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Mystery of the ‘Indoor Death by Burns’ has a Shocking Solution

The family had been trying to contact him by phone for hours now, but to no avail. The man, who had been alone at his rural country cottage in midst of renovations, simply would not answer, and by now, many in the family were beginning to worry.

A report was filed with the police in that area, and upon arrival, they found that the man–still believed to be inside the home–did not respond to knocking or calls from outside. Police then entered the home, fearing the man may be injured; what they found inside was another story entirely.

Immediately upon entering, the air was filled with an unusual scent… something burning, perhaps. And yet, there was little or no smoke in the air, and no evidence of fire. And yet the man, whose body appeared crumpled on the floor at the center of the room, was badly burned during whatever process had claimed his life; first, second, and third-degree burns covered more than half of his body.

Initially, the investigators were perplexed enough by the circumstances that they initially wondered if the man hadn’t been attacked and burned elsewhere, then dragged back into the home. But there was no evidence of struggle, nor of any entry or departure from the cottage.

What evidence was to be found was scant; the body was positioned between two large metal sawhorses he had been using during the renovation, and a tiny hole appeared on his left foot, which was burned very badly, and an abrasion also marked his right thumb.

With time, it became clear that this was no homicide, nor any typical burn; the man had somehow been struck by lightning… inside his cottage.

Investigators determined that steel beams which extended outside the center portion of the home had likely been the culprit, and when the strike occurred, the bolt arced across the twin sawhorses, enveloping the man in electricity, with his left foot serving as point of entry. He was likely killed instantly by the freakish display.

Although it is certainly unusual for lightning to enter homes with deadly results, there are other varieties of luminous natural phenomenon that occasionally will enter homes and other enclosed areas. Reports of ball lightning manifesting inside structures, and even passing through the glass panes of closed windows, have been collected over the years. In 1982, the journal Nature discussed such an instance, in an article that described “several balls of brilliant blue light, about 4-6 cm in diameter” that entered a room through a window. The balls “floated across the room to leave by a window on the east side.” In this instance, the windows were both open, although the luminous orbs seemingly passed through the metal screens with no difficulty.

In an even more startling case, an incident aboard a Soviet airliner in January 1984 detailed a very strange ball lightning incident as the aircraft, an Ilyushin-18, entered a bank of thunderclouds shortly after takeoff:

Suddenly, at the height of 1,200 yards, a fireball about four inches in diameter appeared on the fuselage in front of the crew’s cockpit. It disappeared with a deafening noise, but reemerged several seconds later in the passenger?s lounge, after piercing in an uncanny way through the air-tight metal wall. The fireball slowly flew about the heads of the stunned passengers. In the tail section of the airliner it divided into two glowing crescents which then joined together again and left the plane almost noiselessly.

This is likely one of the very strangest instances that involves lightning of any kind entering an enclosed space. However, as far as strange lightning incidents may go, it would at least be rivaled by the unusual death of the man who lost his life to an indoor lightning strike.

Popular Science reported on the strange circumstances that led to the man’s death, noting that only 35 Americans are killed annually by lightning strikes. “Indoor lightning strikes, when they do occur, are usually related to using a phone during a storm, and they’re rarely deadly,” the article notes.

It goes without saying that “death by indoor lightning” certainly isn’t common, and this circumstance might rank high among unusual deaths in general. The circumstances surrounding this case, though no places or names were given, recently garnered attention in the March 2017 edition of the American Journal of Forensic Medicine & Pathology, in a paper titled “A Unusual Lightning Death in an Indoor Setting: A Case Report.”

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Micah Hanks is a writer, podcaster, and researcher whose interests cover a variety of subjects. His areas of focus include history, science, philosophy, current events, cultural studies, technology, unexplained phenomena, and ways the future of humankind may be influenced by science and innovation in the coming decades. In addition to writing, Micah hosts the Middle Theory and Gralien Report podcasts.
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