Crinoline Struck by Lightning!

From The Medical Times and Gazette: A Journal of Medical Science, Literature, Criticism, and News, Volume 2, page 185, 1869

Dr. Benjamin W. Richardson on Lightning-Stroke

The Dangers of Crinoline, 1858 03“Fever of Reaction—In some instances where the body has been struck by lightning with the production of severe external injury, recovery from the prostration has been followed by severe reactionary fever and delirium. My friend Mr. Erasmus Wilson has favoured me with an excellent illustration of this condition taken from the American Journal of the Medical Sciences for April 1869, the reporter being Dr. William Holton, of New Harmony, Indiana. According to this report a tree was struck with lightning on March 26, 1868.

“‘From the tree the shaft of electric fluid darted through the wall of a shed and lighted on the knot of hair at the back of a woman’s head, attracted by the hair-pins with which the knot was fastened; it then passed on to an earring; thence to the busk of her stays; next it flashed along the wires of her crinoline to the steel clasp of her garter, and ultimately burst through the heel of one of her boots. In its course it made a semi-spiral turn, striking the left ear above, reaching the right leg by the intervention of the crinoline wires, and issuing through the heel of her right boot.

“‘The break of the current was in each instance accompanied by a burn of the skin; the first of these burns. and the most severe, occurred on the scalp, where the hair was singed; the second occupied the lobe of the ear; the third. the upper part of the chest, which presented a blistered surface three inches in diameter, with a broad crythematous areola beyond; the fourth, which was next in severity to that of the head, was a foot in length, and extended from the left side of the abdomen to the pubes; the fifth was situated on the patella immediately above the garter buckle; and the sixth along the leg below the garter buckle, the intermediate space having escaped. Her clothing was s little burnt here and there, and the lower end of the steel busk and some of the crinoline-wires partially melted.

“‘After the shock, the woman, who was 61 years of age, and had been suffering previously from indigestion. vertigo, and numbness of her limbs, remained insensible for twenty minutes, uttering an occasional groan. When consciousness returned, she stated that she felt nothing at the time of the accident; but, on the recovery of her senses, she complained of nausea and oppression about the chest, which were relieved by vomiting. Her skin at this time was cold and clammy from perspiration, and her pulse extremely weak. Subsequently she was attacked with fever, accompanied with delirium, and not until the end of ten weeks was she reported as having recovered her usual strength, the burns being at the same time healed. At this time it is stated that ‘she is quite cheerful, except when left alone. when she is disposed to sleep too much; a feeling of great lassitude announces to her the approach of a thunderstorm before its coming is perceived by others.’

“‘The case,’ adds Mr. Wilson, ‘is one of deep interest in its illustration of the influence of nervous shock, an its phenomena arc most suggestive;~ —for example, a concussion of the nervous system, the loss of consciousness, the sickness of the stomach, the oppression of the lungs, the prostration of the heart. the reactionary fever, and last, but not least, the morbid sensitiveness of the nervous system to electrical impressions, enduring for a time, and probably for life.’”

But I was intrigued. How had I not seen the suggestion that crinolines might be lightning conductors before? So I did some hunting, just to see whether there were any credible reports describing such occurrences. The above came to light.


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