“Mystery Fires” are an unnervingly common Fortean phenomenon. This example was reported in the “Madisonville Messenger,” June 16, 1983:
WHARNCLIFFE, W.Va. (AP) - An Appalachian Power Co. official says electricity can’t be blamed for a baffling series of fires at a house and nearby church in which objects ranging from mattresses to roller skates have inexplicably burst into flames.“There is no physical way that electricity could have caused all these fires," said Appalachian representative Paul Owens, who visited the site of the unexplained fires Tuesday. Gilbert Fire Chief Jerry Grimmett says the fires began Monday and continued Tuesday, burning carpeting, clothes and trashcans.
The Rev. and Mrs. Gene Clemons, who live in the modular home stricken by the bizarre blazes, told firefighters they had seen “fire shooting six inches” from electrical outlets, he said.
Even when the power was shut off, though, the fires kept erupting in trash cans and closets, said Assistant Fire chief Kendall Simpson. And when the family moved its belongings into the church, the bulletin boards there began to burn.
"We're literally watching our house burn one piece of furniture at a time,” Mrs Clemons said Tuesday during firefighters' fourth visit to the property in 24 hours.
Simpson said local firefighters are baffled and that the state fire marshal's office planned to send a representative to Wharncliffe today to investigate. "All anybody's told us so far is what didn't cause the fires," Simpson said.
On Monday, the first fires began erupting throughout the Clemons home even after the power was turned off, burning mattresses, a towel on a wooden bathroom rack, trash cans and carpeting, Grimmett said. When the family began to move its belongings into the church, bulletin boards there began to burn and smoke, he said.
On Tuesday, firefighters were called back to the church, where they were told local residents had extinguished a small fire involving a couch and an artificial Christmas tree. Despite reports that flames had been leaping from electrical sockets, Owens contended there was no way an electrical problem could have caused the wide-ranging series of fires, including clothes that burned on hangers in closets. Owens said he believed the fires were the work of an arsonist, although Grimmett and Simpson said they weren't so sure.
“This is just like something you'd see in a movie,” Grimmett said. “It beats all I've ever seen.”
I couldn’t find any further news reports about the mystery, so hopefully the fiery ordeal the Clemons family experienced was a brief one.