Spontaneous human combustion occurs when a person bursts into flames due to a chemical reaction inside the body, without any external source of ignition. Check out these 10 people who are rumored to have met their fate as victims of spontaneous human combustion.
1In a Strange Ironic Twist, a Firefighter Succumbs to Spontaneous Human Combustion
Fireman George Mott of Crown Point, NY was watching an episode of The Twilight Zone with a friend and said, "Nothing weird like that ever happens to me. I wish it would."
George got his wish. When his son visited a few days later, he found the windows browned and the doorknob warm. Inside, he found his father reduced to ashes in his bed. One rib and his skull remained, though it was inexplicably shrunken. Everything else in the room was intact.
George was a known drinker and used an oxygen tank, but it was not in use at the time of his death. A pack of matches were found next to to the tank but had never ignited.
2Coroner Officially Declares an Irish Man's Cause of Death as Spontaneous Human Combustion
In 2010, 76-year-old Michael Faherty was found burned to death in his home in Ireland. Neighbors were awakened by the sound of a smoke alarm and the sight of heavy smoke coming from Faherty's home. He was found lying on his back close to a fireplace. The only damage that was found was to his body, the ceiling above, and the floor beneath him. The fire hadn't spread anywhere else, nor were any accelerants found. Investigators also concluded that the open fire in the fireplace was not the cause of Faherty's death.
After Faherty's autopsy, the coroner concluded, "This fire was thoroughly investigated and I'm left with the conclusion that this fits into the category of spontaneous human combustion, for which there is no adequate explanation."
3FBI Claims the "Wick Effect" is a Possible Cause of an Elderly Woman's Death
In 1951, when Mary Reeser's landlady came by to drop off a telegram, she discovered that her tenant's door was hot to the touch. With the help of some workers, she forced the door open and found the ashes of Mrs. Reeser. The only remaining parts of her body were her backbone, her left foot, and her skull, which was shrunken "to the size of a teacup."
An investigation by local police found that while she was totally burned, the rest of the room remained untouched. Stumped as to why nothing else burned in a room in which temperatures exceeded 3000 degrees Fahrenheit, the FBI were called in. They concluded that Mary Reeser was a victim of the "wick effect," in which the human body is destroyed by fire as the clothing of the victim soaks up melted human fat and acts like the wick of candle. However, the local police never bought the "wick effect" story so her death remains a mystery.
4Parents Claim the Cause of Their Baby's Burns is Spontaneous Human Combustion
Three-month-old Indian baby Rahul is the latest possible victim of spontaneous human combustion. His mother claims that he suffered from spontaneous burning only 9 days after his birth. "There was a flame on his belly and his right knee, and my husband rushed in with a towel to put it off,” said Ms. Karnan. “I got very scared.”
The attacks occurred three more times so Rahul was admitted to the hospital for a battery of tests, all off which came back normal. Questions about child abuse and neglect were raised, but his parents maintain their innocence. It has also been noted that several homes in their village burned in 2004 because of the presence of highly flammable phosphorus in the building material. Rahul is expected to remain with child protective services until the cause of his mysterious burns is uncovered.
5Neighbor Sees Flames Bursting from a Paraplegic's Abdomen
78-year-old Young Sik Kim, who was a paraplegic most of his life, was confined to a wheelchair. A neighbor came by to pay the elderly man a visit and discovered Kim enveloped in a blue flame which was bursting from his abdomen.
The neighbor called for help, but by the time she returned with it Kim and the wheelchair he was in were just a pile of ashes. Only his feet were left intact. Strangely, the nearby curtains and clothing were completely untouched by fire, despite the heat that would have been necessary to turn Kim into ash.
6Knight Vomits Fire After Drinking Two Ladles of Wine
The first mention of spontaneous human combustion in history belongs to an Italian knight, Polonus Vorstius, who lived during the 15th century reign of Queen Bona Sforza in Milan, Italy. The knight was reputed to have consumed "two ladles of strong wine." He felt nauseous and began vomiting fire which ultimately consumed his entire body. No one else whom he was with, including his parents, was affected.
7Nothing Left of Doctor Bentley but a Lower Leg and Slipper
In 1966, Dr. John Irving Bentley's burned remains were found by a meter reader who let himself inside Bentley's home in rural Pennsylvania. Bentley, who was alive and with friends the night before he was found dead, had his body reduced to ash with the exception of the lower leg and a slipper. The rest of the doctor was a pile of ash.
The doctor was a known pipe smoker and it was believed that the ash from his pipe ignited his robe, but his pipe was still on its stand by the bed in the next room. The perplexed coroner ruled the incident as "death by asphyxiation and 90 percent burning of the body."
8Italian Countess is Reduced to Ash and Coated with a "Greasy and Stinking Moisture"
In 1731, a sluggish Countess Cornelia Di Bandi retired for a night's rest. When she failed to get up the next morning, her maid went to her room and found her reduced to ash, with just three fingers and her lower legs left intact. A little of her head and skin also remained, and she was coated with a "greasy and stinking moisture."
The candles on a nearby table had lost all of their wax and only the naked wicks remained. The grease had also settled on the windowpanes and the furniture was covered in a moist soot. As in most cases of spontaneous human combustion, the fire was localized to only her body, and the bed she had been sleeping in was untouched.
9Salesman Survives Spontaneous Human Combustion
Door to door salesman Jack Angel is rumored to be a survivor of spontaneous human combustion. In 1974, Jack fell asleep in his camper in Savannah, Georgia. He slept for several days, and when he awoke his arm and back were covered in burns. There was even a burn hole on his chest. He looked around and saw no other evidence of fire inside the camper and the clothes he was wearing were untouched. Terrified, he left the camper and headed for a nearby hotel where he collapsed. When he woke up in the hospital, baffled doctors could only tell him that the burns appeared to originate from his left arm.
Angel later shifted his story, and told his lawyers that he had been sprayed by scalding hot water while trying to fix the camper's water pressure, but changed his story yet again when he appeared on That's Incredible, a TV show which featured reenactments of allegedly paranormal events.
10Fishmonger's Wife Burns to Death After a Night of Drinking Gin
In the middle of the night, Grace Pett, a fishmongers wife, came down from her bedroom alone to smoke a pipe by the hearth with just a candle to guide her in the dark. Grace had been celebrating her child's arrival from Gibraltar earlier that evening and had consumed a lot of gin.
The next morning her daughter discovered Pett's remains. Her head was resting against the fireplace grate and her torso, described as appearing like "a block of wood burning with a glowing fire without flame,"was stretched across the hearth. There was no fire on the grate, the candle was burnt out, and the clothes and a paper screen were untouched. It was decided that there was some internal cause for the burns on her body.