Spontaneous Human Combustion refers to a term encompassing reported incidences of the combustion of a living human body or very recently-deceased human body, where there is no apparent external cause of ignition. Prior to reported cases, most incidences of this phenomenon only appeared in literature. Both types have however been observed to share similar characteristics regarding the circumstances and remains of the victims.
First Reported Case
The first reported case of this phenomenon came from a Danish anatomist by the name Thomas Bartholin in 1663. Mr Bartholin described how a woman in Paris went up in ashes and smoke while sleeping. According to him, what stood out as a shock was the fact that the straw mattress on which the woman was sleeping was unmarred by the fire. There have been hundreds of similar incidences reported, and all these cases have assumed a similar style of occurrence.
What Characterize The Occurrences
All the reported cases of SHC have been characterized by one thing – the body of the victim is nearly completely consumed, with a majority of these cases taking place in their homes. The photos taken by coroners at the scenes of the incidents have often revealed a peculiar aspect of SHC – though the head and torso are often nearly burnt beyond recognition, the extremities including the hands and feet often remain intact. In rare cases, the victim’s internal organs may also remain intact while the outside body is seriously charred.. Aside from that, all the incidences reported in the victims room also revealed very little signs of fire, apart from a greasy residue sometimes left on the walls or furniture.
It is also worth noting that not all SHC victims simply burst into flames. Cases are reported where victims develop strange burns on their bodies with no apparent cause. Some victims are even said to emanate smoke from their bodies when no signs of fire can be detected. It is also reported that a very small percentage of those who burst into flames do not actually succumb to it.
Is There Scientific Proof?
There is no scientific evidence yet pointing to the possible effects of SHC. There are however speculations that the phenomenon could be caused by a spontaneous reaction of certain chemicals in the human body.
The world had shut its eyes to the many told stories of SHC when a recent incident in Germany got everyone up and talking again. Apparently, a woman believed to be in her mid-40s and originally from Mauritius is said to have been emanating fire and smoke while she sat on a park bench in Flensburg in Northern Germany. As reported by The Flunsburger Tagesblatt as well as The Local, the woman is said to have been left severely burnt,in spite of the best attempts of a passer by who tried to beat the raging flames out of her using his jacket.
Witnesses narrated this strange ordeal to the local media, sensationally claiming this woman never uttered a word, even as she got engulfed and devoured by the flames.
The woman was immediately rushed to a hospital, and would later be transferred to the specialist burns unit located in Lubeck, where reports indicate she is in a critical condition.There are unconfirmed reports doing the rounds that the woman could have succumbed to her burns, but neither the hospital authorities nor the coroners have come out to explicitly confirm or deny these reports. It is generally believed that due to the rareness of this occurrence, both the hospital authorities and the coroners would rather have it kept on the low. This is especially so, in order to quell public discourse on the matter and open up various channels of investigations, as both the authorities appear to have massive interests in the incident.
Theories Of The Possible Causes Of The Fire
According to reports from The Local, it appears theories are already being advanced by the prosecutors to try and unearth the possible causes of this incident. Prosecutors are said to be ‘keeping an open mind’ as regards the possible causes of the fire, and Prosecutor Ulrike Stahlmann-Liebelt is reported to have said they haven’t ruled out suicide.
The story appeared to be taking another twist as some witnesses claimed to have seen two men fleeing the scene shortly before the incident. These claims were however readily rubbished by Flensburg public prosecutor Mr Otto Gosch who categorically stated that there was no evidence pointing out to a third party involvement.
Significance Of This Incident
This incident has undoubtedly awakened debate on the many mysterious cases of SHC. Having occurred in the modern age of technology, it is likely that the incident was captured by cameras around the park.
If, for the sake of argument, it turns out that this was a sheer case of attempted suicide or homicide, then the prosecutors will be having a field day, as they will have discovered a solid premise from which to pursue the matter. Where will this leave the doctors and scientists? Well, considering they have often cast aspersions on the possible link between SHC and science, the doctors and scientists will just bow out of the case with their usual consolation that this is yet one of those cases of alleged SHC that weren’t actually fully investigated.
Now, let’s consider the second scenario, where it actually turns out the incident was a pure case of SHC. The world of science will be sent spinning, and there is no imagining the kind of spectacle the town of Flensburg will be treated to. Scientists from all over the world will converge in Flensburg with the sole intention of pooling their intellects in order to try and unravel the mystery of SHC.
Depending on an individual’s viewpoint, spontaneous human combustion is either real or an illusion. Many cases reported prior to the Germany incident have not been properly authenticated, and the loud silence we have often been treated to by scientists regarding this phenomenon has not been any helpful.
Whether an act of God or a legitimate scientific occurrence, we can only hope that this woman’s incident serves to quench our curiosities on this subject once and for all.