Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Spontaneous Human Combustion

Spontaneous Human Combustion is a phenomenon in which a human body purportedly catches fire as a result of heat generated internally by some type of chemical reaction. This phenomena has been reported for hundreds of years. Indeed, belief in the past was that if a person possessed too much anger or drank too much brandy, he or she might burn to death internally - literally combusting into ash within a matter of minutes!

In 1996, several of the world's top fire experts came together to investigate some of the most renowned spontaneous human combustion cases. The most amazing factor in these cases was the fact that though of the bodies of the victims were burned almost completely (give or take a few intact limbs), the items surrounding them were left untouched and undamaged.

In a crematoria, where temperatures reach from 700 to 1,000 degrees, human bones are not destroyed - making cases of spontaneous combustion an even more mind-boggling phenomena. In the 1980's Dr. John de Haan reported that this phenomena is likely caused by the melting of body fat. This is known as the "wick effect," which makes human body fat literally burn like a candle. Because pigs have similar fat content to humans, Dr. Haan experimented by using a dead pig, wrapping it in a blanket with a small amount of petrol poured onto it, and placing it in a controlled indoor environment. He then set fire to it to simulate a human body being burned. Within 5 hours, the charred remains were identical to those in the spontaneous human combustion cases, with items placed in the same room untouched, other than a nearby television, which was warped from the heat - but not from the fire itself.

Dr. Haan's experiment revealed that a small flame can indeed consume a body through the help of burning fat. This study purportedly demonstrated how a person who has been knocked unconscious, unable to extinguish a flame, could be burned almost entirely through natural processes without attracting any attention to passersby or igniting anything else in the vicinity. The remaining limbs that may be left were reported to be due to the fat content in them not being as rich as the rest of the body, thereby making them less likely to burn.

The problem with this experiment - though it was quite innovative - was the fact that it completely disregarded the cases in which people have actually witnessed these types of events. There are records of people who experienced them first-hand and lived to tell their stories! These stories completely contradict the scientific explanation of the wick effect, in essence leaving this bizarre phenomenon an unsolved mystery! We LOVE unsolved mysteries at Mystical Blaze!!!

Pursuant to this, the rest of this section will be devoted to documented cases of Spontaneous Human Combustion, possible explanations, eyewitness reports, and any other pertinent facts that might shed some insight into this weird phenomena. If you or anyone you know has had any involvement in a case of Spontaneous Human Combustion, please feel free to contact us via the Message Board link below, or privately by E-Mail. As always, this site is a work in progress, so do Bookmark now and return soon, as pages are added daily.


August, 1998

On August 24 1998, Agnes Phillips mysteriously caught fire while unattended inside her daughter's car. Several people witnessed this event, and amazingly, the victim lived for a short time afterwards.

Agnes, who suffered from Alzheimer's Disease and lived in a nursing home, had been picked up that day by her daughter, Jackie Park, for a routine visitation. Jackie parked the car and left her sleeping mother inside while she quickly went into the store to pick up a few items. Shortly thereafter she noticed smoke billowing from the car, followed by an explosion of flames.

As the car became engulfed, a passerby managed to drag Agnes out of the car and extinguish the flames. Though she remained remarkably calm throughout the whole ordeal, Agnes did manage to utter the words "It's too hot... It's too hot!"

Agnes suffered severe burns to her chest, abdomen, arms, and legs, and died in the hospital a week later. Upon further investigation, Fire Inspector Donald Walsh claimed that he could not determine where the fire had originated, since the car had not been running. There was no trace of liquid accelerants, no faulty wiring, and neither Agnes or Jackie smoked. Inspector Walsh ruled out Spontaneous Human Combustion, and believed that this fire was the result of the "wick effect," totally disregarding the fact that this process takes a matter of hours to burn a human body.

The documentation in this case reveals that Agnes's body was severely burned within a matter of minutes, essentially eliminating any possibility of this event being caused by a "wick effect" type of fire, thereby making this a likely candidate for a true Spontaneous Combustion case in modern times.


September, 1982

In 1982, Jean Saffin, a 61 year old handicapped London woman, mysteriously burst into flames while resting on a wooden chair in the kitchen of her Edmonton home. Her father was nearby and witnessed this event.

Jean's father claims that he saw a flash of light out of the corner of his eye, turned to inquire, and was shocked to see that Jean was on fire. The flames engulfing Jean centered mainly around her face and hands, according to her father, who also reported that Jean never cried out or reacted, but rather remained calm while he frantically dragged her to a sink to try and stop the fire. With the help of a son-in-law, Jean was kept alive until the paramedics arrived.

Upon their arrival, the paramedics observed that despite the level of the fire and degree of the burns, the flames had done little damage other than to a relatively small area on Jean's red nylon cardigan. She was conscious and seemed to be aware of what was going on when first hospitalized, but she gradually deteriorated, and unfortunately never spoke again. Her burns were severe, and after 8 days, she lapsed into a coma and died.

The coroner held an inquiry into Jean's death, and no cause could be found for the fire. The officer in charge reportedly told Jean's family that he believed the cause to be Spontaneous Human Combustion due to the circumstances, i.e. the very rapid ignition and burning of human tissue, but that he would look ridiculous if he reported this as a matter of permanent record.


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  1. Hello. Fine blog

  2. I think SHC is probably in my Top 5 Ways I Don't Want To Die list.

  3. totally bizarre and great post! actually it sounds like an interesting way to go (we all have to sooner or later).. and that one woman didn't really complain that she was on fire.

  4. that 1 women who didnt complain about being on fire was my aunt its crazy i know but its so true it tore our family apart shes everywhere over the internet! poor jean xx


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