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Movies Based on True Crimes: The Burning Bed [based on the murder of James Mickey Hughes 3/9/1977 Dansville, MI]

Francine Hughes 1977

(I cannot find any concrete information on how Francine is doing now. I have read rumors and innuendos that she had hard times after this, with drugs and domestic violence still. I cannot confirm this. Nor can I find any recent pictures of Francine or any of Mickey. If I do, I will post them.)

Wikipedia: The Burning Bed
A. The Excuse Defense
How Did The Burning Bed Help Bring Light to the Issue?
Ballad of Francine Hughes lyrics
Is Hughes Case a Landmark?
Should Battered Women Punch Back?

The Burning Bed, The True Story Of Francine Hughes- A Beaten Wife Who Rebelled

The Burning Bed

[The video below is The Ballad of Francine Hughes by Lyn Turner. Very nice song. She tells a bit about it first]

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56 Responses

  1. There is a book called “Small Sacrifices”. It is the Story of Diane Downs. She shot all three of her children killing one and injuring the other two for life. She even escaped from prison for about 11 days. She blamed it on the Shaggy Haired Stranger, but it was her. All this over a man! Sad, but true story. In the end the prosecuting attorney adopted her two surviving children. They are now grown with families of their own now.

  2. Another good “true story” is the “Twelfth of Never” the story of Dan and Betty Broderick and their divorce. Stunning!

  3. another nice read, is:” There Are No Mountains In Mid Michigan”. dont recall author

  4. i am new to this site and i apoligise.my mother and francine were best freinds,for most part of my early child hood in mid michgan area,my parents divorced. my mother took us kids back west to kalamazoo,and we lost contact with francine for 30 yrs.i also as a child/parent have indured the scars of domestic violence,upon my mother,and my eldest sons mother,whom in aug of 2002 in kalamazoo mi was found dead nude, with blunt force trauma to the torso beyond recongnition.what kind of a society do will live in,that horros of this magnitude exist.men what have you turned into,that you cant just leave,a relatioship with out battering.forever in morn and fear.

  5. Richie I am very sorry to hear about the abuse your family went through and the loss you have taken. I can’t understand why someone would be so abusive. The only thing that comes to mind is insanity. Insanity has no limits or boundaries and that is the scary part. I have been in an abusive relationship myself. I know that the court system may have changed but now piece of paper will ever change the mind of an insane person. I feel it can sometimes turn them to pure rage. Francine is a person that deserves peace and love. I hope she is getting all of that right now. May God bless her and her children. I will keep you in my prayers Richie.

  6. The most intimate and painful aspects of the lives of this woman and her children have been portrayed in film and book. She and her children will be forever damaged. The little we could do to support their recovery would be to not intrude further on their privacy.

  7. Here is an article I found on Francine and her family. It’s quite a few years old, but is pretty informative.


  8. I wish more women would do as I did, my husband beat me up one time and got 1 year in prison. I divorced him while he was in there. We as women don’t need to be victims we need to be stong and stand up for ourselves no matter what crap he may make you believe. You are worth something. Don’t buy into his feelings of inadequacy, because that’s what they are, and that’s why they try to put it on you. Abuse be it mental, verbal or physical needs to be stopped. We can stop it, there is help out there .

  9. I am Richie’s neice Nikki, My grandma told me the whole story about the burning bed, my grandma lived next door to francine in dansville, she said her and her husband were always fighting…its really sad what happened to her I hope she has found in this experience a peace of mind…hell i would of done it too…you can only take so much from someone….i grew up watching my mom get abused, she is still to this day with the guy, but im so greatful that it came to a stop…being the only reason why is because i called the cops on him and he hated all the fines he had to pay…yeah what a jerk…but i told him as long as i live you will never touch my mother again without paying for it…and so far its been good…i went a long time without sticking up for my mom because i was afraid of him but like i said you can only take so much…everyone in my family had to grow up around abusive drunks like my uncle rich said…everybody was abused and some were molested… [four of those horrible men are six feet under where they belong]my mom and my aunt anita told me some horrible stories about when they were little but things seem to be a lot better now for everyone…i just hop it stays that way…we all reside in kalamazoo, michigan except my uncle rich…he lives in kentucky

