In one of the weirdest incidents you’ll ever hear in New York, a man’s death in 1986 may have been the result of the phenomenon known as “spontaneous human combustion.”

WHO WAS GEORGE MOTT?

The remains of George Mott, a 58-year-old retired firefighter, were discovered at his home in Crown Point, New York, a small Essex County town a stone’s throw from the Vermont border. George, who suffered from health problems, failed to answer several phone calls made by his son, who then initiated a wellness check. What he found was startling. 

NOT YOUR TYPICAL FIRE

There appeared to be evidence of a fire, but the fire was unlike any that typically consumes homes. The fire seemed to be relegated to one room – George Mott’s bedroom. The curtains were burnt away, a nearby TV and bedside phone had melted, and George’s bed was badly burned. 

And on that bed were the charred remains of George himself – nothing but a pile of ashes and a few small bone fragments. It seems George Mott had literally gone up in smoke. The rest of the house – and even parts of the bedding –  were completely unscathed. Even more unusual was a box of matches on his nightstand that had failed to ignite. 

The incident was featured on a 1997 episode of Unsolved Mysteries with Robert Stack. 

WHAT IS SPONTANEOUS HUMAN COMBUSTION?

Spontaneous human combustion is a hotly-debated phenomenon where the victim’s internal body temperature reaches a point where actual kindling can occur. Stomach gases, alcohol consumption, and other conditions may or may not be a factor. Whether a fire can actually ignite inside of a human body remains controversial. The scientific community is often skeptical of spontaneous human combustion. They say these incidents are more likely the result of dropping a lit cigarette on their person, or some other innocuous event. But why then does this not result in a total destructive house fire? Many of these incidents report fire damage only to the body and its immediate surrounding areas. 

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So what really killed George Mott of Essex County in 1986? New York may never know.

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