Mystery Monday: A Case of Spontaneous Human Combustion

The Story

On the morning of July 2nd, 1951 Ms. Pansy Carpenter arrived at the door of her 67 year old tenant, Mary Reeser, with a telegraph. She had knocked on the door several times and, when there was no answer, tried the door. The door knob was uncomfortably hot to touch, so Ms. Carpenter – fearing a fire, rushed out to get some help. She got two men who had been working nearby to help her force the door open. When they managed to get inside the apartment, they were met by a blast of heat, the smell of smoke and the clear evidence of a fire…
Only, the only thing in the room that was burned was the wicker chair in which Ms. Carpenter had seen Mary Reeser in the night before when she came to say good night.
And, Mary Reeser.
The 170 pound woman had been reduced to nothing more than ten pounds of ash and only her one leg remained unburned. Nothing else in the room was burned though it did show signs of extreme heat. Candles were burned and electrical wires were melted. A mirror was cracked and the walls were covered by greasy soot. Her clock had stopped at 4:20am when the heat from the fire melted the plastic wall socket.

The Facts

Police and the FBI were baffled by the strange occurrence of Mary Reeser’s death. There was no evidence of foul play, no indication of an accelerant used. Most of the electrical equipment only melted after the fire started and there had been no lightening that evening. For the body to be burned to such and extent meant that the temperature of the fire must’ve reached at least 2500 degrees F. From lack of a better explanation, they finally accredited her death to a ‘cigarette’ fire, saying that she must’ve fallen asleep with a cigarette in hand which later must’ve fallen onto her clothes and caused them to ignite…

My Opinion

To date, this seems to be the best documented case of spontaneous human combustion. Although the police closed the case, the investigators kept saying that very few of the facts made sense.
There are very little facts to explain this phenomenon and others of its kind, even though spontaneous human combustion has been documented as early as the 1400s. Personally, I cannot even begin to think of a reason why this should happen – but, I still find the cases fascinating.
Sad in some cases.
But fascinating.