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  • Dying from Fright: Women and the Weak Minded? February 14, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Dying from Fright: Women and the Weak Minded?

    A lazy morning and so Beach inspired by his recent post of a girl who died of fear decided to look a little deeper. How many people really die because they are frightened? To carry out a half decent experiment he surveyed the British press from January 1850 to December 1859. He ignored probable urban […]

    Death by Boggart (or Meningitis)? February 7, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Uncategorized
    Death by Boggart (or Meningitis)?

    This is a one of these stories where the problem is not with the facts but with interpretation. As it involves human facts it is not a very happy story: be warned a little girl dies. We are in 1871 in Ashton-under-Lyne just outside Manchester. Mr F. Price is the coroner and he held his […]

    The Matrimony Business February 6, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Matrimony Business

    You are living in the middle of the nineteenth century and, man or woman, you have failed to get your mate for life. Perhaps you regret, saying, ‘no’ to the third son of a duke: or perhaps you regret asking twelve daughters of men in ecclesiastical offices. The point is that, tick toc, time is running […]

    Letters from a Witch’s Clients January 25, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Letters from a Witch's Clients

    In 1859 a unique witchcraft source appeared in the British newspapers. Durham police had raided the house of one Mrs Leadpiper and had seized a number of letters from her supplicants. To our great good fortune the Durham Chronicle published several: and the article was then picked up by other papers from Cornwall to Luton. […]

    Victorian Urban Legends: Coffin Games January 18, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legends: Coffin Games

    ***Dedicated to Chris W*** Beach in his tiny hours of research ran across two accounts that feel like Victorian urban legends: a favourite theme of this blog. Note the lack of concrete references. These look as if they were included in a joke column and then recycled as news with some salacious details thrown in… A Sheffield […]

    Self Made Victorians? January 9, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Self Made Victorians?

    Were there self made men in Victorian Britain? The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography as well as being the single most impressive collection of biographies yet put together is useful in measuring money as for most modern individuals, say from the eighteenth century onwards, the vox-writer has included wealth at death (something recorded in Britain […]

    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 […]

    Ghost Pills! October 6, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Ghost Pills!

    How do you get rid of supernatural worries: call the priest, the alienist or the local bobby? Why no, you buy a tube of nineteenth-century vitamin pill, of course! This at least was the solution offered by one Irish newspaper in 1840. The belief in supernatural appearances has generally prevailed during the superstitious ages has […]

    Victorian Urban Legend: the Clever Pickpocket September 18, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legend: the Clever Pickpocket

    Beach has recently been searching for nineteenth-century urban legends, a real challenge because the category did not exist as an idea, though of course incredible ‘true’ stories circulated. Perhaps this is one of them. The pickpocket who is so clever that he or she puts the wallet back once everything is stolen. Folkestone is filling […]

    Fantasy Britain by OS Maps September 9, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Fantasy Britain by OS Maps

    OK this is weird little game. Beach has spent many hours in the last two months looking at nineteenth-century OS maps, that is maps produced by the Ordnance Survey, the government body that is responsible for charting Britain, and back in the day, Ireland. The maps are beautiful, they lack the gaudy colours of today […]

    Footfalls Echo in the Memory: Taunton September 5, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Footfalls Echo in the Memory: Taunton

    ‘I’ve… seen things… you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion; I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate… All those… moments… will be lost, in time, like… tears… in… rain.’ Famous lines from Bladerunner. But what if instead of an exotic replicant at his death, we […]

    Sentries and Ghosts August 28, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Sentries and Ghosts

    While recently writing on the Tower of London ghosts Beach learnt something. Sentries see ghosts: there was the case from 1817 and the second case from the 1850s. The following list is limited to the British newspapers from 1875-1900 and represent a very quick survey: 1877 Aldershot: a ghost was repeatedly seen by sentries at […]

    Review: Victorian Studies in Scarlet August 27, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Review: Victorian Studies in Scarlet

    Best read of the summer? For Beach an easy choice, Richard D. Altick, Victorian Studies in Scarlet: Murder and Manners in the Age of Victoria. OK it was first published in 1970 but what is forty years between friends? Altick, who died in 2008, was a maverick academic: it would be great to induct him, sooner […]

    Victorian Urban Legends: The Wrong Bed August 16, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legends: The Wrong Bed

    The Wrong Bed urban legend is self explanatory: a man or a woman get in the wrong bed in the wrong room in the wrong house, inevitably with someone of the opposite sex. That this story did the rounds in Victorian times there should be no surprise. What is incredible is that the story was […]

    The Mystics and Joe Bloggs August 15, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    The Mystics and Joe Bloggs

    From 1889-1892 the Society for Psychic Research asked a series of 17,000 Britons (of all classes and both sexes), whether they had ever had a ‘hallucination’, that is hearing or seeing someone who was not actually there and yet while ‘awake, and not suffering from delirium or insanity or any other morbid condition obviously conducive […]

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