Science Behind Spontaneous Human Combustion


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Robert Tuttle
I love to blog about the unusual and am a guru of interesting facts. Myths, legends and superstitions are my passion. I have made it my goal to absorb as much bizarre information as I can and will always form a unique opinion on it.
Robert Tuttle
Robert Tuttle
Robert Tuttle
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Spontaneous human combustion is something most people will roll their eyes or laugh about when brought up in a conversation. Of course now you’re probably thinking, “well that’s a subject normally not brought about in everyday conversation.” And you’re right…

In fact spontaneous human combustion is not a phenomenon that is widely recognized by science. It’s definitely not something you would see filed in the International Classification of Diseases. But believe it or not, there are large amounts of data collected over the years which may show that spontaneous human combustion is indeed possible.

Past Views on Spontaneous Human Combustion

Skepticism has not always been the wide spread view of this phenomenon. Especially during the 17th and 18th centuries, the opinion of the masses was quite the opposite.

There have been many documented cases of people found that were chard beyond recognition. But the strange part about many of these cases was that they would be found with all their outer tissue burned to a crisp, while all internal organs remained intact. Or sometimes everything would be burned except for a single digit or limb that was left untouched.

Many of the spontaneous human combustion cases involved town “drunkards” and the popular belief was they were being punished by God for their unacceptable behavior as a public menace. While others were thought to of burned themselves up by falling asleep with a lit cigarette in their hand.

So this leads us to our next question, Is Spontaneous Human Combustion Real?

Is Alcohol to Blame for Spontaneous Human Combustion

Researchers, compounded with popular belief, decided to test the theories of alcohol being at fault for many of these cases.

They decided to perform a controlled experiment which involved soaking a rat in alcohol for a year and then set it on fire. I’m sorry to have to bring up this inhumane experiment, but it is relevant to the subject at hand. If it were up to me, I would of chosen a much more humane experiment.

That being said, the rat was set on fire and it went up in a raging fire. Most outer layers of flesh were burned, but the rat’s internal tissue and organs remained untouched. They actually repeated this experiment, each further being soaked in alcohol for longer

periods of time. However the results were still the same.

The Science Behind Spontaneous Human Combustion

By the time the 19th century had rolled around, advances in biology and chemistry had allowed researchers to dig deeper into the possibilities of what causes spontaneous combustion.

These seemingly inexplicable fires may have an explanation. After much research there were many new possibilities that were brought to light that could explain why this was happening.

  • The intestinal gases in the human body are in fact flammable
  • Cadaver bodies are capable of producing flammable gas
  • Enough heat may be generated in haystacks and compost heaps to produce spontaneous combustion
  • Luminescence that is emitted by insects and fish are capable of causing internal fires
  • Static electricity will produce sparks that could set a body on fire given the conditions were right
  • Some inert chemicals when combined may form explosive compounds
  • The human body contains an abundance of fats and oils which are flammable

Of course even though these were all fact, when suggested as causes for spontaneous human combustion, they were merely hypotheses.

The Human Body as a Conductor

It is quite possible that the human digestive system could build up enough flammable gas to pose a hazard.

Static electricity combined with the buildup of these gases could be a deadly combination. At the very least it could be a condition that would start spontaneous human combustion in motion, even though something else could fuel the fire after ignition.

According to experts from the National Fire Protection Association, it is possible for the human body to build up a static charge equal to several thousand volts. Normally these static charges are dissipated into the air and are harmless. But given the right conditions, such as being in a room full of volatile chemicals, an explosion could be possible.

But this still doesn’t explain spontaneous human combustion in a sense that a person is reduced to ashes while the room and furnishings remain unharmed.

Other Possible Causes for Spontaneous Human Combustion

There have been many other explanations for why someone would burst into flames.

  • Fireballs
  • Internal atomic explosions
  • Microwave radiation
  • High frequency sound waves
  • Lightning

Even though there have been many attempts to uncover the mystery of spontaneous human combustion victims, nothing has been proven. Therefore this phenomenon, for now, remains a mystery. You can read up on 10 Cases of Spontaneous Human Combustion to get some more details about this oddity.

Do you have any more thoughts on what may cause spontaneous human combustion? Leave me your comments below to further the discussion…