern conjuring. But like many pioneers his innovations brought him difficulties and even the threat of physical violence: The great magician of the Palais National possesses at St. Gervais, in the vicinity of Blois, a pleasant domain where he spent the last summer. There, […]

    Victorian Urban Legend: Eating Fido December 6, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legend: Eating Fido

    You all know the story. Young couple go out on their first date and decide to drive out to the twilight lake with a Kentucky Fried Chicken. They arrive and in the dark start chewing on the delicious white meat only for the girl to say that hers tastes strange. She takes a number 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 […]

    Flying Girlfriend, Frightened Boyfriend and the Witch Orgy October 19, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Flying Girlfriend, Frightened Boyfriend and the Witch Orgy

    Beach has recently become obsessed with stories about witches’ flying exploits. Here is a tale (sounds almost a folk tale) from the pen of the dreadful Jean Bodin, one of Europe’s most important sixteenth-century witch theorists. There was… at Lyons a young noblewoman a few years ago, who got up at night and, lighting the […]

    Gentlemanly Soldiers October 2, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Gentlemanly Soldiers

    There are lots of different types of soldiers but today Beach wants to put aside the cowards, the sadists, the pragmatists, the survivors and concentrate on perhaps one of the few attractive categories: the gentleman soldier. The cult of the gentleman soldier began amongst the European aristocracy in the middle ages, its values were embodied […]

    Foreign Swindles in the Nineteenth Century September 29, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Foreign Swindles in the Nineteenth Century

    More in our swindlers series. Bread Trick: X in Russia goes to a jewelers and gets 4000  roubles worth of goods. He can only pay 500 but asks the owner (the victim) to come to the bank for the rest. At the bank he reminds the banker that they had spoken before and says ‘can […]

    French and Parisian Swindles in the Nineteenth Century September 27, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    French and Parisian Swindles in the Nineteenth Century

    More in our swindlers series. Eye Expert: the greatest French eye expert is Dr Sichel. To his horror Dr Sichel discovers that there are not one but two other Dr Sichels pretending to be him in the provinces. West Dail Press, 29 Apri, 1876, 7. Horse Trick: X sold old nag who says that he […]

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