  10. It is my honest belief that all men hit. I have tried to love 3 men and all of them have hit me… not at first, but hey eventually the new must wear off. I usually go to the bedroom and try to cover my head with the blankets. It’s like living in your own little world, til he comes into the bedroom looking for you… But I have to pay the bills somehow so leaving is not an option. As far as the courtsystem-what a joke!!! What do they want you to do hit this big man over the head with that little piece of paper that they give you-you know the one I’m talking about the “DO NOT DO IT PAPER-OR THE POLICE WILL COME TO GET YOU” the police will come AND lock you both up so don’t bother calling at risk of going to jail yourself!!!I work for a lawyer and it happens to me all of the time. I’ve gotten good at excuses for bruises, bumps and knocks from the hands of the man that “loves me”. I’ve gotten really good at makeup. Good luck to all of you. I pray daily for deliverance.

    • christi,
      I am sorry for the experiences you have had. But not all men do hit. My husband has NEVER laid a hand on me, in violence or anger. Ever. And he would not to any woman. There are good men out there. I am sorry you have not met one yet. I hope you do one day.

  11. I have had a couple experiences with the US court system and have come to the conclusion that if a person truly want justice they better have a lot of money because with out it you’re sunk. I made up my mind if a man ever hit me out of aggression I would be the last person they ever hit. If anyone ever molested my children there would be no trial because no body would ever be found. Our so called justice system in this country has become so out of line of what is right or wrong they have made the victim the criminal and the criminal has been given all the rights and made the victim. Something has to change or vigilantism will be on a rapid come back.

  12. Christi, I am so sorry you are being hurt by the man who “loves” you. I was abused by my first boyfriend, and stayed with him for 6 years (it took a year of counseling to make my break). I didn’t believe that I’d ever find anyone to truly love me, because he’d beaten it into me that I was ugly, worthless, etc. However, just over 10 years later, I’ve married a wonderful man who would never ever hurt me. Not even the “accidents” that I had repeatedly as a younger woman. Please believe that you’re worth more than your husband is showing you. There is more to life than hiding and covering up injuries.

  13. First let me say- Christi, Not all men hit. I am sorry you went through that. I am praying for you.

    Next, My Mom grew up near the Hughes family, she told me Mickey was a mean bastard, but also that his parents were also abusive to Francine. My Mom use to babysit for Otis Hughes, Mickey’s brother, and knew Francine, she said she never saw Francine without some kind of bruise somewhere.

    • Vicki,
      Thanks for letting us know this. I suspected as much, especially about Mickey’s parents.

      • There is no OTIS HUGHES as Mickey’s brothers…Do your research & get your facts straight….There is a Dexter, Lawance, Donavin & Marlin…So guess your mom is one of those who claim to have known the family…As for Mickey’s parent’s bein’ abusive *wrong* again, my grandparents were far from abusive…

  14. I just finished reading the Burning Bed, and saw the movie 20 years ago. It got me to thinking, was Francine ever able to make peace after all she endured. Are the Hughes still alive?What became of her grown children? Was Berlin abusive toward Flossie? Mickey learned violence from someone. Interesting reading the comments about real neighbors of the Hughes.Hope all were able to move on in there life.

    • Those questions are where my book comes in and how ones actions can effect generations to come… Grandpa Berlin was to timid to be abusive…Grandpa took his life a few short years later, but don’t b’lieve all the comments you read from supposed neighbors/friends seein’ as one does not even know the names of the brothers…

  15. any news?

  16. http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/article/99999999/NEWS01/909270304

    This site has photos & information regarding Francine Huges, published Sept. 2009


    Article from local newspaper after trial.

  17. This story on the burning bed should be an eye opening for a lots of women and men that r in abusive relationship,that fool got what he needed,anyone that hits the one thay say thay loves don’t really love them at all but really hate themselves. I truely think back in them days peoples was sick as hell…and I’m glad times has change.the hughes family was sick.

  18. This movie was based on the story about my grandmother Agnes and her 3 children Robert, Jr., Russ and Ronald.
    The names were changed because Agnes was so vulnerable during those times. She married two more times after the story about her first husband.
    The real story took place in rural Pennsylvania.
    Agnes was found murdered and buried without a headstone.
    My father testified during the court hearings. It was a horrible childhood for him. I suffered too, with my father becoming an addict; masking his memories, and never touching his wife, but abusing his children.
    I just hope and pray that my grandmother’s story has in some way empowered the innocent wives and children.
    The story continued however and I, Agnes’ grandson, became the broken link.

