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Spontaneous Human Combustion


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#1 Guest_HelenaHandBaskettGStudy_*

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Posted 30 March 2007 - 06:51 PM

I looked at our old thread on SHC, and most of the links were old and outdated, (some of them didn't even exsist anymore!!  style_emoticons/default/ohmy.gif So, I went in search of some more links. I hope that you all will enjoy them, and it'll get the tpoic back  up and running!! Here goes!!

The Skeptical Inquirer 1998

Crystalinks SHC Page

Anomalies Articles: SHC

Shadowlands SHC Article

A terrible way to die


SHC. A Burning Mystery



I got a kick out of the last title!!!

#2 candlewraith

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Posted 31 March 2007 - 07:11 AM

Fascinating reading. I didn't realize SHC had occured in cars. I always thought it happened indoors. I also didn't know there had been reported cases of SHC where there were witnesses, and that a few people had survived. How bizarre. It seems that in most cases
investigators have found that greasy residue on ceilings and floors. Has that substance ever been scientifically tested? Seems much could be learnd about the SHC process there...
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#3 shonalynn

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Posted 31 March 2007 - 10:54 AM

I have always been fascinated by this. When I was younger (like 10yrs) I used to do a lot of research on this, but I had to stop. And this is gonna sound silly...but I kept having nightmares that my bedroom was filled with legs. A lot of these victims have had everything burn except their legs. I guess it just got to me. They say it's because the inner heat that is hot enough to burn the torso does not let off enough heat to burn the legs since they are farther from the source of the heat. Yum.
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#4 TomorrowAlora

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Posted 31 March 2007 - 02:12 PM

Thanks for the links! This is such a fascinating subject, albeit macabre. smile.gif I always thought it was odd that people would, at times, blame smoking. As in, "He/she must have fallen asleep with a lit cigarette." Even if that were the case, in a room full of cloth (furniture, bed spreads, etc,) why did only their body ignite? And, as shonalynn pointed out, were certain body parts fine? So bizarre!

I know I am only repeating questions asked many times by many others, but the lit cigarette was always the shallowest (is that a real word, lol) "explanation".


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#5 Guest_HelenaHandBaskettGStudy_*

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Posted 05 April 2007 - 05:05 PM

QUOTE
And, as shonalynn pointed out, were certain body parts fine? So bizarre!

I know I am only repeating questions asked many times by many others, but the lit cigarette was always the shallowest (is that a real word, lol) "explanation".


I agree!! I have always wonder why there seemed to be such a controlled burn to these types of things. But, in the majority of cases, it's only certain things that are burned. That just seemed odd to me. smile.gif


#6 Beatlefish

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Posted 15 April 2007 - 12:21 PM

Eww I know what you mean I've seen pictures with the bottom half of the legs and feet fine but the rest of the body was well you know gone yucky.gif huh.gif

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#7 Betsy

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Posted 15 April 2007 - 12:30 PM

Thanks for the links. Every now and then someone will mention SHC and I research it again. It always intrigues me. It would be nice to know what causes it so I can be sure to avoid it!  cwy.gif

#8 lorddraven2000

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Posted 15 April 2007 - 03:40 PM

I did an article on this subject for my web site and I have to say I had no idea of the amount of cases reported. SHC is one of those amazing oddities that continues to be a thorn in the side of science I suppose.

#9 Peasblossom

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Posted 16 April 2007 - 05:56 AM

Im a skeptic when it comes to shc however a very trust worthy friend of my recently was telling me of a story from her youth..and I guess it happened to her friends brother...I'm gonna have to ask her about it again and actualy pay attention this time lol

#10 Lorin

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Posted 16 April 2007 - 10:59 AM

QUOTE(shonalynn @ Mar 31 2007, 02:54 PM) View Post
I have always been fascinated by this. When I was younger (like 10yrs) I used to do a lot of research on this, but I had to stop. And this is gonna sound silly...but I kept having nightmares that my bedroom was filled with legs. A lot of these victims have had everything burn except their legs. I guess it just got to me. They say it's because the inner heat that is hot enough to burn the torso does not let off enough heat to burn the legs since they are farther from the source of the heat. Yum.

good to know i wasn't the only kid who thought this was cool.

when i was about 4 & first heard of this i thought it was caused when you got really mad, like in the cartoons when the smoke came out of their ears you know?

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#11 lorddraven2000

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Posted 17 April 2007 - 04:48 AM

I had never really heard much on this subject until I was around 15 or 16 and I came upon an article in a huge book. I was instantlly a bit skeptic but the more I read the more I started to come around to believing something was going on.

