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This section contains descriptions of unexplained facts provided by eyewitnesses or published in the media, as well as the results of their analysis by the group.

Spontaneous spontaneous combustion of a person. Poland

Initial data

Initial information from sources or from an eyewitness
Source date: 
1654
Location: 
Poland

In 1654, Thomas Bartolin [1616-1680], a Danish physician, mathematician and theologian, wrote that during the reign of Queen Bona Sforza (from 1468 to 1503), a Polish knight, after drinking two glasses of brandy, died after flames burst from his mouth. 

Bartolin was told this story by Aldolf Forstius, a well-known physician and botanist of the time, who, in turn, said that he learned this story from his father, who may have had a parchment about this incident.

Original news

1468~1503: Knight’s Death by Fire Breathing

In 1654 Thomas Bartholin [1616-1680], Danish physician, mathematician, and theologian, wrote that during the reign of Queen Bona Sforza (from 1468 to 1503), a Polish knight who had drunk two glasses of brandy died after flames erupted from his mouth. Bartholin was told this story by Aldolphus Vorstius, a noted physician and botanist of the time, who in turn said he got the story from his father who may have had a parchment about the incident.

Variations on a Theme

        However intriguing the account might be, it has to be noted that Bartholin is essentially repeating what a friend told him their father once read... so not a very direct set of facts, per se. As such, I'm marking this account as 'Unreliable.' Still, this simple story has proven remarkably popular in repetition. In fact, I've been amazed at how often this story is repeated, and in how many different forms -- sometimes the knight is described as a soldier, Sforza is not always mentioned, differing alcohols are blamed -- but each variant story is the same enough to obviously all be from one ultimate source.

        Having found Bartholin's Latin original, it's now easy to see that the differences all mainly come down to how the account was translated. And it does all start with Bartholin's account, even if the translation proved to be bad enough to almost create a whole new story, which it was, just once... follow the 'See Also' link below to read more!

Bartholin's original Latin, with current translation

Original Latin:

        Polonum Equitem tempore Reginae Bonae Sfortia, sumptis duobus ardentis vini cyathis, flammam evomuisse, exindeque combustum, ex parentis sui Everhardi Vorstii schedis mihi narravit patre magno major filius Adolfus Vorstius florae Leidensis genius. Similem casum Senatui Academico Hafniensi propositum meminimus.

Current translation:

        Polish knight at the time of Queen Bona Sforza, taking two of burning wine cups, belched flame, and was burnt up. From his parent Everhardi Vorstii parchment son told me his father was great with majority Adolfus Vorstius genius flowered Leiden. Academic Senate proposed similar consequences Hafniensi mention.

[NOTE: Aldolphus Vorstius was a physician and botanist of some eminence at the time, who was born and lived his life in Leiden. His father's name was Aelius Everardus (or Everhard) Vorstius. So the last note above seems to translate as Aldolphus Vorstius got this story from his father, who may have had it from an old parchment.]

[NOTE 2: The dutch name for Brandy literally translates as "burning wine", which is a reference to how Brandy is made. So when Bartholin had to name the alcohol in Latin, which doesn't have a word for "brandy," he translated it to "ardentis vini"... Latin for "burning wine!" This has nothing to do with the fire that's reported, but might also be a tongue-in-cheek joke from Bartholin.]

Hypotheses

List of versions containing features matching the eyewitness descriptions or material evidence
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Investigation

Versions testing, their confirmation or refutation. Additional information, notes during the study of materials
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Resume

The most likely explanation. The version, confirmed by the investigation
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