I’m sitting alone in Girvan, Scotland, on one of the longest days of the year, looking at the late sun and thinking about the women who all of a sudden caught fire.
There were a good number of them. Enough, in the 1700s, to constitute a chapter in the medical literature. The most-quoted British case is Grace Pitt, a 60ish female whose charred corpse was discovered one morning in 1744—like “a log of wood, consumed by a fire.” But there was no fire in the grate. And nothing else in the room had been singed. Pitt was caught, it seemed, in a strange flame that came from within.
Phillips, Siobhan. "Intoxicating Women: Travels in Gin and Gender." The Toast (Article published online August 30, 2015). http://the-toast.net/2015/08/30/intoxicating-women-travels-in-gin-and-gender/