Human spontaneous combustion refers to a very rare type of “almost unknown” anomalous phenomenon.
Many cases of spontaneous combustion have been investigated by the police, and there is still no solid theory that completely disproves such a possibility. Let’s take a look at the case of the spontaneous combustion of the monk Don Gio Maria Bertoli.
Among the oddities associated with spontaneous combustion, it is noted not only that a person is suddenly engulfed by a flame that appeared from nowhere but also that this flame is so hot that in a few minutes it can destroy the person, whose body reaches almost the state of ashes. For some mysterious reason, this flame does almost no damage to flammable things near that person.
Cases of spontaneous human combustion have occurred throughout history. One of them took place in Italy in 1776.
In September 1776, a monk named Don Gio Maria Bertoli, who lived in a temple on Mount Volore in the Livizzano region, came to the small town of Filetto for a fair.
He spent the day visiting the fair as well as traveling around the area doing various jobs and taking care of some small businesses. In the evening, he went to his son-in-law’s house, which was in the neighboring village of Fenil.
He felt very tired and therefore immediately went to his allotted room. He said he would pray and then go to bed. But minutes after he disappeared into his room, noises and screams of pain began to be heard from there. The family members immediately ran there and were frightened by what they saw:
“In less than a few minutes there was an unusual noise in the room, and the cries of the wretch were distinctly distinguished.”
Hearing the cries of the monk, they immediately entered the room, and upon entering, his son-in-law found him lying on the paved floor and enveloped in a thin flame. The flames began to die down as they got closer to him and then disappeared altogether. “They got him on the bed as soon as possible and gave him all the help they could,” said one of the witnesses from that time.
The first oddity was that all the eyewitnesses described the flame as something alive that moved and reacted to the appearance of people as if they were rational beings.
When Bertoli was examined, he was found to be still alive but covered in very severe burns on his face, arms, and neck. At the same time, it turned out that although the top of his shirt was badly burned, the flame did not in the least damage the thin handkerchief hidden in the shoulder area.
It was also quite strange that although his silk cap had been almost completely burned, his hair was not singed at all; not even a single strand was damaged.
Also, his pants and underwear were intact.
When Bertoli recovered a little from the shock and was able to speak, he said that while he was praying, he felt a “phantom blow” in his right hand, “like a blow from a club,” after which his upper body lit up with a mysterious flame.
Interestingly, in Bertoli’s room, there was almost no specific smell of burning, not even a smell of smoke. And not a single piece of furniture was damaged by the fire. Overall, it looked as if the source and target of the fire were only the upper half of the monk’s body.
Another oddity was that a small lamp with a wick filled with oil turned out to be empty, and the wick burned to the ground. Therefore, one of the first versions was that the monk somehow poured oil on himself and accidentally set himself on fire. However, when Dr. Battaglia came and examined Bertoli’s burns, he found them to be highly unusual if the burns were from spilled oil.
It turned out that the skin of the monk’s right arm, shoulder, and, for some reason, the monk’s thigh was almost completely separated from the underlying muscles and was hanging loose in pieces, which Battaglia decided to cut off. The doctor was also very surprised that Bertoli’s right hand appeared blackened and foul-smelling, as if from instant gangrene. The doctor decided to amputate this arm.
But apparently, this did not help, as it was indicated that the lesion had started to spread to other parts of the body. Bertoli himself suffered terribly from this; he complained of a burning thirst, and his body convulsed in terrible convulsions.
His intestines were full of putrid contents, and he was debilitated by constant vomiting accompanied by fever and delirium.
On the fourth day of such torment, Bertoli died. It was noted that a few hours before his death, Bertoli’s entire body began to show clear signs of living decay, and immediately after his death, the corpse began to decompose incredibly quickly.
“Shortly before his death, Mr. Battaglia was surprised to notice that the decay had gone so far that the body already emanated an intolerable odor, maggots crawled out of him onto the bed, and the nails on his left hand fell off.”
What happened to Bertoli remains a mystery. His case remains a bizarre historical incident.
The following story happened in 1822 in France. One summer afternoon, a local named Renato was walking in a field near the village of Loynyan when he suddenly felt a sharp pain in his right index finger. He glanced briefly at the finger, and his eyes widened in horror—tthe finger was engulfed in fire.
He began to wave his finger to ward off the flame, but instead, it intensified, and now his entire hand was burning. Renato began to hit his pants with a burning hand and set them on fire, after which he panicked and ran to his house, where he began to call his wife to bring a bucket of cold water. The woman brought water, and Renato put his burning hand in the bucket, but the flame did not go out! Then he put his hand into the wet mud in the yard, then into the milk jug, but his hand continued to burn.
At that moment, a crowd of spectators crowded around Renato’s house, watching his run like a circus performance. One of the onlookers finally gave him holy water, and this water extinguished the flame.
When Renato looked at his hand, it turned out that although his pants were burned, the skin of the injured hand itself seemed completely intact.
This curious case was described in the same 1822 in the French medical journal “Nouveau Journal de Médecine, Chirurgie, Pharmacie, Volume 15” and the reasons for this phenomenon were also unsolved.