November 17, 1924
Addie Sheatsley dies in a furnace, supposedly during a suicide
For reasons unknown, Sheatsley is suspected to have climbed into a large furnace, partially cremating herself from the waist down. Her children found the smell unusual and investigated, though her 16-year-old son Clarence later stated he witnessed his mother burning before he closed the furnace door and took a nap instead of seeking help.
Sheatsley’s husband initially suspected murder, finding no reason Addie would have to kill herself. During autopsy, no carbon particles were found in her throat and had low levels of carbon monoxide in her blood, indicating she was dead before being put in the furnace. To confirm this theory, three guinea pigs were burned alive and necropsies performed. They each had extremely high levels of carbon monoxide in their blood.
Despite these issues, and after an investigation looking into a possible “tramp” who had visited homes in the area shortly before Addie’s death, her death was officially deemed a suicide again. The reasons given were loose at best: she could fit in the tight area easily whereas someone placing her body in the furnace would be difficult and there was no disorder in the home to suggest a struggle. A possible motive was given as “pathological issues, due to her age” (in other words, she was going through menopause) which resulted in a “sudden mania.” Officially, the case has been closed and deemed a suicide, but the verdict left many at the time — and decades later — wondering if someone had gotten away with murder.
The Daily News. March 13, 1928
- Meyers, David and Meyers Walker, Elise. Historic Columbus Crimes, Mama’s in the Furnace, The Thing & More. Charleston: The History Press, 2010
- Daily News [New York, New York]. March 13, 1927
- “Body Of Minister’s Wife Found Burned In Furnace.” The Baltimore Sun [Baltimore, Maryland]. November 18, 1924