The Fires of Canneto di Caronia
Canneto di Caronia is a small town located on the northern coast of Sicily. In late December 2003 through January 2004, the town began to experience a series of unusual events that spread fear throughout the villagers and brought media attention from around the world. The events started when several standard appliances in the area spontaneously caught on fire. There were reports that some of the appliances were not even plugged in at the time and that they would only burst into flames in the presence of a human being. Furthermore, there were reports of car alarms going off for no apparent reason, cell phones ringing with no one on the other line and automatic car door locks going up and down without human intervention.
The town's officials theorized that the local railway's overhead electrical lines might have been the culprit and shut off the electricity to the town to find the cause. However, fires continued to break out for some unknown reason, including the temporary generator that was set up to provide electricity to the town. The situation became so dangerous that the town's 39 residents were ordered to evacuate the town on February 9 as scientists moved in to determine the causes. By all accounts, the strange events stopped. That is until the residents returned in late-March or early-April, when fires began cropping back up for a short time.
It is unclear for how long the new batch of fires continued, as there was very little media coverage after then. There are reports that electrical systems in the town were overhauled and newly grounded and that seemed to tame the fires, but scientists were still baffled as to what started them in the first place. However later that year, several water pipes throughout the town suddenly were perforated with no explanation. Again, after some brief mentions in the media, there were no other reports of further goings-on in Canneto di Caronia.
There has been no official explanation of the events that happened in Canneto di Caronia throughout 2004. Most experts seem to agree that the best explanation was that there was an electrical anomaly taking place. Theories included a series of powerful electrical waves being emitted by the Earth's surface to volcanic activity of nearby Mt. Etna. Reportedly, several locals were convinced that the acts were caused by a mentally unstable arsonist, whose family was shielding them from detection. This theory appeared to be shot down when town officials and scientists observed an electrical wire suddenly bursting into flames firsthand.
Naturally, as is typical in cases like these, theories of the supernatural were also thrown around. The senior exorcist of the Vatican immediately suggested that it was the work of the devil and urged the local priest to perform an exorcism. However, the local priest decided to wait to see if scientists could first find a natural cause. While the media attention seemed to suggest that the locals believed it was the devil's work, it appears that very few actually did. However, after the events continued and their frustrations grew, some were open to the idea because nothing else was working. The New York Times quoted one local, insurance employee Nino Pezzino, as saying, "If we're going to do it, we have to do it right. In order to do it, you need a sacrifice for the immortal gods, like a black goat or a black sheep. You have to dig a hole into the ground, because this is serious."
Others point to the local superstitions of the surrounding area. Canneto di Caronia lies in what is known as Devil's Valley, which has a substantial amount of folklore about vampires. Others point to the city of Cefalu, 40 kilometers to the west. Cefalu is the location where Aleister Crowley founded the commune/training grounds Abbey of Thelema in 1920. This has led to speculation that the fires and other strange events that plagued Canneto di Caronia can be attributed to some spell that was cast by Crowley that was somehow activated 56 years after his death.
Aliens to Blame?
In October 2007, a goverment report that was commissioned to explore the cause of the fires was leaked to the media and suggested a new theory. The Italian Civil Protection Department report suggested the possible cause of "aliens testing secret weapons" after "burnt imprints which have not been explained were found in a field" nearby the village. Sicily's Civil Protection chief, Francesco Mantegna Venerando, later explained, "We are not saying little green men from Mars started the fires, but that unnatural forces capable of creating a large amount of electromagnetic energy were responsible. This is just one possibility. We are also looking at another one which involves the testing of top-secret weapons by an unknown power which are also capable of producing an enormous amount of energy."
Canneto di Caronia Today
The strange events that transpired in the town appeared to have subsided, though there has still been no official explanation for the cause. Life now goes on as before in the small town, so visitors appear to be fairly safe from inexplicable fires and/or other strange electrical anomalies. As mentioned, Canneto di Caronia is located on the northern coastline of Sicily, offering a wonderful view of the Mediterranean Sea. Though it is a small town, it does have a restaraunt and the 40-room Hotel Za Maria for interested tourists.