The gate at the entrance to Canneto Di Caronia, Italy has come off its hinges and swings in the wind as cats wander into homes abandoned after a series of mystery fires.
Canneto di Caronia has been taken over by an endless flow of scientists, engineers, police and even a few "ghostbusters" searching for clues to the recent spontaneous combustion of everything from microwave ovens to a car. The fires started in mid-January and have claimed home appliances and fuse boxes in about half of the 20 odd houses. After a brief respite last month, the flames have flared up again almost daily even though electricity to the village was cut off long ago.
"We're working in the dark. We don't have a single lead so far," said Pedro Spinnato, mayor of the trio of Caronia towns. "Every time some new scientist comes to town they arrive thinking the whole thing has been invented or that they're going to solve the mystery in two minutes.
They've all been wrong."
The 39 inhabitants of the town halfway between Palermo and Messina were evacuated after the regional government declared a state of emergency in Canneto, which occupies a single street nestled between a railway line and the sea. "I've seen an air conditioner burst into flames and burn down in 30 seconds. These are not normal events, but I think we're going to have to start looking for a different kind of help," said Antonio Pezzino, whose house was first hit.
From the start, Gabriele Amorth, one of the Catholic Church's top exorcists suspected the devil was at work. "I've seen things like this before," he told Il Messaggero daily. "Demons occupy a house and appear in electrical goods," he said urging the parish priest to take action. The local priest, Don...