An alarming incident, which may end fatally in one if not more cases, has just happened at Houghton, Michigan.
A masquerade ball was given in the public hall, at which upwards of 500 persons were present.
The event had been looked forward to for several weeks, and great preparations were made for it. The costumes were of the most varied description, unfortunately many of them being of a light and inflammable character.
Some of the best families of the town were present, and altogether the gathering was regarded as a great success.
The dancing and hilarity were at their height when an untoward accident occurred which brought the proceedings to an unexpected termination, and for a short time seemed likely to end in a catastrophe.
One of the dancers, a German named Krellivitz, who wore a cotton batting, or cotton wool, was impersonating “Father Christmas” in his snowy robes.
He was dancing and pirouetting about with great vigour, and to the great delight of those who saw him, when he accidentally stumbled against a boy, who, in the character of a ghoul, was going about with a lighted candle.
Instantly, the cotton wool of Krellivitz’s costume was ignited and he was enveloped in flames.
The ladies near him, who perceived what had happened, started screaming, and the place was immediately thrown into a state of the utmost commotion, some of the dancers rushing to the doors to get out, whilst others ran to Krellivitz’s assistance.
The latter, however, losing all presence of mind, ran frantically about the saloon, setting fire to the costumes of all with whom he came into contact.
For several minutes the scene was almost indescribable. A perfect panic reigned, those whose clothes were on fire rushing wildly about to the danger of others.
Gradually, however, the larger part of the dancers got out of the room, whilst the clothes of the those who were set on fire were extinguished, though not until many had been severely burned.
Krellivitz himself received terrible injuries before he could be divested of his burning costume, and it is feared that he and one or two others may succumb to their injuries.
The Midland Daily Telegraph, Coventry, February 13, 1891