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  • Fat Virgin Mary in the Lost Provinces September 26, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Fat Virgin Mary in the Lost Provinces

    In 1871 Prussia (on its way to becoming Germany) seized by force and then won by negotiation Alsace and Lorraine, an act that secured their Rhine territories and that arguably led to two world wars: the lost provinces would cost millions of lives. ‘What flag flies over Strasburg?’ asks a nineteenth-century politician returned from the […]

    Rape and Animals September 12, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Rape and Animals

    A recent post described the bizarre legal proceedings that led to New Haven men being accused of bestiality and one being hung. These cases provoke many thoughts but not least was the fate of the accused animals. When George Spencer was brought to the gallows the pig with which he had supposedly had sex with (and […]

    Broomstick Accidents September 8, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Broomstick Accidents

    A simple question today. Are witch’s broomsticks dangerous? Well, anything that takes human beings out of the natural element, namely the earth and places them with the birds could go wrong and depending on how high witches were flying, horribly wrong. The greatest in flight danger that witches faced was accidentally saying a Christian name […]

    Irish Sheep Boy June 18, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Irish Sheep Boy

    Many years ago Beach ran a post on an Irish cow man, which seemed to have come out of a ‘Celtic’ wonder tale. What though about the Irish sheep boy, reported by the Dutch doctor Nicholas Tulp (pictured) (obit 1674)? The sheep boy had somehow ended up in Amsterdam. Note that in what follows Beach […]

    Chastity Tools in Puritan New England June 2, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Chastity Tools in Puritan New England

    This image is a twentieth-century reconstruction of three items crucial to love-making in seventeenth-century New England. (The source is David Hackett Fischer’ Albion’s Seed, p.80 a long book that can be read as well by dippings as by hours of earnest reading: the artist was Jennifer Brody.) Now take a moment and puzzle over this collection of […]

    Contacting Mars in the Late Nineteenth Century May 25, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Contacting Mars in the Late Nineteenth Century

    In the nineteenth century humans noted a series of unusual lights from different planets and moons. In the very late nineteenth century some speculated that these lights might be attempts to contact the earth: we have previously looked at an example involving the moon and Charles Fort. This was particularly true with the sighting of […]

    Life on Mars, c. 1900: Rainmakers and Unicorns April 20, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Life on Mars, c. 1900: Rainmakers and Unicorns

    In 1897 one Mr West of Shirland Road, Paddington London began a series of seances to discover the truth about life on Mars. H.G.Wells’ War of the Worlds had just come out and perhaps the ‘spirits’ wanted to calm human fears about the red-skinned ones. In any case, a Martian named Silver Pearl offered to […]

    Not the Shawl, Josephine! March 24, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Not the Shawl, Josephine!

    This is a chamber pot story, one which Beach stumbled upon during his recent research into chamber pot enemies. We are in France in the theatre at Saint-Cloud and during the first act, Napoleon’s wife, the Empress Josephine ‘was seized with an uncontrollable desire to make water’. This comes from an edition in 1896 and […]

    The Mystery of the Victoria Reservoir at Southport March 22, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Mystery of the Victoria Reservoir at Southport

    Southport is a Lancashire seaside town. In the nineteenth-century Southport had something of a reputation, tourists flocked from throughout the north and in 1860 Southport would build the second largest pier in Britain: a big deal back then when coast towns measured their self esteem by ‘how long’ they were. At the centre of these […]

    Selling Children in the 1800s March 10, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Selling Children in the 1800s

    An amazing report from Oldham, 1888: On Monday evening a woman about 40 years of age was seen in Curzon Street with two children, one in arms, and the other, about three years old, walking by her side. From what transpired it appeared that the woman wanted to sell her children, and thereupon a large […]

    The Horror of Electric Lights January 18, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Horror of Electric Lights

    New technologies bring fears with them, of course, and often for very good reasons. Electricity was no exception. You could understand the presence of electrificed objects causing fear, but more refined is the fear of electic light. This particulary story come from 1890. A family in Ottery (Devon, UK) had been terrorised by the new […]

    Mussolini’s Secret Weapon: Castor Oil November 3, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Mussolini’s Secret Weapon: Castor Oil

    Castor oil is a vegetable oil that in Beach’s parent’s generation was used as a panacea for problems of the digestive tract. Unlucky children who had complained of a poorly stomach, perhaps with the foolish idea of missing school, were given a table spoon. Castor oil has no miraculous effect on the body but it […]

    Bathing Mystery at Lahinch October 21, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Bathing Mystery at Lahinch

    In 1892 Laurence Gomme gave a presidential address to the Folklore Society. Gomme was particularly interested in the parallels between British (by which was meant at this date British and Irish) folklore and the folklore of the ‘savages’. If he could snap some branches from the golden bough while proving that the Aborigines and the […]

    Osama Bin Laden in the White House?! September 18, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    Osama Bin Laden in the White House?!

    This is a very improbable story that has just come out of the Italian gossip industry. It is unbelievable, incredible… but as its cast includes the world’s most famous building, an American president, Osama Bin Laden and an Italian singer with bizarre dress sense, Beach couldn’t resist flagging it up here. First, enter, from left […]

    Killer Sheep September 3, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Killer Sheep

    Sheep are some of the most benign, unthreatening animals that you can hope to meet. Think of a ewe bleating ineffectually over her young as the farmer comes for his prey, or one of the most pathetic images in the whole of creation, a grown sheep running to suckle when it perceives a threat, almost knocking […]

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