On July 2nd 1951 remains were found of a 67 year old widower named Mary Reeser. Her burnt smouldering remains were found by her Neighbor and some house painters. She had been sitting in an easy chair when the incident happened. Her left foot still wearing a slipper remained intact and only the corner of the room and the chair she was sitting in had been burnt. Firemen, police and pathologists examined Mrs. Reeser’s remains and also found her liver which was fused to a lump of vertebrae and her skull which had been shrunk to the size of a baseball by the unusually intense heat. LEFT: Firemen mop The the walls of the apartment were covered with a greasy substance, plastic switches had melted along with two candles which the wicks had been left unburnt. There was only a small circular burn area which encompassed the remains of Mrs. Reeser and her chair. For such a cremation experts say that a temperature of 2500 degrees is necessary. A cigarette accidently dropped whilst asleep would never of caused such heat. The true cause of the burning death of Mrs. Reeser is still unknown. She is the most famous case of Spontaneous Human Combustion.
Spontaneous Human Combustion is a phenomenon where a living person suddenly bursts into flames for no apparent reason. The first reported case was thought to have been in 1763. A Frenchman named Jonas Dupont published a collection of Spontaneous Human Combustion cases. The belief in SHC continued on well into the 1800’s, Charles Dickens used SHC in his novel “Bleak House” to kill off a character. It was generally believed in the 1800’s that SHC was caused by alcoholism. They believed that the accumulation of alcohol in the body tissues would dramatically increase the combustibility of the body. It was also thought that the body metabolized alcohol to produce hydrogen and other inflammable gases which were then stored in the body tissues. A spark produced by the body’s own electricity would then ignite the body. However as more knowledge of the metabolism of the body was discovered this theory was soon dismissed as they discovered that you would die of alcoholic poisoning before you would get to the stage of being saturated with alcohol.The public interest in SHC lost all it’s appeal until 1951 when the Reeser case became public knowledge.