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Monday, March 2, 2020

Mystery: The Self-Immolator From Hiper-Bompreço

A photo of the Hiper-Bompreço mall.
There were two things I wanted to do this month in the way of the stories I picked. The first was that I wanted a fair bit of diversity in the locations we went to to discuss the mysteries. I've never quite liked how little I've focused on cryptids and enigmas from continents like Asia and Australia (which I'll say right now: it got the short end of the stick badly this time around). I've primarily focused on stories in North America and Europe. As such, I made sure to get a fair number of stories from South America, Africa, and Asia. The second thing I wanted was for the stories to be really, really weird. I wanted stories I could really cut loose on and be less restrained by the chains of professionalism.

Doing that wasn't difficult whatsoever. The Obscurban Legend wiki was there to help me pick out a fair number of the entries. The first of them is short, sweet, and really weird. It's called the Self-Immolator of Hiper-Bompreço. To call this any other than the epitome of what I wanted this month to primarily be would be a federal crime. So let's dive in!

And It Burns, Burns, Burns: The Mystery of the Self-Immolator From Hiper-Bompreço

Let's take a trip back to 2019—less than a year ago as of the time of this writing. In August, a Reddit user by the name of PedroFindAGrave posted on the Unresolved Mysteries subreddit. Click here to read about it. Otherwise, tt reads as follows:

I remember being told by a friend of mine here in Brazil, that, on the day of the Rio-Niterói bridge bus kidnapping, a incident of darker nature happened in Olinda, but I can't find no news on this incident.

What happened was that, according to him, a teenager, aged around 15-19, put a newspaper around his groin (he was wearing shorts), set it on fire, and then ran into the Hiper Bompreço mall while on fire, and defecating (his shorts were lowered by the time he entered the mall) all the place as he "appeared to have diarrhea". He then escaped without a guard capturing him, or even attempting to run after him. There were several witnesses.

I attempted to search this incident in Google Search, and, believe me, I couldn't find a single snippet about it! Even a mention I could find. All the results I got was like this news: Tiroteio em supermercado de Olinda deixa idosa ferida and that Incêndio no Hiper Bompreço é controlado but nothing related to the man-on-fire-incident.

Please, if someone in Olinda witnessed this incident, please comment because I'm worried for this boy.

There are a fair few replies to the original post, though I opted to instead do my own digging for information on this case before I went after any leads. I did this as I was curious to see if Pedro’s claim that there's no information on this story was true. To my surprise, this is actually true. Even since his post, there's nothing. Or, well, close to nothing. There's a post on the website Web Sleuths from the tail end of December made by a guy named Marcos Antonio. I'm unsure if this is the real name of Pedro, but it reads in a similar manner to the Reddit post. Let's take a gander at it:

Hello everyone, I'm Marcos Antonio, and this is my first post here.
I would like to ask for help to if someone can upload this case into a unidentified person database because it is stuck in my head for a long time.

The case is that of the Hiper Bompreço self-immolator.

Background story is:
"A 15 to 20-year-old man put a newspaper around his groin, set it on fire and ran into the Hiper Bompreço mall defecating while on fire. He then escaped without anyone catching him. He is given as a missing person on a Brazilian missing people database. A user at the Fortean Times internet forum says that the man was probably influenced by the August 2019 widespread violent protests in Chile, in which certain retail chains were targeted by protestors, including Walmart."

The case happened in Olinda, Brazil. I call him "Olinda John Doe".

The Hiper Bompreço mall is located near the Patteo Olinda Shopping.

The story was initially thought to be a hoax, but I and my friend proved that this theory was wrong. It was real but overlooked.

Perhaps the reason I could find nothing on it is because it happened on 20 August 2019, the same day as the Rio-Niterói bridge bus kidnapping.

Description of the boy:

Wearing shorts at time of self-immolation.
Wearing a white shirt with black collar.

