1959, January 31: Jack Larber’s Fiery Death

The Legend: 

On January 31 1959, 72-year-old Jack Larber, a patient at the Laguna Honda Home in San Francisco, had his clothing mysteriously catch fire a few minutes after being fed, while his attendent was out of the room. Said attendent put out the fire with blankets immediatly, but Larber died on February 2 of third-degree burns. Larber was a non-smoker; no explaination was ever found for how the fire started.


        Joe Nickell, in his book Secrets of the Supernatural, gives an account of this event he compiled from two sources: Vincent H. Gaddis' Mysterious Fires and Lights (1967), and an article from the San Francisco Examiner of 1959; I will locate copies of both of these. Nickell finds it interesting that Gaddis neglects to mention that Larber was lying in bed at the time, and that Larber was in a psychiatric ward for senile patients; according to the San Francisco Examiner, "Because of their mental state, none of the five fellow inmates of the ward could relate what happened." Also according to the Examiner, a police inspector "said it appeared one of the inmates may have unwittingly tipped a burning match which ignited Larber's clothes."