To say that the fires were inexplicable is an understatement. They began in late December 2003 in Canneto di Caronia, an Italian town in the north of Sicily that counted fewer than 200 residents. The first home to be struck was that of Antonino Pezzino, whose fuse box went up in flames. Days later, fire struck again: his kitchen fan, his TV. His neighbors along Via Mare were victims next, and by March 2004, at least 92 fires had been logged, reports Ariel Ramchandani in the Atavist. "It is like we are living in a microwave," Pezzino said to a captivated press. Captivated because the fires were so weird and unexplained: Pezzino installed new electrical wiring and the fires persisted; the power was cut from the electrical plant to the homes and the fires persisted.
Over more than 11,000 words, Ramchandani catalogues the appearance and disappearance of the fires—done by June 2004, back that October, done by June 2005—and the extensive efforts to find their root cause. Government investigators, engineers, chemists, physicists, and geomagnetists descended on the town. Electrical lines, the railroad, volcanic gases, and seismic activity were considered and mostly rejected. One Catholic priest claimed it was the devil. A government-formed group suspected "intense bursts of electromagnetic waves of some kind," writes Ramchandani. Then, in July 2014, the fires came back with a vengeance. Police installed hidden cameras that implicated Pezzino's now-25-year-old son, Giuseppe. Tapped phone lines led to his arrest, and his trial is underway. But many in no way believe Giuseppe started all those fires. Read the fascinating piece in full here. (Read more Longform stories.)