How did a lovestruck English heiress become a notorious American criminal? And why has history erased her identity?

The Female Horse Thief by Paul Brown header image

In the early part of the 19th century, an extraordinary young English woman crossed the Atlantic on a desperate quest to find her exiled lover. She stole a horse, escaped pursuers, and survived a shipwreck, then arrived penniless and alone in America, where she embarked on a gender-swapping, multi-identity crime…

The origin story of one of England’s most famous soccer clubs has been lost to time

Newcastle United’s St James’ Park, photo by Paul Brown

According to Wikipedia, Newcastle United Football Club ‘was founded in 1892 by the merger of Newcastle East End and Newcastle West End.’ But Wikipedia is wrong. Newcastle United Football Club was not formed in 1892, and there was no merger between Newcastle East End and Newcastle West End. The club…

The shipwreck survivors who were saved by a soccer ball — and by Watford FC.

The Wreck of the Stella

The footballers from Watford FC were crossing the English Channel when their ship’s lookout spotted two lifeboats. It was 7 am on March 31, 1899, and the team’s players were aboard the SS Vera on their way to Jersey and Guernsey for a series of friendly matches. Huddled in the…

An isolated house near an abandoned railway line is the scene of one of Britain’s most mysterious unsolved murders. Who killed stationmaster George Wilson?

Lintz Green Station and the stationmaster’s house, 2020, Paul Brown

1. A lonely place to die

The last train arrived at Lintz Green Station at 10.42 PM — ten minutes later than scheduled. Lintz Green was a quiet rural station, midway between Newcastle upon Tyne and Consett on the now-defunct Consett branch of the North Eastern Railway in the north of England. …

A mysterious ring of trees in an ancient village is at the center of a haunting series of events involving witchcraft and secret rituals

The Witches’ Circle, story by Paul Brown, photo by P W

I don’t believe in witchcraft, ghosts, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, or anything else that can’t be proven to exist via science and logic. However, I am interested in all of the above and pretty much anything else that can be considered paranormal or supernatural. This is mainly because I…

The Premier League team named after a munitions works struggled to survive after the Woolwich Arsenal exploded

“Boom! A muffled roar like that of a mighty thunderclap, a shake like that of an earthquake, and a flash that turned the black sky red!” — Kentish Independent, February 15, 1907

On the morning of Sunday, February 11, 1907, the district of Woolwich in south-east London was rocked by…

Alf Doig was a football trailblazer in Scotland, the US, and Canada, but his greatest adventure was a perilous journey in search of gold

Ned Doig went to Blackburn in 1889 and came back with a bag full of gold. The Arbroath and Scotland goalkeeper had agreed to play for Blackburn Rovers against Notts County for the handsome sum of £25. Blackburn won the match 9–0, and Ned had “very little to do.” It…

The untold true story of Edward Robinson, the Newcastle Pirate, who sailed with Blackbeard during the Golden Age of Piracy. Was he really a murderer, and did he deserve his brutal fate?

I. We are taken

It was just after sunset on an August evening in 1718, and something was approaching through the twilight. The sloop the Francis had come to anchor in Delaware Bay, on the north-eastern seaboard of America. The single-masted Francis and its small crew would wait out the ebb tide before completing…

The extraordinary true story of the Ruhleben Football Association

“Myself and many others would not have survived without football” — Steve Bloomer

In 1914, at the outbreak of the First World War, several of Britain’s most famous soccer players were imprisoned in a brutal internment camp at Ruhleben, near Berlin. Surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards, living in…

Who were football’s world champions in the 60 years before the first World Cup?

FIFA president Jules Rimet’s dream of organizing an international football world championship — a standalone competition for men’s national association soccer teams — was realized when Uruguay hosted and won the inaugural World Cup tournament in 1930. But international football was already 60 years old by 1930, and there had…

Paul Brown

Writes about history, sport, true adventure. The Guardian, FourFourTwo, Longreads, etc.

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