Spontaneous Human Combustion - Can People Suddenly Burst into Flames?

How does the strange phenomenon happen and what could be some of its explanations

By on July 20th, 2006 12:39 GMT
As strange as it may seem, there have been many cases of people whose bodies have burst into flames, suddenly and without being in the vicinity of any igniting source. They have been found burnt out, all body including bones and the strangest fact is that no other thing around them (in the room they have been found, for example) did not present any signs of being also attacked by fire. The person alone was discovered fully burnt, a pile of ashes, a shrunken skull and sometimes an undamaged limb.

For example, one of the most amazing cases is related to the sudden human combustion of a woman that was found on the morning of July 2, 1951 in her apartment, deadly burnt. Her entire body had been turned into ashes by the spontaneous combustion and her undamaged left foot was all she left behind. It was obvious the fact that she had burnt to death, but the oddest thing was that nothing else in the room was damaged. All was in the right place, as if nothing has happened, besides the chair in the corner where she was sitting when the fatal even occurred.

The persons whose bodies have been fully wasted up to present have some common features that specialists are using as hints to help them to further study one of the most unbelievable biologic phenomenons: the Spontaneous Human Combustion. The death caused by the burning out of the victims occurred only indoors, never outdoors. Most of the victims were overweight or alcohol addicts. After the combustion took place, their torso and arms were found completely turned into ashes, their skull was severely burnt but still not ash, while one or both of their legs were left unscathed by the fire.

When the spontaneous combustion happened with witnesses that were in the next room or even in the same room, they reported that the victims burst suddenly into flames and did not show any sign of pain, like screaming or crying for help. It all happened in the blink of an eye and all the eyewitnesses reported that there was no possible source of ignition at hand in the room the tragic event happened.

The strange phenomenon termed as Spontaneous Human Combustion can be defined as the process by which human beings allegedly and suddenly burst into flames and burn to death without having previous contact or being near an igniting source. Human combustion can be total or partial, as there have been cases in which people have not burnt out, but experienced sudden and unexplained burns or blistering of a skin area.

The "allegedly" or "alleged" in all definitions given to the human combustion phenomenon leads to the fact that not all scientists believe that this could be possible. Many of them have closely investigated the odd cases of victims that went through unexplained burning to death and tried to identify possible exterior causes that caused the demise.

However, the ones that believe that this can really happen to humans have elaborated different theories to approach the mystery bursting into flames. The two main theories linked to the human combustion are the non-spontaneous wick-effect fire and the static flesh fire. Anyway, in order to combust itself, a thing needs two very important factors: an ignition source or extremely high temperature and an inflammable material.

The first theory is based on a phenomenon that has already been scientifically proven to be possible under certain conditions. It is called the wick effect because it takes place exactly like the way in which the wick of a candle melts the wax. Namely, it is believed that the victims have, consciously or unconsciously, approached an igniting medium that caused their clothes to burst into flames. After this, the burning clothes transmit the fire to the fatty tissues in the victim's body and this is how the combustion occurs.

Therefore, the body and clothes of the victim would act as a candle, with the clothes acting as a wick, and the victim's own body fat acting as the candle wax. This theory could be the most pertinent one, but it does not involve the "spontaneous" factor, as it is based on the principle that the clothes and body of the victim have been ignited by an external source such as fire sources inside the house - cooker, lighters, candles, fireplaces etc.

The second type of theories are supported by scientists that have showed that there is enough methane gas inside our intestines to lead to a fire, while the source of fire could consist in the active enzymes (proteins that speed up the chemical processes in our bodies).

There is also the theory of Larry Arnold that says that our cells are ignited by a subatomic particle called pyroton that interacts with the organic molecules and causes them to burst into fire. Other scientists have related the human combustion to a static electricity that is formed within our bodies or to an external geomagnetic force that silently fire ups the body.

Nevertheless, none of the theories has been publicly acknowledged yet and it still remains a mysterious phenomenon that draws attention of an extremely high number of people, out of which some try to stick to the "earthly" explanations, while others go beyond human limits and claim that the cause can even have Divine origins.
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