back to article Crystal ball torches woman's flat

The owner of a 4-inch diameter crystal ball got a nasty shock when she returned from visiting a chum to find the vitreous ornament had torched her flat. According to the Sun, the "unforeseen" blaze in Worle, Somerset, was caused by the £30 sphere focusing the sun's rays onto the back of 53-year-old Kim Yeates's telly, which …


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  1. Rainy Rat
    Thumb Down

    Unforeseen indeed

    This almost happened to me - the (Pagan) wife used to keep hers on the kitchen window sill, until we discovered a series of pretty curved scorch marks had mysteriously appeared next to it. Looked a little like the output from a Campbell-Stokes sunshine recorder.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    A good try at a Darwin Award...

    but didn't quite manage to follow through.

  3. OmniCitadel

    my crystal ball tells me

    you will be shopping for a new apartment in the near future.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    next time...

    spend the £30 on insurance

  5. Planeten Paultje

    Campbell-Stokes attack!

    Silly question: Why do people have no insurance?

    But anyways, its Basic Physics™. Anything in the focal point of a large lens will fry, given enough sunlight. The mount of the ball is meant to keep things away from the focal trail. Its the opposite with a Campbell-Stokes recorder where the hours of sunshine are recorded as burn marks in a strip of special paper:

  6. Daniel 4

    Insurance is not just for home owners

    "My life has been totally wrecked by this crystal ball. I've got no insurance and almost everything I owned was in the flat."

    No, her whole life was totally wrecked by her failure to get tenant's insurance. Bizarre accidental fires are common.

    I feel sorry for her - I feel sorry for anyone who goes through the tragedy of losing their home - but let this be a lesson for her and anyone who reads about her. Insurance exists for a reason.


  7. Greg J Preece

    You haven't got insurance...

    ...but you can waste £30 on a crystal ball and then put it in the bloody window?

  8. Lutin


    C'mon Reg, surely "The Unforeseeable Fire" would have made a better tagline.

    More coffee needed!

  9. Anonymous Coward


    My wife has a couple of crystal balls and many other crystals. Coincidentally, there was a fire next door yesterday. Better make sure it's not our turn next!

  10. PaulK


    The ultimate incendiary device. Totally passive. Random fuzing. RoHS. Inspirational. Can we expect this to feature in BOFH in the near future?

  11. dave hands


    Yes I have one - there are now some holes melted in the side of my printer from the same effect.

  12. This post has been deleted by its author

  13. Tony Paulazzo

    No Title!

    >Avon Fire and Rescue Service... "very uncommon for this to happen".<

    State the bleeding obvious, much?

    Really, just as well she wasn't insured as the statement above would allow any insurers to quote 'Act of God' as the reason, ergo, no payout.

  14. Bilgepipe
    Thumb Up

    I lol'd

    Funniest sub-title ever!

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    That's sad :( poor woman.

  16. Smallbrainfield

    Ha ha ha!

    And I always thought that gypsies covered their crystal ball to stop it getting dusty.

    Speaking of which, why do gypsies walk funny?

  17. Anonymous Coward

    Not that uncommon...

    I recall my school was very nearly burnt to the ground by a roundbottom flask of water left on a window sill.. fortunatly (for the school not the students) the smouldering wooden sill filled the room with smoke before it ignited into flame.. so was only a case of smoke damage which was bad enough...

    Surely this could happen with numerous types of Vase??

    I have also had concerns about the lensing effect of certain bathroom window glass after I found melted toothbrush in a friends bathroom...

  18. ElNumbre

    Not unforseen!!!

    I've been hearing about these sorts of things for years, as long as I can remember in fact. But usually the culpret is 'Goldie' the Goldfish and his spherical tanks of destiny.....

  19. Chris Hunt


    The sun? Actually shining? THIS summer? Who could possibly have expected that?

  20. Anonymous Coward


    Crystal Ball: £30

    Home Insurance: £30

    All your stuff a smouldering pile of ash: - £10000

    Cloth to cover ball: £0.50

    Look on face when presented with this information: Priceless.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Planeten Paultje

    "Why do people have no insurance?"

    1. Perhaps nothing much worth insuring - doubt old photos etc would have much monetary value

    2. Insurance is a gamble, it very often doesn't pay out and so isn't worth spending money on.

    3. Can be very expensive / unavailable in public sector rented property

    Of course these caveats don't always hold.

  22. Anonymous Coward


    "I used to love looking at the crystal ball and watching the sunlight come through it, but I wish I had never bought it now. I'm completely devastated."

    Methinks she's been on the Spice

  23. Will Shaw

    @ ElNumbre

    Well, that explains the strange crescent shaped scorch marks on the cat....

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re:the sun?

    "The sun? Actually shining? THIS summer? Who could possibly have expected that?"

    Are you fucking kidding me? It hasn't been consistent, but I've been melting for approximately 3/4 of this summer and still am. If this isn't sunny enough maybe try moving to the Sahara, because despite what you might think we've had plenty.

  25. Murray Pearson 1

    And now a word from Stevie Wonder...

    "When you believe in things that you don't understand then you suffer / Superstition ain't the way"

    Personally, I believe in refraction and solar energy.

  26. Jon 83

    Thats why, as a juggler,

    I put my balls in a thick sock for protection of things around them.

    An ex-Scout leader of mine had her entire house burnt down after the sun shone through a paperweight and set fire to some papers it was weighing down.

