According to Reader’s Digest, Mysteries of the Unexplained, spontaneous human combustion (SHC) is an uncommon yet well-documented phenomenon.
A human body bursts into flame without an apparent external source of the fire.
Hundreds of cases have been reported over the years, and many (if not most) shared unmistakable similarities; the victims’ bodies burned almost completely although their extremities remained largely intact, their immediate surrounding – or at least most of it – had a slight trace of a fire.
Many of these cases involved intoxicated or elderly victims who were close to a flame, such as a candle or a cigarette.
The description fits well with the case of Mary Reeser of St. Petersburg, Florida. There aren’t many publicly known details of Mary, but presumably, she lived an ordinary life for 67 years up until her last day.
On the morning of July 2, 1951, her remains were found in her apartment in a condition peculiar enough to suggest that she had experienced spontaneous human combustion.
10 A Landmark Case
As rare as it has been, the peculiar death of Mary Reeser is not the only case linked to the possible occurrence of spontaneous human combustion.
It is, however, something of a landmark because, for the first time, the investigation to determine the plausibility of spontaneous human combustion undertook the full extent of modern forensic techniques by 1950s standard.
Despite relentless police works, assisted by the fire departments and pathologists, there was no conclusive finding to explain what had happened to her.
The FBI also helped with the investigation, but similarly, the Bureau was baffled despite their technology and resources.
9 Discovery Of Her Remains
Mary Reeser lived in an apartment at 1200 Cherry Street Northeast in St. Petersburg, Florida.
On the night of July 1, 1951, at around 9:00 P.M., her son Dr. Richard Reeser Jr., kissed her goodbye after a visit. Mary was alone for the remainder of the night. She decided to smoke first before going to sleep.
Mary’s landlady Mrs. Carpenter was going to deliver a telegram to her apartment on the morning of July 2.
She noticed that the door handle was warm to the touch, so she called the police, who broke into the apartment and discovered Mary’s remains.