No matter how much you want to just burst into flames and disappear after a long and stressful day, that just does not happen easily. It’s almost impossible. But for some reason, some people do explode into flames, as if they’ve been cremated, only they weren’t and nobody knows how and why, in the first place, they’re on fire.
Although not officially recognized as a medical condition, spontaneous human combustion or sudden explosion into flames of the human body is as real as it could get, with recorded cases as many as hundreds. Some of these cases have been shrouded in mystery and remain unsolved until now.
Infamous Cases of Spontaneous Human Combustion
Here are most notable cases of spontaneous human combustion.
There are a lot of reported cases of spontaneous human combustion, but the most popular should be that of Mary Reeser.
The year was 1951 and 67-year-old Mary Reeser took two Secondal tablets, sat on a chair, lit a cigarette, and suddenly fell asleep. Somehow, moments later, the woman burned to death—a case that still baffles experts to this day.
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Before her death, at around nine in the evening, Reeser’s landlady, Pansy M. Carpenter, and her son, Dr. Richard Reeser, bid the lady goodbye. At 5:00 the following morning, Carpenter woke up to a strange smell of smoke, which she thought was caused by a water pump that overheated. Carpenter went back to sleep after turning the pump off. Three hours later, a telegraph boy came knocking on the door to leave a telegraph addressed to Reeser. Carpenter walked to Reeser’s room to hand it, but no one was opening the door. Carpenter turned the knob only to be taken aback by how hot it was. Carpenter then sought the help of painters nearby and together they forced the door open. What met them marked the beginning of a decades old mystery.
The side of the room where Reeser was sitting was completely burnt—so was she. The chair and Reeser were burnt to ashes, save for Reeser’s left foot, which remained intact and still wearing a slipper. Responders also found her liver and her skull, which shrunk to the size of a teacup.
The whole room was covered in soot, mirrors cracked, and an electric wall outlet and candles melted, but that’s it. To put it simply, while Mary Reeser has completely turned into ashes, there was little to no damage to her surroundings.
Experts claimed that it would have taken 2500 degrees temperature to cause such damage, but contrary to what many believed, it’s not the kind of result a cigarette igniting a piece of cloth would cause. It wasn’t the outlet either, as it was only burned after the fire started. There was also no sign of gasoline being poured around the room.
Mary Reeser died on July 1, 1951, and almost seven decades later, her fiery death remains unsolved.
Young Sik Kim
Hawaii man Young Sik Kim spent a significant part of his life in a wheelchair after being paralyzed from the waist down. In December 1956, the 78-year-old suddenly combusted, with flames emanating from his stomach and spread throughout his body in only seconds. A neighbor tried to call for help, but by the time firemen arrived, all that greeted them were the old man’s (and his wheelchair’s) ashes and his feet.
Just like the Reeser case, the room was barely damaged. There were clothes and books, but these and other flammable materials in Young’s little space did not catch fire.
Probably the most recent of all cases of spontaneous human combustion, the death of Danny Vanzandt also gave birth to more questions than answers.
On February 18, 2013, the Vanzandts found 65-year-old Danny’s body completely incinerated. Danny was a smoker and alcoholic, and if he did smoke and drank before dying, that would have been enough explanation. But such theory started to make no sense after police noticed one thing: the other parts of the house, which was, by the way, made of wood, were not damaged. This drove them to believe the Oklahoma must have spontaneously combusted.
One of the investigators, Ron Lockhart, remarked, “You could pour gasoline on somebody and he wouldn’t be as badly incinerated!” The police maintained they were not suggesting Vanzandt jsut busted into flames, that there still could be an ignition source, but the authorities did not officially rule out the possibility of spontaneous human conbustion.
There are around two hundred reported cases of spontaneous human combustion, all of which are begging for an explanation to what exactly could have led to such tragic event. But perhaps, there are questions in this world that are meant to remain unanswered, and these fiery deaths are one of them.