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  • Victorian Urban Legends: Missionary Tales December 15, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legends: Missionary Tales

    This story appeared in Table Talk in 1870. Not having easy access it is taken here from the British press. Was it true or wasn’t it? When in India with my regiment, we were, at one time, quartered at a place where there was a missionary station. Some of the officers (as was frequently the […]

    Victorian Urban Legend: Lady Vanishes December 9, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legend: Lady Vanishes

    This is a well known urban legend, but what is of great interest here is the documented splash it made in the UK and particularly at English dinner parties. We are in 1913 so not really Victorian England, but surely the content justifies its inclusion in the series? The tale, at least this variant of […]

    Urban Legend: An Experiment in Transmission December 6, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite
    Urban Legend: An Experiment in Transmission

    How do urban legends spread and how quickly? The following is a suggestion for an experiment involving the creation and propagation of a new urban legend. First phase: a team creates a credible story and each member changes details but not narratives. Second phase: they, then, on a given day, release the story on an […]

    Victorian Urban Legend: The Missing Clock December 3, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legend: The Missing Clock

    This story came out in the Pall Mall Gazette, in early January 1885. It has that sharp cordite smell of urban legend and is, truly, as the journalist says, ‘an amusing story’. Massive kudos to anyone who can send in other nineteenth or twentieth century examples: drbeachcombing AT gmail DOT com An amusing story reaches us […]

    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, […]

    Victorian Urban Legends: the Lady of the Key November 10, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legends: the Lady of the Key

    A woman with a key around her neck haunts the French saloons. What is her story? Beach is always looking for Victorian urban legends (this one is 1870) and particularly sexual ones. Ask yourself this. Would this tale have appeared in a British newspaper if it had been set in London rather than Paris? The […]

    Victorian Urban Legends: The Spanish Mayor September 28, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legends: The Spanish Mayor

    This story comes from a Spanish correspondent to a Victorian newspaper. This then, if as Beach suspects it is, an urban legend is a Spanish urban legend: note that it is a very old story, versions can be found in many different countries. From Arragon there is a curious story, which, if true, is rather […]

    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 […]

    War Heroes’ Bones for Manure in Scotland September 17, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    War Heroes' Bones for Manure in Scotland

    We have seen on this site, several times, urban legends about body parts being used in industrial production: fat for glass or telegraph wires; body parts for soap, something, of course, found too in the First World War. The following story is a not so elaborate practical joke but the attitudes behind it suggest that […]

    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 […]

    Kitchener Survives: The Insurance Policy July 27, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Kitchener Survives: The Insurance Policy

    The claim that Lord Kitchener had survived death seems to have been well established by December 1916. By 1917 the story rumbled through the spring and summer building up a head of steam until it quite unexpectedly entered the real world. In early September 1917 Lloyds opened an insurance policy, really a bet, that Kitchener […]

    The Monster of Leavenworth, Kansas July 21, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Monster of Leavenworth, Kansas

    ***Thanks to Roberto for this tale*** This is a nasty little story from nineteenth-century Kansas. We are in Leavenworth in that state and enter Mrs. Green, note a suspiciously generic name. Mrs. Green is a midwife, a profession that has had many ups and downs at the hands of doctors, feminists, journalists (nota bene), witch-hunters […]

    Victorian Urban Legends: Pawn Trick July 13, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legends: Pawn Trick

    This is a lovely story from Paisley (Scotland), ‘about the truth of which there is no doubt’. The other morning there were, as usual, standing the Cross several journeymen dyers, one of whom had the reputation of being clever in his way in providing the needful when thirst is requiring to be quenched. They looked […]

    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 […]

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