I have heard of combustible materials during Fire Prevention & First Aid Course, but I find that the term spontaneous Human Combustion (SHC) is a way too mind-boggling a subject. Imagine a person going up in flames for no reason at all. It goes like this: Spontaneous Human Combustion is a name used to describe cases of burning of a living human body without an external source of ignition. Wow...say what? Burning without external source of ignition?
To date, there are over 200 reported cases that has been compiled for the past 3 Centuries. Although, in the past, due to the lack of modern technology, much is depended on hearsay & there is a lack of photographic evidence.
Some Cases of SHC
Case No. 1: Debbie Clark
In September 1985, a young woman named Debbie Clark was walking home when she noticed an occasional flash of blue light.
“ It was me. I was lighting up the driveway every couple of steps.
As we got into the garden I thought it was funny at that point. I was walking around in circles saying: 'look at this, mum, look!' She started screaming and my brother came to the door and started screaming and shouting 'Have you never heard of spontaneous human combustion?' ”
Debbie's mother, Dianne Clark:
“ I screamed at her to get her shoes off and it [the flashes] kept going so I hassled her through and got her into the bath. I thought that the bath is wired to earth. It was a blue light you know what they call electric blue. She thought it was fun, she was laughing.
I was not wearing any nylon clothing [at the time of the flashes]. I used to suffer a lot with static electricity so I tended not to wear anything nylon. I used to crackle with static when taking off my clothes and if I touched any metal thing it used to hurt me. I used to have a lot of trouble with electrical things. They would break down or blow up. ”
Case No 2: Susan Motteshead
In winter 1980, Cheshire, England resident Susan Motteshead was standing in her kitchen, wearing flame-resistant pajamas, when she was suddenly engulfed in a short-lived fire that seemed to have ignited the fluff on her clothing but burned out before it could set anything properly alight.
“ I was in the kitchen and my daughter just screamed out that my back was on fire. As I looked down it sort of whooshed all over me. It was like yellow and blue flames all over me. I was not burned at all. Not even my hair was burned. ”
The daughter, Joanne Motteshead, confirms this account and adds that the fire brigade arrived and tried (unsuccessfully) to set fire to Susan's pajamas.
I had just washed and dried my hair [at the time of the incident]. I used to have a lot when I was younger. I used to get shocks from touching fridges, things like that.
(These first 2 accounts are reported in a book entitled "The Entrancing Flame" by John Heymer. )
Case No 3: John Irving Bentley
Bentley was last seen alive on December 4, 1966, when friends visiting him at his home said goodnight to him at about 9:00 P.M. On the following morning, December 5, Don Gosnell, a meter reader, let himself into Bentley's house and went to the basement to check the meter—since Bentley could only move about with the help of a walker, Mr. Gosnell had permission to enter as necessary.
While in the basement, Gosnell noticed a strange smell and a light blue smoke. Intrigued, he went upstairs to investigate. The bedroom was smoky and in the bathroom he found Bentley's cremated remains.
All that was left intact of the aged doctor was the lower half of his right leg with the slipper still on it. The rest of his body had been reduced to a pile of ashes on the floor in the basement below. His walker lay across the hole in the floor generated by the fire. The rubber tips on it were still intact, and the nearby bathtub was hardly scorched. Gosnell ran from the building to get help, screaming "Doctor Bentley's burned up!".
Case No 4: Mary Reeser
On the night of July 1 – July 2, 1951 she burned to death in her apartment and the nickname "The Cinder Lady" was given to her posthumously by the local media.
The alarm was raised at about 8 a.m. July 2 when Reeser's landlady, Pansy Carpenter, arrived at her door with a telegram. Trying the door, she found the metal doorknob to be uncomfortably warm to the touch and called the police.
Reeser's remains, which were largely ashes, were found among the remains of a chair in which she had been sitting. Only part of her left foot (which was wearing a slipper) remained. Plastic household objects at a distance from the seat of the fire were softened and had lost their shapes.
Reeser's skull had survived and was found among the ashes, but was 'shrunken' (sometimes with the added descriptive flourish of 'to the size of a teacup'). The extent of this shrinkage was enough to be remarked on by official investigators and was not an illusion caused by the removal of all facial features (ears, nose, lips, etc). The shrinking of the skull is not a regular feature of alleged cases of SHC, although the 'shrunken skull' claim has become a regular feature of anecdotal accounts of other SHC cases and numerous apocryphal stories. However, this is not the only case in which the remains featured a shrunken skull.
1. There actually was an external source of ignition that does not present itself after the victim of SHC is found.
2. (Unscientific explanation) Paranormal explanations suspicion of to evil ghosts or demons as having caused this bizarre phenomenon.
3. 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.
However, Arthur C. Clarke the author of 2001 has this to say about SHC, "There's one mystery I'm asked about more than any other: spontaneous human combustion. Some cases seem to defy explanation, and leave me with a creepy and very unscientific feeling. If there's anything more to SHC, I simply don't want to know.
I have seen self ignited cases as commonly reported during demonstrations where some just douse themselves with kerosene & light themselves up. What a painful & suffocating way to die (I often say to myself when I read such reports). Perhaps, such occurences are pretty rare & there is not sufficient information to find out the exact truth behind this unexplained phenomenon. Perhaps, Science will some day. But until then, these bizarre incidents will continue to baffle mankind who in turn try to speculate with various hypothesis & explanations.
2. PARANORMAL PEOPLE ONLINE