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  • The Tower Monster #3: A Magnetism Account July 17, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Tower Monster #3: A Magnetism Account

    This account of the Tower Monster comes from an enthusiast for magnetism, William Gregory and was published in 1851, almost a decade before the Notes and Queries material. At the trial of Queen Caroline, in 1821, the guards at the Tower were doubled, and Col. S., the keeper of the Regalia, was quartered there with […]

    The Tower Monster #2: A Contemporary Account July 16, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Tower Monster #2: A Contemporary Account

    The very striking witness description of Swifte can, fortunately, be supplemented by a near contemporary account. This dates from January 1816: either Swifte got January and October confused or two soldiers (not one) died after seeing an apparition. The first possibility is surely more likely? For some weeks past, a family residing in the Tower […]

    The Tower Monster #1: The Witness Account July 15, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Tower Monster #1: The Witness Account

    There follows the single most interesting ghost story Beach has ever read. Perhaps part of its fascination is that it is not clear that it is a ghost story: though something bizarre is certainly going on. In any case, all began when in 1860, in the tenth volume (new series) of Notes and Queries  K.B […]

    Wild Man Circus Fakery May 9, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Wild Man Circus Fakery

    The wild man was a staple of nineteenth-century circuses and penny shows. This personality was typically black, mostly undressed and the possessor of a cannibal’s grin. He (and it was invariably a male who took on the role) would stomp back and forth in his cage every so often lunging at some unwary child, allowing […]

    Searching for Mrs S***k*n*us April 30, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Searching for Mrs S***k*n*us

    Can anyone please help with this one? Beach will send a 75 Euro voucher for the first person who manages to get a convincing candidate in a British census return. ***note this has now been solved*** Walter, My Secret Life, is an eleven volume work of pornographic autobiography describing a Victorian gentleman’s ‘romps’. As the ‘gentleman’ in […]

    Life on Mars, c. 1900: Rainmakers and Unicorns April 20, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Life on Mars, c. 1900: Rainmakers and Unicorns

    In 1897 one Mr West of Shirland Road, Paddington London began a series of seances to discover the truth about life on Mars. H.G.Wells’ War of the Worlds had just come out and perhaps the ‘spirits’ wanted to calm human fears about the red-skinned ones. In any case, a Martian named Silver Pearl offered to […]

    Natator #4: Diving off London Bridge April 3, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Natator #4: Diving off London Bridge

    From Natator’s defeat to the churlish Fish Man in the spring of 1871 it was all down hill, and the slope was steep and full of briars and stones: some readers might want to spare themselves the unhappy denoument and click away at this point. OK, well you’ve been warned. In June 1871, doubtless desperate […]

    Natator 2#: Buckland Speaks March 29, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Natator 2#: Buckland Speaks

    Natator had no biographer: who would be equal to such a life! However,  10 August 1867 Frank Buckland the celebrated naturalist and son of a great British eccentric (who once ate a king’s heart) visited the Cremorne Gardens to examine Frog Man. We learn more from this account than from any other. First, the aquarium: […]

    Natator 1#: Arrival of the Master! March 28, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Natator 1#: Arrival of the Master!

    Nineteenth-century London. Three million human beings crammed into rookeries and tenements, villas and palaces and desperate for stimulation outside the normal run of work, gin and jellied eels. The theatres and music halls did their best, of course, but even the wildest cant, the heartiest acting, the prettiest legs quickly jade in the world capital. It was […]

    Death by Joke March 21, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Death by Joke

    The historical practical joke tag has now reached almost a dozen posts and Beach thought that he would celebrate with a brief survey of a particularly unusual form of practical joke: jokes that ended in the joker or jokee dying. Beach limited himself to British newspapers from 1 Jan 1880 to Dec 31 1899 and […]

    The Mystery of Ghost Riots January 20, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    The Mystery of Ghost Riots

    This blog has reported many historical ghost stories over the year. Now it is time for a bit of reflection. Let’s pretend that your neighbour John Smith on Treacle Row in London, has reported that he has seen a ghost in a flowing gown running up and down the stairs. Now think carefully about this […]

    Ghost Riot in 1880 January 9, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Ghost Riot in 1880

    A ghost story from late nineteenth-century London, 22 Sept 1880 Ab Jo, 7: According to the police, the ‘appearance’ [of the ghost] was first observed by a Mrs Taylor, residing in Hartshorn Court, which runs parallel with the City of London Baths, and whose rooms overlook the site in question. Her version is that she […]

    The Ripper and Thieves’ Candles November 4, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Ripper and Thieves' Candles

    The thieves’ candle is a longstanding tradition in Britain, America and, indeed, throughout the western world. Usually the candle was the hand of a dead man with one or more of the fingers made into candles. These candles were supposed to provide safety, invisiblity and be able to cast sleep spells on victims. For example, […]

    Close Encounter of the Zeppelin Kind July 10, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Close Encounter of the Zeppelin Kind

    In the 1960s, date unspecified, a southern English paper the Hackney and Kingsland Gazette published the following letter, a memoir from one Mr S.C. Thomas, who had lived in the area in the First World War. His memories had taken him back to October 1916 when he and Hilda Cavanagh had gone out for a […]

    Swearing Fetuses and the English Sausage Seller May 17, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Swearing Fetuses and the English Sausage Seller

    A nasty little episode from the late 1860s and London with a most curious annex. A sausage seller gets roughed up by a group of young London Jews, after saying something anti-semitic. This led to a trial. When his wife or ‘missus’ was called into the witness box though, something rather peculiar happened. To corroborate […]

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