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Pyrokinesis is an alleged psychic ability allowing a person to control fire with his/her mind. The term was coined by horror novelist Stephen King for protagonist Charlie McGee's ability to create and control fire in King's 1980 novel, Firestarter.
The word pyrokinesis comes from the Greek language πῦρ κίνησις, meaning "fire motion". It was coined by horror novelist Stephen King for protagonist Charlie McGee's ability to create and control fire in King's 1980 novel, Firestarter. The word is intended to be parallel to telekinesis, with S.T. Joshi describing it as a "singularly unfortunate coinage."
Pyrokinesis is popular in fiction, with numerous examples in films, books, and television series. King is the first person to attempt to give the idea a name as neither the term "pyrokinesis" nor any other term describing the idea have been found in prior works.
Several works of fiction explain pyrokinesis as being the ability to ignite air particles or to increase the thermal energy of an object's atoms until it ignites. Without some form of electromechanical device, such as a device to release several of the compounds that do spontaneously ignite upon contact with the oxygen in air (such as silane, a pyrophoric gas, or rubidium), or some form of triggering device located at the source of the fire, there is no scientifically known method for the brain to trigger explosions and fires at a distance.
In the case of A.W. Underwood, a 19th-century African-American who achieved minor celebrity status with the purported ability to set items ablaze, scientists suggested concealed pieces of phosphorus may have instead been responsible. White phosphorus ignites in air at about 30°C; as this is slightly above body temperature, the phosphorus could be readily ignited by breath or rubbing.
In March 2011, a 3 year-old girl in Antique Province, Philippines gained media attention for the supposed supernatural power to predict or create fires. The town mayor said he witnessed a pillow ignite after the girl said "fire... pillow". Others claimed to have witnessed the girl either predicting or causing fire without physical contact to the objects.