A Florida man attempting to burn a cross as part of an ill-conceived "prank" suffered severe injuries after accidentally setting himself on fire in the process.

Palm Bay authorities believe the room in which Ron Nielson, 50, and his wife were putting together what they called a "Halloween prank" was not properly ventilated, causing vapors from the gasoline he was pouring on the wooden cross to ignite.

Neighbor Brenda Lister told the Associated Press she heard an explosion and found Nielson in a ditch covered in burns.

"He was conscious and alert but he had second-degree burns over 40 to 50 percent of his body, including his chest, arms, upper torso," a Palm Bay Police Department spokeswoman told Florida Today.

Police say alcohol played a role in the incident.

[photo right via Shutterstock, screengrab left via WFTV]