1802, March 16: Massachusetts Woman’s Fiery Death

On March 16, 1802, in a town in the state of Massachusetts, USA, an elderly woman was discovered dead by means of a strange fire. 

        Some of the family of the household had gone to bed, and some were out... the elderly woman remained awake to take care of the household. She was alone for about one and a half hours before one of her grand-children came home and discovered that the floor near the hearth was on fire. An alarm was called out, and the family made efforts to extinguish the fire. Once the fire was under control, the full measure of what they were looking at hit them.

        There was greasy soot and ashes interspersed with human remains on the hearth and the floor next to it, and a strange smell in the air. None of the grand-mother's clothes were left. It was at first supposed that the elderly woman had fallen into the fire of the hearth while attempting to light her pipe and been burned to death... but the fire in the hearth was so small, and the destruction of her body so complete in so short a time, that it was assumed to be another case of spontaneous human combustion, a situation in which it is believed a human catches fire from the inside of their body.


        Joe Nickell, in his book Secrets of the Supernatural, states his belief that the woman's clothes were accidentally lit afire by the hearth, and once she'd fallen they lit the wooden floor on fire which acted as fuel for her cremation.

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