1953, May 23: Esther Dulin’s Fiery Death

FATE, an American magazine devoted to paranormal and strange topics, long included a section by Curtis Fuller called "I See By The Papers," which featured news snippets often sent in by readers. In the December 1953 issue of FATE, Fuller briefly noted an article that had been sent to him from a reader in Los Angeles.

        According to Fuller, in May 1953 the remains of 30-year-old Mrs. Esther Dulin were discovered in her home in Los Angeles, California, USA. She had apparently fallen asleep in an overstuffed chair; her body and chair were "virtually consumed" by fire, having burned through the floor and fallen into the room below. No other rooms or objects in the house were damaged. The coroner ruled that Dulin had fallen asleep from an overdose of sleeping pills while smoking a cigarette. The main mystery was that no one understood how a fire could burn so intensely to incinerate Dulin and the chair, yet not cause more damage throughout the room or structure.

        All versions of this account that came after December 1953 appear to come from Fuller's article, both detail-wise and choice-of-wording-wise.

But Did It Happen?

        I have dug quite a bit trying to find newspaper articles refering to Dulin's death, but the only article I have found regarding the matter is from the San Bernardino County Sun for May 24, 1953. San Bernardino, California, is a town sixty miles east of Los Angeles. The article says:

"LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A housewife settled back in an overstuffed chair to await her husband, who works the nightshift.

"Mrs. Esther Dulin, 30, lit a cigarette. She fell asleep and the glowing stub fell upon the upholstery. That, firemen said, is why they found her burned body in the smoldering chair early Saturday."

I cannot find a Los Angeles based newspaper that ran even that much on Dulin's death. A direct search through the Los Angeles Times -- the largest newspaper in LA in 1953 -- for May 23 and 24 only turned up the following obituary: "DULIN, Ester, beloved wife of Hardy Dulin. Services 1 p.m. Monday, at Chapel of the Chimes. Inglewood Cemetery. Snyder's Southwest Mortuary, Directors." Being that Dulin was found dead on Saturday morning, there was plenty of opportunity for this to be reported by the Sunday paper... if the newspaper felt her death was newsworthy. Instead, we have just a minor obituary that doesn't bother giving details of her life or death at all.

        So, to sum up the problem: if the biggest newspaper in town didn't mention Dulin, and I can't find the story in any other paper actually local to Los Angeles, where is the article that Curtis Fuller was sent by a reader in Los Angeles? Either there is an article out there in an unexpected place that has a LOT more detail about Dulin's death, or these details first appeared in FATE Magazine... and until I can find evidence of the first, I have to assume the second!

        Until I find a newspaper source that carries the details reported by Fuller in FATE Magazine, I'm marking this account as "Unreliable" as evidence of the paranormal.