Spontaneous human combustion is a phenomenon that occurs when a person bursts into flames or smoulders and smokes from an internal chemical reaction, apparently without being ignited by an external heat source. Although there are many questions around how and why people die or are affected by this phenomenon, there are some commonalities between the victims. They are usually elderly and may be overweight, many reportedly are alcoholics or abuse alcohol and all victims are inside and have been alone for some time before they combust.
Victims of spontaneous human combustion may die from their injuries or be severely burnt but not know how they have received the burn.Individuals who die from this phenomenon will usually have severe burns to their torso but their extremities often untouched by fire. The fire will be so strong that bones have been reduced to ash, but the surrounding area will be untouched by fire. In many cases a greasy soot deposit will be apparent around the body and the area above the body will be coated in soot.
There are a number of different theories surrounding the incidence of spontaneous human combustion which include scientific debate and paranormal theories. One of the most accurate explanations is the the wick effect theory. This theory believes that spontaneous human combustion can occur in some situations when the the human body acts like an inside-out candle. A persons body fat acts as the wax and a persons clothing or hair act as the wick. The theory states that when a person dies in this way, the fire will be a slow fire with a small flame that may have started from a cigarette butt or cinder from a fireplace. The clothing of the person may catch fire and as many of the victims are alcoholics, their clothing may be soaked with alcohol which acts as an accelerant. The victim may be dead already or may asphyxiate on the smoke from the fire, rendering them unconscious and unable to react. As the person slowly burns, the water in their body boils away and body fat melts which in turn soaks into clothing and hair, providing additional fuel for the fire to continue to burn slowly.
Over the years there have been a number of recorded cases of spontaneous human combustion. The most recent known case is that of 78 year old Michael Faherty from Galway, Ireland. Mr Fayerty’s body was found in the early hours of 22 December 2010 in his house. His body was found lying on his back with his head close to an open fireplace completely burnt with damage only to his body, the floor beneath him and the ceiling above the body. There was no accelerants found at the scene and after a thorough investigation, the case was ruled death by spontaneous human combustion by the coroner in September 2011.
76 year old Henry Thomas from Wales died in 1980 from spontaneous human combustion. His body was found completely burnt and only his skull and parts of his legs below his knee remained. His lower legs and feet were found still covered with trouser legs and socks. The chair Mr Thomas had been sitting in had been half destroyed by the fire and the room he was in was coated with a fine layer of evaporated body fat. Besides some melting to the knobs on a TV in the room, the room was otherwise undamaged.
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