View Full Version : Sicilians summon exorcist as 'evil spirit' becomes too hot to handle

Wednesday, February 11th, 2004, 09:53 PM

February 11, 2004

Sicilians summon exorcist as 'evil spirit' becomes too hot to handle
By Richard Owen

A VILLAGE in Sicily where household appliances, furniture and everyday objects have spontaneously burst into flames is to call in an exorcist.

Experts on electricity, magnetic fields, telephone technology, geology and civil protection have already descended in force on the village of Canneto di Caronia, on the coast near Messina. All have concluded, despite exhaustive tests, that they are dealing with “a scientifically inexplicable phenomenon”.

The village, which has a population of 150, was evacuated yesterday. Tullio Martella, the head of civil protection for Sicily, said: “I can say with absolute certainty that there is no precedent for this either in our present-day experience or in the literature on the subject. It seems to have something to do with a dispersal of electric current, but where it is coming from we have no idea.”

The trouble began three weeks ago, when a television set in a house in the village caught fire. The owners thought at first that it was “just a short circuit, nothing that unusual”. But then appliances in other houses began to burst into flames, to the point where the district fire brigade became permanently installed in the village , hoses and foam at the ready for the next outbreak.

The burnt-out appliances include washing machines, vacuum cleaners and entry phones, as well as mattresses, chairs and electricity and water cables. Francesco Vitale, a mathematics teacher at the village school, said that his telephone charger had caught fire “out of the blue”.

Pedro Spinnato, the Mayor, who is an architect, said that the same had happened to the protective casing on his water pipes.

In one of the most bizarre cases, Gaetano Pezzino said that wedding presents piled up in one of the rooms of his house after his daughter’s wedding had burst into flames, causing a fire “that burnt down half the house”.

A spokesman for Enel, the Italian electricity company, said that in desperation it had turned off all power to the village ten days ago. But the “spontaneous” fires had continued as before.

A local insurance agent said that even before the evacuation, 12 houses had become uninhabitable because of the fires and 16 families had fled to take refuge with relatives elsewhere.

Filippo Casella, 84, said that he was “prepared to sleep in the open air if necessary, even though it’s winter. After all, I often did it during the Second World War, and I can do it again.”

The Mayor said: “No one wants to sleep in a house that might catch fire at any moment. Fortunately no one has died yet, but we are all afraid.” He added that many in the village believed that it had been possessed by an evil spirit, which was “creeping from house to house” and setting fire to everyday objects.

Others more sceptical of supernatural malevolence blame the nearby Messina to Palermo railway line, suggesting that perhaps current accumulates in the tracks and then spreads by unidentified means to houses.

The Italian State Railway said, however, that after villagers had staged a sit-in on the line last Sunday as a protest — risking electrocution in the process — it had stopped all trains for one night and turned off the power. The fires had continued the next day as if nothing had happened.

Signor Spinnato said that he hoped that the fires would be put out “either by the technicians or by an exorcist — and at this point I have more faith in the exorcist”.