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  • Calabrian Werewolf December 23, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Calabrian Werewolf

      This is a delightful piece on a Calabrian werewolf from Norman Douglas: we are in deepest southern Italy, 1907-1911. In some senses it is a massive anti-climax, but perhaps that is the point… At last we started, and I began to slumber once more. The carriage seemed to be going down a steep incline; […]

    Big Brother Urban Legends November 28, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Big Brother Urban Legends

    The three great totalitarian states that dominated Europe in the 1930s were the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. Did these have their own urban legends? Of course. But what were they? Beach wants only to open one obvious form of totalitarian urban legend: what he will provisionally call ‘the big brother story’. Now, […]

    Mussolini and the Water Sprinkler November 14, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Mussolini and the Water Sprinkler

    There are few things in life sweeter than self important people being made to look silly. The picture above is one of this blogger’s favourite. The subject is, of course, Benito Mussolini, in the mid, late 1930s.* A group of Fascist dignitaries are prancing up some steps at the Foro Italico: but not all is […]

    Haunted Tree Swindle in Italy November 9, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Haunted Tree Swindle in Italy

    This story appeared in a British newspaper in September of 1861. It relates to Gubbio in Umbria: the unity of Italy has just happened. A rural parish in the region of Agubbio, which was relieved last year of the Pope’s temporal rule, but which still endures the evils of ignorance and superstition consequent on many […]

    Evans Wentz and Sex May 4, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Evans Wentz and Sex

    Beach has had talked about Walter and his thesis, Walter and the fairies, Walter and money, now is it is time for Walter with no clothes on: Walter Yeeling Evans Wentz’s sexual habits.  At this point we better recite the ritual ‘not that there is anything wrong with that’. Beach has absolutely no interest in […]

    Chasing Off Demons in Roman Slovenia April 6, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Chasing Off Demons in Roman Slovenia

    Beach is coming back to the Battle of the Frigidus in 394, by all means click the link if you need to refresh your memory. As Theodosius is bringing his army up to fight Eugenius’s army something rather strange is described by the historian Rufinus. But the pagans [Eugenius’ army], who are always giving fresh […]

    An Immortal in Venice March 9, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    An Immortal in Venice

    Here is a nice immortal story from late seventeenth century Italy. It appears in a very curious book entitled: Johann Heinrich Cohausen, Hermippus redivivus, or, The sage’s triumph over old age and the grave. If you want to be immortal you should probably give it a read. In any case, Beach introduces Signor Gualdi. There […]

    Dumb Duels #4: Cigarette Duel December 13, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Dumb Duels #4: Cigarette Duel

    A nice story from the British press about a duel  at Casale (not clear where this is other than northern Italy) from a great Italian actor, Ernesto Rossi (obit 1897): a cigarette duel. A strange duel is related to have been fought by the celebrated tragedian Signor Rossi. The latter, during a farewell performance of […]

    Salamander Experiments in Rome December 3, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Salamander Experiments in Rome

    A short note today from a curious book entitled Salamandrologia published in 1683 in Nuremberg, about, of course, Salamanders, p. 116, the mythical fire dwelling lizard: it is a surprisingly long work and worth browsing through. Here is one fragment. It would be good to trace the original down in Italian, German or Latin. It […]

    SIM break the British October 12, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    SIM break the British

    Beach has sometimes in this place celebrated Italian achievements in the Second World War; small footnotes against the prevailing tide of Italian incompetence and mediocrity in that conflict. Perhaps the area where the Italians most frequently and effectively proved their mettle was in intelligence work. Britain’s SIS (MI6) felt that the Japanese Kempeitai were incompetent, […]

    Italians in the Wind September 14, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    Italians in the Wind

    Italy has a long history of emigration. Between 1869 and 1939 eighteen and a half million Italians left their home country, travelling to all corners of the world. After the Second World War emigration started up again, particularly towards northern Europe, and there was massive internal migration as five million southern Italians came to the […]

    Medieval Marvels: Italian Dragonets August 20, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Medieval Marvels: Italian Dragonets

    Beach recently ran across this legend in the work of the endlessly fascinating Gervase of Tilbury, an English writer with a penchant for the impossible or failing that the improbable. There is an island in Tuscany pertaining to the domain of Count Ildebrandino, in which there are winged snakes which look like dragons. As soon […]

    Twin Countries July 10, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    Twin Countries

    This is an idea that has been going around and around in Beach’s head for a few years, the way that certain pairs of countries seem to have a strange sense of reciprocated fascination with each other. Three examples from Europe: Ireland and Germany; France and Poland; Italy and Britain. All these pairings include an […]

    The Furthest Viking Raid June 21, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Furthest Viking Raid

    From the very late eighth century Scandinavians left their homelands to raid. These raiders were called vikings and historians usually capitalize the word to give us the Vikings: pagan crusaders out for money, slaves, blood and saga-glory. They began with what was close at hand, the northern islands (Shetland, Orkney etc), then they moved onto […]

    Is St Francis’ Horn Egyptian? April 20, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Is St Francis' Horn Egyptian?

    A medieval ivory horn is pictured with two mysterious wooden rods, which look like nunchaku, but were actually ‘silence sticks’, banged together before a sermon. The horn is kept at Assisi among the most precious relics of St Francis (obit 1226), because this horn, says tradition, was brought back by Francis from Egypt as a […]

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