1964 (pre): The Parson's Inflammable Breath

Dr. Stephen Power wrote a brief note to the British Medical Journal in response to an article they published entitled "Unusual Explosions During Electrosurgery"; Power's letter was published in the December 12, 1964, edition of the journal... for Power, you see, wanted to report something he felt was related to the 'unusual explosions.'

        Power wrote that "many years ago" he had been referred a patient from another doctor who was a parson at a church. This parson had been blowing out the altar candles one day when he realized to his alarm that his breath was "taking fire" each time he blew out a candle; hence the reason for seeking a doctor's help.

        Power discovered the parson had an ulcer in the first section of his small intestine causing pyloric stenosis, which just means food was unable to move smoothly out of his stomach into his intestines. This in turn caused a buildup of gas in his stomach and throat that he was projecting at the candles when he blew them out. A surgery to remove the ulcer soon had the parson "able to carry out his duties in a more decorous fashion."

        A very short account of this matter was released to news services worldwide by the Associated Press in early December 1964 when the BMJ edition with the letter was published; this article appeared in newspapers across the US and England. The account was later picked up by author Vincent Gaddis, and included in his 1967 book Mysterious Fires and Lights for the simple reason that he suspected such a medical condition could be related to the strange fire deaths commonly attributed to 'spontaneous human combustion,' the proposed possibility of a person igniting from inside their bodies and burning to ashes for unknown reasons.

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