1877, April 10: Rev. John Adams’ Fiery Death

In an 1978 edition of his book Fire From Heaven, author Michael Harrison wrote the following about the death of one Reverend John Adams:

"Reverend Adams, Rector of Stockcross, Newbury, England, who was burned to death in a hotel in New York City about 1876, under circumstances which strongly suggest he too was a victim of [spontaneous human combustion.]"

...which, as you can see, doesn't tell us much. Nonetheless, this account has continued to be repeated as a case of spontaneous human combustion ever since. Unfortunately, Harrison got some important details wrong... which then helped hide one key point he left out of his story.

       The Rev. John Adams of Stockbross, Berkshire, England, who was well known for a series of articles he had written about Cornish saints in the Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall, had gone on a tour of America with one of his parishioners, a Mr. Edward Sutton. On April 10, 1877, they checked into the Southern Hotel in St. Louis, Missouri. That night a fire broke out in the basement of the hotel, and the entire building was soon engulfed in flames. Many died... including the Rev. John Adams.

        So Harrison got the year and the place of the event wrong... and he forgot to mention the whole building was on fire. I'm marking this account of "spontaneous human combustion" as 'Factually Challenged;' it's not a genuine account of a strange event.

        Oh, and just in case any of you are interested in Cornish saints, here's a link to one of Rev. Adams articles!