A London apartment was the theatre of inexplicable fires. Here, the Police are examining a blanket which had remained intact even though it was between two others which were completely consumed.

An hypothesis for human spontaneous combustion was emitted in the XVIIIth Century by Jonas Dupont, one of the first researchers to have the idea of looking into these cases.  In a work entitled De incendiis corporis humanis spontaneis, published in Leyde in 1763, he explains that the people who suddenly go up in flames without apparent cause can only be big alcohol drinkers.  For a long time – while the People, believing it to be a supernatural phenomenon, spoke of “fire that comes from Heaven”, or “fire that comes from Hell” – doctors retained this simplistic explanation.  Certain novellists too.  Gaston Bachelard, in a page full of humour in his Psychoanalysis of fire, demonstrates this, along with Zola, in Le Docteur Pascal, who “scientifically” describes the death by spontaneous combustion of Uncle Macquart “who had been drinking eau-de-vie for years…”.  In 1922, a forensic pathologist, Doctor Dixon Mann, undertook to add an element to this theory.  He declared that the people who burned spontaneously were ethylitic smokers, completely imbibed with alcohol, that a match was enough to set alight.  He believed that he had pierced the mystery.  But he was disappointed to learn that some of the victims drank only water and that most of them didn’t smoke.  He then thought about mixtures of medicines susceptible of provoking a chemical reaction.  There again, he rapidly noticed that he was on the wrong track, many burnt people following no treatment at the moment of their death…  Finally, he declared “that he was confident that Science would find an explanation for the phenomenon”

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The English writer Eric Frank Russel, author of Great World Mysteries, personally studied nineteen uncontestable cases.  But there are many more.  Here are a few of them:  on 13 December 1959, at Pontiac, Michigan, Billy Thomas Peterson, 27 years old, is found in ashes on his car seat while the mysterious fire had left his clothes intact.  On 13 December 1973, the body of Mrs Sathow, which was resting in a coffin at the Hoquiam Morgue, in Oregon, before being inhumed, is discovered consumed down to the hips by the local Police Chief.  Sent to the F. B. I.’s laboratory, in Washington, Mrs Sathow’s remains are the object of a report which ends with this sentence:  “The cause of the fire is inexplicable.”.  In October 1964, in Dallas, the former actress Olga Worth Stephens is transformed into a “human torch” in her car which suffered no damage, etc.

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There are a few cases which occurred in front of witnesses.  Here is one of them:  in Chelmsford, England, one evening at a dance, a young girl, Miss Phyllis Newcombe, suddenly started to burn.  She was covered in blue flames and apparently emitted such heat that it made those who could have tried to save her, flee.  Within a few minutes, all that was left of her was a little pile of ashes on the floor…

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As for France, on the Monday of Pentecost 1725, the wife of an inn-keeper, Le Lion d’Or in Reims, Madame Nicole Millet, suddenly went up in flames and died carbonised in a few instants, the victim of a “fire that came from Heaven”, according to her neighbours, which left intact the armchair in which she was sitting.  There are also much more recent cases.  In 1964, for example, the body of a certain Monsieur Eveille, completely reduced to ashes, was found in a car parked in the middle of a fir wood.  A singular detail:  the windows of the car had completely melted.  Glass only melts at around 1,000 degrees Centigrade…  Another case dates from June 1979.  Guy Breton learned about it from a Commissioner of the Judiciary Police who telephoned him one afternoon, after having heard him talk about these problems on the radio France-Inter.  He wanted to know the name of the English and American doctors cited by Mr Breton during the emission.

“I would like to enter into contact with them, because we have at the moment a case that is exactly the same as those that you evoked:  It is a woman of 51, weighing 80 kilos, living in a village in Eastern France.  I shall call her Mme X…, because the investigation is on-going.  One evening, after having met a few friends who can bear witness to her perfect state of health, she returned home and locked herself in.  The next morning, a burning smell intrigued one of her neighbours who rang her bell.  Obtaining no answer, she called the Fire Brigade.  The firemen broke down the door.  Then, in the dining-room, a pile of still-hot ashes was discovered, along with a few calcinated bones.  That is all that remains of Mme X…”

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Something similar to a laser has been mentioned to explain these deaths.  However, firstly, lasers did not exist in 1810, when Countess Cornelia di Bandi was reduced to ashes;  secondly, if it is some sort of ray, it is at the moment in the hands of mysterious criminals whose goal is unknown to us.

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Some authors, like Jacques Bergier, think that these people could be victims of what the alchemists call the “secret fire”…

This is a fire that is different from the one that we know – and extremely dangerous – which could be considered as being somewhere in between chemical energy and nuclear energy…  But there are researchers who emit even more extraordinary hypotheses:  Michael MacDougall, for example.  He wrote the following about the three cases of spontaneous combustion on 7 April 1938:

“Everything happened that day as if a galactical creature of unimaginable size had planted on Earth a sort of trident with points of fire…”

An imaginative conclusion to this subject.

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