Friday 23 May 2014

The Electrifying Death of James Otis Jr

James Otis Jr (Barnstable, Massachusetts, America, 5th February 1725 – Andover, Massachusetts, America, 23rd May 1783) 

James Otis Jr by Henry Blackburn, 1755
James Otis Jr by Henry Blackburn, 1755

The life of James Otis Jr is certainly an interesting one. Lawyer, politician and a significant figure in the American Revolution, Otis died on this day in a most singular way and it is this sad event that caught my attention.

On the afternoon of 23rd May the 58 year old lawyer was visiting family in Andover when a violent electric storm raged overhead. Ready to take his leave once the storm had passed, Otis was happily settled in one of the parlours of the house chatting amiably to its inhabitants when a bolt of lightning struck the chimney. With his shoulder resting against the door frame, Otis was catapulted forward and into the arms of his host, Jacob Osgood, already stone dead.

It would appear that the bolt of lightning whizzed down the chimney, along the rood rafter and straight into the door frame where Otis rested. The frame itself split open with the force of the blast and killed James Otis Jr outright.


Anonymous said...

This would be one of the events Benjamin Franklin examined and not just because Otis was a member of the Committee of Public Safety.

If you think science deniers are thick on the ground today in the US, consider what it might have been like in 1780.

Lynn Robb

Catherine Curzon said...

I think I shall look into Franklin's response!