Worrying that I’ll catch fire without warning isn’t something that concerns me nowadays. But when I first heard about spontaneous human combustion (SHC) as a kid, it frightened me. Read the Wikipedia entry regarding SHC, however, and you discover the existence of such a thing is highly disputed. If the phenomena does exist, there is a downside: you burn.
Spontaneous human combustion (SHC) is a name used to describe alleged cases of the burning of a living human body without an apparent external source of ignition. While there have been about 200 cited cases worldwide over a period of around 300 years, most of the alleged cases are characterized by the lack of a thorough investigation, or rely heavily on hearsay and oral testimony. In many of the more recent cases, where photographic evidence is available, it is alleged that there was an external source of heat present (often cigarettes), and nothing occurred “spontaneously.”
There are many hypothesized explanations which account for the various cases of human spontaneous combustion. These generally fall into one of three groups: paranormal explanations (e.g. a ghost or alien caused it), natural explanations that credit some unknown and otherwise unobserved phenomenon (e.g. the production of abnormally concentrated gas or raised levels of blood alcohol cause spontaneous ignition), and natural explanations that involve an external source of ignition (e.g. the victim dropped a cigarette).
Objections to natural explanations usually revolve around the degree of burning of the body with respect to its surroundings. Indeed, one of the common markers of a case of SHC is that the body — or part of it — has suffered an extraordinarily large degree of burning, with surroundings or lower limbs comparatively undamaged. (Source: Wikipedia)
(Image via Google Image Search)