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1963, November: Dr. Gee’s Investigation

The Legend: 

In November 1963, Dr. D.J. Gee, a lecturer in forensic medicine at Leeds University, investigated the death of an old woman in Leeds, England, who was found dead on the hearth in her living room, her body completely burned except for the right foot. Other than the furniture being covered with soot and the paintwork being blistered, there was very little other damage. A tea towel hanging on the oven door close-by was hardly singed, and the dry firewood stacked inside the oven was untouched. 

        Dr. Gee was of the opinion that when the woman fell onto the hearth that cinders from it had set fire to her hair, after which the body was slowly consumed as it burned its own fat like a candle; the draft from the chimney drew the flames up and prevented them from spreading to the rest of the room. In short, he proposed this was not spontaneous human combustion, but instead a case of the "wick effect," a proposed situation in which a victim's clothing acts like the wick of a candle supporting a slow smoldering burn fueled by the body's fats.