Science Behind Spontaneous Human Combustion

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… 


  1. I have no knowledge about these reactions but i agree with this one….

    The intestinal gases in the human body are in fact flammable
    lalina recently posted..Things To Do When You’re Bored At HomeMy Profile

    • Twitter:
      It is one of the more popular theories lalina. The human body is in tune with so many different elements and resources on this planet. If the right conditions were set into motion, then there’s no telling what one could be capable of.

      Spontaneous human combustion is an unfortunate thing, maybe these people had some sort of gift, but were unable to harness it’s power and were consumed by it. The possibilities are endless…

      Thanks you for reading and leaving your thoughts.
      Robert Tuttle recently posted..Mysterious Disappearances, People Vanish without a TraceMy Profile

  2. Twitter:
    This is something that has always fascinated me. It’s kind of hard to believe that you could just burst into flames, but with so many cases being reported it is hard to ignore. Interesting read.
    Aldo recently posted..9 Signs You Need A VacationMy Profile

    • Twitter:
      Hey, thanks for reading Aldo! You’re right, it is an oddity, but quite hard to ignore. Whether or not one should believe it’s an unnatural phenomenon or just a case of carelessness, that’s in the eye of the beholder. But regardless, you can’t discount how strange some of these cases are especially how only the person may be burned completely only leaving a single finger or all the surroundings untouched.

      This one is almost like trying to ignore the fact that there is other life in the universe. At least from my point of view anyway.
      Robert Tuttle recently posted..Exploring Poltergeists and Psychokinesis, What are They?My Profile

  3. Twitter:
    Robert this was the most interesting piece of analysis i’ve read in a few days. Flammable bodies, alcohol…wow! I wasn’t even aware that such a thing was possible! Keep posting such fascinating writings.
    Kathy Mathis recently posted..NVIDIA Shield Tablet for GamersMy Profile

  4. Twitter:
    Reading this article made me think about so many things about the human body. Frankly, I never thought something like this is possible. I hope this mystery is solved in the coming years and backed by science.
    Arun Chandran recently posted..KeekMy Profile

    • Twitter:
      Thank you for commenting Arun. Unfortunately I believe this is one of the world’s mysteries that may never yield definitive answers. As we know the human body is full of mysteries in the chemicals it contains and it’s potential to do unexplained things. But it is quite scary knowing that there is no real evidence to support how this happens, makes you fear a bit of whether it may happen to yourself one day.
      Robert Tuttle recently posted..Cases of Things that Fell from the SkyMy Profile

  5. Twitter:
    Hey Robert,
    Very informative post and thanks for sharing this post with us. This post really enhance my knowledge about combustion.
    Sudipto recently posted..Best Android Phone Under 12000 In IndiaMy Profile

  6. Twitter:
    Hi Robert,
    Thanks for sharing awesome post with us, this post is really useful for me.
    Preet recently posted..How to Hack Facebook AccountMy Profile

  7. Twitter:
    Great article and very knowledgeable
    Rahul Biswal recently posted..Top 8 Advantages Of Windows Phone Over AndroidMy Profile

  8. Twitter:
    Nicely done post!
    Much more interesting to me than many other articles here. Your blog Robert has a lot of great stuff, truly a great idea for a website!
    dub recently posted..The South Fork of the Snake River Boat Launch List with Interactive MapMy Profile

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