NIA JONES tells us about a frightening phenomena named Spontaneous Human Combustion…


Can a human body burst into flames without any apparent external sources of ignition?
Bizarrely, such a phenomenon exists, the first case was recorded in 1641 and more than 200 cases have been reported around the world since, some here in the UK and Ireland.
The victim’s body burns almost to ashes— although some extremities remain intact, typically the fire investigators find a burned corpse but the furniture around it seems untouched.
Spontaneous Human Combustion has perplexed medical science despite the advanced forensic technology available.  Of course, before any medical advances the incidents were blamed on the malevolent supernatural or a haunting by some evil force.
Even Charles Dickens commented on the phenomena in his 1853 novel Bleak House about the character Mr. Krook, the alcoholic landlord, he combusts spontaneously due to excessive alcohol in his body.
In 1980, a 73-year-old Henry Thomas was found burned to death his council house in South Wales, his entire body was reduced to ashes leaving only a skull and a portion of each leg below the knee. The ‘First Irish case’ of death by spontaneous combustion was reported in December 2010, Michael Faherty was found dead in near the same circumstances as Thomas, the coroner cited spontaneous human combustion, for which there was no adequate explanation.
An inquest in Galway on Thursday heard how investigators had been baffled as to the cause of Mr Faherty’s death at his home at Clareview Park, Ballybane. Forensic experts found that a fire in the fireplace of the sitting room where the badly burnt body was found had not been the cause of the blaze that killed Mr Faherty. The court was told that no trace of an accelerant had been found and there had been nothing to suggest foul play. The court heard Mr Faherty had been found lying on his back with his head closest to an open fireplace. The fire had been confined to the sitting room. The only damage was to the body, which was totally burnt, the ceiling above him and the floor underneath him.”
The human body is thoroughly complex and could SHC be some kind of mysterious physiological reaction, or an obscure by- product of a natural anomaly?
Most scientists dismiss the idea that anyone can just catch fire, in order for anything to combust, three elements are required: extremely high heat, a source of fuel and an oxidizing agent, which is usually oxygen. Many of the SHC cases involved victims who were all alone and close to a naked flame, perhaps a cigarette or a candle. The victims have also been older or drunk, and perhaps been unable to get control of the flames. Another debated phenomenon named ‘Ball lightning’ has also been cited as a possible cause of spontaneous human combustion.
The human body is largely composed of fluid, and due to this it can be very difficult to ignite. Some have suggested the fat in a human body could act as the fuel source, and the victim’s clothing may act like the wick of a candle — this theory has been termed ‘The Wick Effect’.
There is no concrete evidence to explain how or why the body can spontaneously burn itself from the inside out, though many coroners and investigators have tried to fathom an answer. Even though there are many possible theories – the idea of a human being mysteriously bursting into flames and reducing to ashes, leaving only a pair of legs and some slippers is still  extremely intriguing.
The mystery will surely continue to baffle even the highest-regarded experts

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Nia Jones
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