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Dr. Richard Reeser paid an evening visit to her mother Mary Reeser at her apartment in Saint Petersburg, Florida, on July 2, 1951. Mary Reeser informed her son that she had taken two sectional tablets and intended to take two more before going to bed.

Mary Reeser
Mary Reeser, Wikimedia Commons

Mary slept in her upholstered chair for the last time after taking the pills, as she would become a victim of an apparent house fire. Mary’s landlady reported smelling smoke at 5 a.m. the next morning. She didn’t seem to notice the smoke. She noticed the smell of smoke again when she went to deliver her telegram.

When she touched the handle, it was too hot for her to grasp, so she called a neighbour to come in and see what was going on.

What they discovered on the inside was shocking! When the door was opened, they discovered Mary Reeser’s cremated remains; her skull had shrunk to the size of a cup, her spine had been preserved, but the most gruesome discovery was her left foot, which was unburned and in perfect condition.

Why Mary Reeser’s death is not normal?

The first clue was Mary Reeser’s body, and the second was her surroundings. To be cremated, a body must be burned at 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit for 3-4 hours, and everything except her chair was unaffected by the fire, which had to be at least 3000 degrees Fahrenheit hot.

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The walls were not scorched or cracked, but the upper walls and ceiling were blackened from the smoke. The light switches were melted but still worked. A nearby stack of newspapers remained undamaged. The neighbours were completely unaware of the fire.

Mary Reeser human combustion
Only her leg was left intact from fire.

The first responder described the fire as “couldn’t stand it,” but there was no sign of smouldering. Cass Burgess, the detective on the scene, described the case as “perplexing.” Many people were surprised and perplexed by the incident because there was no damage to the apartment and no one had ever seen a skull shrink like Mary’s head, which would normally become swollen or explode.

The remains of the chair were sent to the FBI, who discovered melted fat in the rug rather than any combustibles. The FBI believed that Mary Reeser fell asleep while smoking cigarettes, which started the fire, and that her nightgown caught fire from the cigarettes, and that as the body ignited, almost complete destruction occurred from its own fatty tissues.

Investigation Mary Reeser
No walls were damaged due to the fire not even a little bit

Theory #1 Mary Reeser’s death

The first theory is ridiculous; Cass Burgess, a child detective, received a letter that stated: “A ball of fire smashed into her through the open window. It has happened to me.”

Theory #2 — Mary Reeser killed by an outsider

The second, more plausible theory is that the fire was deliberately started with thermite bombs and kerosene, but the coroner’s office denied the possibility, claiming that all of the items would leave a distinct odour. None of which were discovered on the scene.

Theory #3 — Mary Reeser a Human Combustion

Throughout history, there have been approximately 200 documented cases of human combustion. The first such case occurred in 1470 in Milan, Italy, when Polonus Vorstius died after a night of drinking by bursting into flames.

Similar to Mary Reeser is the case of Countess Cornelia Bandi who was found burnt to a pile of ashes with only her legs intact in 1745.

Jean Saffin, in 1982 was seen bursting into flames by her family. In 2010 Michael Faherty was claimed to be dead because of human combustion.

What is the science behind Human Combustion?

Human combustion involved internal fluids turning into gas and the melted fat of the body further burning organs and bones, which was found on the chair of Mary Reeser. While the body is made up of 70% of water, human combustion is made questionable.

Body fat and methane gas are flammable despite having 70% of water inside the body. Static Electricity, Becterica, Stress, Obesity, and alcohol consumption could lead to sudden combustion of the human body.

Biologist, Brian J. Ford said in a new scientist magazine that a Large concentration of Acetate in the body may contribute to spontaneous combustion.

This might explain why the surroundings of the fire were not damaged and there was no visible source of fire and some parts of the body are left intact while Mary Reeser turned into flames.

But if the body burnt why no one tried to escape or even called someone for help by screaming. Doctors were baffled by the case.

Now you have read about Mary Reeser, read How weird things happened at Cecil Hotel and its deep dark secrets. You might also like reading about America’s creepiest TV Hack, the man behind the mask was never caught.

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