  27. masterpikey

    re: Smallbrainfield

    because their knees have buckled under the strain of all that stolen lead roofing

  28. lorenzo
    Paris Hilton

    Should a seen it coming

    No need for insurance if you can see the future. etc etc

    I bet it was an insurance job...

    only she forgot to takeout insurance

    Paris- cos she knos the value of protection from unforseen events

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    No expert on these sort of things, but isn't one supposed to cover the ball with a cloth when not "in use"?

  30. Anonymous Coward

    Insurance would have been useless

    As it was clearly an act of some random pagan God...

    Actually, could this be where the idea came from about Crystal Balls being magical? hmm....

  31. Anonymous Coward

    "very uncommon for this to happen".

    No it's not.

    Knew I'd heard this before somewhere.

  32. Joe User

    Get a refund

    That crystal ball was obviously defective - it was unable to predict that it would burn down your house!

  33. deshepherd

    similar happenings

    remember reading of a similar incident before ... and with google to the rescue found it

    How one sunbeam turned a tycoon's mansion to ashes

    A BLAZE that caused millions of pounds damage to a tycoon's mansion was started by a freak accident involving a towel and a shaving mirror. The unique chain of events that devastated the eight-bedroom home of Sir Peter Michael, chairman of Classic FM radio, was explained by an expert.

    The concave mirror acted as a magnifying glass, concentrating the sun's rays into a single point, said Berkshire's fire brigade safety officer Greg Boys. At that point, the temperature rose to 200C, causing the towel to burst into flames. Mr Boys said four factors had to combine to start the fire at the Grade 11 listed building near Hungerford.

    Firstly, the sun would have to be low enough to shine directly on the bathroom mirror. Then the mirror would have to be in exactly the right position to direct the magnified rays on to the towel. Also, the towel would have to he at the precise spot where the rays converged. Finally, there would have to be material nearby for the fire to take hold. "A centimetre out in any of the first three factors could well have prevented the fire from ever taking place," said Mr Boys. "It was a chance in a million."

    Firemen hit on the mirror theory while investigating the blaze. Mr Boys added: "We had to wait for ideal conditions so we could test that theory out. "Eventually, they all came together and we dashed over to the house, set up the mirror and towel and waited to see what happened. "What we saw confirmed the theory. The sun hit the mirror, converging on the towel, which was ablaze within minutes."

    Sir Peter, 58, said: "It just makes you think how unfair life can be."

  34. Stevie


    I'd have put this in the "dubious" file if not for Rainy Rat's comment, on account of unsuccessful experiments I did to confirm the old "forest fires from pop bottles" stories that were rampant when I were a lad, and stated unequivocally that in my view it would be more likely that the TV caught fire all on it's own due to it being a superannuated piece of junk with accumulated years of dust in it that had been permanently connected to the 240v mains electricity supply since Azathoth-knows when.

    But I won't now.

    I *will* remove the wife's snowglobe from the front windowshelf though, formerly believed to be a harmless piece of tat but now revealed as a domicilophagic fire hazard.

    Thanks, Rat. I owe you one.

  35. Chris C


    I don't know how it is in the UK, or even all of the US, but I can speak about my own renter's insurance policy. I'm paying a couple hundred dollars per year, and if I need to file a claim, it will almost surely be denied. The reason? According to the fine print, you must have a receipt for everything you claim. My greatest (and most expensive) loss would be my collection of CDs and DVDs, many of which are priceless to me since they're long out-of-print, but I'd get nothing for them since I don't have receipts for them. This does, of course, raise the issue of whether or not the insurance company will cover items received as a gift, since you obviously won't have a receipt for a gift.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    My crystal balls

    I have a hard time keeping the wife from playing with them.

    she does all the time.

  37. TeeCee Gold badge

    @Jon 83

    "I put my balls in a thick sock for protection of things around them."

    As a cricketer, I put mine in a box........

  38. Damien Thorn

    Accidents waiting to happen

    It might be rare for a crystal ball to cause a fire, but glass and sun have been responsible for hundreds of thousands of fires around the globe for years.

    Classic case of sods law, wonder how many cases of spontaneous human combustion are actually just a reflection?

  39. elderlybloke


    If the" mansion" was reduced to ashes, how could the firemen dash over to the house and recreate the conditions?

    Something does not compute.

  40. gollux

    More techologically advanced...

    Had a homebuilt aircraft on our airport that nearly self-ignited from the sun shining through the heavy plexiglass tilt canopy. The owner left it tilted up and it caught the sun just right and developed a focal point. Fortunately someone smelled smoke as it was trying to burn a hole through the seat cushions.

  41. simm0

    Not so uncommon

    I had a glass ball left over from my teenage years.One morning last summer I brought it out to the lawn for my baby daughter to play with and left it under some shade when we went in.

    I went to work and my wife moved the ball, sitting it in the umbrella hole in our timber outdoor table...all Australia.

    When I got home the house was standing but there was a deep smoldering arc burned across 3 slats on the table, I count us very lucky and have offloaded the ball to a junk store.

  42. not.known@this.address

    @Mark Macnair

    That has *got* to be one of the best laughs I have had this year (excpet for BOFH, natch). Now if you will excuse me, I have to go speak to a manky old white dragon about copyright on a song I heard recently...

    [Exit stage left, humming "Doom, doom doom. Doom, doom, doom"...]

  43. Anonymous Coward

    Karmic payback

    As any true Witch knows, you never let sunlight touch your crystal ball.

    Otherwise it has to be cleansed & recharged with moonlight.

  44. Mike Hocker


    If that was a lead crystal ball it is not RoHS... lead crystal might look nice, but everyone knows the only real crystal balls are made of quartz.

  45. Dave Horn


    Bet she didn't see that one coming.

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