From Kook Science
William "Willie" Brough, Jr. (September 2, 1875 - October 8, 1958) was an American resident of the San Joaquin Valley in California who was described in 1886 press reports as "The Boy With Fire in His Eyes" on the basis of claims that he was able to cause fires by merely casting his gaze upon combustible items, being held responsible for the blazes that had apparently broken out in at the Madison District schoolhouse where he was a pupil as well as his family's home in Turlock, Stanislaus Co., California. Brough's supposed power was variously attributed to such things as an excess of "electricity" or more supernatural causes, though there seems to have been no further investigation after the initial public interest faded, and no known recurrence of such fires following the family's relocation to a nearby property.
- EsoterX (23 June 2020), The Fire Inside Willie Brough, esoterx.com, https://esoterx.com/2020/06/23/the-fire-inside-willie-brough/
- "THAT FIRE BOY AGAIN. More Phenomenal Doings Near Turlock Town. Mysterious Blazes Follow Willie Brough to School — Five Fires in the Room — Willie Expelled.", The Mail (Stockton, CA): 3, 14 Oct. 1886, https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/609448122/
- "THE TURLOCK TERROR. The Stanislaus Boy with Fire in His Eye. A Dreadful Mystery Solve by an 'Examiner' Reporter. Is Willie Brough a Human Reservoir of Electricity? — Lively Times in School — A Terrified Pedagogue.", San Francisco Examiner (San Francisco, CA): 8, 17 Oct. 1886, https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/457919806
- "Investigation of the story about Willie Brough", Electrical Review (New York) 9 (9): 8, 30 Oct. 1886, https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015084677924&view=1up&seq=170
Investigation of the story about Willie Brough, the boy living at Turlock, in the San Joaquin valley, who was supposed by superstitious people to set fire to objects by merely fixing his eyes upon them, exploded that part of it, of course. He is evidently overcharged with electricity to a remarkable extent. The snapping of his fingers causes sparks to fly. Popular excitement has been so great since the story of the sinister power of Master Brough was circulated, that the father has felt impelled to move away, and has gone to reside on the other side of the San Joaquin river, taking refuge with his family in a cottage in the cotton wood timber, along way from village or rail road. A correspondent found him there. He denied that his son had caused fires, but admitted that he had told him that when lying in bed at night he saw sparks flying about him. Willie is an extremely nervous boy, eleven years old, with a largely developed head. In a melancholy way he told the correspondent that he did not know how the mysterious fires occurred, but said he saw sparks about his own body at night. M. A. Kuhlman, who keeps a school in Merce[d] county, in which the alarm first began, describes how five fires broke out in one after noon in different parts of the school-house, being caused by no visible agency. Other scholars were hastily dismissed, but Willie Brough was detained. A few minutes later he fixed his eyes on a hay shed a few yards distant and called the teacher's attention to the fact that smoke issued from the same. Very soon it was in a blaze. The teacher forbade him to come to school any more. He does not believe him guilty of arson, but is inclined to think he is a victim of supernatural agencies. On the previous Sunday eleven mysterious blazes occurred in the house of William's father. One broke out at a corner of the roof, another in some bedding in the middle of the floor and the third char red grain sacks in the barn. Willie looked at a straw stack near by, and flames issued out of the top. The mother of the boy is prostrated with excitement and anxiety.
An Imposter in San Jose, CA
One J. W. Roscoe, a theatrical promoter, put on a stage show at the Standard Theater in San Jose in late October to early November 1886 with Willie Brough advertised to be the headliner. It was quickly found out, however, that the boy on stage was not Brough, but rather a hired hand from Sacramento, and all the pyro-kinetic effects witnessed by the paying audience was purely "phosphorous and imagination."
- "WILLIE BROUGH. Arrival of the Turlock Boy With 'Fire in His Eyes.'", San Jose Daily Mercury (San Jose, CA): 3, 23 Oct. 1886, https://cdnc.ucr.edu/?a=d&d=SJMN18861023.2.26&srpos=3&e=-------en--20--1--txt-txIN-%22Willie+Brough%22+Turlock-------1
- "A FRAUD EXPOSED. The 'Fire Boy' Who Was Shown at the Standard Theater.", San Jose Daily Herald (San Jose, CA): 3, 10 Nov. 1886, https://cdnc.ucr.edu/?a=d&d=SJH18861110.2.41&srpos=4&e=-------en--20--1--txt-txIN-%22Willie+Brough%22+Turlock-------1
- "ROSCOE'S RUSE. The Bogus Fire Boy and an Enraged Attorney.", San Jose Daily Mercury (San Jose, CA): 3, 11 Nov. 1886, https://cdnc.ucr.edu/?a=d&d=SJMN18861111.2.34&srpos=1&e=-------en--20--1--txt-txIN-%22Willie+Brough%22+Turlock-------1
- "THE LAST CHAPTER. A Sacramento Bootblack Who Poses as the 'Fire-Boy.'", San Jose Daily Herald (San Jose, CA): 3, 17 Nov. 1886, https://cdnc.ucr.edu/?a=d&d=SJH18861117.2.18&srpos=5&e=-------en--20--1--txt-txIN-%22Willie+Brough%22+Turlock-------1