Friday, April 07, 2006

Pardon Me, While I Burst Into Flames

“When I got in through the window I found the body of a tramp named Bailey laying at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the second floor.[1] He was lying partly on his left side. There was a four-inch slit in his abdomen from which was issuing, at force, a blue flame. The flame was beginning to burn the wooden stairs. We extinguished the flames by playing a hose into the abdominal cavity. Bailey was alive when he started burning. He must have been in terrible pain. His teeth were sunk into the mahogany newel post of the staircase. I had to prise his jaws apart to release the body. The fire was coming from within the abdomen of his body.”
- 13 September 1967

This quotation is taken from the eyewitness account of Police Station Officer Jack Stacey, the man that found the remains of Robert Francis Bailey, one of the few known individuals whose death has been associated with Spontaneous Human Combustion.

For his part, Officer Stacey did not attribute the tramp’s death to the alleged phenomenon. He believed the man, whose body showed obvious signs of alcohol abuse, was a meth drinker, and had consumed enough meth that evening that his body literally caught on fire from the inside out.

Scientists, while for the most part extremely skeptical of Spontaneous Human Combustion, lend even less credence to Stacey’s theory, leaving the Bailey case unexplained.

The idea of Spontaneous Human Combustion, abbreviated SHC, has been around for centuries. When asked for his opinion of the unexplained phenomenon, British author and inventor Arthur C. Clarke had this to say,

“There's one mystery I'm asked about more than any other: spontaneous human combustion. Some cases seem to defy explanation, and leave me with a creepy and very unscientific feeling. If there's anything more to SHC, I simply don't want to know."

The Wikipedia credits Christina Paul as saying, “Spontaneous combustion is completely random. Imagine if your professor spontaneously combusted in the middle of a lecture." This is a dumb quote and should be removed from the Wikipedia by someone with more nerve than me.

Many of the alleged cases of Spontaneous Human Combustion are, at best, a gigantic reach. Often the accounts include some kind of device, i.e. a pipe or cigarette that could easily ignite the victim.

As far as eyewitness proof goes, Jeannie Saffin’s case takes the charred cake. A mental deficient, Saffin was terrified of fire since childhood. Her father, 82 year-old Jack Saffin, watched his daughter burst into flames in front of his own eyes. Police and fire respondents reported no damage to the room Jeannie was in and no left-over smoke. An investigation into a possible murder by Mr. Saffin or his wife was conducted and both were released from suspicion. The official cause of death was listed as “misadventure.”

Another of the more interesting cases is Mary Hardy Reeser, later dubbed “The Cinder Lady,” by “clever” local media in St. Petersburg, Florida. Wilton M. Krogman PhD. Physical anthropologist from the University of Pennsylvania was asked to review the case by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. His analysis marks this incident quite ponderous indeed.

Mrs. Reeser burned to death while sitting in her rocking chair. Though her body was almost entirely incinerated, the chair and the rest of her surroundings remained basically intact. Also, her charred skull had somehow managed to shrink to the size of a “tea cup.”

In his report on the case, Dr. Krogman had this to say,

"I cannot conceive of such complete cremation without more burning of the apartment itself. In fact the apartment and everything in it should have been consumed. [...] I regard it as the most amazing thing I have ever seen. As I review it, the short hairs on my neck bristle with vague fear. Were I living in the Middle Ages, I'd mutter something about black magic."

In recent years, science has attributed SHC to something called "the wick effect" which essentially involves human bodies burning quickly and severely due to flames ignited by excess body fat. Read more here:

(P.S. I had a lot of cool pictures for this article, really the whole reason I researched and wrote the damn thing, but Blogspot isn't letting me upload them.)


At 10:07 AM, Blogger SMangat said...


At 1:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

throw those pictures up now

At 5:43 PM, Anonymous Neil said...

I believe the drummer for Spinal Tap combusted. Actually Nigel says several dozens of people combust each year.

At 10:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe that Spotaneous Human Combustion exists.Charles Dickens has a man named Krook die this way in his novel Bleak House.

At 6:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spontaneous Human Combustion is very bizarre.In a comic book mini-series called Electric Undertow aliens called the VXX-199 induce SHC worldwide in order to harness the energies released their plot is eventually foiled by superhumans.

At 7:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

if your body temperature skyrockets your fats and oils can light up and BOOM.

At 12:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

erm, lol?

At 10:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The superhumans who defeated the VXX-199 plot were members of a group named Strikeforce Morituri.A virus from space put a end to the fatal Morituri effect.The VXX-199 induced the spontaneous combustions worldwide in order to feed on a energy that's released.

At 4:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

These comments are some of the dumbest I've ever seen posted on any website anywhere. The human body is mostly water. People will literally believe ANYTHING if it's fun or thrilling for them to believe it...even if it's completely ridiculous and irrational.

At 4:55 PM, Anonymous Liam said...

SHC (Spontaneous Human Combustion) actually does happen. But it's not that common because in the past 300 years on 200 cases have been reported. And it has nothing to do with the fats and oils on your skin burning, you'd have to have a fever of over 400 degrees to do that.
And what's with the whole anonymous thing, just use your name (fake or real).

At 1:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've always been curious about shc because I always thought it would happen to me. Sometimes I get so hot that I feel like I'm going to explode into flames or my heads just going to pop off from pressure.Me and my brother joke about it sometimes because my face gets bright red to almost purple and I just want to scream.

At 11:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Members of a group known as Strikeforce Morituri defeated the plot of the VXX-199 who caused people to combust worldwide to feed off a energy that's released.Scanner Burn Revenge and Lifter defeat the VXX-199 plot with the help of a AI named Will.

At 7:58 PM, Anonymous Marissa said...

Yeah, I'm really not sure what to think of SHC. It seems everything has a logical scientific explanation. The "wick-effect" makes utter sense to me, but when you think the body is made up of anywhere from 55% to 78% water depending upon the actual size and weight of the person. Water doesn't burn.


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