There are a few reasons why a woman would set her husband on fire.
The first is that she wants money and stands to get a lot of it if he winds up dead. If you’re a man, you can easily avoid this scenario by remaining poor your whole life. That way, your wife will never be able to love you just for your money. (You could also just never get married. Or be gay, or be able to see the future, etc.)
The second reason a woman would set her husband on fire is that she’s pissed at him for having another woman in his life without her knowledge. This seems fair.
And the third reason is that she’s just plain tired of being on the receiving end of his barbaric violence and/or perversity, and decides it’s time to dish out some of her own. Given the amount of domestic abuse directed at women by men, it’s kind of interesting and not a little satisfying to think about it going the other way in retaliation.
We’re sure there are other reasons, too, some of which we may never understand, being a man who will probably always be too poor to afford the sex-change operation. With one insane exception, however, all of the entries on this list fall into the three categories mentioned above.
Okay, let’s get started.
10. Michelle Houcks and the “Accidental” Fire
Michelle and Darrin Houcks of Jackson County, Missouri, decided to separate in the summer of 1995. It was clearly a good idea as they couldn’t be in the same house very long without trying to kill each other. Mrs. Houcks ended up moving out. On the night of August 28, she came over to the house to get some of her belongings, and discovered another woman present. This lit her up enough that Mr. Houcks had to wrestle a screwdriver out of one of her hands and a pair of scissors out of the other.
Michelle returned the next evening on the warpath. She arrived before Mr. Houcks returned from work and was waiting for him in the kitchen. Which, as we all know, is the best place to set a husband on fire. She doused him with gasoline and, as he grabbed her arms and tried to defend himself, flicked a lighter. “Accidentally” flicked, she later claimed. (But how the hell do you accidentally flick a lighter?) Anyway, Darrin suffered severe burns on about half his body, and Michelle was convicted of first-degree assault.
From CaseLaw: “As Mr. Houcks was burning, he asked her, ‘Why are you doing this to me?’ Mrs. Houcks responded that if she couldn’t have him, nobody could.”
9. Mary Attah, Pastor’s Wife
In July of 2012, Mary Attah and her husband, Pastor Darlington Attah, were enjoying a nice evening at home in Effurun, Nigeria. Then – “ostentatiously at a time she was having sexual pleasure with her hubby,” as the Nigerian Tribune so rightly puts it – the phone rang and ruined everything.
It was the pastor’s mistress, so quite naturally Mrs. Attah was beset by holy rage and had no choice but to run to the kitchen for two ingredients: ground pepper and a knife. The former she flung into the mister’s face to discombobulate him; the latter she introduced to the mister’s neck. Then, just for good measure, she set him alight as he was bleeding out. The good pastor died soon after at Warri Central Hospital.
For her crime of not murdering her cheating husband in a more subtle fashion, Mary Attah was sentenced to death by hanging by the Delta State Judiciary Effurun High Court in 2016. “The sentence of this court upon you, Mary Attah, is death by hanging by the neck till you be dead,” said Justice E.I. Oritsejafor. “And may the Lord have mercy on your soul.”
8. Margaret Rudin, the Black Widow Killer
Margaret Rudin, the Black Widow killer, was convicted in 1997 of murdering her multimillionaire husband Ron. He’d gone missing in December 1994, and his torched corpse was found just a month later, stuffed in a trunk. Well, most of it was stuffed in a trunk. The aerated skull turned up in a ravine nearby.
Margaret had been set to inherit 60 percent of Ron’s estate, so of course people were suspicious. But there wasn’t enough evidence for authorities to pin any charges on Margaret – until 1996, that is, when a diver found Ron’s long-missing .22 Ruger at the bottom of Lake Mead with a silencer attached. The district attorney was able to use this new piece of evidence to charge Margaret with murder the following year. But by then, she was long gone. It took 2 1/2 years for them to track her down, and when they finally found her she was holed up with a retired firefighter in Massachusetts.
Margaret was convicted of murder in 2001 and is serving her sentence in North Las Vegas. She insisted on her innocence from the get-go, and to this day denies responsibility for the killing.
7. Tatanysha Hedman vs. Hubby from Hell
The story of Tatanysha Hedman and her jerk of a husband reads like a textbook case of a pervert getting exactly what he deserves. Here, the perversion is child molestation, and the sweet, sweet consequence is being set on bloody fire by your own wife.
