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The pugilistic attitude is an extremely typical post-mortem body posture that is similar to a kneeling position but is involuntary. (MM: "Force Majeure") The condition generally occurs several hours after death and is caused by a coagulation of muscle proteins when the body is exposed to extremely high temperatures. (TXF: "Sleepless") More simply put, it is caused by muscles contracting under intense heat. (MM: "Force Majeure") It is therefore considered to be a secondary physiological sign of being in a fire. (TXF: "Sleepless")
In 1994, Dana Scully examined the corpse of Doctor Saul Grissom, who had apparently died in a fire, although no evidence of a blaze was found. Scully advised visiting FBI Special Agent Fox Mulder to note the pugilistic attitude of the corpse and was puzzled that Dr. Grissom had somehow suffered all of the secondary physiological signs of being in a fire, but none of the primary signs. Although she was unable to give an explanation, Scully thought that the body seemed as if it had "believed" it had been burning. (TXF: "Sleepless")
In 1997, Cheryl Andrews conducted an autopsy on 25 year-old grad student and reported self-immolation victim, Lauren Padilla. Frank Black and Peter Watts were also in attendance. Watts interpreted the position of the body as a kneeling posture, although Andrews identified it as an example of the pugilistic attitude. (MM: "Force Majeure")
Frank Black later encountered a victim, Jerry Origo, who had fallen out of a window six floors above ground level. Although a Medical Examiner had already confirmed that the victim had died of injuries from the fall, Frank Black saw a vision of Jerry Origo's actual fate and realized that he had burned to death. When Detective Bob Geibelhouse asked Frank Black why he believed fire had been involved, he told the detective that the victim's body had fallen in the pugilistic position. (MM: "The Sound of Snow")