Don’t Blame the Cow: Did the Great Chicago Fire Have an Extraterrestrial Origin?

By Karen Harris


Painting (by Julia Lemos) of people trying to escape burning buildings during the Great Chicago Fire, Chicago, Illinois, 1912. (Photo by Chicago History Museum/Getty Images)

We are all familiar with the children’s ditty that blames Mrs. O’Leary’s cow for starting the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, but maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to condemn the poor bovine for knocking over a lantern left in the shed. Perhaps it is possible that the Great Chicago Fire, that raged for three days, killing 300 people and destroying more than 17,500 buildings, was actually ignited by a visitor from outer space.