Could somebody help me, per example creating a news article about it? Or adding him to a unidentified person database? Might Doe Network? I want to create a Wikipedia article for this case because it is important and worrisome.

I feel it's necessary to say that both users say they worry for the safety and well-being of the boy. However, that could be a mere coincidence.

Anyways, this post got only one reply and it was a bump from Marcus. After that, it withered and died. Beyond these two posts, I can't find anything else about the story; it ends with the simple claim and a very vague, very hazy image of what happened. A teenager ran through a mall after setting himself on fire and defecating. Nobody seemed rather bothered by this and didn't bother to report it to any sort of independent journalists (let alone the authorities).

As such, the story more or less ends there. I tried to dig up more on it, but there's astonishingly little. As such. I decided it'd be simpler to just copy and paste the posts, rather than reword it all. With so little detail, nothing had to be changed in my eyes. So with that self-made defense out of the way, let's jump right into the theories. 


1. The Mandela Effect

Starting things off is the theory that the entire thing was a case of the Mandela Effect. Pedro and Marcos both thought the event happened, but it actually didn’t. Perhaps they slipped into an alternate reality where it had or perhaps they’re the only one[s] who remember it after time fixed itself and we were brought back onto the right course. That said, one must first believe in the Mandela Effect if they’re to buy into this theory. So proceed at your own caution!

2. A cover up

The second theory posits that the child was escaping from human traffickers or a pedophilia ring, but was recaptured and the police were paid off to not investigate. This theory stems from the fact that Brazil has had an extremely difficult time with corruption (along with crime), both in government and in law enforcement. It's gotten better over time, but it remains an issue.

3. A hoax

This is less a.theory and more a quota meet given the circumstances surrounding the event. There are a few things about both posts that irk me, such as the claims that there were numerous witnesses, yet nobody has come forward in any capacity to discuss or even report the story. You can argue that a lot of bizarre events happen every day (and God knows that Brazil sure has a fair number of those), but the incredibly weird sight of a man defecating while on fire would certainly raise more than a few eyebrows. Especially in a mall. I digress. This is a mere inclusion as opposed to a straightforward theory.

4. It just wasn't newsworthy

A bit of a morbid theory, this one posits that the story simply is not deemed newsworthy. This has actually happened at times in the United States where a story you’d think would be pressing simply ends up being ignored in favor of other stories.

5. It was overshadowed by other stories

A bit similar to the previous one, but with a less depressing backstory of sorts. As Marcos stated in his post, the story supposedly occurred at the same time as a major bus kidnapping. As such, the theory here is that it was simply overshadowed by another, much more pressing story and nobody in the media bothered to pick up on the story after all was said and done. Due to either no leads, no interest, or simply no immediate concern (especially if the boy was discovered to be okay/unharmed), it was just glossed over.

My Take

This is one of those stories that's left me dumbfounded. I don't believe it to be a hoax in the slightest. Nor do I believe there to be any sort of cover up. Though I don't get why such an act wouldn't warrant some sort of media attention. Granted, Brazil is a country that has seen a considerable amount of crime, corruption, and strife. As such, I think it's very possible that the act was buried beneath other, far more pressing events that warranted media coverage—likely by the bus kidnappings and, some time after, the Amazon becoming more lit than Snoop Dogg’s limousine.

As for why the boy did this, I think it was either mental illness or a political statement (self immolation isn't uncommon when it comes to politics).


I honestly could dedicate an entire month to some of the weird, outlandish, and downright head spinning mysteries that exist in Brazil. Perhaps some day I will, but it's a country with a rich history and a colorful culture. It's a shame that it's seen so much turmoil through the years.

On one final note: if anyone knows who he is—or was—then I encourage you to come forward.  If you also happen to know if the entire story is a hoax, then let me know in the comments below. Also, please don't set yourself on fire to make a statement.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Interesting. Thank you for notifying me! And thank you very much for reading. I greatly appreciate the time you took to read both this and the Nobrega write-up.