Pyrokinesis

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Pyrokinesis is an alleged psychic ability allowing a person to create and control fire with the mind.[1] 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.

Etymology[edit]

The word 'pyrokinesis' was coined by horror novelist Stephen King in his 1980 novel Firestarter to describe protagonist Charlie McGee's ability to create and control fire.[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 create and manipulate fire using the power of the mind.[5]

Explanation[edit]

There is no scientific evidence that pyrokinesis is a real phenomenon. Alleged cases are said to be hoaxes, the result of trickery.[6][7]

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.[8]

Reports[edit]

A. W. Underwood, a 19th-century African-American, achieved minor celebrity status with the purported ability to set items ablaze. Magicians and scientists have suggested concealed pieces of phosphorus may have instead been responsible.[7] The phosphorus could be readily ignited by breath or rubbing. Skeptical investigator Joe Nickell has written that Underwood may have used a "chemical-combustion technique, and still other means. Whatever the exact method—and the phosphorus trick might be the most likely—the possibilities of deception far outweigh any occult powers hinted at by Charles Fort or others."[7]

The medium Daniel Dunglas Home was known for performing fire feats and handling a heated lump of coal taken from a fire. The magician Henry Evans wrote that the coal handling was a juggling trick, performed by Home using a hidden piece of platinum.[9] Hereward Carrington described Evans hypothesis as "certainly ingenious" but pointed out William Crookes an experienced chemist was present at a séance whilst Home performed the feat and would have known how to distinguish the difference between coal and platinum.[10] Frank Podmore wrote that most of the fire feats could have easily be performed by conjuring tricks and sleight of hand but hallucination and sense-deception may have explained Crookes' claim about observing flames from Home's fingers.[11]

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.[12]

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.[13]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Joyce, Judith (2011). The Weiser Field Guide to the Paranormal. 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. ^ Stein, Gordon. (1993). Encyclopedia of Hoaxes. Gale Group. pp. 161-164. ISBN 0-8103-8414-0
  7. ^ a b c Nickell, Joe (2004). Mystery Chronicles: More Real-Life X-Files. Lexington, Ky.: University Press of Kentucky. pp. 56–60. ISBN 978-0813123189. 
  8. ^ 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. 
  9. ^ Evens, Henry. (1897). Hours With the Ghosts Or Nineteenth Century Witchcraft. Laird & Lee, Publishers. pp. 106-107. "The "coal" is a piece of spongy platinum which bears a close resemblance to a lump of half burnt coal, and is palmed in the hand, as a prestidigitateur conceals a coin, a pack of cards, an egg, or a small lemon. The medium or magician advances to the grate and pretends to take a genuine lump of coal from the fire but brings up instead at the tops of his fingers, the piece of platinum."
  10. ^ Carrington, Hereward. (1907). The Physical Phenomena of Spiritualism. Herbert B. Turner & Co. p. 404
  11. ^ Podmore, Frank. (1910). Chapter Levitation and the Fire Ordeal. In The Newer Spiritualism. Henry Holt and Company. pp. 55-86.
  12. ^ "Fire ‘seer’ draws hundreds to Antique village - INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for Filipinos". Newsinfo.inquirer.net. Retrieved 2013-11-07. 
  13. ^ "Sicilian fires recall nanny's 'witch' ordeal". The Scotsman. 2004-02-12. Retrieved 2015-03-05. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Stein, Gordon. (1993). Encyclopedia of Hoaxes. Gale Group. ISBN 0-8103-8414-0
  • 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]