1770, December 31: Hannah Bradshaw’s Fiery Death

Hannah Bradshaw lived in New York City in the USA and was described as a "healthy, hearty-looking woman." She was industrious and neat, but was known to drink and flirt... in fact, her manners had earned her the nickname of "Man-of-War Nance." She was around thirty years of age when she met her strange demise. 

        Bradshaw lived in an upstairs room of a house above a family; the room was accessible by an outside stairway, and had no direct connection to the room below. On the evening of December 31, 1770, Bradshaw asked a young woman who worked for her and who was headed home to stop by Bradshaw's room early the next morning. Bradshaw was last seen alive by another acquaintance around seven that evening; it was stated that she "seemed to have drank a little too freely." The next morning, January 1, 1771, the young woman came to Bradshaw's room as previously asked. She knocked at the door and called Bradshaw, all to no avail, waiting around until past eleven o'clock. At this point she entered the room through a back window with the help of a man who lived below, and the young woman then opened the door. The room had a screen that went all around the room and reached the ceiling; upon looking into this screened area, the remains of Hannah Bradshaw were discovered. 

        The middle of the floor had a four-foot diameter hole burnt into it, and in the hole were Bradshaw's bones; some were black, some white, and all were crumbly to the touch. The lower part of her right leg and her right foot were left intact on the floor next to the hole; within the hole, only the bones, her bowels, and a part of her skull remained. The screen, which almost touched the hole, was undamaged; and near where Bradshaw's head had apparently been, was a candlestick with all the tallow melted off the unburnt wick. A rush-bottomed chair that stood partway into the circle of the hole was burned on one leg and on the bottom only as far as the compass of the hole reached it. The ceiling and upper walls were black "as if covered with lampblack," and the heat had been so great that it extracted the turpentine out of the the boards and wainscotting of the room. Strangest of all, the fire that had destroyed Bradshaw had already extinguished itself, for "not a spark remained."

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