1846, September: Shelby County Man’s Fiery Death

In 1847 a letter written by Thomas S. Foster -- a student of medicine at the University of Louisville -- to The Western Journal of Medicine and Surgery described a case of strange fire death Foster had heard of happening in Shelby County in Kentucky, USA.

        The remains of a "negro man" had been discovered when a woman who slept in an adjoining room entered his room one September morning. His torso was charred and looked "like a lump of coal," but his extremities -- presumably arms, legs, and head -- were undamaged, and the bed and the sheets only showed minor burn damage. The woman had heard no noise during the night.

        The man had been 70 years old, and "a hard drinker for fifty years." The weather was mild at the time, so Foster doubted that there would have been a fire in the man's room.

Witnesses Would be Nice...

        Obviously I'll need to dig further, as in this case the reporter was not involved in the details he is describing second-hand, but here is what Foster reported.