Fire in the Hole!

In 2008, Anne Danaher sued Karen Kenney, alleging that Kenney negligently injured her during an ear candling. Danaher also sued Wild Oats Markets, alleging that the ear candle it had sold her was defective. I guess I should stop for a second and make sure you know what ear candling is. It’s basically what the name implies: the sticking of candle A into ear B, followed by the lighting of said candle, generally while the candle-ee lies on his or her side.

Because this was a negligence case, you might be thinking that this was an unintentional candling, but you would be wrong. In fact, Danaher requested it. Why? Good question.

Advocates of ear candling (sometimes called “ear coning” because of the shape of the candle) say that the process helps remove ear-wax blockages through the combination of the heat of the flame and the suction created by hot air rising up through the candle, which, I should have mentioned, is hollow. Detractors like me say that makes absolutely no sense at all because ear wax is not going to magically travel up the inside of a hollow candle no matter how much hot air said candle generates. In fact, it seems much more likely that hot melted candle wax is going to come down. And indeed it does.

One of the points illustrated by this case is the fact that even intelligent people may believe some ridiculous things.

For example, I emailed a friend of mine about this case, a man who is an attorney and personally known by me to be an intelligent person. (I’ll call him David, because that’s his name.) To my surprise, David wrote back to offer a slightly sheepish defense of the procedure, saying he had actually performed it on his wife (also smart), and though he admitted he found it somewhat “creepy,” they believed it had worked ...

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