Unsolved Mysteries: The Spontaneous Combustion of Mary Reeser

La combustión espontánea en humanos es un fenómeno hipotético que no se ha demostrado empíricamente. Pero, ¿podría ser la única explicación para los casos de fallecidos en incendios repentinos?

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Daniel Francis

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Spontaneous combustion

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It was July 2nd, 1951 in St. Petersburg, Florida, when Mary Reeser’s landlady discovered that something was very wrong. The landlady, Pansy Carpenter, wanted to deliver a telegram to her sixty-seven-year-old tenant, but when she touched the doorknob on the door to Mary’s apartment, it was hot. Alarmed, Pansy called the police, and when the police arrived they discovered the burnt remains of Mary’s body inside her apartment.

What was mysterious in this case was that almost all of Mary’s body was carbonized, as was the chair that she had been sitting on, but nothing else in the apartment was burnt. There was no other evidence of a fire whatsoever. So, what had happened to poor Mary? Authorities disagreed on this point.

On examining the evidence, the FBI hypothesized that Mary, who had been a smoker and been taking sleeping pills, had fallen asleep while smoking and set fire to her clothes with a lit cigarette. However, professor Wilton M. Krogman, a physical anthropologist at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Medicine, contested this theory. He later hypothesized that Mary had been murdered at another location, then burnt in a crematorium, before being transferred to her apartment, where the murderer had used special equipment to heat up the doorknob and fabricated the scene.

Today, many believe that Mary was a victim of spontaneous human combustion, a phenomenon in which a person spontaneously bursts into flames, without any apparent external source of ignition. However, scientists contest that spontaneous human combustion is truly possible, so we still don’t know what really happened to Mary Reeser, whether she was murdered or died from natural or supernatural causes. Perhaps we never will.

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