1468~1503: Polonus Vortius’ Fiery Death

According to Larry Arnold in his 1995 book about 'Spontaneous Human Combustion,' Ablaze!, sometime during the reign of Queen Bona Sforza (from 1468 to 1503) in Milan, Italy, a knight named Polonus Vortius drank "two ladles of strong wine," then vomited fire and was consumed by the flames. These facts were reported by the knight's parents, Mr. & Mrs. Eberhard Vorstius.

Just Didn't Happen

        Unfortunately, Arnold's account is a bad translation a very old latin account found in a book written in 1645 by Danish physician, mathematician, and theologian, Thomas Bartholin [1616-1680]... which you can read following the 'See Also' link below. Arnold's translation features three notable mistakes, which create a fundamentally different story.

        First, Arnold's translation mistakes the Latin word 'Polonus' for the name of the knight, when it's actually Latin for 'Poland'... so Bartholin's original account describes the knight as Polish, which is reinforced by the fact that Queen Bona Sforza was ruler of Poland, even though the house of Sforza was based in Milan, Italy. So the next mistake was to place the story in the wrong location, by confusing where Queen Sforza ruled.

        Last, Arnold's translation mistakes the name of the person who supplied the story to Bartholin -- Adolphus Vortius -- for the family name of the knight, and then further mistakes the name of Adolphus Vortius' father -- Everhard -- for the name of the knight's father. This accidentally created a family for the mis-named knight!

        As such, I'm labeling this account as 'Factually Challenged,' as it isn't fully made up... just incorrect.