1731, April: Countess Cornelia di Bandi’s Fiery Death

Sometime before April 4, 1731, when an account of the event was published, the remains of the 62-year-old Countess Cornelia di Bandi of Cesena, Italy, were found on the floor of her bedroom by her maid.

        The Countess had been described as being "heavy and dull" the night previous, and had last been seen by her maid, who talked with her for three hours before the Countess said her prayers and fell asleep. The maid shut the door, and no one disturbed the lady until morning. When the Countess did not arise at her usual hour, the maid entered the room to check on her; hearing no answer to her call, the maid opened the window to let in light... and so discovered the Countess' mortal remains on the floor of the room. 

        The Countess' body had been reduced to a circle of ashes, three blackened fingers, two stockinged legs (from about the knee down) and, on the floor between the legs, a large and calcined portion of her skull which was missing the back, the chin, and the brain. The ashes left a "greasy and stinking moisture" on the skin when picked up. The air in the room was full of soot, yet the Countess' bed, with the covers raised up on one side showing that the Countess had calmly risen from it, was unburned. A small oil-lamp on the floor nearby was covered by the ashes from the Countess' body, and empty of oil. On a table in the room, two candles had completely lost their tallow, just their unburned wicks left behind. All the furniture was covered with the moist soot, and it had even penetrated a chest of drawers, ruining the clothing, and into a neighboring kitchen, where the soot coated most everything. A piece of bread that had been covered with this soot was offered to the dogs, who refused to eat it. In addition to this soot, the Countess' bedroom had a stinking, greasy, yellowish fluid trickling down the lower part of the windows.