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Madge Knight's Mysterious Death

Updated on September 11, 2011

Some say 45 year old Madge Knight was a victim of spontaneous combustion. Others say she was the target of poltergeists or demons. Yet others say she died as a result of complications from chemical burns in a murder attempt by her husband. Although there are unanswered questions to Mrs. Knight's demise, logic seems to rule out spontaneous combustion since there was nothing scorched or burned and there is no positive evidence of paranormal activity.

The incident occurred on the night of November 18, 1943 at her home at Aldingbourne, West Sussex, England. It is believed she was sleeping apart from her husband, Herbert, due to an argument earlier in the day. Madge’s sister and her husband, Mr. and Mrs. Basil Moore, were temporary guests.

Terrifying screams emanating from Madge’s room about 3:30 AM brought the household running to her aid. They found her thrashing about in unbearable pain with skin peeling off of her back. Mrs. Moore attended to Madge’s injuries while a doctor was called. When the doctor arrived he immediately gave Mrs. Knight Morphine and identified the wounds as being burns but was unable to say what caused them. In all the confusion, it was unnoticed Mr. Moore had slipped off back to bed.

A few days later, another doctor was asked to look at Madge’s burns. He concluded the burns must have been caused by some form of corrosive liquid. But when he asked his patient about them she refused to comment. She was taken to a hospital and died there on December 6th from toxemia.

Thus, a perfect foundation for paranormal tales of the event was laid. The assumption of paranormal causes didn’t enter the picture until paranormal investigator Harry Price's 1945 book, Poltergeist over England was published. The book portrays Knight as an example of a burn caused by an unseen entity. It didn’t take long for the spontaneous combustion believers to jump on board.

At the inquest, various theories were offered as to how a person could have suffered such severe burns without damaging their clothes or bed and in the absence of any flames. The question of what actually took place has still not been answered. But during the investigation it was determined those in the house awoke to the sound of horrifying screams about 3:30 AM and Mr. Moore stated she appeared to be in great pain.

Missing in this scenario is the presence of Mr. Knight who was conspicuously absent. Apparently, he had slept through all the screaming and commotion and didn’t wake until about 8:00 AM and discovered his wife had been burned.

There were many other circumstances also not making sense. For instance, why didn’t anyone call for a doctor until after 7:30 AM? Additionally, the message left with the doctor didn’t indicate an immediate emergency, so the doctor didn’t actually arrive until 11:00 AM, after a second call was made.

Another puzzling part of the case was, if Madge was in such pain, why was she not immediately rushed to a hospital? Or why did Mr. Moore slink back off to bed? Many other questions were left unanswered at the inquest. In an earlier statement Mr. Knight had told an investigating detective he had heard the Moore’s go upstairs around 10:45 PM. Later he was questioned about it by a coroner again.

Contradicting himself, Mr. Knight said "that as his memory went he did not hear this." Perhaps, if he had admitted hearing them, his claim of sleeping through his wife’s screaming would not hold up in court. And why wasn’t Mr. Moore's decision to go back to sleep questioned?

For some unknown reason, no one seemed interested in pursuing any of the numerous inconsistencies. Apparently, everyone thought no one residing in the house could have a motive for attempted murder. The cause of Madge Knight's burns was never discovered.


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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Interesting, and sad! Seems Aldingbourne needed a medical examiner who was far more inquisitive!

      If they couldn't deduce the culprit, I would have thought they could at least put a bit more effort into finding out the cause.

    • susanc01 profile image

      Melissa Spicer 

      7 years ago from Kentucky

      informative and cool hub


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