Although spontaneous human combustion is not recognized as a medical condition, there’s no denying that the phenomenon itself is very real, even if we don’t understand what it is or why it happens. The most mainstream theory is called the wick effect. Essentially, the body, particularly the fat, acts as fuel for the mysterious flames. However, some researchers argue that this explanation simply doesn’t stand up, given the insanely high temperatures required to reduce a body completely to ash.
The FBI report clearly states that 67-year-old Mary Reeser had fallen asleep while smoking a cigarette in her chair, groggy from the two Seconal tablets she had taken earlier, and accidentally set herself alight and ultimately burned to death in July 1951 in St. Petersburg, Florida. They stated that Reeser’s own body fat had been the fuel from which the fire had burned so intensely.
However, numerous researchers and writers have dismissed the report over the years. They state that the fact that all that remained of Reeser was a foot, a skull fragment, and a piece of her spine, as well as only the springs of the chair she sat on, would have meant the fire would have to have burned at an intensely high heat. There should have been damage throughout the building, and in all likeliness, the fire would have spread.
However, this didn’t happen, and only the spot where Reeser had been sitting was damaged by fire in any way. Even a pile of newspapers stacked right next to Reeser’s chair was left completely unscathed, and upon initial investigation, there wasn’t the heavy aroma of smoke that one would expect to find in a house fire that had been hot enough to reduce a human body to ash.Mary Reeser’s case is perhaps one of the most famous regarding the phenomena of spontaneous human combustion and certainly one of the most debated.