Spontaneous Human Combustion in Whitely Bay
A similar case took place on 22 March 1908 in Whitley Bay in northern England. Wilhelmina Dewar shared a house with her sister Margaret, but the two ladies slept in separate rooms. That night the two ladies went to bed as normal. Just after midnight something awoke Margaret. She checked that there were no prowlers in the house, then smelled smoke and traced the smell to her sister’s room. Opening the door, Margaret foudn that Wilhelmina was dead and her body below the chest had been reduced to a pile of ashes in her bed. The blankets and sheets immediately touching the body had also been burned, but the bed had not caught fire and the room was untouched by the flames. The body above the chest was intact and the face showed no signs of pain or distress. Whatever had happened had killed Wilhelmina quickly.
Margaret Dewar ran out of the house screaming to pound on the door of her neighbour. When the neighbour had gone to look at Wilhelmina’s body he sent for the police. The first policeman to arrive found Margaret a gibbering wreck quite unable to answer any questions. The house was sealed off and a doctor summoned. He was unable to find a cause of death and had no explanation for the odd burn pattern of the fire.
The case went to the local coroner as an unexplained death. After listening to the evidence, the coroner declared that the tale was impossible and ordered an adjournment so that everyone involved could go away and think again. Quite what happened during the adjournment is unknown, but it seems that pressure was brought to bear on Margaret Dewar and her neighbours. When the court reconvened the evidence had changed. Now it was said that the unfortunate Wilhelmina had died of a stroke and the body set on fire by a tumbled candle. The coroner recorded an natural death.
from "Encyclopedia of the Paranormal" by Rupert Matthews
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