Who Was Mary Reeser?
Mary Reeser, an elderly resident of St. Petersburg, Florida, met a tragic and mysterious end in July 1951. Remembered by many as the “Cinder Woman”, her baffling demise has puzzled experts, investigators, and the general public for over seven decades. As she sat in her apartment on the fateful night of July 1, she was reduced to a pile of ashes, sparking numerous theories and investigations into her unusual death.
The Shocking Discovery: What Did Authorities Find?
The chilling revelation of Mary’s fate was made on the morning of July 2, 1951, when her landlady, Pansy Carpenter, attempted to deliver a telegram. Strangely, the doorknob felt excessively hot to touch. Concerned, Carpenter alerted the police. The officers were met with a gruesome scene. In place of where Reeser’s easy chair stood was a heap of ashes, the chair’s coil springs, fragments of her remains, and her inexplicably shrunken skull. Despite the intense heat required to cause such damage, other parts of her apartment remained virtually untouched.
The Condition of the Apartment: An Unsolved Puzzle?
What baffled authorities was the stark contrast in the damage within the apartment. While the immediate vicinity of Mary’s chair was charred, other sections appeared undamaged. Candles nearby had melted, and the upper section of the room bore a soot layer. Yet, inconceivably, white sheets on a bed mere feet from the fire source remained pristine. How could an inferno, capable of cremating a human body, leave the majority of the room untouched?
Spontaneous Human Combustion: A Real Phenomenon?
Among the theories swirling around Reeser’s tragic end, the idea of spontaneous human combustion (SHC) was the most sensational. SHC posits that a person can suddenly burst into flames due to an internal chemical reaction without any external ignition. While stories of such incidents date back to 1663, the scientific community remains divided over its legitimacy.
The FBI’s Take: Could the “Wick Effect” Explain the Mystery?
In their quest to unveil the truth, local police sought the expertise of the FBI. The bureau negated the SHC theory, proposing instead the “wick effect” as the likely cause. This phenomenon suggests that a fire, once ignited, can be sustained by the body’s fat, acting as a candle would. But while this could explain prolonged burning, does it account for the extreme conditions seen in Mary’s case?
Dr. Wilton M. Krogman’s Skepticism: A Fire Expert’s Perplexity
Dr. Wilton M. Krogman, renowned for his expertise in physical anthropology, weighed in on the mystery, expressing significant doubts over the FBI’s explanation. He found it inconceivable that such complete cremation could occur without more extensive damage to the apartment. Moreover, he questioned the peculiarity of Reeser’s shrunken skull, suggesting that the intense heat should have caused it to explode rather than shrink.
Alternative Theories: Lightning Strikes and Chemical Arson
Given the reservations surrounding the “wick effect” theory, other potential explanations came to the fore. Could an external factor like a lightning strike have caused the fire? Or perhaps chemical accelerants were used to stage a crime scene? While intriguing, these theories presented their own set of inconsistencies and lacked concrete evidence.
The Legacy of the ‘Cinder Woman’: An Unsolved Enigma?
Despite the best efforts of local police, the FBI, and experts like Dr. Krogman, Mary Reeser’s mysterious death remains an enduring enigma. For over 70 years, her story has intrigued sleuths, scientists, and the curious alike. As modern investigative techniques and tools evolve, perhaps future generations may uncover the truth. Until then, the mystery of the “Cinder Woman” continues to haunt the annals of unexplained phenomena.