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  • 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, Uncategorized
    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 […]

    In Search of Nineteenth-Century Urban Legends July 28, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    In Search of Nineteenth-Century Urban Legends

    Urban legends are short stories typically about death, sex or crime, which are told as if they are true. They spread by word of mouth, the newspaper and any other means of communication to hand. The classic modern examples of the urban legends include the vanishing hitchhiker (a minority of urban legends have a supernatural […]

    Victorian Urban Legends: Snuff Poisoning? July 14, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legends: Snuff Poisoning?

    No not the cinematic kind of snuff! This story appeared in 1870 and enjoyed wide circulation in all British newspapers. A Wolverhampton contemporary records what seems to be a new trick upon railway travellers. The other day, a passenger from Wolverhampton to Bilston, after having been drawn into conversation by couple of respectable looking fellow-travellers, […]

    Hono Heke, A Maori Chief from Ireland?! May 3, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Hono Heke, A Maori Chief from Ireland?!

    In the Middle Ages the Irish were for ever finding Gaels in surprising parts of the world. The soldier who pierced Christ’s side on the cross was Irish, Simon Magus was an Irish druid, etc etc.  It is a shock to find, though, that this endearing habit lasted into the nineteenth century. In June and […]

    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 […]

    The Hanging Bed April 28, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Hanging Bed

    Ohio’s premier anomalist, Chris Woodyard has just put up a post on an unusual method of execution in the nineteenth-century press, the cone of death, and she has two earlier posts, including the needle mask, praying to death, squeezing to death and smothering to death. Every ‘funny’ bone in Beachcombing’s body tells him that there […]

    Ash Magic April 27, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Ash Magic

    Your little boy is ill. The doctors can do nothing (this is the nineteenth century) and money is, in any case, short. What on earth do you do. Well, the folk answer, and one that is almost certainly as efficacious as Victorian medicine, is to look for an ash tree. This account comes from Somerset […]

    Immortal Meals #22: Mesmerism Tea Party April 15, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Immortal Meals #22: Mesmerism Tea Party

    This story combines three Beachcombing interests: first, mesmerism, and second, the practical joke framed, third, in an immortal meal, one that many readers would have killed to have attended. We are in the town of Hexham in the north of England in 1871. Mr Morgan, a professor of mesmerism has come to town to impress […]

    Poison Jokes April 14, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Poison Jokes

    Strangehistory recently ran a post on death by joke and Beach was surprised by just how many late nineteenth-century joke victims died by poison. Perhaps the strangest thing is that anyone would ever even dream of bringing poison to a joke, after all you don’t load the gun you use for a fake duel, do […]

    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 #3: the Fight with Fish Man March 30, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Natator #3: the Fight with Fish Man

      In a previous post Beach outlined the early success of Natator, the frog man and Frank Buckland’s examination of this unusual specimen. The next chapter in Natator’s life is though a more traumatic one. Acts inevitably get old and Natator recognised this. By September of 1867, just three months after he had begun, Natator […]

    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: […]

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