The New York Times reports on Canneto di Caronia, Sicily, where exorcism has been conducted "after a series of puzzling electrical shorts, unexplained fires and smoky outbursts that struck in nine houses, displacing 17 families."
"First to explode was Nino Pezzino's television, two days before Christmas," reports the newspaper. "Fuse boxes then blew in houses all along the Via Mare. Air-conditioners erupted even when unplugged. Fires started spontaneously. Kitchen appliances went up in smoke. A roomful of wedding gifts was crisped. Computers jammed. Cell phones rang when no one was calling, and electronic door locks in empty cars went demonically up and down."
As the newspaper reports, the Catholic Church then moved in, praying for deliverance. On February 9, after a particularly harrowing fire, 39 of the hamlet's 150 people evacuated their homes. In June, with fingers crossed, they returned.
Scientists rushed in to find a logical explanation and came up short. "As a practical matter, the scientists took notes, mapped the strange occurrences, used Geiger counters and interviewed witnesses," says The Times. "But in the end officials from several agencies, including the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology and the National Research Center, were left with only hypotheses."
One such theory is that pressure from under the crust of this volcanic land had caused "underground shifts" that released electrical energy which eventually found its way to the village.
Even less definitive was Gianfranco Allegra, of the Italian Center for Electro-technical Experimentation, in Milan. "No one knows what the cause of these fires are," he said. "They are inexplicable."
In the absence of clear science, villagers say there is no question it is the devil's work. The causes, they say, have more to do with superstitions in a land known on maps as Demon's Valley -- a veritable cradle of vampire lore.
"Maybe the problem we're dealing with is technology," Mr. Pezzino said on the June day he and other villagers started trickling back to their homes. "But it's not earth-bound technology."
Then he added, "If it happens again, I'm bringing in the exorcist."
In one, the story was told by a burned bathroom water heater and furniture pushed to the middle of the floor, away from electrical sockets. On a wall was a portrait of Padre Pio, the celebrated monk and mystic who died in 1968, at the age of 81, and who was credited with countless miracles and intercessions: healing incurable cancer, finding people jobs and ridding their apartments of mice.
In another, a second-floor bedroom held the soot-stained remains of Lucia Pezzino's wedding gifts: photos, clothes, silver, crystal and linens that her mother had made.
As Mr. Pezzino put it, "Whoever believes in the good believes in the bad."
He paused, wiped his brow and added: "I'm Catholic. I believe in the devil. I don't know why the devil is here."
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