Italian Youth Said To Have Been A True-Life “Firestarter”
By James Donahue
People who remember author Stephen King’s
early novel “Firestarter,” about a little girl who could set things ablaze around her when she became mentally
upset, might be shocked to learn that such a child really existed.
His name was Benedetto Supino and he lived
in Formia, Italy in 1982 when his incendiary abilities first came to light. It happened in a public place . . . a dentist
office . . . as the 10-year-old Benedetto was gazing through a comic book. Reports said the comic book suddenly began to burn
in his hands.
A story in the London Daily Mirror in 1983
said the comic book incident was only the first of several mystery fires that broke out around the youth during that time.
The story said one morning he woke up to find his bed on fire. Benedetto escaped the fire but not before suffering painful
Investigators said the youth did not smoke
and they were mystified as to the cause of the fire in his bed.
After that, the story said things began to
get worse. Everywhere he went things smoldered or burst into flame. The effect was seen in wood furniture, pages of books
left scorched where he touched them, and many other objects, including a piece of plastic held by an uncle while Benedetto
stared at it. The latter was obviously an experiment to determine if it was, indeed, the youth who was triggering the fires.
That wasn’t all young Supino could
do with his mind. He also seemed to have the power to cause electromagnetic effects on machines and electronic motors when
near them. The story said his father was a carpenter who had a workshop in the community. While visiting the shop, machinery
began shutting down, and some machines wouldn’t start at all. Benedetto’s father spent over 3,000 pounds to have
the machines repaired, but nothing was wrong. Finally they connected Benedetto with the machine failures.
By now the parents were taking their son
to doctors and specialists of every type, hoping to find out what was wrong. The doctors said he was a healthy, normal appearing
boy. Dr. Massimo Inardi, a well-known television personality, declared that Benedetto was “clearly capable of projecting
his aggressive powers on outside objects in an extraordinary manner.”
Others said they thought the youth was unknowingly
attracting poltergeist activity. Parapsychologist Dr. Demetrio Croce offered to work with Benedetto and try to teach him to
channel his “extrasensory powers of considerable force” into more positive directions, or at least get the phenomenon
Like most Italian families, the Supinos were
Roman Catholic. Thus they obviously felt a sense of relief when Archbishop Vincenzo Fagilolo, representing the Vatican, examined
Benedetto and declared the phenomenon “not malign,” and stated that his powers also must not be considered miracles.
Attempts to do a Google search for Benedetto
Supinos, who would be in his late 30s today, turned up a man by that name working in “food production” at Giugliano,
Italy. If this is the same person, it appears that the parapsychologist succeeded in getting his strange pyrotechnic powers
There was one other strange case of a firestarter
with similar “abilities” found in the old Michigan Medical News published in 1882. It seems a Dr. L. C. Woodman
of Paw Paw wrote of attempting to treat a black man, A. W. Underwood, for a similar malady. The article said Underwood could
ignite pieces of paper or even a handkerchief by rubbing it between his hands and blowing. Suddenly the object would burst
into flame and turn to ashes within seconds.
The fact that both the doctor and the patient
had the words “wood” in their last names makes the tale compare to one of those Paul Bunyan yarns spun by the
Michigan lumberjacks in the old days. If it hadn’t appeared in a professional medical publication we would not have