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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Spontaneous Human Combustion

Information provided by Wikipedia..

*NOTE: Not to be confused with spontaneous combustion.*

**WARNING!! Pictures at the bottom of this post may be too graphic for some readers. Viewer discretion is advised.**

Spontaneous human combustion (SHC) is a name used to describe alleged cases of the burning of a living human body without an apparent external source of ignition. While there have been about 200 cited cases worldwide over a period of around 300 years, most of the alleged cases are characterized by the lack of a thorough investigation, or rely heavily on hearsay and oral testimony. In many of the more recent cases, where photographic evidence is available, it is alleged that there was an external source of heat present (often cigarettes), and nothing occurred "spontaneously."

There are many hypothesized explanations which account for the various cases of human spontaneous combustion. These generally fall into one of three groups: paranormal explanations (e.g. a ghost or alien caused it), natural explanations that credit some unknown and otherwise unobserved phenomenon (e.g. the production of abnormally concentrated gas or raised levels of blood alcohol cause spontaneous ignition), and natural explanations that involve an external source of ignition (e.g. the victim dropped a cigarette).

Objections to natural explanations usually revolve around the degree of burning of the body with respect to its surroundings. Indeed, one of the common markers of a case of SHC is that the body — or part of it — has suffered an extraordinarily large degree of burning, with surroundings or lower limbs comparatively undamaged.

*Unverified natural phenomena*

* Since every human body contains varying strengths of electrical field and the human body also contains flammable gases (mainly methane in the intestines), an electrical discharge could ignite these gases.

* SHC victims are sometimes described as lonely people who fall into a trance immediately before their incineration. Heymer[3] suggests that a psychosomatic process in such emotionally-distressed people can trigger off a chain reaction by reacting nitrogen within the body and setting off a chain reaction of mitochondrial explosions. This hypothesis has been criticized on the basis that Heymer "seems to be under the illusion that nitrogen exist as gases in the blood and are thus vulnerable to ignition, which is, in fact, not the case."[4] (Mitochondria are organelles found within cells.) The hypothesis also fails to take into account the fact that nitrogen is an inert, non-flammable gas.

* Another hypothesis suggests high-energy particles or gamma rays[1] coupled with susceptibilities in the potential victim (e.g. increased alcohol in the blood) triggers the initial reaction. This process may use no external oxygen to spread throughout the body, since it may not be an oxidation-reduction reaction. However, no reaction mechanism has been proposed, nor has a source for the high-energy particles.

* The victim is an alcoholic and has been smoking while drinking or shortly after drinking a strong spirit. There are claims that this raises the blood alcohol level to a point where it ignites; however, this theory is implausible, since ethanol typically burns only if the concentration is greater than about 23%, whereas a fatally toxic level is about 1%.[5] However, this does introduce the probability that the victim will fall asleep while holding a lit cigarette.


**Natural explanations**

* Cigarettes are often seen as the source of fire in valleys. Usually, it is thought that natural causes such as heart attacks may lead to the victim dying, subsequently dropping the cigarette. Embers from cigarettes and pipes may also ignite clothes.[3] Additionally, cigarette steam at a temperature too low to trigger a flare up of most otherwise combustible materials. Typically if a person drops a lit cigarette on an article of clothing, it will create a burn-hole, but not ignite into an open flame and spread.

* The "wick effect" hypothesis suggests that a small external flame source, such as a burning cigarette, chars the clothing of the victim at a location, splitting the skin and releasing subcutaneous fat, which is in turn absorbed into the burned clothing, acting as a wick. This combustion can continue for as long as the fuel is available. This hypothesis has been successfully tested with animal tissue (pig) and is consistent with evidence recovered from cases of human combustion.[6][7]

* Scalding can cause burn-like injuries, including death, without setting fire to clothing. Although not applicable in cases where the body is charred and burnt, this has been suggested as a cause in at least one claimed SHC-like event.


* Robert Francis Bailey : United Kingdom, 1967
* Polonus Vorstius : Italy, 1470
* Cornelia di Bandi : Italy, 1731
* John Irving Bentley : United States, 1966
* George I. Mott : United States, 1986
* Mary Reeser : United States, 1951
* Helen Conway : United States, 1964
* Nicole Millet : France, 1725
* Phyllis Newcombe : United Kingdom, 1938
* Anna Martin : United States, 1957
* Jeannie Saffin : England, 1982
* Henry Thomas : Wales, 1980
* Janice McCall : United States, 2009 < not a SHC - surgical flash fire.
* Ginette Kazmierczak : France, 1977

Read more on the subject at the link provided for this subject that is posted at the *top* of this blog piece.


Brenda said...

I've heard of this phenomena; but know no one who's actually experienced it. Yet I find it very intriguing, as the human body is based on electrical connections. I experiencethings such as draining batteries, blowing light bulbs, etc. on a regular basis.

That said; I was a bit nervous regarding the *graphic warning*, considered whether or not to view; but I've seen far worse, both remotely and in person.

Great post! Have been secretly stalking for a while, but now I am fully out of the closet! Have a wonderful day, you!

Facing50Blog.com said...

Electrical things break when Hubby goes near them or behave strangely -seriously they do. I have often thought how weird it is and am convinced about these strange events. Now as for combustion....now that is just plan scary. I wonder if I got really mad at Hubby I would blow up?
I dropped by to say hello and to thank you for visiting me and commenting. I'm going to look up on Google now about SHC.
Thank you for all your wonderful comments on my posts. I really enjoy writing about my mad little life and it is made all the more enjoyable by having such an encouraging and appreciative audience made up of lovely people like you. Thank you for your support and encouragement. I didn't realise when I started blogging that I would meet so many delightful people.
My sincerest best wishes for 2011. May it bring you much happiness and I look forward to visiting many times.
Warmest wishes

Brenda said...


Let me guess; he can't wear battery operated watches, either! Beware the "blog stalkers"... you never know when one might pop in!

Warmest wishes for both you for a wonderful 2011!!


Jessica Penot said...

I've always been afraid of this. I saw a documentary on this as a girl and the images from the documentary lingered. It was terrifying to me that you could just burst into flame for no reason. Good Post!

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