Thistle Publishing Home News Authors About Books

The Burglar Caught By A Skeleton

A summer's afternoon, 1889. In a hotel in the sedate Welsh resort of Llandrindod Wells, holidaymaker Mr T.J. Osborne is preparing to catch the train home. The day is warm. The window is open. A fully-grown African lion leaps in.

In the animated few minutes that follow, a startled Mr Osborne gets a crash-course in lion-taming, and after holding the ferocious beast at bay with a chair, becomes the star of a brisk article in the next morning's newspapers.

The report of this unlikely encounter is just one of countless extraordinary tales which have lain unseen and unknown in the dusty recesses of newspaper libraries across the nation.

Journalist Jeremy Clay has delved into the British Library archives to find the long-lost stories that enthralled and appalled the Victorians. The result is The Burglar Caught By A Skeleton and Other Singular Stories from the Victorian Press, a treasure trove of bizarre, quirky, pathetic and grisly stories from the newspapers of the age. They include:

* An unseemly brawl between a bearded lady and a snake charmer.

* A fisherman who netted the body of his long-lost brother.

* A dozy inventor, killed by his own Wallace and Gromit-style contraption.

* A widow living with a corpse, to claim his pension.

* A python, stoned to death by boys in Middlesbrough.

* A cricket match setting a team of one-legged men against players with one arm.

* A drunk monkey, that smashed up a bar after being refused more booze.


'If you like black humour you will like Clay's eclectic compilation.'

The Times

'It's a fun account of the more lurid side of Victorian life that, if you'll forgive me for mentioning Christmas this early, would make a good stocking filler.'

Liverpool Echo

‘There are more than 200 wacky real-life stories reproduced here, including a bearded lady who brawled with a snake charmer, a boy who hatched a crocodile in a hen’s nest and a man whose paralysis was cured by lightning. Makes today’s tabloids seem positively tame.’

Daily Mail (picked as ‘Must Read’)

“An interesting collection of newspaper articles from the Victorian era. Very informative and interesting.”

Natalie Knight (Educator)

“This book just proves the old adage that some things never change. This was a delightful book with Victorian sensational stories that could appear in our National Enquirer today!”

Lesa Einwich (Librarian)

“Jeremy Clay does a great job gathering up a selection of the screwiest Victorian news stories… The stories in The Burglar Caught by a Skeleton are sensational, often funny and often gruesome.”

Katherine Nabity

“Overall, this was an interesting collection of stories that will appeal to people who like weird and obscure history.”

All Sorts of Books

“A very interesting book.”

Adam Di Filippe (Librarian)

“A great mixture of newspaper reports, ranging from the completely bizarre, to the weird and utterly gory. The stories include tales of wild beasts, dead children, to women taken in sin. It is a perfect little book for dipping in and out of and great for conversation starters.”

S Ballinger (Reviewer)

Buy Jeremy Clay