    • Rusty,

      The movie WAS based on Mickey and Francine Hughes. This was no secret at all. And Francine was not murdered, she is still alive. I do not know where you got your information, but it is not true.

      Also, if you look at the movie details at IMDB, it shows that it was taken from the book by Faith McNulty.

  19. This movie was based on the story about my grandmother Agnes and her 3 children Robert, Jr., Russ and Ronald.
    The names were changed because Agnes was so vulnerable during those times. She married two more times after the story about her first husband.
    Research does not equal google. It involves going to a court and going to get actual, non-fabricated documents.
    This book and the movie revolved around a powerful message, influenced by money.
    The names, location and people were fiction. Francine is the scapegoat for Agnes. This happened in the 60′s. Hollywood and publications deceive because the real people are haunted by shame.
    I can give specifics, but don’t choose fame. For those who have been mislead, I can give specifics. My grandmother Agnes does not deserve to be overshadowed by fabrications.
    Let me know how you would like to be contacted.
    Remember: perception and deception go hand-in-hand.
    The real story took place in rural Pennsylvania.
    Agnes was found murdered and buried without a headstone.
    My father testified during the court hearings. It was a horrible childhood for him. I suffered too, with my father becoming an addict; masking his memories, and never touching his wife, but abusing his children.
    I just hope and pray that my grandmother’s story has in some way empowered the innocent wives and children.
    The story continued however and I, Agnes’ grandson, became the broken link.

  20. Rusty your delusional. Maybe your greandmother did have this sort of life, but this movie was about the people that have been named in it. There are news articles pictures and all sorts of things to prove that it did happen, court documents, pictures.. I dont see your point. Maybe you are looking for fame :/ anyway!

    Here is a link to James Berlin Hughes grave aka mickey


    Here is a link with pretty complete info on the case (for the delusional folks)


    Anyway Rusty.. Get a life, taking the pain that Francine suffered away and calling it fake is pretty low sir.. lets see a little less conjecture and a lil more proof that your grandmother even existed in the way your claiming, cause I tried to look it up, and ……………………… nada

    • Well said…Last I knew “My Family” as dark as it gets is my reality and as REAL as it can be…Right down to Grandpa Berlin bein’ buried on my 13th Bday…I do not take away from any of Francines pain, but feel she had other options and have seen the pain in my grandmothers, grandfathers, mothers, uncles and cousins eyes…Francine wasn’t as innocent of a victim as many claim, this comes from my personal perception of her actions toward me as a child, not those of my family they would justbe tainted bias opinions.

  21. To Rusty-
    Your grandmother’s story is also very awful- it too sounds like it would make a good movie and occurred a long time before Francine’s. no woman or their children should stay with an abuser- mental or physical. I just hope that your grandmother got off. I couldn’t find in the articles if she was ever convicted. I hope she dodged it and I’m sorry that your father had to endure that life. I’m glad she got him out of it by whatever means. Ladies, this is why you should make sure that you are self sufficient and do not rely on your “better half” for anything. that way if you need to “escape” you have means, because you are the only person you can really rely on. If you’re worried about aftermath repercussions from your actions, it is America- buy a gun. Fire is so destructive.
    Thanks for the info on this site and your story rusty

    • I will be posting on Rusty’s grandmother soon. I had planned to do it before, but life really got in the way for me and I have not been able to do much in the last few months. But I will do it! :)

  22. I grew up in Jackson Michigan.My family owned a drug store on the corner of Blackstone and Trail St
    Francine lived on Blackstone. I can relate to a lot of events in the Book, The Burning Bed…Back then spousal abuse was looked on as personal business and was mostly played down.

