1850, February 23 (pre): Xavier G----’s Fiery Death

On February 23, 1850, the Gazette des Tribunaux, a newspaper in Paris, France, reported the strange death of a man they called "Xavier G-----." A house painter and known drunkard, Xavier was sitting with friends at a public house drinking, when a bet or a dare challenged the man to eat a lit candle. Xavier took up the challenge... but the moment he placed the flame of the candle in his mouth, he uttered a slight cry and sank onto the table.

        His friends, quite surprised, saw a bluish flame wander on Xavier's lips; they immediately tried to raise him up to help him, but discovered to their horror he was aflame inside his mouth and throat! Xavier may have been beyond help at that point for, we are told, a half hour later his head and the upper part of his chest were charred. Two doctors who had been called (and presumably arrived after the half hour) declared him a victim of spontaneous combustion.

Do Note

        In their 1992 book on Spontaneous Human Combustion, Jenny Randles and Peter Hough claim this event happened on February 5, 1851, and give no source for this detail. In as much as they definitely got the year wrong, I don't see a need to consider their date correct at all.

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