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  • 1816 Flight Attempt in Paris September 15, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    1816 Flight Attempt in Paris

    Prepare to be humiliated. Your name is Guillaume, the years is 1816, and you have convinced yourself that it is possible to fly with wings attached to your puny arms. Yes, this is the age of balloons, but surely man can climb into the sky practically unassisted? Now you are in a great tradition, a […]

    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 […]

    The Man Who Wore His Wife August 17, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Man Who Wore His Wife

    You could fill a large book with anecdotes, urban legends and folk tales about rings. Most fall fairly effortlessly into certain categories: lost ring found; ring makes wearer invisible; ring cut from corpse’s finger… However, here is one of its kind: husband wears wife. Beach has had a five day holiday and this was a […]

    Trafficking in Human Fat! August 9, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Trafficking in Human Fat!

    This story came up yesterday after inspired by the werewolf fat story. It is taken from a the Reading Mercury (10 Aug 1831)but was allegedly translated from Annals d’Hygiene Publique. ln the year 1813, a discovery was made in the Schools of Medicine, in Paris, which strongly excited the attention of the professors. The servants […]

    Victorian Urban Legends: Generosity Repaid July 6, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legends: Generosity Repaid

    Beach goes to the motherland today with daughters and without dog or wife. Mixed feelings. Here is a familiar sounding story. Eugene Delacroix has persuaded the richest man in Europe, Baron James de Rothschild to pose as a beggar for a painting. Rothschild, a gentleman, agrees. Delacroix hung a tunic on his shoulders, placed a […]

    Story: Meeting the Devil July 5, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Story: Meeting the Devil

    Outstanding story about coming face to face with the devil in Paris. This first appeared in October 1888. The folklore motif that rounds the tale off is: G303.16.3.1. Happy reading… The chief persons named are a Russian Prince, Pomerantseff, and a French Abbé, Girod, who ridiculed the whole theory of apparitions. The conversation at a dinner […]

    Notre Dame to Montmartre by Bird Wings in 1840 May 11, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Notre Dame to Montmartre by Bird Wings in 1840

    Beach tries not to exaggerate – at least in this place* – but of his forty odd flight stories this is perhaps his favourite. Not a mean feat given that those stories include flying Anglo-Saxon monks and Chinese kite men. We are in Paris in 1840 A man, carrying a large bundle, applied some days […]

    The Mason’s Worst Task April 2, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Mason's Worst Task

    This story has haunted Beach more than any other in the last month. Is it true, fiction or an inspired urban legend? In either case it would be a brilliant detective story. Beach was reminded of Sherlock Holmes and the Engineer’s Thumb (pub 1892). It appeared in 1894 in the Wicklow People (11 Aug). Enjoy […]

    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 […]

    How To Create A Golden Age: Instructions for Use January 27, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    How To Create A Golden Age: Instructions for Use

    There are grey moments in history and there are black moments and, then, every so often there are wonderful conflagarations as the very paper that the past is written upon catches fire. Think the sheer brilliant evenescence of Athens in the fifth-century B.C.; Baghdad in the ninth century; or, indeed, Florence in the fourteenth and […]

    The Duke, His Brother and the Locomotive December 9, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    The Duke, His Brother and the Locomotive

    Great story, recently found, relating to the Spanish Civil War, presumably 1938. The narrator, of Jewish descent, has fled anschluss and arrived in Paris, en route to more permanent exile in the UK. I had run into Duke Dantin when he was a refugee in Paris, during the Spanish Civil War, he had fled from […]

    Love Goddess #7: The I-Love-You Wall February 23, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    Love Goddess #7: The I-Love-You Wall

    The latest in the Love Goddesses series is this wonderful shrine to carnal and spiritual soul-touching that appeared in the city of love, Paris, in Montmartre no less, in 2000. The artist, Frédéric Baron, assembled the words ‘I love you’ in 311 languages (280 by some counts) and then got a colleague and ‘oriental calligrapher’ […]

    The Immortal Major Fraser August 4, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Immortal Major Fraser

    OK here is an atmospheric little passage from a nineteenth-century description of the fifth most beautiful city in the world. Major Fraser, though he never dined there, spent  an hour or two daily in the Estaminet du Divan [in Paris] to read the  papers. He was a great favorite with every one, though none  of […]

    Crowds #1: And so it begins… Images from 1914 March 21, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Crowds #1: And so it begins... Images from 1914

      [students in Berlin, off to enlist] Beachcombing has recently become interested in crowd photography: large groups of people, preferably in rather strange or extreme situations. And as part of this ‘project’ he started collecting photographs from perhaps the dizziest month in western history: August 1914. The war is just beginning and young and not […]

    Escaping the Guillotine March 4, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Escaping the Guillotine

    Capital punishment: it’s been a while. Beachcombing was thinking about close escapes from death penalty. There are two types of these, of course: either royal screw ups on the part of executioners or daring escapes at the point of death.  The first category would include John Lee and a few others who somehow survived a […]

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