The only known case of Spontaneous Human Combustion which was witnessed was that of Jeannie Saffin of London, England on September 15, 1982. Jeannie Saffin was 61 years of age but had the mental capabilities of a six year old and lived with her 82-year-old father, Jack Saffin. While in the kitchen, Jack noticed a bright flash out of the corner of his eye. Turning to Jeannie to ask if she had seen it as well as, Jack Saffin noticed his daughter was on fire, sitting perfectly still with her hands in her lap. Don Carroll, Jack’s son-in-law entered the house just in time to see Jeannie in flames. Jack and Don rushed her to the sink in an attempt to stop the fire from consuming her but it was too late. Jeannie went into a coma and died eight days later. The flesh on her face, hands and abdomen had entirely burnt away to the subcutaneous fat. Don Carrol claims he saw flames coming from Jeannie’s mouth and said she was “roaring like a dragon” although no burns were found in Jeannie’s mouth. While perhaps Mr. Carroll was exaggerating just a bit, many instances of supposed spontaneous combustion witnessed in the 1400s-1600s claim similar phenomenon. One example is the case of Polonus Vortius, a knight in Milan, France who died sometime between 1468-1503 during the reign of Queen Bona Sforza. The parents of Polonus Vortius claimed he drank “two ladles of strong wine” then vomited fire and was consumed by the flames. At the time of Jeannie Saffin’s death the only source of ignition was the pilot light in the gas stove. On the day of the incident, she was wearing nylon which investigators blame for her death. Jack Saffin had earlier emptied the ashes from his pipe before reloading it with fresh tobacco. Investigators theorized an ember fell on Jeannie, remained there for quite some time as Jack reloaded his pipe, only later to set Jeannie’s clothes on fire when Don Carroll entered the house and a gust of wind stirred the ember. Technically this would be possible but it is a bit of a stretch to explain away the incident. Jeannie Saffin’s official cause of death was recorded by coroner, Dr. John Burton, as “broncho-pneumonia due to burns”, reportedly due only to the fact that when Jeannie’s family attempted to explain the spontaneous combustion they had witnessed, he replied “No such thing.”.
More recently, “Spontaneous Human Combustion” had been reported as an official cause of death.
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