This gives new meaning to “she’s a firecracker.”

Colin Dickey in Lapham’s Quarterly

In 1725, a tavern owner in Rheims, France named Jean Millet was accused of the murder of his wife. Millet’s wife was overweight, past her prime, and Millet, an otherwise upstanding member of the community, was reputed to be interested in a young servant girl from Lorraine. When Mme Millet’s remains were found smoldering in the kitchen one night—with only her legs, part of her head, a few large bones and some vertebrae identifiable—suspicion quickly fell to her husband, who was quickly tried, convicted, and sentenced to death.

Luckily for the tavern owner, he was saved at the last minute by one of his lodgers, a young and promising surgeon named Nicholas Le Cat, who argued that because Mme Millet was a known alcoholic, the likely cause of her death was not murder, but spontaneous human combustion. Millet was ultimately acquitted, though the ordeal left him destroyed, and he lived out the remainder of his life in a mental institution—haunted, perhaps, either by the fact that he had gotten away with murder, or that his wife really had, suddenly and without warning, burst into flames from too much drinking…