#12 MacCionoadha BeanSidhe

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Posted 17 April 2007 - 11:39 AM

Here are some new links:
How Stuff Works: SHC
Wikipedia: SHC

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#13 Moonsong

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Posted 17 April 2007 - 09:32 PM

I was interested in this back when I was in middle school, but I guess I must have lost interest and forgotten about it for a while. It is a very weird phenomenon.

Did anybody see the CSI about SHC? (hee hee, abbreviations aplenty)
Anyway, it was a pretty good episode. On the show, it turned out the concentrated burning was due to something called "the wick effect," which is basically when melting human body fat gets soaked up into the burning clothes of a person, which turns the body into a kind of slow-burning, inside-out candle until there's nothing left. Parts of the body that weren't touching the clothes might survive, after the rest has burned. Creepy.

I don't know if that applies to all SHC cases though, it was just a TV show.

Wikipedia article on "Wick Effect"
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#14 Augustine

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Posted 17 April 2007 - 11:25 PM

QUOTE(Moonsong @ Apr 18 2007, 01:32 AM) View Post
Did anybody see the CSI about SHC? (hee hee, abbreviations aplenty)
Anyway, it was a pretty good episode. On the show, it turned out the concentrated burning was due to something called "the wick effect," which is basically when melting human body fat gets soaked up into the burning clothes of a person, which turns the body into a kind of slow-burning, inside-out candle until there's nothing left. Parts of the body that weren't touching the clothes might survive, after the rest has burned. Creepy.


That's one of the more plausible theories I've heard, certainly.

Glad I didn't have anything greasy/fatty for dinner though.   sick.gif


#15 Guest_HelenaHandBaskettGStudy_*

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Posted 06 August 2007 - 06:42 PM

I found this story about a case in Kent County, and thought you guys would enjoy!!

Spontaneous Human Combustion in Folkestone

Reg Gower pushed the door tentatively and when into the room, sniffing for smoke. After all, he was the landlord and his tenant might have left something burning on the oven top. Best to be sure. He might even be asleep. though that was unlikely at 10.30 in the morning. But now he was inside there was a powerful smell of smoke, and perhaps it was then, or perhaps a little later the Mr Gower noticed the thin layer of greasy moisture on the windows and the flat surfaces of the room. The polystyrene kitchen tiles were slightly charred as was a small plastic air vent. But there was little sign of serious fire damage. On the gas ring, still lit, a kettle, half full, was boiling. There was little else of note if one discounted the polythene brush and dustpan, both totally undamaged, which were no more than a few inches away from a pile of ashes that were once the body of Barry Soudaine. All else that remained of Mr Gower's tenant was one foot and a trainer.

Only two days after Christmas 1987, it was a particularly bad time, and extraordinarily sad time, for such a lonely, ugly death. Barry Soudaine, a bachelor who worked in the bakery below his flat in Canterbury Road as a cleaner and general handyman, was only forty four years of age after all, and his end was horrific. His body had been consumed in fire of elemental ferocity, yet it had been so localised that the room in which he was found was scarcely touched.

The police, not unnatuarally, considered the possibility of murder. Had Soudaine been done to death elsewhere, they wondered, his body burned, and then transferred to his flat at the baker's shop in the centre of Folkestone? But that was preposterous for the body was so profoundly burnt that it could no have been lifted. It would have disintegrated completely, so that even its present vague human shape could not have been maintained. In that event the police had to determine whether someone had broken into the flat and murdered the victim. But there was no sign of any break-in. Murder, as a possibility, was out. And so was suicide, for there was no evidence anywhere in the flat of petrol or any other fire accelerant.

Clearly, the police decided, the dead man had had a heart attack and as he fell, he had stumbled against the lit gas stove. He had caught fire with obviously disastrous consequences. He had burnt to death, his body consumed over the space of perhaps fifteen hours. He had been seen the previous evening at about 7.30. It must have been shortly after that time that he had his tragic fall. At least, this was the police view. Unsurprisingly, from the outset they had rejected the notion of spontaneous human combustion (SHC). Just as, over the years, many fire officers and medical men and coroners have turned their backs on such an absurd suggestion.

Yet the Home Office pathologist, Dr Heath, did not dismiss the possibility of SHC out of hand, saying at the post mortem that further investigations were necessary. And at the Coroner's Court a verdict of accidental death was rejected. The destruction of the rest of the body was so complete that it was impossible to say how the man had died. There was no medical history of heart disease and along with the remainder of the organs, with the exception of the lungs, the heart had been destroyed. An open verdict, rare on these occasions, was recorded.