This is more or less what happened on July 17, 2014, to Vincent Phillips, a horrible person who molested his 7-year-old stepdaughter – Hedman’s child. Predictably enough, Hedman proceeded to unleash the literal fire of God upon Phillips while he slept, pouring gasoline on his head and upper chest and then lighting him on fire. Phillips awoke in hell but somehow managed to stumble out of their apartment, his head aflame like Johnny Blaze, and drive Hedman’s Saturn to a nearby convenience store, where he begged for help and then passed out in front of the cops.
Hedman later said she burned Phillips because shooting him was “too nice” – and we’d almost have to agree with that, but in fact there is one place you could shoot a child molester that would really be a lot less nice than immolation. Plus, you could still set him on fire afterward.
As of publication of this list, Hedman is being held on assault and arson charges, which, okay, sure. Phillips, however, is facing first-degree child molestation charges. Prison should be interesting if he’s convicted.
6. Rajini Narayan, Dongburner from Down Under
In December of 2008, a woman from Adelaide, Australia got some international attention by setting her husband’s penis on fire. You see, Satish Narayan, this story’s star burnee, was having an affair of which his wife Rajini most certainly did not approve. So Mrs. Narayan decided to show him she meant business.
Showing someone in Adelaide you mean business apparently involves methylated spirits and matches. And, in this case, the penis of a navy engineer you’ve been married to for 24 years. Satish, who was sleeping at the moment of ignition, quickly awoke and equally quickly knocked over the bottle of spirits. This blunder allowed the penis fire to grow into a full-fledged house fire and led to burns on three-quarters of the unsuspecting cheat’s body.
Mrs. Narayan was reportedly remorseful for her action almost right away and tried to save Satish from the fire demon she’d summoned. “It’s just his penis I wanted to burn. I didn’t mean this to happen,” she said. No dice; he died 20 days later and it turned out to be a Christmas to remember. But aren’t all Christmases?
5. Lydia Echevarría, the Actress Who Played Her Homicidal Self
Lydia Echevarría was a Puerto Rican actress of note who married producer of note Luis Vigoreaux in 1960. The two made quite the celebrity couple back in the ’60s and ’70s – at least until January 1983 when Luis was found burnt to bacon in his car. The year before, he’d reportedly begun an affair with a model named Nydia Castillo. In 1984 Echevarría was charged with murder, and in 1986 the verdict was handed down: guilty. Sentence: 208 years in prison.
Echevarría’s sentence was controversially commuted after 13 years and she was allowed to return home, where she lived under curfew. She went on to appear in several TV shows and plays, and get this – at one point she actually took on the role of a woman who gets convicted for murdering her husband.
Echevarría masterminded the murder but didn’t do the murdery part herself. The actual killers were Francisco “Papo” Newmann and David Lopez Watts, who kidnapped Vigoreaux and drove him to a remote location outside of San Juan. There, they went to town with an ice pick and tire iron, then locked Vigoreaux, still alive, in the trunk. Newmann set the car on fire, and all three men departed, one of them into the afterlife.
4. Marilyn Plantz, the Sunday School Teacher
On Aug. 26, 1988, after returning home from his night shift at The Oklahoman, Jim Plantz got the crap kicked out of him by two 18-year-olds with baseball bats. One of the assailants was Clinton McKimble. The other was William Bryson, who was romantically involved with Jim’s wife, Marilyn. Marilyn, who’d hired the boys to do what they did, was in the other room with the kids at the time of the attack.
Why did they do this? Mainly for the $300,000 or so tied to Jim in the form of life insurance, to which Marilyn was beneficiary. But also because Jim was an abusive husband and Marilyn wanted him to, you know, accidentally disappear. Bryson later testified that Jim regularly beat his wife. “I didn’t have no specific reason why I killed him,” he said. “All I was thinking while I was beating him was all the times she came up to me with a black eye and crying. I didn’t like that.” Furthermore, Jim suspected she’d try to divorce him, and had threatened to kill himself – and her – if she did.
