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Pyrokinesis is an alleged psychic ability allowing a person to create and control fire with the mind. The term was coined by horror novelist Stephen King in his 1980 novel, Firestarter, to describe the ability of protagonist Charlie McGee to create and control fire.


The word pyrokinesis comes from the Greek language πῦρ κίνησις, meaning "fire motion".[citation needed] It was coined by horror novelist Stephen King for protagonist Charlie McGee's ability to create and control fire in King's 1980 novel, Firestarter.[1] The word is intended to be parallel to telekinesis, with S.T. Joshi describing it as a "singularly unfortunate coinage."[2] King is the first person to give the idea a name as neither the term pyrokinesis nor any other term describing the idea have been found in prior works.[3][4]



Various works of fiction describe pyrokinesis as the ability to generate and control fire using the power of the mind.[5]


Without some form of electromechanical device, such as a device to release several of the compounds that do spontaneously ignite upon contact with the oxygen in air (such as silane, a pyrophoric gas, or rubidium), or some form of triggering device located at the source of the fire, there is no scientifically known method for the brain to trigger explosions and fires at a distance.[6]


A.W. Underwood, a 19th-century African-American, achieved minor celebrity status with the purported ability to set items ablaze.[citation needed] Scientists suggested concealed pieces of phosphorus may have instead been responsible. White phosphorus ignites in air at about 30 °C; as this is slightly below body temperature, the phosphorus could be readily ignited by breath or rubbing.[citation needed]

In March 2011, a 3 year-old girl in Antique Province, Philippines gained media attention for the supposed supernatural power to predict or create fires. The town mayor said he witnessed a pillow ignite after the girl said "fire... pillow." Others claimed to have witnessed the girl either predicting or causing fire without physical contact to the objects.[7]

Sometimes claims of pyrokinesis are published in the context of fire ghosts, such as Canneto di Caronia fires and earlier italian case of young nanny, Carole Compton.[8]


  1. ^ Joyce, Judith (2011). The Weiser Field Guide to the Paranormal: Abductions, Apparitions, ESP, Synchronicity, and More Unexplained Phenomena from Other Realms. San Francisco, CA: Weiser Books. p. 159. ISBN 1609252985. 
  2. ^ Joshi, S.T. (2001). The Modern Weird Tale. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland. p. 75. ISBN 978-0-7864-0986-0. 
  3. ^ Muir, John Kenneth (2001). An Analytical Guide to Television's One Step Beyond, 1959-1961. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland. pp. 77–78. ISBN 978-0-7864-0969-3. 
  4. ^ McCrossan, John A. (2000). Books and Reading in the Lives of Notable Americans: A Biographical Sourcebook ([Online-Ausg.] ed.). Westport, Conn. [u.a.]: Greenwood Press. p. 144. ISBN 0-313-30376-2. 
  5. ^ Zalka, Csenge Virág (2013). Tales of Superhuman Powers: 55 Traditional Stories from Around the World. McFarland. p. 137. ISBN 9781476612898. 
  6. ^ Gresh, Lois H.; Weinberg, Robert (2007). The Science of Stephen King: From Carrie to Cell, The Terrifying Truth Behind the Horror Masters Fiction. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley & Sons. pp. 38–39. ISBN 978-0-471-78247-6. 
  7. ^ "Fire ‘seer’ draws hundreds to Antique village -, Philippine News for Filipinos". Retrieved 2013-11-07. 
  8. ^ "Sicilian fires recall nanny's 'witch' ordeal". The Scotsman. 2004-02-12. Retrieved 2015-03-05. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Taylor, John. (1980). Science and the Supernatural: An Investigation of Paranormal Phenomena Including Psychic Healing, Clairvoyance, Telepathy, and Precognition by a Distinguished Physicist and Mathematician. Temple Smith. ISBN 0-85117-191-5

See also[edit]