1979, December 13: A Couple’s Strange Burns

The Legend:

On December 11, 1979, Melvin and Naomi Anderson awoke on the floor of their trailer in Bodfish, California, USA. They couldn't move. The last thing they both remembered was losing consciousness around 2:00PM, two days earlier.

        Both of them had been burned somehow, and terribly. Melvin had burns on his body in several places, the worst being on his hip which reached down to the bone, and a 1-1/2 inch burn on top of his head. Naomi had burns on her left thigh and hip. When they were eventually discovered by neighbors three days into this ordeal, they were hospitalized and the wounds were described as 'third-degree radiation burns.'

        Over time, the Andersons started to remember more about what happened the afternoon they had passed out: specifically, they both remembered a UFO -- Unidentified Flying Object -- hovering near their trailer and bathing it in light; then they had vague memories of being inside the object... and then they remembered waking up two days later.

Some Key Details

        The information as given above come from Larry Arnold's 1995 book on the topic of Spontaneous Human Combustion, Ablaze!... which may make you ask: Why is an account of a UFO abduction in a book about SHC? Arnold argues that, if no one ever knew about the UFO aspect of the Andersons' account, then the incident would be classified as a case of SHC; and that, by implication, many cases of SHC may have been caused by an initial UFO encounter!

        Of course, this claim relies on Arnold's own definition of SHC as any unexplained burning of a person, rather than the classic definition of a person bursting into flames from inside their bodies for unexplained reasons. Being that the Andersons were both alive and suffering from surface burns, this does not fit as a case of classic SHC, which is a strike against Arnold's implied connection between UFOs and SHC.

        A more definitive problem with his theory is the fact that, despite much digging in newspapers, family trees, and UFO literature, I can find no mention of this incident earlier than Arnold's book. Now, I don't look into UFO cases often because there are a ton of people who already do, and they often defend their claims fanatically... making it very hard to get actual facts in the matters. But one thing I will say is that any known incident tends to be catalogued and repeated at a fantastic rate, making it very easy to at least confirm an incident has been claimed, even if the actual details can be difficult to pin down; and if there is no note, anywhere, of a UFO incident except in a book on SHC, it's very likely that the incident never occurred. So it appears that Arnold invented the incident specifically as an example to connect UFOs and SHC as part of his overall effort to create more interest in his chosen phenomena.

        Having pointed all of that out, let me just mention that the only other place I have seen this incident mentioned is in a later edition of Jenny Randles and Peter Hough's 1992 book, Spontaneous Human Combustion... the copy I have is from 2007, and credits Arnold as their source for the account but, annoyingly, didn't mention where they found the story past that; so it took a little time to track it down in Arnold's 600+ page book that has no index.

        Randles and Hogue's version has to be mentioned for two reasons. First, they greatly simplify the account to just two sentences, essentially just mentioning that the couple was burned after losing 48 hours and seeing a UFO. Second, they give the date as December 13, 1979, not December 11. If Arnold's book is the only place you can get the story from, then how do you screw up the date?

        In any case, I'm labeling this event as a 'False Lead', a story that was never true to begin with.