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Spontaneous Human Combustion

There have been about 200 reported cases of spontaneous human combustion reported in history, in which a person was killed by a fire that could not be explained otherwise. What happened? And is there a scientific explanation for these cases?

The earliest case of SHC that we know of today comes from a Danish anatomist named Thomas Bartholin who in 1663 described an occurrence in Paris where a woman was burnt completely to ashes in her sleep while the straw mattress upon which she was laying remained unmarred by the flames that had consumed her. Since the reporting of this case of spontaneous human combustion to the whole of the European community, many others have been recorded in history. Yet, they tend to have a similar pattern in the resulting accounts. The victim is generally found almost completely consumed by a then died out fire in his or her home or place of residence.


From the Upcoming ueue, submitted by vedran84.

I'm sure the ones that couldn't be explained happened before scientific forensics was available, had sloppy investigation work on the case, or that there someone didn't want the real truth out.
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I first read about this in "The Medicolegal Investigation of Death," a standard forensic textbook back in the 1980s. I was surprised to see it mentioned in a scholarly text, but I recall the discussion was pretty noncommittal. Forward by Atty General Ramsey Clark, over 1,300 pp of creepiness, in a new 2006 edition.

Much more fun is Larry Arnold's "Ablaze," written by an apparent believer.

Have fun. . .
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I think it's pretty well established now what happens in most of these cases. Almost always is an overweight smoker. They fall asleep or pass out (alcoholics often), the cigarette catches a small fire on their clothes, the fumes can reach a point of incapacitation before it gets hot enough under the fire to make the person wake up, after that it is the wick effect where the person's body can burn for several hours without the flame spreading to surrounding furniture/etc, because the fat acts sort of like candle wax and their clothes as a wick. I saw a show where a fire safety expert demonstrated the whole scenario and how the fire can burn for hours (bones to ash) without lighting the rest of the room, he described the commonalities of most supposed SHC victims in history (most fit the same profile, almost 100% smokers, etc), and it was pretty much a 100% convincing explanation for the vast majority of the supposedly mysterious SHC cases that have been reported.
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I saw a documentary about a rock band (can't remember the name) whose drummer died of SHC onstage, during a show! It seems like there's got to be some footage from that concert...maybe it'll turn up someday.
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Yeah, ralphw, I think I heard about them. They didn't have a ton of luck with drummers, as I remember. After all, you just can't dust for vomit.

Also: that fat drunk guy spontaneously combusted in Bleak House. So it has to be real.
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