1862: Cuban Woman's Fiery Death

In 1864, Dr. Adrian Hava related a strange fire death his father, Dr. John Joseph Hava, had described to his son.

        The elder Hava was making a professional call to a plantation called "El Orizonte" ("The Horizon") on the island of Cuba, only to find he had arrived in time to witness the still burning remains of one of his patients. The woman was of African descent, old, and quite fat; she was a slave on the plantation who had consulted with Hava because she had a strange form of paralysis. Hava noted that she had spent twenty years "parching coffee" for daily use on the plantation... which is taking green coffee beans and roasting them until they are brown and dry enough to grind. This woman always appeared to be drunk, though it would seem implied by Hava that she was not a heavy drinker; and she never sweated even in hot weather, instead always feeling cold... she constantly stayed near a furnace.

        On that morning in 1862, Hava arrived to find the woman's room still filled with smoke, with the characteristic -- and unpleasant -- smell of burning flesh. Her thighs, abdomen, and chest were still burning when Hava arrived... and her limbs had been spared from burning, as had many objects around the woman's body that could have caught fire easily. Unfortunately, hava didn't get a chance to perform any sort of autopsy, as the other slaves were convinced there was an evil spirit in their midst that had caused this strange death; so the woman's body was buried immediately after the discovery.

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