1875, November 28 (ca.): Patrick Savage’s Funeral Fires

Larry Arnold, in his 1995 book Ablaze! -- which is largely concerned with accounts of spontaneous human combustion, but does digress some -- detailed out a strange event he claimed to have found in the St. Louis Daily Globe-Democrat, newspaper St. Louis, Illinois, USA, from December 4, 1875.

        The following is said to have happened during the wake of a man named Patrick Savage, marble-cutter, who died of "consumption" (an old term for 'wasting away of the body'); and I quote Arnold's quote:

"About a dozen friends and neighbors were engaged in conversation in the room where the corpse was, when, as the story runs, and as each one of the party is ready to solemnly affirm, there suddenly emerged from the side of the wall of the room a number of small jets of what appeared like gas flame of a golden color. These jets moved along and arranged themselves in a circle or wreath about the head of the corpse, and continued to burn for half a minute, changing from their golden color to a dark blue hue. The party was much too terrified to make any investigation of the remarkable phenomenon, though it was generally accepted as the work of some supernatural agency, and as portentous of good to the spirit of the deceased."

My Source's Source

        As I mentioned, Arnold attributes the above to the St. Louis Daily Globe-Democrat for December 4, 1875... which I can't easily get my hands on. The older copies of this paper are not currently digitized, so I will have to either find a helpful librarian or travel to St. Louis to search for the original article. But, past that complication, there is an eyebrow raising aspect to Arnold's claim.

        Arnold says the Globe-Democrat actually got the article from another newspaper to begin with, The Dover Herald... which was an extremely local newspaper that was published in Dover, Delaware, USA, and is so hard to find right now that many websites concerned with rare newspapers believe it never existed. The Library of Congress, however, has one issue of the newspaper from January 16, 1800, on digital display [Link Here], so it did exist; but no one seems to know how long the paper ran, or have any way to access further copies of it, making a reference to an article from it for 1875 a very unlikely matter.

        For this reason I'm marking this account as a "False Lead," until I can confirm it's existence in a newspaper (or anything else) previous to Arnold's 1995 book.

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