“Spontaneous Human Combustion”
In July 1883, in the town of Gawler, about an hours drive north of Adelaide, on a somewhat wet Saturday morning, a young man living at one of the oldest parts of Gawler, Church Hill (which is so called because a number of Churches stand upon this hill that is situated near the Coles complex, and also contains the Old Courthouse and current Police station.) noticed smoke billowing for his elderly neighbour, Mrs Nicholls, cottage across the street.
Mrs Nicholls lived alone in her little cottage, and had been seen the night before about 11 pm by another neighbour with whom she was friends.
The fire alarm was raised this early Saturday morn, but before the firemen could come to put the blaze out, the young man and other neighbours kicked the front door down to try and rescue Mrs Nicholls.
They were horrified with what they saw in front of them. Mrs Nichols had been burnt to death.
A report from the Kapunda Herald newspaper at the time stated this “ all that remained of the poor woman was one foot and her head, charred like a mallee stump, the rest of the body being completely burnt to ashes”.
An inquest into her untimely death was held, which came to the conclusion that it was an “accidental” death, but the mystery of why her house hadn’t burnt down around her was not solved, and to this day remains just that, a mystery.
Of course in her era Spontaneous Human Combustion wasn't a theory put forward for the death, but her case does indeed fit some of the known conditions that are usually associated with the phenomena, such as those listed below
the body has not burned spontaneously, but some lighted substance has come into contact with it;
the hands and feet usually escape;
the fire has caused very little damage to combustible things in contact with the body;
the combustion of the body has left a residue of greasy and fetid ashes, very offensive in odour.
No-one will ever really know, as it is now far too late to conduct a proper investigation into the death, but the circumstances would lead sway me to believe it is possible.
© 2007 - 2014 Allen Tiller
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