1891, March 11 (pre): Thin Woman’s Fiery Death

On March 11, 1891, Dr. E.S. Reynolds presented the details of a strange fire death at a meeting of the Manchester Pathological Society in England, and asked the members of that society to consider whether or not it represented the phenomena known as 'spontaneous combustion.' 

        Described as a "recent case," a 40-year-old woman, thin of build and an "old alcoholic," had apparently fallen near a hearth while drunk, where her remains were found the next morning, still burning. her body was burnt away from the lower abodomen to the knee joints, and both of her thigh bones were carbonised... her intestines and stomach were exposed through the burnt opening of the abodomen, and the stomach had been burnt through as well. Her upper body was undamaged. Surrounding furniture was merely scorched, and her stockings were undamaged.

        Reynolds suggested that rather than being an explosive event, he felt that the woman had somehow been lit by a fire in the hearth and that her body then burned slowly on its own like a candle once lit... which is a good statement of what is now known as the "Wick Effect," and has been demonstrated to be quite possible.

Questions of Interpretation 

        Some authors interpret the statement that the woman's stockings were undamaged to mean that the stockings covering the burned portions of her legs showed no fire damage... which would be good evidence of both an internal source of fire and a fire of a supernatural nature. Unfortunately, the original report is not clear enough on this point to assume this situation to be correct; Reynolds may have merely been stating that the stockings on the unburned lower legs were undamaged, since "stockings" in 1891 could easily have just meant "socks".