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  • Flight Hoaxes at Norwich October 7, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Flight Hoaxes at Norwich

    Beach recently came across this remarkable hoax from Norwich UK from 1826. The public are respectfully informed that Signor Carlo Grain Villecrop [these sound like foreign names made up by an English writer], the celebrated Swiss Mountain-flyer, from Geneva, and Mont Blanc, is just arrived in this city, and will exhibit, with Tyrolese pole, fifty feet […]

    A Jack the Ripper Urban Legend September 22, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    A Jack the Ripper Urban Legend

    4 Aug 1941 (barely a month into Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union) this ‘funny story’ appeared in a London newspaper. Perhaps we should think of it as a bit of nostalgia from the times when knives not Nazi bombs were the most dangerous thing in the East End. During the scare caused by Jack […]

    The Origins of Jill the Ripper September 16, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Origins of Jill the Ripper

    There has long been a minority opinion that Jack the Ripper was a woman: the so-called ‘Jill the Ripper theory’. It is often said that the theory begins with William Douglas Steward, Jack The Ripper: A New Theory in 1939. Steward established to his own satisfaction, that Jill was a deranged midwife. But Steward was […]

    The Nun, the Pickpocket and the French Prison August 29, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Nun, the Pickpocket and the French Prison

    Beach began to write about pickpockets some years ago because of their habit of attracting urban legends. However, he is ever more convinced that there are some good books to be written on the sly-fingered Victorian professionals who plagued London and Paris… Interestingly, English pickpockets were exported to France and the word ‘pickpocket’ was taken […]

    Transvestite Hunt for Fake Ghost August 27, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Transvestite Hunt for Fake Ghost

    In some ways this is a normal nineteenth century ghost story: we are in 1836. A man dresses up as a ghost; he scares some people; a group of toughs go out and look for him; it ends in tears: the story is entitled, be warned, ‘flogging a ghost’. However, this one has some special […]

    London Fairy Roadrunner August 10, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    London Fairy Roadrunner

    This is a fabulous and often overlooked ‘fairy’ sighting. The inverted commas on ‘fairy’ because it is difficult to know quite what to make of this. The story appeared in the third volume of Thomas Crofton Croker’s Fairy Legends of Ireland, only it comes from London or the outskirts of that city, c. 1800. First some […]

    Immortal Meals #34: Picnic Under the Vicar’s Oak July 29, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Immortal Meals #34: Picnic Under the Vicar's Oak

    Norwood was a rural area to the south of London that was sucked into the metropolis in the mid, late nineteenth century. If you want to go and imagine where the nightingale once sang and where Surrey farmers shot rabbits, head off for the mean streets around Crystal Palace, sit down and weep. ‘This is the […]

    Beggar for a Day June 18, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Beggar for a Day

    Beach has long been curious about the begging life and was fascinated to run across this article from 1889 about how difficult it was to make money in London by holding out your hand. A clearly middle class man took a bet with his friends, after dinner, and presumably after taking port, that he could […]

    Immortal Meals #33: Fairy Feast 1912 June 11, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Immortal Meals #33: Fairy Feast 1912

    Oh to have been there… Walter Yeeling Evans Wentz was an American eccentric and mystic who from 1908 to 1911 studied British, Irish and Breton fairies. Readers may have come across his curious The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries, brought out in November 1911, the single most bizarre book every published by Oxford University Press […]

    Big Ben Superstitions April 10, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Big Ben Superstitions

    Big Ben the great bell that rings out from Westminster is a central part of British identity: not least because its chimes have, for many years, sounded on national radio and television programs. It would hardly be surprising then that there are superstitions about Big Ben, but what is surprising is that these seem not […]

    Radio Before Radio February 18, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Radio Before Radio

    Many moons ago Beach ran an article on telephony, the use of telephones as a kind of primitive music radio. Essentially telephone owners would subscribe to a ‘channel’ and would then phone into said channel to listen to shows: those of us old enough to remember the speaking clock or telephone weather forecasts were listening to […]

    The Ring Dodge February 3, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Ring Dodge

    This trick is so well known that Beach has seen versions of it on crass TV shows. Still here is the ring dodge in all its pristine glory from 1894. At the London Guildhall, on Monday, Ann Francis was charged with attempting to obtain money by false pretences. Detective Evans, of the Great Eastern Railway […]

    Cockney Wandering Jew January 27, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Cockney Wandering Jew

    Beach has recently been interesting himself with sightings of the Wandering Jew in modern times. A friend of this blog Filip Graliński has been himself looking and has found a remarkable Polish record relating to sightings of the Wandering Jew from just before the First World War. Beach, stung by his failure to find anything […]

    Richard Cosway Meets the Wandering Jew January 22, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Richard Cosway Meets the Wandering Jew

    This story appears in Cyrus Redding’s Fifty Years in the third volume (1858). Redding is describing a Mr. Beckford, an immensely rich Englishman in the late eighteenth, early nineteenth century with whom he was personally acquainted. The following story is not from Beckford but from a friend of Beckford which means, of course, we are […]

    Victorian Criminal Slang January 8, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Criminal Slang

    Beach has been enjoying Pickpockets, Beggars and Ratcatchers by Kellow Chesney on London’s underworld in the teeming, dirty and unmatchable nineteenth century: the illustrations are great too. One of the joys about entering this world is the lively slang used by the underclass. The following come from Pickpockets but also from one of the most […]

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