Wednesday, 1 April 2015

What Causes Spontaneous Human Combustion (SHC)?

Although the phenomenon of Spontaneous Human Combustion (SHC) is rare, as of 1995 there have been approximately 200 cited cases of Spontaneous Human Combustion occurring globally, over a 300-year period.

The most famous acknowledged case of Spontaneous Human Combustion is the 1951 case of Mary Reeser, which was investigated by the FBI:

The police had found Mary Reeser's ashes, her foot inside of a slipper and her mysteriously shrunken skull left behind. Mary Reeser's remains, mostly ash, were only discovered by the police after her landlord had contacted them after attempting to deliver a telegram, noticing that the doorknob was incredibly hot.


The FBI concluded that Mary Reeser must have fallen asleep while smoking a cigarette. However, this proposition was disputed by Wilton Krogman, who claimed that there was lack of evidence of a fire ever being in her apartment.

Although, according to historians, the phenomenon of Spontaneous Human Combustion (SHC) can be traced back to as early as 1470 when Danish physician, Thomas Bartholin, had reported how Polonus Vorstius had suddenly burst into flames after drinking a glass of wine (documented in 1641), there have also been several modern-day accounts of the phenomenon such as the case of Oklahoma resident, Danny Vanzandt, 57, who was found burning on the floor of his home in February 2013.

Vanzandt's body was burnt so badly that police thought it was "just trash that was burning on the kitchen floor". However, police were stumped when they could find no evidence whatsoever of fire damage to furniture or evidence of any kind of struggle.

According to Sheriff Lockhart, the body was burnt in such a way that it completely ruled out the possibility of an alcohol or tobacco-related accident.

Another modern case of Spontaneous Human Combustion is that of Michael Faherty, 76, who was found lying face-down on his living room floor, near an open-fire. The only damage discovered by investigators was to the floor directly below him and to the ceiling directly above him.

Dr. McLoughlin, who carried out research into the event, noted that such cases almost always occur near an open fireplace and chimney.

Although nothing has yet been scientifically proven, many propositions have been put forward to explain the phenomenon of Spontaneous Human Combustion (SHC), including "the wick effect" - when the clothing of a person absorbs melted fat from their body and begins to act like the wick of a candle, methane within our intestines which could lead to a fire whilst the source of the fire could exist in our active enzymes (proteins which help accelerate the chemical processes in our body), cells being ignited by a subatomic particle (Pyroton) which interacts with organic molecules causing them to burst into the flames, the theory that static electricity is the culprit and that external geomagnetic forces may be responsible and it has even been proposed that Spontaneous Human Combustion may be a result of biblical or supernatural causes.

However, none of the above theories have yet been proven and so, for now, whatever causes the phenomenon of Spontaneous Human Combustion remains a mystery.


[ Image from Pixabay Public Domain - http://pixabay.com/en/fire-flame-barbecue-charcoal-8837/ ]

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