In 1882, L.C. Woodman of Paw Paw, Mich., wrote to the Michigan Medical News reporting “a singular phenomenon in the shape of a young man living here”:
His name is Wm. Underwood, aged 27 years and his gift is that of generating fire through the medium of his breath, assisted by manipulations with his hands. He will take anybody’s handkerchief and hold it to his mouth, rub it vigorously with his hands while breathing on it and immediately it bursts into flames and burns until consumed. … He will, when out gunning and without matches, desirous of a fire, lie down after collecting dry leaves, and by breathing on them start the fire and then coolly take off his wet stockings and dry them. … I have repeatedly known of his setting back from the dinner table, taking a swallow of water and by blowing on his napkin, at once set it on fire. He is ignorant, and says that he first discovered his strange power by inhaling and exhaling on a perfumed handkerchief that suddenly burned while in his hands.
“It is certainly no humbug, but what is it?” Woodman asked. “Does physiology give a like instance, and if so where?”