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St. Petersburg spontaneous combustion mystery to be featured on Travel Channel



On a hot St. Petersburg night in 1951, Mary Hardy Reeser was consumed by a mysterious blaze. Little was left of her body. Her chair was destroyed, except for its springs. Her room suffered only smoke damage.

Firefighters thought Reeser was struck by lightning, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation ruled Reeser's death accidental. But others believed that Mary Reeser died from spontaneous combustion, that a chemical reaction caused her body to ignite.

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That's the mysterious theory that keeps folks coming back to the case, which will be featured at 11 p.m. Thursday on the Travel Channel show Mysteries at the Museum. The museum in question is the St. Petersburg Museum of History, which holds the entire police file for the case.

If you miss the show but want to brush up on the case yourself, the historical museum is on the approach to the Pier in downtown St. Petersburg, 335 Second Ave NE. It is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.


[Last modified: Wednesday, April 20, 2016 6:33pm]


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