The Fire of Insanity


Setting: Prison Interview.

“Hello, Maurice King. My name is Jay Owens, and I will be interviewing you today. We will be focusing completely on you, and what may have caused your actions. The police department that I work for, wants to know a little more about the inner workings of your mind. Please be as honest as possible when you answer my questions. Now that we have that out of the way, what was your childhood like?”

“Nice to meet you, Mr. Owens. Well, I was born here in Chicago quite a few years ago. My biological father practiced dentistry, but was later fired and accused of manslaughter after killing three of his patients. I was about four years old when this happened. After twelve years of prison he chose to end it all by committing suicide. My mother was a stay-at-home mom, raising all six of my siblings and I. Staying alive became a struggle because my mom would get a job, and then be laid off shortly after. For days at a time all we ate was bread and water. After living in poverty for about three years, my siblings and I were all separated and put into foster homes. To this day, I have not seen any of them since we were separated. I ended up homeless at the age of twelve, due to the fact that I ran away from my foster parents. I did this with hope that my mom would find me on the rugged streets and take me back. I spent three long months on the streets.”

Slowly I muttered with trembling lips, “I cannot even imagine what those three months must have been like. What happened after those months?”

“I was eventually adopted into a fairly wealthy family, my adoptive dad was a prosperous businessman and my adoptive mom was a teacher. Their home is where I discovered my numerous interests. I started going to school, but would often get suspended for fighting. I ended up getting expelled from my private school, after I tried to set the school on fire. I often blamed these occurrences on the lack of a childhood I had.”

“So, is that where your fascination for fire became apparent?”

“Yes, you could say that, but I was not as much of a pyromaniac as a child as I was later on in my life.”

“What were your interests in school, if you had any?”

“Chemistry, and setting things on fire. At one point, my life goal was actually to become a chemist.”

“Interesting. Now let’s talk about your new home life.”

“My parents showed great support for my ideas. I was undeservedly spoiled, and often demanded items without any appreciation for their generosity. Laziness became one of my prominent traits, and the only thing I put effort into was burning various items. I nearly burned my house down, but quickly stopped my actions when my parents intervened. For the majority of my life, I always felt a strong urge to prove something to my parents. I was, and still am, an attention hog. I believe that is one of the main reasons why I feel the urge to set things on fire.”

“Do you still have that desire to prove your worth?”

“Honestly, I do not feel that desire anymore.”

“All right, I am just going to jump into it. Why did you cause the Chicago Fire?”. . .

*          *          *

Maurice King struggled greatly due to an extremely challenging childhood, and did not know exactly how to deal with all the pressures of adulthood. He found comfort in little else, but building fires. Once Maurice had retreated deeply into his mind, getting him to focus and concentrate became extraordinarily difficult. His parents showed great concern after he refused to speak for weeks at a time. The only time he would talk was when he talked to his imaginary friends. His imaginary friends would often whisper ideas into his ears, pressuring him to destroy miscellaneous items. Maurice was soon diagnosed with schizophrenia, and this disorder took a major toll on his life.

Shortly after his diagnosis, Maurice became depressed and once again ran away from home, taking with him all the money he had saved up over time. With this money, he began renting an apartment in the slums of Chicago. This one-bedroom apartment housed four other people besides Maurice, and the living quarters were extremely cramped. The walls looked as though black mold had rotted them from the inside out, and monstrous rats became Maurice’s other roommates. The windows were shattered and the floors were filled with dirt and shards of glass. The roommates would often be rushed to the hospital after glass had become lodged into their feet. The apartment was Maurice’s second disease; each day he became more accustomed to its hideous condition. His appearance began to match that of the apartment. Maurice was robbed of his dignity; he no longer cared about hygiene or many other important social aspects of life. He walked the streets with tangled hair and a repulsive smell without shame.

*          *          *

October 7, 1871, the day before the Great Chicago Fire, quickly came about. Maurice was in no state to be out in public. His condition had worsened over time, and now he almost appeared to be possessed by demons. Suspicious neighbors avoided him after they heard screaming fits that continued for hours, the aggressive banging of doors, and the harsh sounds of glass being shattered. What nobody knew, however, was that Maurice was crafting a plan to destroy the city of Chicago with fire. He began to prepare all the chemicals he needed to create a large enough explosion that would affect the other buildings around him. Maurice and his imaginary friends had become frustrated with the government and the people in it, and he strongly felt that God had called him to bring justice to all of the sinners in Chicago.

*          *          *

October 8, 1871, the day of the Great Chicago Fire  which led to the deaths of nearly three hundred people (Chicago). Maurice had planned extensively for this big day, and he was more than prepared to do what he believed was God’s work. At around 6:15 p.m., Maurice set everything up for the destruction he intended to create. He set up timers on the explosives so that he would have enough time to flee from the city and not be affected by the explosions. After lighting the explosive, he dashed for his horse, and quickly rode away from the area of impact. Seconds later, incredibly hot fire rose up into the air and lines of blue and orange flames started gliding along the streets and up into the buildings. Within minutes the city was up in flames. The ground shook as innocent civilians ran from the fumes and heat. Instantly, Maurice was filled with regret. “What have I done?!” he shouted with deep animosity.

He looked behind him at the city up in flames. He then realized with horror that he had killed hundreds of people for no reason. A few days after the fire began, a large portion of the city had been colored black with ashes. Buildings had been completely ruined, and the smell of smoke pierced the noses of the surviving citizens. The streets were abandoned, and various small fires erupted at random days following the Great Chicago Fire.

Maurice did not attempt to run away from his fate, and the police traced the fire right back to him. He was put on trial and pleaded for insanity, but was denied and was instead charged with murder and given life in jail. Maurice spent forty years in jail, where he was interviewed many times as various police departments attempted to discover his motives. Eventually, his time in prison was cut short, because after an inmate discovered that Maurice had caused the fire, he brutally murdered Maurice due to the fact that the inmate’s family members were killed in the Great Chicago Fire.

“If it weren’t for me I wouldn’t have caused the deaths of over 250 people  (Moments). If it weren’t for me I wouldn’t have caused the destruction of 18,000 buildings (White).

With his last breaths, Maurice said to his murderer, “I do not blame you for your actions, and I am so sorry that I caused you so much grief.”

Works Cited

“Chicago Fire of 1871.” Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. Ed. Thomas Riggs. 2nd    ed. Vol. 1. Farmington Hills: Gale, 2015. 215-218. Student Resources in Context.   Web. 1 Mar. 2016.

“Moments in Chicago History.” Chicago. Elaine Glusac, Elisa Kronish, and Roberta Sotonoff.    New York: DK Publishing, 2014. [32]-35. Eyewitness Top 10 Travel Guides. General  OneFile. Web. 30 Mar. 2016.

Selcer, Richard. Civil War America, 1850 to 1875. New York: Infobase Publishing,

  1. Print.

“Time trip.” Current Events, a Weekly Reader publication 28 Nov. 2003: 2. Student Resources in   Context. Web. 1 Mar. 2016.

White, Patrick. “FIRE LAYS WASTE TO CHICAGO.” Globe & Mail [Toronto, Canada] 8 Oct.  2012: A2. Business Collection. Web. 30 Mar. 2016.