Well, now you know! - #7 What is spontaneous human combustion and what causes it? - This is one hot topic!
Spontaneous human combustion (SHC) is a mysterious event in which a person catches fire from the inside, due to an apparent chemical reaction from within, without the presence of an external source of heat to cause the ignition.
Scientists are currently stumped as to what is the actual cause of this strange phenomenon, with some not convinced it's even a real, but... there are still theories.
When was the first recorded spontaneous human combustion?
The first known recorded occurrence of spontaneous human combustion came from Danish anatomist Thomas Bartholin in 1663, who wrote a detailed account of how a woman in Paris "went up in ashes and smoke" while she slept. As is common with many other cases of SHC the surroundings or even clothes worn appear untouched by the flames, in this case the straw mattress on which she slept was not affected by the fire.
Since the first recorded occurrence of SHC there have been hundreds of other accounts, all mostly following the similar pattern where the victim's torso and head are completely destroyed by the flames. It is important to note that their death has usually taken place inside the person's own home.
One thing that makes spontaneous human combustion so strange is that the burnt bodies extremities often remain fully intact.
So, what are the theories behind spontaneous human combustion?
This is one of the most popular theories and it proposes that the fire is ignited when methane a flammable gas is produced and built up in the intestines and is ignited by enzymes. However, most victims of SHC suffer greater damage to the outside of their body than to their internal organs, which is common argument against this theory.
This theory suggests that the fire begins as a result of a buildup of static electricity inside the body, or from an external geomagnetic force exerted on the body. Larry Arnold, a self proclaimed expert has suggested that the phenomenon is the work of a new subatomic particle called a pyroton, which he says interacts with cells to create a mini-explosion. It is important to note, however, that no scientific evidence proves the existence of this particle.
The Wick Effect
This is the most scientific theory, it proposes that the body when lit by a heat source, such as a burning cigarette, acts much like an inside-out candle. In the human body, the body fat acts as the flammable material, and the individuals clothes and hair acts as the wick. As the fat melts from the heat, it soaks into the clothing and acts as a wax-like substance to keep the wick burning slowly. Scientists say this is why victims' bodies are destroyed yet their surroundings are barely burned.
But, is SHC real?
It is very important to understand that if SHC is a real phenomenon, why doesn't it happen on a more frequent basis? There are over 7 billion people on the earth and yet we don't see reports of people bursting into flames while walking down the street, or caught on CCTV or even have the phenomenon witnessed by other people.
In addition to this, why would spontaneous combustion be limited to only humans? Surely it would affect other animals such as dogs, cats or even sheep?
Spontaneous human combustion is a widely debated topic on the internet and with medical and scientists alike. But, what do you think? - let me know in the comments your thoughts on SHC!
Thanks for reading