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1904: The Match Head Man: A Strange Tale of Addiction

A woman from Cleveland, Ohio, named Mrs. Richard A. Coleman approached the central police station on Monday, January 11, 1904, and sought help from Prosecutor Gott. She expressed her concern about her husband’s strange habit of eating match heads, which made him cross, according to her.

Mrs. Coleman informed the prosecutor that her husband had been indulging in this strange appetite for brimstone since their marriage several years ago. She was amazed when, on their honeymoon, her husband ate the heads off all the parlor matches. However, she soon realized that this was a regular habit of her husband, whenever he wanted to drown his sorrows.

Instead of going to a saloon, her husband would simply sit down on the parlor sofa and fill his stomach with match heads of various colors, such as red, green, and pink. He would then drink from the kitchen water bucket and go to sleep. Mrs. Coleman stated that he had developed such a taste for match heads that he could consume a whole box of them in one sitting.

Mrs. Coleman put up with her husband’s strange habit for a long time, until a few nights earlier, when he ate most of a box of matches and woke up at midnight, cross and angry, and choked her. She now wants to be left alone and is seeking help from the authorities.

Prosecutor Gott looked through his law books but could not find anything that prohibited a person from eating their own parlor matches. He wrote a letter to Mr. Coleman asking him to come to the office and explain his behavior.

The strange appetite of Mr. Coleman clearly became a topic of concern for his wife and the authorities, and it remained to be seen what action would be taken in this matter.

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