Mysterious Death Of Mary Reeser: A Case Of Spontaneous Human Combustion?

Spontaneous Human Combustion is an unexplained phenomenon where a human body bursts into flames, incinerating into ashes without an apparent identifiable external source of ignition.
The consequences range from simple burns and blisters on the skin, to complete cremation of the body.
Interestingly, it generally occurs without causing damage to a room or surrounding furnishings.

Over the years, more than 200 persons burning to ashes with no apparent cause have been reported.
The first reliable historic evidence of Spontaneous Human Combustion appears to be from the year 1673 when Frenchman Jonas Dupont published a collection of Spontaneous Human Combustion cases and studies entitled “De Incendiis Corporis Humani Spontaneis”.

Mysterious Death Of Mary Reeser: A Case Of Spontaneous Human Combustion?

The writer of the book was inspired after encountering records of the Nicole Millet case, in this case, a man was acquitted of the murder of his wife when the court was convinced that she had been killed by Spontaneous Human Combustion.

Another well-documented case of spontaneous human combustion was that of Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Rooney, farmers, that took place in 1885 near Ottawa, Illinois.
On the Christmas morning, Mr. Rooney was found sitting dead in a chair.
Later on, the remains of Mrs. Rooney under a three-by-four hole in the floor.
On the bare ground, a couple of feet below, were a burned piece of skull, two charred vertebrae, a foot, and a small pile of ashes.
That was all left of a 200-pound woman.
No other part of the floor was burned and neither was any of the furniture.

Only one corner of the tablecloth hanging over the hole was damaged.
The coroner, Dr. Floyd Clemens testified in court that this was a classic instance of spontaneous Human combustion.
The police also said the cause of Mr. Rooney’s death was quite clear, he had been asphyxiated by the fumes of his wife’s burning body. (Mysterious Fires and Lights, Vincent H. Gaddis, David McKay Company, 1967.)

most famous case of spontaneous Human Combustion

The horrific death of an elderly American woman in 1951 is considered one of the most famous and investigated cases of spontaneous human combustion.

Mysterious Death Of Mary Reeser: A Case Of Spontaneous Human Combustion?

Mary Reeser was an ordinary resident of St. Petersburg, Florida (USA). 
In 1951, she was 67 years old and lived at 1200 Cherry Street in the northeast of the city.

On the evening of July 1, 1951, before the incident took place, she was seen by her son and a resident of a neighboring apartment.
According to them, Mary was wearing a silk nightgown, slippers, and a robe. 
Mary was visited by her son and when he left, everything was in order in the apartment.

On the morning of July 2, 1951, a postman arrived with a telegram for Mary Reaser and he knocked on her door, but to his surprise, the knocks went unanswered.
Out of curiosity, the postman informed her neighbor, who had seen Mary a day before.

Her neighbor was sure of the fact that Mary had not stepped out of her apartment since the previous evening, so she decided to try to enter her apartment and check if anything had happened to her. 
As soon as she took hold of the door handle, she felt that the handle of the door was exceptionally hot.

Soon, with the help of the other neighbors, the door was broken down and everyone who entered Mary’s apartment immediately felt that it was very hot in there, although some of the windows were ajar.

They did not find Mary in her bedroom and in other rooms, but in the corner of the bathroom they stumbled upon a heap of hot black ash, next to which lay the half-burnt remains of a wooden chair and a melted wristwatch. 
The clock was frozen at 04:20, apparently, this was the time when everything happened.

Mysterious Death Of Mary Reeser: A Case Of Spontaneous Human Combustion?

Wondering who had the idea to light a fire in the apartment, and not understanding where the elderly woman could have disappeared, one of the people began to rake a pile of steaming ash. 
Seeing upon what he found next, he screamed in fear – among the ash, he spotted half left leg of a woman, on which a slipper was still tightly seated.

According to some reports, in the same pile of ash, several teeth were also found, along with the small pieces from the spine and a skull, which was strangely greatly reduced, as if it was “shrunken”. 
That was all left of poor Mary Reaser.

When the police arrived, they found out that the heat from the fire in the apartment was so strong that even objects that were far enough from the fire were melted.

When they examined the reduced skull, they noted that it did seem to “shrink” to the size of a teacup, and no one from the police had ever seen anything like it.

Upon examination, no traces of burglary were found in the apartment, nothing valuable was missing and there were no traces of the presence of someone outside the house, as well as bloodstains. 
The police were greatly puzzled and then decided to call for help from fire specialists.

The experts immediately realized that it was an unusual fire. 
They calculated that in order for the human body to be almost completely reduced to ash, including the bones, a fire with a temperature of 3000 degrees must be required. 
Moreover, this temperature had to be maintained for several hours, otherwise, there would have been much more bones left.

At the same time, they were left in disbelief to see that apart from the corner of the bathroom and a few melted things, Mary Reeser’s apartment was not damaged by the fire. 
Considering the proximity of the fire, not only this apartment would have burned out – the fire would have spread to the entire building.

Mysterious Death Of Mary Reeser: A Case Of Spontaneous Human Combustion?

Even when investigators turned to the FBI for help, it did not help solve such a strange case.

“I find it hard to believe that a human body, once ignited, will literally swallow itself up – burn, like a candle wick … I have never seen a body so completely absorbed by heat. This is contrary to normal experience, and I consider it the most amazing thing. which I have ever seen.”

When I look at this (photo with a leg), the hairs on my neck stand on end with vague fear. If I lived in the Middle Ages, I would mutter something about black magic, “said anthropologist Wilton Krogman, one of the consultants on the case.

Anthropologist Wilton Krogman

Many different versions have been put forward, from a possible fireball strike to the fact that Mary Reaser was literally blown up with some cunning explosive. 
But none of them have been confirmed. 
In the end, the FBI put forward as the official version that Mary accidentally set herself on fire from a cigarette.

The fact is that Mary was a heavy smoker, and she also had trouble sleeping and took sleeping pills at night. 
It was stated that most likely she drank her pills at night, but then went into the bathroom to smoke and fell asleep with a cigarette in her mouth. 
A cigarette fell onto her nightgown and set it on fire.

FBI experts explained that Mary’s body had almost burned to the ground by the fact that she was a fairly plump woman and had a lot of fat in her body, which, when burned, acted as a flammable mixture. 

This theory was later criticized by all and sundry, but it is still considered preferable. 
Probably because it suited everyone and protected them from many uncomfortable questions. 

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