  23. I was with a man of four years and at first he was so sweet but a month after i moved in with him, his true colors started to show. He would beat me for no reason at all especially after coming home from the bar. i was literally walking on eggshells everyday, not knowing what mood he was in, there were good days and there were bad days. then i met the father of my two youngest children and we had our fights but he never laid a hand on me in anger. if we got in a fight, he would leave for a good twenty minutes and then come back and we would talk about it, so anyone who thinks that all men hit are wrong. all i can say is look for the warning signs, they do have them

  24. I believe Francine Hughes is on Facebook. She has aged but looks the same…


  25. Rose
    that’s not fran
    sorry lol

  26. And rusty
    I Know fran
    and this was based on her
    I don’t doubt that happened to your grandmother
    but the burning bed was about Francine Hughes Wilson

  27. and richie
    …did you ever get to talk to fran again? …

  28. Oh, well that’s good <3
    I'm happy for him

  29. I married the whole family not just the monster, nobody wanted him living with them But didnt mind him living with me & our 4 kids , Dansville now she went thru hell ,people turn the other cheek , few families are very prominent there , Me at 136lb 5’7, Him at 6’2 & 280lb I was told well ya know I hear bout u fight back too ,or why dont you leave , I have been in 2 car accidents 22 surgeries & a traumatic brain Injury I I dont drive anymore , and me & the kids have had numerous injuries from violence ,I come home again from hospital with 24 hr. nurse aids after building a home for 20 yrs. we had him being removed , ppo’s in place , divorce filed ,This very well known family of Dansville asks How hard is it to find an apt.!!! see Grandma died! They tore up all legal documents , & I told everybody the Secret Our Big construction company went down the Tubes , & the church on M52 that The family goes to & supports wouldnt even visit anymore, They even went as far as evicting me & the kids & the monster sooo I wasnt dumb ! We left ! homeless or not for they thought I was staying that was their game , someone had to take care of the monster, His Uncle Doug wont even give is referances to find a home , See as I said I left the family.. He is 55 yrs.old , not married grandma died & I took care of him , like I promised her , So Believe me I know the kids . I know Dansville , I know the Bar , there r good people there But beware , Yes Me & Francine are Unspoken breeds in the town of Dansville Mi, Im sure there where times she called for help & no one listened , But See Now Everybody is hearing her now !

  30. OMG! I cant believe came about this site.Because its my story & I have letters , emails with address`s signatures , My story is ready :) I am ready to stand on a mountain tell the whole world ! I am now divorced 5 yrs. have no home health aids 3 of my 4 boys have graduated , They still deal with post traumatic stress issues but are all very positive ,God loving caring, productive individuals , 2 are engaged to be married (the 26 yr.old & 21 yr.old) The 23 yr.old is still single & lives with his dog Buddy :) I have my own place & am able to work again at a organic farm through neurological,physical,speech,occupational therapy I have been receiving since my car accident in 2004 & have gone back to school and am receiving my Master Gardner’s certification so thought I should add that there is a good part to this OH yes & my 13 yr old boy (all boys by the way) is great ! he does still go to school in Dansville for we hold our head high cause we all know we made a differance in this world cause like the song says , it happens every 15 seconds , and I will fight back for my childrens life and mine ,

  31. Francine (Fran) lives in Alabama now with her husband Robert (Bob)
    All her children are happy
    she’s a grandmother AND a great grandmother now
    A link to a picture from Christy Hughes facebook with her and her sister Nicole and two brothers Jimmy and Dana

    Nicole and her two kids

    Dana and one of his stepdaughters

    That’s all I can find right now I don’t feel like spending all day sifting through all their facebooks
    I just want people to know that theyre happy now.

  32. Im so very glad , I pray , for all & to see the family has grown & are so happy & absolutely beautiful! I have faith in the Lord & I am seeing my family grow every day :) thank you for posting my story , God bless

  33. Thanks for the links to the facebook pages. Christy looks like Francine and so does Nicole.

  34. Angel you sound about as smart as Flossie and Berlin. If I were Francine, I would have taken my cjildrena nd killed Mickeys parents too. To inbreds with not enough sense to get their own Son the help he needed, instead they would rather turn a blind eye. COWADRS , the entire huges family! I hope Mickey woke up and experienced just a portion of the fear Francine and her innocent children had for so many years. I applaud francine and wish she had the ocurage to have done in the entire hughes family, Trash , youre all trash!

  35. sorry for th etypos but this story just makes me furious. Angel I doubt you’re an angel. To say youre proud to be a hughes shows your ignorance. No one has the right to hit anyone! Hands are for holding bot hitting. And i doubt Berlin abused Flossie, I think she abused him.One thing the book did do and I am happy for is to show just how stupid thehuges’ are, their name does not deserve to be capitolized. Francine made usre he would burn in hell where he belongs, she is in Heaven still smiling!

