Couple Found Dead After Being Electrocuted While Creating Art Using Dangerous Method That's Popular on TikTok

Tanya Rodriguez and James Carolfi died earlier this month while attempting "fractal wood burning," police said

Woodworking and woodburning tools, paint and brushes
Woodworking and woodburning tools, paint and brushes. Photo: Getty

Wisconsin police said two people died while attempting to use a dangerous wood-burning technique that has become popular on social media.

On Thursday, the Marathon County Sheriff's Office announced the findings of an investigation into the deaths of 44-year-old Tanya Rodriguez and 52-year-old James Carolfi, a couple found dead in a house fire on April 6.

Marathon County officials and fire marshals and other agencies concluded that Rodriguez and Carolfi died by accidental electrocution while attempting to use an art technique called "fractal wood burning" prior to the fire.

In a statement, the sheriff's office explained the method uses high-voltage electricity to burn "tree-like patterns into wood" that has been soaked in a chemical solution.

"Through the investigation, it was determined that the fire started in the garage before spreading to the home," the Marathon County Sheriff's Office said. "We believe that the fractal wood-burning equipment that caused the electrocutions likely caused the structure fire."

Authorities stated their deaths have been deemed "accidental in nature" and foul play has been ruled out.

repurposed wood planks- a few have unusual fractal lightning high voltage lichtenberg wood burning patterns
An example of fractal wood burning. Getty

After announcing their findings, the sheriff's office warned against the dangers of fractal wood burning, which they said gained popularity due to viral videos on social media.

"The Marathon County Sheriff's Office wishes to alert citizens of the dangers of fractal woodburning, an art form that has gained popularity on social media sites such as TikTok, Facebook, and YouTube," they mentioned.

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"The fractal burning process typically uses a high-voltage transformer, often repurposed from a microwave oven, to flow current across wood items that have been soaked with a chemical solution. This process is highly dangerous and should only be done by trained professionals," they added.

On shopping sites like Etsy and Mercari, art made from fractal wood burning can sell for hundreds of dollars.

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