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1953, March 1: Waymon Wood’s Fiery Demise

The Legend:

Waymon P. Wood, age 50, was found “crisped black” in the front seat of his closed car on March 1, 1953, near Greenville, South Carolina, USA. Wood's car - described as a “1951 Nash” - was parked on the side of Bypass 291 near Greenville, and other motorists reported seeing smoke rising from it... and then the car started, rolled several hundred feet along the highway, and then plunged down a ravine, turning over twice.

       Firemen and police arrived soon after; the vehicle was “soaked by fire extinguishers,” then opened. Plastic fittings had melted, and the windshield glass had bubbled, but all fire damage was confined to the front seat. The gasoline tank was intact; there was no clue to the cause of the fire. Suicide was suggested, but no gas fumes had been detected at the scene. An hour before his death, Wood had been talking with friends and appeared cheerful.

Variations on the Mystery

        In 1982, Mysteries of the Unexplained (by Reader’s Digest) stated that Wood’s car was undamaged but for the windshield, and failed to mention the car was seen starting and rolling into the ravine... which makes the matter sound more paranormal than mysterious.

        This unusual case was first publicized by Vincent Gaddis in his book Mysterious Fires and Lights (1968); he felt it was a case of Spontaneous Human Combustion. I suspect something very more down to earth, and either accidental or sinister. Gaddis gives his initial source for the case as True Magazine for May 1964... I will try to locate a copy of this article, but will also try to find contemporary news accounts on the death as well. I'll post more when I find more.