Also the alcoholism theory seems to be insufficient to explain all mysterious cases of SHC.
“One minute they may be relaxing in a chair, the next they erupt into a fireball.
“Jets of blue fire shoot from their bodies like flames from a blowtorch, and within half an hour they are reduced to a pile of ash.
“Typically, the legs remain unscathed sticking out grotesquely from the smoking cinders. Nearby objects – a pile of newspapers on the armrest, for example – are untouched,” a Cambridge professor, Brian J Ford said.
Professor Ford is a research biologist and author of more than 30 books, most about cell biology and microscopy but he has turned his attention to the mechanisms behind why people ‘explode’.
The most recent SHC case was that of an Irish coroner, 76-year-old Michael Faherty who died on December 22, 2010. West Galway coroner Ciaran McLoughlin recorded the cause of death as spontaneous human combustion.
This is the first reported case of spontaneous human combustion in Ireland’s history.
“The fire had been confined to the sitting room,” the BBC reported. “The only damage was to the body, which was totally burnt, the ceiling above him and the floor underneath him.” No accelerant was found nor any signs of foul play…”
Professor Ford wanted to disprove the alcoholism theory along with the so-called “wick effect” suggested by London coroner Gavin Thurston in 1961.
Thurston had described how human fat burns at about 250c, but if melted it will combust on a wick – such as clothes or other material – at room temperatures.
“I felt it was time to test the realities, so we marinated pork abdominal tissue in ethanol for a week. “Even when cloaked in gauze moistened with alcohol, it would not burn.
“Alcohol is not normally present in our tissues, but there is one flammable constituent in the body that can greatly increase in concentration.” The body creates acetone, which is highly flammable.
“A range of conditions can produce ketosis, in which acetone is formed, including alcoholism, fat-free dieting, diabetes and even teething,” Ford explained.
“So we marinated pork tissue in acetone, rather than ethanol. “This was used to make scale models of humans, which we clothed and set alight. “They burned to ash within half an hour.
“For the first time a feasible cause of human combustion has been experimentally demonstrated.”
First version of this article was originally published on August 24, 2012