Spontaneous human combustion (SHC) is a phenomenon that has been shrouded in mystery for centuries. Many have tried to explain it but still, there is no concrete explanation for this strange and terrifying occurrence.
Despite being documented for hundreds of years, the cause of spontaneous human combustion remains a mystery. In most cases, the victim’s body is reduced to ashes, leaving behind only a charred torso and limbs, while surrounding objects remain relatively unscathed. This bizarre phenomenon has been reported throughout history, but it is still not fully understood and is often the subject of speculation and debate among experts.
Some theories suggest that the high body fat content of the victim is the cause of spontaneous combustion, as fat is highly flammable and can easily ignite. However, this theory fails to explain why the surrounding objects are not also burned to ashes. Another theory is that the ignition is caused by a buildup of static electricity within the body, which creates a spark that ignites the body. This theory is supported by the fact that many victims have reported experiencing a tingling or electric sensation before the fire starts.
There are also those who believe that spontaneous human combustion is caused by supernatural or paranormal forces, such as poltergeists or ghosts. Some believe that the phenomenon is the result of a person’s soul leaving their body and igniting their physical remains. However, these theories lack scientific evidence and are not widely accepted by the scientific community.
Perhaps if we take a look at some well-known cases, we can understand more about this phenomenon.
For Kay and Mike Fletcher, 11 February 1966 was a day they will always remember. When Kay became aware of smoke coming from his body, she thought at first that her sweater was on fire. She quickly took off her clothes and told her husband to check her body for blisters or burns. However, nothing was found to indicate fire or flames. But they did a thorough search. Her husband, however, said that the smoke could have been caused by Amy’s body itself because it appeared to come from the skin without flames. Because the smoke was so thick, they had to open the windows. Mike had worked in a crematorium and knew exactly what the smell was: the air in the room smelled like burnt flesh. Is it possible that a married couple experienced spontaneous human combustion? If so, Amy was very lucky: she survived the phenomenon by responding to it in time. Some cases end in death.
On 16 March 1986, Kendall Mott had not heard from her father, George, for several hours. George, a firefighter, had serious lung problems. He needed a pump to breathe properly. When her son walked into George’s house, he sensed something was wrong. The windows were browned and the doorknob was warm. It was dark inside and there was a burning smell. When Kendall found her father, all that was left of him was ashes and bones. It must have been terrible to see a loved one burnt into ashes. Another disturbing thing was that no one could give a proper explanation. According to the medical experts who later examined the remains, the damage to the body was staggering. To achieve this, the body should have been burnt in an oven at 1500 degrees for 12 hours. To add more to this strange case, the TV melted but most parts of the bed remained intact. A box of matches placed near the bed also remained intact and the ventilator was working, capable of pumping air.
But there may be a rational explanation for these cases, according to journalist Joe Nickell. Those who knew George Mott intimately knew that he had a history of drinking and smoking cigarettes. However, he was a teetotaler before his death. It is easy to imagine that he wanted to light up a cigarette, which explains why there was a box of matches lying by the bed and why the ventilator was running. So it is possible that the cigarettes may have caused the incident. Yes, that would be a convenient explanation. But if a cigarette caused the fire, can such bad luck do that to the human body? OK, maybe there is such a thing, as 1 in 100 million.
But you’d be hard-pressed to explain the next case. In 1966, a ghoul named Don Gosnell went to the home of 92-year-old doctor Irving Bentley. As he always did, he went down to the basement. When Don Gosnell got there, he smelled a strange burnt smell in the air. He then looked up and saw that the ceiling above him was burning through making a hole while the wood around him was smouldering. He then ran upstairs to the bathroom where the hole was also gaping. When he entered the room, he saw nothing but a burnt human foot. Frightened, he immediately ran away from the scene. What cannot be explained is what could have destroyed the doctor’s body to such an extent. The rest of his body turned into ashes. The man appeared to have been hit by the fire while standing outside the toilet, doing his work. Then in one moment, he became a ball of fire. Yet this fire did not generate enough heat to melt the aluminium grab rail next to the toilet or damage the bathtub. Still, it was enough to burn a hole in the oak flooring below. It was as if the fire was controlled.
The case was investigated more closely and the answers may be in the victim’s habits. It should be noted that Irvin Bentley loved pipes and he sometimes accidentally lit his clothes while smoking a pipe. His clothes were also full of burn marks from pipe smoking. In this case, three things could have fueled the fire: one was body fat, which is flammable. The other is linoleum flooring, which is difficult to extinguish once on fire. The third thing is the wooden floorboard. This is also highly combustible, which is how the hole in the floor could have been created. This explanation is not satisfactory, but it does give some direction. Nonetheless, if you drop a cigarette on a linoleum floor, what are the chances that it will burn part of the floor to dust in a circular shape?
Years ago, Larry Arnold, an expert on the subject, explained that the phenomenon could be caused by the body’s electricity: thousands of volts flow in our bodies. If the current is strong enough, it can ignite the body in which it flows; that is, we start burning from the inside. Could this be the scientific, official explanation?
Despite the lack of a concrete explanation, spontaneous human combustion continues to captivate the imagination and spark discussions among experts and the general public. While the cause remains a mystery, it is important to remember that spontaneous human combustion is a rare occurrence and is not something to be feared. Nevertheless, it remains one of the most intriguing and unexplained mysteries of the modern world.