Jenny Randles and Peter Hough are serious professional researchers into matters which might be described as the supernatural and the paranormal. They bring to their work a tireless doggedness and a critical scientific approach. They are not out to support crackbrained flimflam, but at the same time they do not dismiss out of hand what many may describe as cranky notions. The objectivity of scientific method has been a feature of their work over several years. When Barry Soudaine died in December 1987 they had already been investigating SHC for five years. Although there had been many claims for it, the evidence somehow was never totally convincing. How could it be accepted, this curious notion that people, without warning and without interference, suddenly burst into flames. But if absolute proof had been hard to come by, the Soudaine case at last seemed to present compelling evidence that the phenomenon, which for well over a hundred years had been the subject of spasmodic debate in some quarters, ought to be taken seriously.

After the inquest the two researchers asked to see the police photographs of the scene at the Folkestone flat, but their request was refused. They were told that the pictures were 'pornographic' with their hideous detail of the incinerated corpse. They did, however, have more success with the Coroner who presided at the inquest. He said that he could not rule out SHC as the cause of Soudaine's death. it was a possibility, but of course the more or less total destruction of the body could not permit him to reach such a verdict.

But Randles and Hough have brought the Soudaine case positively into the debating chamber for there were a number of factors which needed to be considered. Take the kettle on the gas ring when Mr Gower entered the room, and which was still there when the police arrived. Who half-filled the kettle? Who lit the gas? Who, at some point shifted the kettle so that only half of it was on the ring? The answer is Barry Soudaine, and that has never been in dispute.

So when did he put it there? The matter of timing is crucial. The police were of the view that it must have taken at least fifteen hours to reduce the body to the state in which they found it. Hence, the kettle must have been placed on the stove at least fifteen hours before he was found. But how long would it take a kettle on a gas ring to run dry? How long would it take to burn through the bottom? Can there be any doubt that if the kettle had been on the ring for fifteen hours it would have boiled dry and the bottom would have been holed? Randles and Hough believe that the kettle must have been placed on the gas ring no more than an hour or two before. What they say in effect is that the body of Barry Soudaine was reduced to ashes in a very short space of time.

The condition of the body must next be considered. Jenny Randles and Peter Hough consulted a crematorium superintendent who found it difficult to accept that a mere house fire could have wreaked such havoc on a body. She had seen a BBC programme which attempted to debunk the idea of SHC but which did not include photographs of the remains of some victims. They were so reduced; there was in effect nothing left, no skeletal remains. There was for the most part nothing but ash. The superintendent told the two researchers how corpses are cremated in heat of up to nearly one thousand degrees for one and a half hours. But some bones always remain. Pelvis and thigh bones, ball and socket joints, are not converted into ash. They subsequently have to be ground down after the cremation process is complete.

The question was: could such a fire, of such intensity occur in the house? Most house fires leave something recognisable. Even in the worst kinds of motor accidents when the engine explodes and it is impossible to rescue the occupants there are remains of bones, and sometimes flesh. What kind of fire was this that could so degrade a body, so eat it up, and yet not seriously damage the surroundings? Mrs Valerie Bennett, that experienced superintendent to whom the researchers had addressed themselves was to say: 'I cannot see how a human body could generate sufficient heat to turn a room into a cremator.' And an expert fire officer expressed the opinion that the 'amount of heat required to degrade these bones would be so intense that surrounding areas should ignite.'

So here is a mystery. Did Barry Soudaine really meet his death by SHC, just by bursting into flames, without warning, without any external source to ignite him? But what is it that causes such an outrageous phenomenon? The trouble is that while cases appear to go back to the 17th century there is so little hard evidence. Often there are no witnesses and there have been few survivors. What few witnesses there are attest to a bluish flame coming from the abdominal area. The fire begins inside the body and works its way out. It goes on to consume the body, to reduce it to the finest ash, and yet the fire does not spread to the surroundings. Some body fat, moisturised, is found on window glass and on flat surfaces, but otherwise the effects of the burning are not seen much beyond the body.

But what is the cause of this internal fire, and this fierce raging inferno inside the abdomen? Is it something quite beyond the normal and the natural? One witness, a doctor, said of the visible effects of SHC: 'Were I living in the Middle Ages, I'd mutter something about black magic'. For how can our innards cause such an eruption? Is it something supernatural, something paranormal? One example from beyond Kent may suggest that it is. In January 1899 two sisters, Alice, five years old, and Amy Kirby, 4, were living in different houses at Sowerby Bridge, near Halifax. Because their parents had separated, Alice went to live with her father and grandmother while Amy stayed with her mother in a house a mile away.

