Paranormal & Unexplained Mysteries: Spontaneous Human Combustion (SHC)
SHC - Spontaneous Human Combustion
Despite most people amongst the general public believing that Spontaneous Human Combustion (SHC) is nothing more than a paranormal or supernatural belief, as of 1995 there have been about 200 cited cases of Spontaneous Human Combustion globally over a 300-year period.
Perhaps the reason for the majority of people believing SHC to be a supernatural belief is due to the fact that people have proposed supernatural and biblical explanations for the phenomenon. In fact, it's possible that there may be references to Spontaneous Human Combustion in the bible, or at least this is how some people have interpreted it.
In February 2013, Oklahoma resident Danny Vanzandt, 57, was found burning on the floor of his home. Initially police officers thought that Vanzandt's burning body was “just trash that was burning on the kitchen floor” but it turned out it was his badly burned, deceased body. Police were stumped when they couldn't find any evidence of fire damage to furniture or any evidence of any kind of a struggle.
Sheriff Lockhart believes that, even though there are only about 200 cited cases worldwide, Vanzandt's death was a result of Spontaneous Human Combustion (SHC) and the authorities certainly haven't ruled out the theory.
Danny Vanzandt was a smoker, which seems to be the case with all unfortunate victims of Spontaneous Human Combustion, and he was also an alcoholic which is also common amongst victims of SHC and was originally thought to provide a vital clue, although this doesn't seem to be the case. Sheriff Lockhart confirmed that the body was burned in such a way that an alcohol/cigarette-related accident was simply not possible.
SHC In History
According to historians, the first reported case of spontaneous human combustion dates back to 1641. However, the incident documented in 1641 actually occurred as early as 1470. Danish physician, Thomas Bartholin, had reported how Polonus Vorstius had been drinking wine at home in Milan, Italy one evening before suddenly bursting into flames.
Charles Dickens is also known to have used spontaneous human combustion to kill off one of his characters in Bleak House, after carrying out research into 30 real-life cases. The FBI have also been involved in investigating spontaneous human combustion after the police found Mary Reeser's ashes and just her foot (in a slipper), her spine and her mysteriously shrunken skull left behind after the incident. In 1951 her landlord had tried to deliver a telegram only to find that the doorknob was incredibly hot, so he called the police who then found her remains, mostly ash, inside the house.
Although the FBI concluded that she must have fallen asleep whilst smoking a cigarette, physical anthropologist Wilton Krogman disputed their conclusion claiming there was a lack of any evidence of a fire being in her apartment.
It was also reported in September 2011 that Irish pensioner, Michael Faherty aged 76, was found lying face-down on his living room floor near an open fire, though the only other damage investigators could find to the house was the ceiling above him and the floor underneath him.
Dr. McLoughlin carried out research into the incident and noted that such cases, rather unusually, almost always occur near an open fireplace and chimney - another vital clue perhaps?
Although a small percentage of spontaneous human combustion cases have been sufficiently and officially documented, many (ie most) of them have not.
Proposed Explanations For SHC
In addition to the proposed supernatural and biblical explanations for SHC, other more conventional proposed explanations for spontaneous human combustion include the wick effect - which is when the clothing of a person absorbs melted fat from their body and begins to act like the wick of a candle.
The wick effect has been scientifically proven under certain conditions and is the most common proposed logical explanation for the phenomenon of spontaneous human combustion. However, this theory does not address the spontaneous nature of SHC, unless we assume that all victims must have unknowingly somehow ignited their clothing without realizing.
On the other hand, scientists have also shown how there is enough methane to lead to a fire, within our intestines, whilst the source of the fire could exist in our active enzymes (proteins which help accelerate the chemical processes in our body).
Other explanations proposed for SHC include the theory of Larry Arnold that body cells can be ignited by a subatomic particle (Pyroton) which interacts with organic molecules, causing them to burst into the flames, the theory that static electricity is the culprit and that external geomagnetic forces may be responsible.
However, none of these theories have yet been proven to be the case and are not yet publicly acknowledged, so for now, the phenomenon of spontaneous human combustion (SHC) remains a mystery.
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