Clarissa Johal: #Paranormal Wednesday-Spontaneous Human Combustion

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

#Paranormal Wednesday-Spontaneous Human Combustion

Photo courtesy of Dawn Hudson via
Cases of spontaneous human combustion (death from a fire originating without an external heat source) have been recorded for over a century. There are many hypotheses, both paranormal and scientific, but no definitive explanation as to why it happens. In most cases, bones have been completely turned to ash, burns are not evenly distributed but confined to the torso, the fire never spreads from the body, and a greasy soot deposit is left behind on the walls and floor.

Scientific Theories

External heat sources: 
1) The "wick effect." A small external flame source, such as a burning cigarette, chars the clothing of the victim, splitting the skin and releasing subcutaneous fat. The fat is absorbed into the burned clothing and acts as a wick. The human body has enough stored fat energy to fully combust--even lean people have several pounds of fat in their tissues.

2) Ball lightening, sunspots or cosmic storms

Ketosis: Alcoholism or low-carb dieting produces acetone which is highly flammable and theoretically could lead to spontaneous combustion.

Paranormal Theories

God's wrath 

Psychic disturbances: Famed anomalist Ivan T. Sanderson proposed that SHC might be a psychic phenomenon related to cases of severe depression or sedentary lifestyles

Poltergeists: Known to cause spontaneous outbreaks of fires, the psychokinetic activity is internalized

Negative entities: ie. ghosts, demons, or entities from other dimensions of reality. The Spiritual Research Foundation states that "attacks of spontaneous combustion by negative energies last between 5 seconds to 3 minutes" and "the reason a victim of spontaneous human combustion does not move to try to shout for help and put the fire out is because negative energies induce a paralytic state which results in the victim’s mind becoming blank and rendering the person unconscious."

Notable deaths

In March of 1997, 76-year-old John O'Connor was found dead in his living room in Gortaleen, Ireland. An intense and localized heat had left his head, upper torso and feet unburned. The chair in which he was sitting was untouched.

In 1980, 73-year-old Henry Thomas was found in the living room of his council house in South Wales. His entire body was incinerated, leaving only his skull and a portion of each trouser-clad leg below the knees. Only half the chair in which he had been sitting was destroyed. 
On September 13, 1967 a group of female office workers phoned the London Fire Brigade. They had noticed flickering blue flames visible through an upper window and presumed it was burning gas. The first fireman to the scene said: “When I got in through the window I found the body of a tramp named Bailey laying at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the second floor.(...) There was a four-inch slit in his abdomen from which was issuing, at force, a blue flame. (...) The fire was coming from within the abdomen of his body. (...) There’s no doubt whatsoever, that fire began inside the body.”

In December of 1966, the ashes of Dr. J. Irving Bentley, 92, of Coudersport, Pennsylvania, were discovered by a meter reader. Dr. Bentley's body apparently ignited while he was in the bathroom and burned a 2 by 3-foot hole through the flooring. Nearby paint was unscorched.

On May 18, 1957, the remains of 68-year-old Anna Martin were found by her son. She was completely burnt to ashes from waist to head. Fireman predicted that the temperature had to be at 1700-2000F⁰. Newspapers several feet away remained intact.

On September 20, 1938, in Chelmsford, England, a woman burst into flames in the middle of a crowded dance floor. No one was able to extinguish the blaze and within minutes she was a heap of ashes.

On July 30, 1937, a woman was paddling in a small boat with her husband and children. She was suddenly engulfed by flames and in a matter of moments was reduced to ashes. Her family and wooden boat were both untouched by the flames.

In order for a human being to be reduced to ash, temperatures of 3,000°F must be maintained. Even at 2,000°F for eight hours, bodies are not reduced to ash as seen in these cases. Some recorded incidents report the victim was ablaze for minutes to less than an hour--which leaves a mystery indeed. What are your thoughts?


Sara Daniel said...

Fascinating! And one more thing for me to become paranoid about. Am I suddenly going to burst into flames and burn to ash? On the bright side, if I do, it's unlikely I'll burn up my children and the house too. Still, yikes!

Clarissa Johal said...

LOL! Well, don't stress too much! Thankfully, it looks pretty random. :)

Helen and Lorri said...

Nice bit of research, Clarissa. Kind of icky though, to think of leaving behind nothing but a greasy spot and a half-burned body.

Clarissa Johal said...

Yes, Helen/Lorri! Interesting, sad and gross all rolled into one.

Carol Browne said...

I read one theory it might be possible that some kind of meltdown occurs at the nuclear level of human cells, a sort of chain reaction, but there was no explanation as to why this would happen.

Clarissa Johal said...

That's creepy, Carol! So many theories!