Spontaneous Human Combustion
Alternatively known as SHC.
A phenomenon in which solitary humans have, in some unknown manner, burned up almost entirely, usually in a closed room, without setting fire to the room beyond a possible hole in the floor and some nearby furnishings, such as the chair in which they were at.
The mystery of spontaneous human combustion, or SHC, is probably one of the most strange and terrifying of all the phenomena in the world of the unexplained and the unknown.
How can human flesh be recipient to such dangers as spontaneous combustion? Spontaneous combustion, people usually assume, would be confined to oily rags and newspapers piled up in poorly ventilated corners of garages and basements.
Although uncommon, spontaneous human combustion does really happen, and if its cause has not yet been satisfactorily explained by science and researchers, the charred remains and ashes of individuals who were once fully living, breathing, feeling human beings, attest to the reality of this intriguing and frightening phenomena.
The strange phenomenon of ball lightning has been used by many scientists in an attempt to explain the even stranger mystery of spontaneous human combustion but so far, with the difficulties of isolating and recreating such phenomena for studying purposes, no adequate or usable results have been ever achieved.
In one instance, in 1960, Louise Matthews of South Philadelphia survived an eerie experience that might substantiate the theory of ball lightning as a factor in at least some of the mysterious cases of spontaneous human combustion. Louise claimed that, while lying on her living room sofa, she glanced up to see a large red ball of fire come through both the closed window and the venetian blinds, without harming either. At first Louise thought that an atomic bomb had fallen, and she buried her face in the sofa. The ball of fire proceeded to go through her living room and dinning room, to finally drift out through a closed dining room window. Louise also claimed that a sizzling noise accompanied the ball of fire as it floated through her house. When the ball of fire had passed over her, Louise had felt a tingling sensation in the back of her head. As a result of this incident, her scalp was left as smooth and clean as her face.
Well known and recorded incidents of spontaneous human combustion:
July 30, 1937 — a woman who had been paddling about in a small boat with her husband and children at England’s Norfolk Broads was engulfed by terrible blue flames. Nothing but a mound of ash was left of her, after a few horrifying moments. Neither any member of her family nor the wooden boat was harmed.
September 20, 1938, Chelmsford, England — a woman burst into blue flames in the midst of a crowded dance floor. No one was able to extinguish the blaze that seemed to be fed by her own flesh, and in minutes she was but a heap of ashes.
August 19, 1966, Occano, California — a woman named Doris Lee Jacobs burned to death in her trailer home. Although she suffered burns on over 95 percent of her body, the inside of the trailer was only partially scorched.
December 1956, Honolulu, Hawaii — a friend walked into the room of Young Sik Kim, a 78-year-old disabled person, to find him enveloped in blue flames. By the time firemen arrived on the scene, Kim and his easy chair were ashes. Strangely enough, nearby curtains and clothing were untouched by fire, in spite of the ferocious heat that would have been necessary to consume a human being.
March 24, 1997, Gortaleen, Northern Ireland — 76-year-old John O’Connor was found dead in his living room after an intense and localized fire had left only his head, upper torso, and feet unburned, as well as the chair in which he was sitting. There was very little smoke damage done to the room or the furniture.
December 2001, Garden Grove, California — a 73-year-old woman died from the third-degree burns that she had suffered over 90 percent of her body. Firefighters and the coroner’s office were left with the puzzle of how this could be possible when the fire took only four minutes to extinguish and was confined to a couch, a table, and the chair in which the victim was sitting.
Spontaneous human combustion appears to strike without warning and without leaving a clue. It seems to take place principally among the elderly and among women, but there is no standard rule for these ghastly cases of unnatural combustibility.
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Sources: (1) Shepard, Leslie (editor), Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology, Thomson Gale; (2) Dictionary of the Occult, Caxton Publishing; (3) Steiger, Brad and Sherry Hansen, The Gale Encyclopedia of the Unusual and Unexplained, Thomson Gale.
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