www.whyville.net Jan 20, 2013 Weekly Issue

Veteran Times Writer

Fact or Fiction: Spontaneous Human Combustion

Users' Rating
Rate this article

What could a 13th century knight, an 18th century countess, and a 21st century Irishman have in common? Perhaps the same hair color? The same birthday? Maybe the mutual tendency to spontaneously combust without a cause, thus leading to an ongoing investigation with no real way to find an answer? Welcome to "Fact or Fiction", an ongoing series dedicated to entertaining weirdos such as myself.

According to the web dictionary, the term spontaneous human combustion describes reported cases of the burning of a living (or very recently deceased) human body without an apparent external source of ignition. In other words, the body bursts into flames without a cause.

There have been about 200 recorded cases of spontaneous human combustion worldwide within the last 300 years. The first reported case, however, dates back to the 1470's. The victim was Polonus Vorstius, an Italian knight became drunk one night and began to vomit flames. It was recorded that shortly after vomiting, Vorstius's entire body burst into flame.

Another case of spontaneous human combustion was recorded in the 1700's, when Countess Cornelia Di Bandi was found dead in her bedroom. All that was left was a pile of ash, the bottom halves of her legs, and three fingers. No one has been able to explain how the Countess perished, but all signs point to a causeless combustion.

Perhaps the most famous case of spontaneous human combustion was in 1951, when sixty-seven-year-old Mary Reeser was found dead in her home. All they found of Reeser was her skull, left foot, and a pile of ash. Reeser's house had not been burned, and minus a bit of soot found around her remains, nothing out of the ordinary was identified.

After the Reeser case, word of spontaneous human combustion began to spread. Other cases of this mysterious cause of death were recorded, but the most recent case was in 2011. An Irishman named Michael Faherty was found dead in his home, his body severely burned. No trace of accelerant was found, and the cause of the fire could not be identified.

A quote taken from Abcnews.go.com by the coroner for this case states:

"This fire was thoroughly investigated and I'm left with the conclusion that this fits into the category of spontaneous human combustion, for which there is no adequate explanation." - West Galway coroner Dr. Ciaran McLoughlin.

Spontaneous human combustion has been a medical and scientific mystery for many centuries, but even with the latest technological advances, scientists and doctors alike have not been able to explain why the combustion takes place. There have been various theories, ranging from static electricity to divine intervention, but no idea is concrete. The only thing that's left to determine is this: what do you believe?

Author's Note: Sources:


Did you like this article?
1 Star = Bleh.5 Stars = Props!
Rate it!
Ymail this article to a friend.
Discuss this article in the Forums.

  Back to front page