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  • Very Late Witch Case from Norfolk, 1941 October 11, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Very Late Witch Case from Norfolk, 1941

    This blog has long taken pleasure in noting late cases of witchcraft from Britain and Ireland. From time to time Beach announces, in arrogance, that this case or other was absolutely the latest: just last month it was an assault on a witch from 1924 from Devon. However, the following remarkable case seems to make […]

    The First Automatic Door Bell in History? October 2, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    The First Automatic Door Bell in History?

    ***Thanks to the person who sent this in. Sorry I can’t find your name now!*** It is the middle of the first century AD and you need holy solace from priests in your native Alexandria. You head down the dingy streets of the city as the sun is just breaking and then turn out in […]

    The First Funeral Wreath, c. 60,000 B.C.? September 29, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Prehistoric
    The First Funeral Wreath, c. 60,000 B.C.?

    Archaeology is an extremely vague art and the greatest danger its practitioners face is the temptation of joining chance findings together to create imaginary narratives. Take the first flower funeral in history. In 1960 Ralph Solecki, a US archaeologist, excavated a Neanderthal grave in Iraq in the famous Shanidar Cave: one of several Neanderthal graves […]

    Late Witch Attack, 1924 September 16, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Late Witch Attack, 1924

    ***This post is dedicated to Jill*** This blog has long had an interest in witchcraft from western Europe and particularly bizarre late examples of witchcraft including alleged human sacrifice in Britain during World War II and even some witch killings in the nineteenth century. Here is a case of late witchcraft scratching: it was sincerely […]

    Ancient Chinese Automata August 14, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Ancient Chinese Automata

    There are a series of early texts that describe automata, small mechanical toys that allegedly operated in antiquity and that carried out wonders. The most famous is perhaps Archytas of Tarentum’s work with mechanical birds (another post another day). He is said to have created, credibly enough, a mechanical pigeon in the fifth century B.C., […]

    Animal Sacrifices in Christianity?! August 4, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval, Modern
    Animal Sacrifices in Christianity?!

    Christians don’t sacrifice animals, do they? There is some uncomfortable stuff to do with sacrificing Christ in the mass: particularly if you believe in transubstantiation. But that’s a man/god. Yes, Christians routinely kill animals either directly or as consumers: the growth of vegetarianism in the west in the last century has nothing to do with […]

    Last Zombie Burial in Western Europe? July 15, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Last Zombie Burial in Western Europe?

    At least twice a year there are news stories about zombie-proof burials. Archaeologists dig up a body that has been given special treatment by gravediggers: we have enjoyed some of these stories at StrangeHistory in the past including a particularly haunting one from Ireland. Sometimes corpses are decapitated and the head placed between the legs; sometimes […]

    Neo-Pagan Partisans May 2, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Neo-Pagan Partisans

    Ask a well-read person today about neo-paganism and many will identify it as something that came out of flower power in the late 1960s. However, this is not, for the most part, true. Neo-pagans were actually around before the Great War and in some incarnations neo-paganism can be traced back to late nineteenth-century eccentrics, such […]

    A Pre-Christian Custom in Eighteenth-Century Scotland? April 26, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    A Pre-Christian Custom in Eighteenth-Century Scotland?

    A recent article on Chris’  Haunted Ohio Books quoted an eighteenth-century source for an unusual form of Scottish divination: the whole passage (from Martin Martin, obit 1718) is well worth reading, as is Chris’ thoughts on the same. But one bit particularly stood out: it relates to the Hebrides. The second way of consulting the […]

    White Indians in Brazil, 1953? April 25, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    White Indians in Brazil, 1953?

    In the long and painful relations between settling Europeans and indigenous American peoples there often came moments when genes were exchanged. Sometimes this took place because of love at the fringes of each society, sometimes it took place after rape, and in some cases children or babies from one society found themselves brought up by […]

    Expert Opinion on Deadly Free Fall March 28, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Expert Opinion on Deadly Free Fall

    Of course, medical and scientific opinion more generally has been proved wrong time and time again over the centuries with red faces enough all around. But Beach stumbled on an early twentieth-century example that had entirely escaped his notice. He quotes from Peter Hearn’s excellent Sky High Irvin: The Story of a Parachute Pioneer. Strange […]

    Madame Caillavah and Her Nineteenth-Century Gold Detector March 26, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Madame Caillavah and Her Nineteenth-Century Gold Detector

    In that unholy mess of blood and tradition-killing, the French Revolution, there was much sacking of national treasure houses and attempts by ‘reactionaries’ and guardians to keep some of those treasures out of the hands of the Convention. One such event took place in 1793 at St Denis when looters went over the entire Cathedral […]

    Witch Ducking and Three in a Bed March 12, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Witch Ducking and Three in a Bed

    This may not be the last witch killing in Britain, that seems to have taken place some months before. But this is my candidate for the last attempted witch ducking in the UK in 1880! Susan Sharpe, the ‘witch’ apparently brought the case to court because she was frightened that the local community, or elements […]

    The First New Orleans Mardi Gras: Bears and Transvestites February 24, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The First New Orleans Mardi Gras: Bears and Transvestites

    The relevant Wikipedia page dates the first recorded Mardi Gras to 1835. However, there was certainly a small Mardi Gras held a long century before. Indeed, possibly our earliest Mardi Gras description from the city was written out in 1730. In that year a Company of the Indies official Marc-Antoine Caillot, who had been in […]

    Finns, Magic and Murder February 18, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Finns, Magic and Murder

    ***Dedicated to Leif who always gets me good Viking stories!*** There are Viking traditions dating back into the Middle Ages about the magic abilities of Finnish sorcerors (almost certainly Lapplanders). It is, though, bewildering to find a version of this belief surviving as late as the 1860s. This from a British newspaper. On Friday, Kar […]

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