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On July 2nd 1951 remains were found of a 67 year old widower named Mary Reeser. Her burnt smouldering remains were found by her Neighbor and some house painters. She had been sitting in an easy chair when the incident happened. Her left foot still wearing a slipper remained intact and only the corner of the room and the chair she was sitting in had been burnt. Firemen, police and pathologists examined Mrs. Reeser's remains and also found her liver which was fused to a lump of vertebrae and her skull which had been shrunk to the size of a baseball by the unusually intense heat.
The the walls of the apartment were covered with a greasy substance, plastic switches had melted along with two candles which the wicks had been left unburnt. There was only a small circular burn area which encompassed the remains of Mrs. Reeser and her chair. For such a cremation experts say that a temperature of 2500 degrees is necessary. A cigarette accidently dropped whilst asleep would never of caused such heat. The true cause of the burning death of Mrs. Reeser is still unknown. She is the most famous case of Spontaneous Human Combustion.
A decisive experiment was attempted at the California Criminalistic Institute. Dr. John de Haan wrapped a dead pig in a blanket and sprinkled some gasoline over it. After ignition, the animal burned for five hours and its bones were destroyed. Haan chose to use a pig for this experiment because its fat content closely resembles that of humans.
The results? It demonstrated the aforementioned wick-effect, which explains why a person can slowly burn internally without attracting witnesses. It also explained why only the parts of the body that are high in fat content would be set ablaze, while other parts, like feet, remained intact.
After revisiting past alleged cases, researchers discovered that the victims were almost all elderly, and had the bad habit of smoking in bed. Sometimes murder was suspected, but mostly they were accidents in which the victims failed to wake up, having been under the influence of sleeping pills, alcohol or narcotics.