Spontaneous Human Combustion (SHC)

Eme Chibueze


Combustion is the process of burning by the combination of two or more chemicals to produce heat at high temperatures, it can be internal or external depending on the environment it is taking place.

Combustion can be said to be spontaneous when a substance self heats itself to high temperatures and finally igniting for instance phosphorus self ignites at room temperature without the application of heat.

Spontaneous human combustion (SHC) is a term which deals with reported cases of people living or recently dead bursting in to flames without an apparent external source of ignition; this refers to fire emanating without a visible external source of ignition and suggest that the fire started within the body of the victim.

It was first proposed by Paul Rolli a writer in his article in 1746  and about 300 years later by 1995 Larry E. Arnold wrote that about 200 cases of spontaneous human combustion had been cited around the world.

Various hypotheses have attempted to explain this phenomenon as to how SHC might occur without an external flame source while other hypothesis posits that incidents of SHC must have an external source of ignition and the likelihood of it without an external source is low.

Some explanations debunked it with the fact that with the worlds population at over 5 billion there would have been more cases of SHC everywhere and opinions that it could have been from slow combustion from nearby source of ignition look more appealing to everyone.

Hypotheses against it suggests possible causes of this phenomenon could be as a result of slow mobility in old people being unable to move when they had caught fire and improper disposal of cigars by mistake etc

While differing opinions are being raised by medical researchers, below are some verified cases of SHC that have remained unexplained till date;

  1. Polonius vorstius in the 1400s consumed too much drinks one night and vomited bits of fire before completely bursting in to flames.
  2. Countess Cornelia Di Bandi in the 1700s was found close to her window completely burned except for her hands and legs suggesting that she had calmly risen from the bed to open her windows but bursted before she could reach it, the room remained largely untouched.
  3.  Ginette kazmierczak in 1970s contacted the police on her husbands disappearance while they couldn’t find him some days later her son found Ginette’s body reduced to ash except for her legs in her apartment mysteriously every other thing remained intact.
  4. In 1967 a passenger in a bus noticed a flame in an apartment and called the fire brigade thinking it was gas fire ,on reaching there the men found the body of Robert Francis Bailey in flames ; one of the firemen reported seeing an opening in the mans abdomen from which flames were issuing.
  5. The most recent was on the 17th of September 2017 in Tottenham in North London where passersby watched as a 70 year old man john Nolan suddenly burst into flames while walking on the street, people tried helping him but he died the next day at the hospital he was not wearing an explosive but running high temperature.
  6. In 1980 Henry Thomas 73 years a man was found burnt to death in his house in Rassau Estate in South wales his legs were left untouched still in socks and trousers .
  7. In July 2nd 1951 Mary Reeser age 67 was found burnt to death in her apartment after the landlady found that the door knob was very hot, police came and opened the door to see a burnt Mary Reeser with only one leg remaining with a body temperature of about 1930 degree centigrade but interestingly everything in the room remained intact.


Until the mystery of SHC is solved we cannot totally debunk its existence without deep research.

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