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  • Child Murder in a London Church? December 2, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Child Murder in a London Church?

    This is an extraordinary story about child murder in a London church. In fact, the real story here – thinking of this site’s interest in urban legend and rumour – is the power of a freak event involving bodies to whip a working class area into a frenzy, but we’ll get to that…. In August […]

    The Cuckold, the Painted Belly and the Lusty Merchant November 25, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Cuckold, the Painted Belly and the Lusty Merchant

    This is a weird sixteenth-century story/anecdote/joke about marital infidelity. It is also, frustratingly, only 95% complete. The punch line is missing. Beach has ‘translated’ the text into modern English. The original text though is in the screen capture below. Please email any serious mistakes. A cunning painter was living in London, and he had a […]

    19C London Fairies and Murder November 9, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    19C London Fairies and Murder

    Beach has long considered himself duty bound to investigate all references to fairies, however strange and however obscene, and there have been, for a while, two references to London fairies that have irritated him because he can’t track them down: or at least he can follow them only into unattractive cul-de-sacs. First, from Carol Silver’s […]

    Victorian Urban Legends: Thames Crocodiles October 25, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legends: Thames Crocodiles

    There have been a few cases of crocodiles being found in the Thames. In 1897 and 1933 crocodiles were retrieved from the river: alive in the first case (two feet), and dead in the second (five feet). Note that there are also several modern claims that crocodiles have been seen on the river. However, what […]

    Chinese in Roman London? October 2, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Chinese in Roman London?

    Chinese in Roman London? It is well known that the Roman empire was a cosmopolitan place, even a tedious, sorry backwater like Britannia. The combination of soldiers, slaves and solid economic infrastructure meant unprecedented movement of individuals. However, what about the history story of the week, the claim that two Chinese bodies have been dug […]

    Review: Spirits of an Industrial Age July 6, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Review: Spirits of an Industrial Age

    There are few pleasures greater in the second decade of the twenty-first century than picking up a self-published volume and finding that it is actually a good read. (For younger readers this simply did not happen thirty years ago). Enter from the left stage Spirits of an Industrial Age: Ghost Impersonation, Spring-heeled Jack and Victorian Society […]

    Lost Sounds #2: London Street Cries, c. 1700 May 28, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Lost Sounds #2: London Street Cries, c. 1700

    Beach offers the second in his series of lost sounds: the noises that were familiar to our ancestors but that have now for ever vanished and that we struggle to reconstruct. Last time, the Lancashire clog charge, this time the criers of early eighteenth-century London. The idea of London street criers, perhaps particularly from Victorian […]

    Early Modern Sentries and the Supernatural May 16, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Early Modern Sentries and the Supernatural

    Beach has previously examined the frequent paranormal experiences of sentries in the nineteenth century: with the help of Chris from Haunted Ohio Books. It has, long-time readers will remember, been suggested that lonely, potentially violent men asked to spend the night, attentive to every noise and movement, might easily conjure up ‘something’. Here are two […]

    Urban Legends: Saved by Thieves May 13, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Urban Legends: Saved by Thieves

    Another in our Victorian Urban Legends series. This looks like the ancestor (or more likely one of the many ancestors) of the modern Mafia Neighbours, story. You know the one, young married couple move into the neighbourhood, all their new furniture is stolen while they are on their honeymoon, but when they tell an elderly […]

    Grow a Tree Trick and Poltergeist Wood Chips May 8, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Grow a Tree Trick and Poltergeist Wood Chips

    This was one that really whets the curiosity. We are brought back to London in the early seventeenth-century, whereas this is being remembered in the later 1600s. What the hell is going on here? Dr Lamb, who was killed by the Mob for a conjurer, about 1640,* met one Morning Sir Miles Sands and Mr […]

    The Oracle: A Victorian Computer? March 9, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Oracle: A Victorian Computer?

    OK, OK there were no personal computers in 1884. But the following ‘Oracle’ sounds as if it was mapping out, imaginatively, the territory that computers would make for themselves. We are in the UK: our source the Leighton Buzzard Obs, 1 Jan 1884. Dr. Lloyd, the medical officer of St. Giles’s Workhouse, attended before Sir […]

    An Urban Legend: The Vanishing Car March 8, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    An Urban Legend: The Vanishing Car

    This is a very exciting ghost story, because it seems to be an early version of the most famous (and at least to this blogger) the most satisfying modern urban legend: the vanishing hitchhiker: hitchiker picked up who it later transpires was a ghost. Admittedly the story is turned on its head: the driver and […]

    London Polt October 21, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    London Polt

    We are in London in 1847, in a religious family. The whole of the neighbourhood of Black Lion Lane, Bayswater is ringing with the extraordinary occurrences that have recently happened in the house of Mr. Williams in the Moscow Road, and which bear a strong resemblance to the celebrated Stockwell ghost affair in 1772. The […]

    Georgian Magic School October 13, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Georgian Magic School

    The Magus by Francis Barrett (London 1801) is a typical work of modern magic: plagiarized from earlier works with badly drawn Hebrew letters strewn about like rice at a wedding. But the author Francis had one novel feature in his book. His announcement of, Beach can barely hold back his excitement, a magic school in […]

    London Swindles in the Nineteenth Century September 21, 2015

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

    Here are some lovely London swindles from the nineteenth-century. Bet Swindle: Victim in railway carriage joined by man x and man y (travelling separately), man x loquacious and obnoxious American who bets victim that Henry VIII had six not seven wives. The two agree to wager five pounds that they give to y. Y turns […]

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