Catherine O'Leary seemed the perfect scapegoat: she was a woman, an immigrant, and Catholic, a combination which did not fare well
in the political climate of the time in Chicago. This story was circulating in Chicago even before the flames had died out, and
it was noted in the Chicago Tribune's first post-fire issue. Michael Ahern, the reporter who came up with the story, would later retract
the "cow-and-lantern" story in 1893, admitting that it had been fabricated. Several alternate theories of blame have been proposed, but none have ever been proven.