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  • Welsh Candles and a Ghost October 30, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Welsh Candles and a Ghost

    A couple of weeks ago we travelled to the Church Porch at midnight to see who would die in the coming year. Here is a Welsh equivalent (kind of). Down to the last hundred years it was usual in many a district in Wales to burn candles in the parish church on the eve of […]

    A Fourteen-Month Pregnancy in Nineteenth-century Cornwall? October 25, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    A Fourteen-Month Pregnancy in Nineteenth-century Cornwall?

    Polperro Press is a small publishing house that produces excellent quality monographs on Cornish themes. If every town of this size – Polperro is an idyllic Cornish port – had a book producing company of a third of this quality historians would be able to give up their day jobs: history, at least western history, […]

    Transit of Venus October 4, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Transit of Venus

    Beachcombing had some fun earlier in the summer with the most famous act of nineteenth-century spiritualism: Daniel Home’s floating escapade back in 1868. He recently came across this description of a rival levitator, Agnes Nichol Guppy (obit 1917) and her famous ‘transit of Venus’.  Note that this took place some three years after Home’s own […]

    A Fairy Encounter in Nineteenth-Century Madrid September 10, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    A Fairy Encounter in Nineteenth-Century Madrid

    ***And so it begins… first class today: unpleasant warm fuzzy feeling in stomach, awareness that no more proper research for six months*** Beach just stumbled across this curious account of a sighting of little people in Madrid in the 1860s. The witness was a nineteenth-century spiritualist: the account begins with her own curious take on […]

    The Terror of the Cow Charmer August 6, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Terror of the Cow Charmer

    A cute fairy post from the west of Ireland in the nineteenth-century. The narrator is a visiting sportsman. I heard, when passing the porter’s lodge, that the gate-keeper’s cow was ill. As she was a fine animal, the loss would have been a serious one to the family, and hence I became interested in her […]

    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 […]

    Mutant Hares, Modern Satyrs and Centaurs July 26, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Mutant Hares, Modern Satyrs and Centaurs

    Fairies are so ‘yesterday’. What about the more exotic fauna from the forests of the imagination? Let’s start with the mutant hare at Windsor! I remember Lilian, Countess of Cromartie, telling me of a strange incident that once happened to her. She was walking alone one bright summer morning in Windsor Great Park. Suddenly she […]

    Kobolds and Lights in Derbyshire July 19, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Kobolds and Lights in Derbyshire

    Beach is particularly proud of this one. It came from the pen of a spiritualist and relates to an experience c. 1860. It is now some few years since, being in the neighbourhood of a lovely valley called Dovedale, in the County of Derbyshire, England, I heard my kind host and hostess, Mr and Mrs […]

    Flying In and Out of Windows July 17, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Flying In and Out of Windows

    Forget Padre Pio fighting allied bombers and St Joseph of Cupertino who allegedly flew from the middle of a church to the high altar. The man that really stands out as the great modern levitator is the remarkable Daniel Dunglas Home playing peekaboo at a third floor window in London in 1868. Here is a […]

    Burning Reputations in Science July 16, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Burning Reputations in Science

    Imagine for a second with Beachcombing that you are world famous scientist. You don’t have a Nobel Prize yet, but a telephone call from Stockholm is a distinct possibility, particularly if you don’t say anything unwise about the developing world or human rights. In the meantime, you have fawning doctoral students, colleagues sending you sixty […]

    Mad Cures: Sore Throats and Currents July 10, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Mad Cures: Sore Throats and Currents

    C. 1900 you have a nasty sore throat that won’t go away. A friend tells you that there is a new treatment in town for only three dollars, five if you stay at home and the practitioner comes to your house with ‘the machine’. And what exactly does this  ‘new’ treatment entail, you ask innocently? […]

    Weird Nineteenth-Century Names July 8, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Weird Nineteenth-Century Names

    Beach has long been fascinated by the use and misuse of names. Here are some beautiful nineteenth-century English cases of eccentric onomastics. In this town [East Dereham, Norfolk] there is an innkeeper who rejoices in  the baptismal name of ‘Mahershalalhashbaz’ (see Isaiah  viii. 1). I should think this is unique. He is commonly  called  ‘Maher’, […]

    Things that Go Baring-Gould in the Night July 3, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Things that Go Baring-Gould in the Night

    Beach has been having a LOT of fun recently reading the autobiography of Sabine Baring-Gould, an eccentric and very capable Victorian/Edwardian clergyman who was once described on this blog in the company of a werewolf. Here, instead, is SBG’s collection of material relating to the Old Madam who haunted his family mansion, Lew Trenchard Manor […]

    A Welsh Mermaid and the Bastard with the Binoculars June 9, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    A Welsh Mermaid and the Bastard with the Binoculars

    When people see strange things they rave to friends, family and (sometimes) newspapers. When they see strange things that reveal themselves to be something utterly pedestrian, the marvel is quickly forgotten. This is, in some ways, a shame as accounts of misperception probably bring us closer to the enigmas of the world than hours and […]

    The Wandering Jew in Burnley May 27, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    The Wandering Jew in Burnley

    Today it is the turn of the Wandering Jew. For those who have never met him WJ refused to help Christ (as he was carrying his cross) or made fun of Jesus as he hung between the thieves. This proved a bad idea. WJ now meanders cursed around the globe and will do so until […]

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