So, back to the attack and accidents in general. Seeing as how a body beat to a pulp in your own home doesn’t look very accidental, Marilyn decided the boys should take Jim for a little drive. Some sources have reported that Jim was bludgeoned to death, but this isn’t quite the truth, as Jim was definitely still alive when Bryson and McKimble loaded him up in his own pickup and headed into the sticks outside Oklahoma City. There, on a lonely rural road, they set the truck ablaze with Jim still in it.
That situation looked a little more accidental, but it didn’t exactly fool any investigators. All three conspirators were swiftly rounded up. McKimble ended up testifying against Bryson and Plantz for a life sentence. Bryson was executed by lethal injection in June 2000, and Plantz followed in identical fashion in the next May.
For what it’s worth, Marilyn was a Sunday school teacher. Always remember to do your background research, kids.
3. Kiranjit Ahluwalia’s Homemade Napalm
In 1989, Kiranjit Ahluwalia killed her cruel and abusive husband Deepak, who frequently beat, tortured, and raped her. After 10 years of suffering his existence, she finally snapped and set him on fire with a mixture of caustic soda and petrol while he slept. He succumbed to his burn wounds a few days later.
Caustic soda mixed with petrol, by the way, is basically napalm. Kiranjit literally naped her husband to death.
Kiranjit was swiftly convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. However, in 1992 her sentence was quashed on appeal, thanks to efforts by the Southall Black Sisters organization. Her story later inspired a film, Provoked, and her case helped transform the law regarding domestic abuse and battered women in the UK. She even won an award in 2001, and wrote an autobiography that so far has been reviewed by a total of three lowlifes on Amazon.
2. Unidentified Chinese Woman
We now move on to one of the most disturbing entries on this list – that of a Chinese woman who was forced to set her husband on fire.
In April of 1942, American forces launched the Doolittle Raid on Japan in retaliation for Pearl Harbor. The flight from the USS Hornet was a one-way trip; many of the pilots involved in the raid crash-landed in friendly free China territory, where they were given aid by Chinese villagers and missionaries.
The Imperial Army responded by mercilessly attacking the Chinese in one of the most savage military campaigns ever recorded. Bullet contests. Bacteriological warfare. Pillaging and mayhem of the highest order. It’s really not necessary to repeat all the details; just know there’s a reason history books now have an entry called the Rape of Nanking (just a small sample of this massacre is pictured above). The one detail we will mention pertains of course to the subject of this top 10 list. According to Smithsonian.com:
“In Ihwang, Ma Eng-lin, who had welcomed injured pilot Harold Watson into his home, was wrapped in a blanket, tied to a chair and soaked in kerosene. Then soldiers forced his wife to torch him.”
War always seems to come with its atrocities, but man, that’s some sad material right there.
1. Francine Hughes and the Burning Bed
The story of Francine Hughes is a story of desperation. It also played an influential role in shaping the awareness and treatment of domestic abuse in the United States. In 1977, Francine endured one last beating from her husband, James “Mickey” Hughes, and went directly to the garage to fetch some gasoline. She returned to their bedroom and set the bed ablaze while he was in it, passed out drunk. Then, with her children in the car, she drove to the police station and confessed.
It was a brazen, terrifying act, but it didn’t just pop up out of nowhere. Like many tales of women directing violence at men, this one was prompted by years of domestic abuse that totally broke down a gal with nowhere to turn. People had known about the abuse for a long time. Her neighbors knew; friends knew. The cops, too. But nobody helped her. People turned a blind eye and just accepted the abuse as a thing. So, finally, Francine took matters into her own hands, and the rest is history.
Mrs. Hughes was eventually acquitted, which at the time was unheard of in a situation involving premeditated murder. Her attorney had cleverly built her case on a temporary insanity plea, and it worked. It was one of the very first cases involving what’s now commonly known as the battered woman’s defense or battered woman’s syndrome. Francine’s story led to a 1980 book by Faith McNulty, The Burning Bed, and a 1984 film by the same name starring Farrah Fawcett.
Unfortunately, there is an ironic and truly sick twist to this story. The film left one man feeling a little bit freaked out, and after viewing it he went off the deep end and set his estranged wife on fire.
People are messed up, man.
Keith Burnside is a senior copywriter and task juggler at SlapSad, America’s first and finest postcard company. In his spare time, he enjoys writing to take his mind off work. Keith occasionally publishes under the pseudonym Brandt Ketterer and is responsible for all of the chaos at Chicken Cannonballs.
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