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  • 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 […]

    Watch Out for the Fairies Among Us! August 13, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Watch Out for the Fairies Among Us!

    In the long struggle to get a handle on fairies there have been claims that ‘the good people’ were simply a human race, kept apart from the rest of us, in the bogs and the mountains of the west and north of Europe: Buchan, Jenner, MacRitchie and many, many others made this argument and it […]

    Unusual Wild West Duels August 3, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Unusual Wild West Duels

    Duels out in the unconquered west and in the badlands of Mexico should, by rights, just be a matter of six shooters and a fast finger and a faster hand. But here are three examples that show that nineteenth-century eccentricity over duels also reached far beyond New England. Let’s start with a particularly nasty one. […]

    Three Wellingtons To Rule Them All and Hair Jewellery July 2, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Three Wellingtons To Rule Them All and Hair Jewellery

      I came across this story while looking into the history of magic rings. It is some, shall we say, marginalia, written into the back of a volume that was subsequently scanned by Google. This is not the first time I’ve come across an intriguing reference on an online scan, but this one begged more […]

    How to Train a Griffin! June 6, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    How to Train a Griffin!

    Beni Hassan is a collection of ancient Egyptian tombs in central Egypt. The tombs there have many precious illustrations of day-to-day life under the Pharoahs. And one of the most curious images is that above from the tomb of Khety (eleventh dynasty). Reader, what are you looking at? No, idea? Well, there is little doubt […]

    Swearing Fetuses and the English Sausage Seller May 17, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Swearing Fetuses and the English Sausage Seller

    A nasty little episode from the late 1860s and London with a most curious annex. A sausage seller gets roughed up by a group of young London Jews, after saying something anti-semitic. This led to a trial. When his wife or ‘missus’ was called into the witness box though, something rather peculiar happened. To corroborate […]

    Telegraph Wire and Oasis Jewellery May 15, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Telegraph Wire and Oasis Jewellery

    Governments and multi-nationals have long had problems with locals (particularly criminally-inclined locals) stealing their wire. Most collectors get out their pliers because, say, copper is worth a lot of money. But in the early years of electricity and telegraph wire there were other reasons for stealing: more principled and practical reasons. Take Thomas Stevens’ description […]

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