The Supernatural Blacksmith. Nathan Coker: Mystery Files
Nathan Coker - Supernatural Blacksmith
There have been many stories throughout the ages, of people who seem to defy the very laws of Nature itself. Tales told of special people who seem to be impervious to the searing pain and destructive effects of fire.
The far east abounds with stories of fakirs and holy men who routinely walk barefoot over glowing beds of hot burning coals without sustaining harm to the flesh of their feet.
Here in the west there are even more impressive stories of people who could handle burning coals for extended periods, apparently without harm. The most famous western exponent was probably D.D.Home, who was observed on numerous occasions to lay down in front of a fire-place and place his head into the flaming fire, with no apparent harmful effects.
Most of these workers of miracles, tended to be self-styled guru's, mediums,visionaries or entertainers, characters who in some way might be considered to benefit, either monetarily, or in reputation from their unusual demonstrations.
There was one man however, a humble blacksmith, who’s remarkable imperviousness to heat and flame was regarded by him as simply an ordinary part of his everyday life, but was regarded by the rest of the observing world as astounding and uncanny. He was a man who could apply white-hot metal to his flesh, and gargle with molten lead! His name was Nathan Coker.
Nathan Coker's life began in the town of Hillsborough, Maryland in1814. He was born into slavery and was owned by one Henry L.Sellers who sold him to a man called Bishop Emery. A lawyer by the name of Purnell entered into a contract with Emery, to lease the services of young Nathan Coker (now in his early teens). Purnell was not a good master and badly mistreated Coker in many ways. Coker often went hungry because his master rarely provided enough food for him and so to supplement his diet, he took to stealing food from the kitchen.
It was during these hunger-prompted forays into the kitchen, that Coker first became aware of his unusual ability. Describing these early food raids he said:
“I shied around the kitchen one day and when the cook left, I shot in, dipped my hand into the dinner pot, and pulled out a red-hot dumpling. The boiling water did not burn and I could eat the hot dumpling without winking: so after I often got my dinner that way. I has often got the hot fat off the boiling water and drank it. I drink my coffee when it is boiling, and it does not give me half so much pain as it does to drink a glass of cold water. I always likes it just as hot as I can get it”
But this was only a hint of the incredible imperviousness to heat that would become Coker's unique claim to fame. As time went on, Coker left Purnells's employ, and took up the trade of Blacksmith in the town of Denton, Maryland where his astounding relationship with heat became ever more apparent. Coker gave a demonstration of his abilities in the office of a Dr. Stack which took place before a number of prominent citizens of Easton, Maryland, including no less than four physicians and two newspaper editors. This account of that demonstration appeared in the New York Herald in 1871:
“A brisk fire of anthracite was burning in a common coal stove, and an iron shovel was placed in the stove and heated to a white heat. When all was ready, the negro pulled off his boots and placed the hot shovel upon the soles of his feet, and kept it there until the shovel became black. His feet were then examined by the physician, but no burns could be found, and all declared that no evidence of a heated substance having come in contact with them was visible.
The shovel was again heated red-hot, taken from the stove and handed to him. He ran out his tongue as far as he could, and laid the heated shovel upon it, licking the iron until it became cooled The physician examined the tongue, but found nothing to indicate that he had suffered in the least from the heated iron.
A large handful of common squirrel-shot... was next placed in an iron receptacle and heated until melted. The negro then took the dish, poured the heated lead into the palm of his hand, and then put it into his mouth, allowing it to run all around his teeth and gums. He repeated the operation several times,each time keeping the melted lead in his mouth until solidified. After each operation the physicians examined him carefully, but could find nothing upon his flesh to indicate that he had been the least affected... Then he deliberately put his hand into the stove, which was a very hot fire, and took therefrom a handful of hot coals and passed them about the room to the gentlemen present, keeping them in his hand some time. Not the slightest evidence of a burn was visible upon his hand after he threw the coals back into the stove”
The Newspaper article also reported on Coker's unique blacksmithing technique of working with red-hot metal without the use of tongs! And these activities were not just party pieces trotted out for special occasions or paying guests, but an everyday part of Coker's life as a blacksmith., as he himself commented “ I often take my iron out of the forge with my hand when red hot, but it don't burn. Since I was a little boy I have never been afraid to handle fire.”
Coker was born in 1814, but I have not been able to discover the date or manner of Coker's death, although, with his remarkable talent, I would suppose that it's a pretty safe guess that he wasn't cremated :)
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