The Wisconsin couple dies after trying fractal burning, a viral trend on TikTok

Holds space while article actions load

When investigators responded to a fire on April 6 in a Wisconsin home, they were instantly stunned.

The house in Marathon County, northwest of Green Bay, was badly burned and its owners were nowhere to be found. But when the fire was extinguished, officers found two bodies in the garage – those of Tanya Rodriguez, 44, and James Carolfi, 52.

Firefighters suspected the dishonesty, and the sheriff’s deputy in Marathon County began looking for clues to solve what they thought was a homicide case. Then, pathologists performing the couple’s autopsies suggested a theory that changed the course of the study: that Rodriguez and Carolfi had died after electric shock from fractal firewood.

Chief Vice President Chad Billeb confirmed the findings during a Thursday news conference.

“Complete play has been ruled out and the deaths turn out to be accidental in nature and are thought to be caused by electric shock from fractal firewood, “he said.

Fractal wood burning combines high voltage electricity and a chemical solution to etch intricate designs into wood panels. The process creates what are referred to as Lichtenberg figures, a pattern discovered in 1777 by the German physicist Georg Lichtenberg while performing static electricity experiments. The intricate designs – often seen in scars from people who have been struck by lightning – resemble tree branches, lightning or ferns.

The results have turned fractal wood burning into a social media phenomenon. There are hundreds of how-to videos on the Internet. On TikTok, #fractalburning and similar hashtags have garnered millions of views. Still, the aesthetically pleasing appearance of veins spreading across a piece of wood can have a high price – and in dozens of cases, it has become fatal.

People who try the craft often separate microwaves or car batteries to remove the power supply, which is then connected via starter cables to nails attached to a piece of wood cut with a conductive solution of baking soda and water.

At least 33 people – ranging from beginners to experienced electricians – have died from fractal burns since 2016, according to the American Association of Woodturners. The group has banned references to the dangerous process at its events as well as in its articles and publications.

“It only takes a small mistake and you’re dead; not injured, dead, ”the association wrote in a warning on its website. “Some of those who died had experience using the process, and some did not. What is common to them all: fractal burning killed them.”

The Viral Milk Crate Challenge has left people injured. The doctors ask them to stop.

The high voltage involved in the process pushes a stream of electricity that is “well more than enough to cause death,” said Lieutenant Steven DeNovi, an investigator at the Marathon County Sheriff’s Office. In the Wisconsin home, it appears it has also ignited a massive fire.

Billeb, the top deputy, said investigators had searched dozens of videos of fractal burns as doctors believed it could have led to the couple’s death. After two weeks, the case was relegated to a “tragic accident,” he said.

Eventually, investigators concluded that Rodriguez and Carolfi tested the vessel inside their garage that Wednesday morning. A separate microwave had served as the power supply.

The couple was electrocuted to death and a fire burned the home after the couple died, officials said.

“Taking advice from YouTube or other social media to make a craft … is not safe when dealing with electricity,” Billeb said at the news conference.

“It’s very beautiful, quite frankly,” he added about fractal burning. “But it should only be done by professionals.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *