Saturday, 22 March 2014

Spontaneous Human Combustion

For several centuries, people have debated whether human beings can spontaneously combust, or burst into flames without being ignited by an external source. Though the first known accounts of spontaneous human combustion (SHC) date all the way back to 1641, the phenomenon gained wider exposure in the 19th century after popular author Charles Dickens used it to kill off one of the characters in his novel “Bleak House.” When critics accused Dickens of legitimizing something that didn’t exist, he pointed to research showing 30 historical cases. More recently, cases of SHC have been suspected when police and fire department officials have found burned corpses with unscathed furniture around them. For instance, an Irish coroner ruled that spontaneous combustion caused the 2010 death of 76-year-old Michael Faherty, whose badly burned body was discovered near a fireplace in a room with virtually no fire damage.

Spontaneous Human Combustion "only his leg were left"


From the recorded cases spontaneous human combustion have these common characteristic :

  1. the victims are chronic alcoholics;
  2. they are usually elderly females;
  3. the body has not burned spontaneously, but some lighted substance has come into contact with it;
  4. the hands and feet usually escape;
  5. the fire has caused very little damage to combustible things in contact with the body;
  6. the combustion of the body has left a residue of greasy and fetid ashes, very offensive in odour.

Cases of Spontaneous Human Combustion

2010 : Michael Faherty (76)
Michael Faherty was found when his neighbour called the cops after seeing smoke coming out of his house in Ballybane, Ireland. The only things damaged by the fire were Faherty’s body and the ceiling and floor directly above and below him.

1980 : Henry Thomas (73)
The policemen and forensic scientists deduced this from Thomas' remains: he had been sitting comfortably in his easy chair when he somehow caught fire near the top of his body and burned to death. And it was an intense fire "“ all that was left of Mr. Thomas were his legs below the knee and his skull. Oddly, his feet were completely unburned and what was left of his legs were still clothes in socks and trousers that were practically untouched by the fire.

1951 : Mary Hardy Reeser (67)
This story of spontaneous combustion starts out much the same as any other: on a warm Florida evening on July 1, 1951, Mary Reeser inexplicably went up in flames while all alone in her apartment. Unlike the other cases though, her skull survived the fire, but was shrunken down to about half of its original size. An anthropologist by the name of Wilton Krogman was especially puzzled by this, saying that in any normal situation with such extreme heat, the skull would be more likely to explode than anything else.

No comments:

Post a Comment