  36. My question is for Angel.
    So your a niece of Mickey Hughes, how old were you at the time this all happened?
    Is it really fair for you to make any comment about Francine? I’m sure after what she did your whole family has nothing good to say about her so im sure your opinions may be influenced by them.
    Also, two of his children took the stand and testified to the hell their mother and themselves went through.are you saying they lied about whahe did yo protect their mother?went tfaterto protect their mother? father to protect the
    I’m also interested in reading this book you wrote. What’s the name of it and which published it. I’m willing to read it & hear another side of the story.

  37. My question is for Angel.
    So your a niece of Mickey Hughes, how old were you at the time this all happened?
    Is it really fair for you to make any comment about Francine? I’m sure after what she did your whole family has nothing good to say about her so im sure your opinions may be influenced by them.
    Also, two of his children took the stand and testified to the hell their mother and themselves went through. Are you saying they lied about it to protect their mother?
    I’m also interested in reading this book you wrote. What’s the name of it and who published it. I’m willing to read it & hear another side of the story.
    I’m also sure you’re proud to be a Hughes but your uncle Mickey is not someone to be proud of. No man or woman should ever put their spouse or children through that kind of hell.

  38. This is AWFUL!

  39. I was always happy that Francine got rid of the piece of trash forever, after reading the book, I was hoping that she was able to pat herself on the back for a good job, even though she has had some ups and downs since, at least she got rid of that crap. The one curiousity I have is where the hell were her brothers, and why didn’t they go beat the shit out of Mickey Garbage??? Whatever happened to the rest of that bums brothers? did they all turn out to be complete trash like him?

  40. the one thing i remember after my parents divorced thanks to me and my brother telling my mom we were not going back to the house with a man who was getting his shot gun to shooot us…. is that MY DAD NEVER LET MY MOM WATCH THE MOVIE THE BURNING BED AND I THINK ITS ONE OF THE MOST POWERFUL MOVIES AND SO CLOSE TO HOME MOVIES I EVER WATCHED CAUSEI grew up with a abusive father, his whole family hit there kids.. he was abused as a child and therefor, again it repeats itself. he used to beat my mother so bad, black eyes, cuts, bruises , broken bones, and rape her. I hated it. I used to call the police and they did nothing at all. nothing THEY WOULD TELL MY DAD TO GO GET A CUP OF COFFEE AND GIVE HIM A QUARTER and leave then my dad would come back to punch and kick and do what ever to my mom…. i would cry my eyes out…. my brother would go punch him and run away, just long enough for my dad to get off my mom so my mom could run out of the house… THE LAW DID NOTHING.. I MEAN THERE WWERE TIMES I WANTED TO KILL MY DAD SO MY MOM WOULDNT BE IN PAIN…… but you know i dont abuse my kids.. i love my kids and give them hug a bugs….. hugs and kisses … love is better then all that abuse… my brother doesnt beat his children either…. abuse is a cycle but its up to the person to stop it……. YOU KNOW MY DADS FAMILY IGORED MY DAD BEATING THE CRAP OUT OF MY MOTHER AND THOUGHT HE WAS THE GREATEST MAN ON EARTH…… JUST LIKE YOUR DOING..I THINK MICKEY WAS A COWARD A BIG COWARD…. A MAN THAT HITS A WOMEN IS A COWARD.. HE CANT FIGHT A MAN… JUST LIKE YOUR GRANDPARENTS MICKEYES PARENTS… THEY DID NOTHING TO STOP THE ABUSE… you mean to tell me they didnt know.. but you know im not going to get on that subject.. it makes me soooo dam mad…. you know just because you get married dont mean you can control your spouse and dominate there life completely.. it forks up the kids soooo bad… there self esteem is gone, the woman feels useless… you know my mom is still a wreck after we got her away from my father… a wreck!!! bad memories.. bad.. i hate what her soul feels because my dad was a coward… ALL I KNOW ABUSE GOES IN CYCLES THATS WHAT I FEEL AND I THINK MEN AND WOMEN WHO ABUSE THERE KIDS OR SPOUSES SHOULD DO MAJOR JAIL TIME….PEOPLE WHO HIT ARE PIGS AND SHOULD LIE ON THE GROUND WITH THE ANIMALS AND HAVE NOTHING TO BEAT ON!!!!

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