At eleven o'clock on the 5th January Amy's mother went out of the house to get water from the nearby well. She was away from the house no more than two minutes. When she returned she found Amy screaming, engulfed in flames. At that identical moment, one mile away, Alice was found with flames three feet high coming out of her head. It is difficult to seek and accept some rational and scientific answer in view of what happened to these little girls. At the inquest the coroner used words like 'strange', 'remarkable', and 'shocking coincidence' but made no reference to SHC. In the same way, the police dismissed any suggestion of it in the case of Barry Soudaine.

There are many other examples of SHC though perhaps none exemplifies the possibility of paranormal causes in quite the way the case of the Kirby girls does. And Barry Soudaine's death does does seem to indicate the speedy ferocity of such a fire that reduces its victims to ash and cinder. Some have suggested poltergeist activity for this is often associated with outbreaks of fire but that, however, would be to deny the internal origin of the flames.

The classic features of SHC, those elements noticed in so many instances, were present when Barry Soudaine died. There was intense heat, little damage to the near surroundings and the massive destruction of the body. Some will produce theories about combustible gases in the digestive system; other will claim surges of excess electrical energy in the body. But some will claim more sinister though inexplicable causes. In the paranormal, in the supernatural, will lie the cause for these people.


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#16 candlewraith

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Posted 07 August 2007 - 06:00 AM

An interesting read, Helena. Thanks for posting it.

It's certainly believable that fat feeds the fire, but how does the fire start? Has to be a trigger of some sort. The story of the girls is just amazing....
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#17 Cipher

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Posted 07 August 2007 - 03:33 PM

QUOTE(candlewraith @ Aug 7 2007, 09:00 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
An interesting read, Helena. Thanks for posting it.

It's certainly believable that fat feeds the fire, but how does the fire start? Has to be a trigger of some sort. The story of the girls is just amazing....



This has probably been mentioned before, but . . .

The prevailing scientific theory is that some accelerant is present, such as perfume for instance. The ignition source could come from anything, such as a cigarette or malfunctioning electric blanket. An accelerant such as perfume burns hot but slow, so by the time the accelerant is burned off, a hot, localized fire has started. The fats of the body "feed" the slow, localized and intensely hot fire until all of the "fuel" is used up. The least-fatty areas tend to survive for this reason(i.e. legs.) Arms aren't commonly found due to the close approximation to the torso -- a prime source of "fat fuel".

I hope that helped clear some things up for you. smile.gif

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#18 Vlawde

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Posted 06 October 2007 - 06:20 PM

But if that's true, why don't people in cars or house fires that start them on fire be totally reduced to ash as those in cases of SHC?
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#19 DToK777

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Posted 06 October 2007 - 07:29 PM

Greasy residue, a fire that doesn't burn or char the area yet is enough to burn through bones, precise enough to leave very specific body parts as if not caught in the fire.

There's really only one kind of fire that I can think of that does this.... Some people refer to it as "Hellfire", some people call it "Demon Fire", some people call it "Divine Judgment".

However, if you wish to leave "paranormal" out of this.......

It starts with a rogue cell sending wrong signal to the cells throughout the rest of the body, basically all calls in the human body have the capability of producing a huge quantity of energy/electricity at once, especially the brain and nerve strands which are active all the time. To give you an idea of how fast the speed of this energy goes, think of how fast the energy generates from your rubbing your hair on a balloon to putting your finger on the doorknob, it is intensely fast. This is one of the things they use to initiate necrosis, by sending a signal to nearby cells notifying them to die off. However, the wrong signal has been sent and all the power stored in each cell bursts out all at once, causing every single cell to burst all of its energy at once, causing an intense amount of heat instantly.

So, basically, almost all cells in the body suicide instantly, causing a "Flash" of heat. However, since the heat is not actually fire, but more of a "gas" due to the liquids of every cell "evaporating". This, this is most likely what the grease is, the remains of the liquids inside (specific) cells in the body. The whole process happens so fast that objects around the person that has combusted would only absorb a millisecond to half a second worth of heat, which is not enough to damage or char anything.

It's really really hard to explain, but then again...
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#20 Teperehmi

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Posted 14 October 2007 - 11:30 AM

I knew I shouldn't have read this thread!  When I was little (around 10) I remember watching an episode of Unsolved Mysteries on shc.  I had nightmares for years and to this day i still feel uneasy concerning all fires except campfires and candle flames.




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