The Bexley minister summoned his children to an upstairs room and broke the news thusly:

The Bexley minister summoned his children to an upstairs room and broke the news thusly:

"Mama's in the furnace," he said.

Well, that explained the smell.

Among the odd and intriguing cases dealt with in the new book "Historic Columbus Crimes," written by the father-daughter team of David Meyers and Elise Meyers Walker, is the 1930 death of the Rev. Clarence Sheatsley's wife.

It was on a Monday that the whole family had lunch together before scattering, leaving the mother behind alone. Later that day, Clarence Sheatsley returned to observe acrid smoke rising from the chimney, Meyers said.

Upon discovering his wife's body incinerated in the furnace, the minister, instead of calling the police, went next door to get his neighbor, a professor at Capital University, evidently to verify the startling find.

Then he called the children together and uttered the words that would, 80 years later, became part of the subtitle of a tome about not only the historic but also the just plain strange in terms of crimes committed in Columbus.

What so intrigued Meyers about the "Mama's in the Furnace" episode was that the children didn't seem particularly shocked. In fact, one of the daughters had investigated the smell and thought someone had thrown rabbit skins into the furnace, and one of the sons had looked in and realized it was his mother in there, dead, Meyers said. He responded by taking a nap and later going outside to play football.

"It's just the way the whole family reacted to this," Meyers said. "The case was never solved, but there was a coroner at the time named Murphy and even though they called in several scientists at the time and they declared she had been dead when she went into the furnace, he said she was alive.

"So he called it a suicide."

Several years later, that coroner earned himself the nickname "Suicide Murphy" when he issued the same ruling in a Detroit case involving a mobster's bullet-riddled body being found in a ditch, according to Meyers.