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Spontaneous Human Combution
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★ Spontaneous Human Combution

Spontaneous Human Combustion: see Accident & Fire & Heat & Smoke & Fuel

Unexplained Mysteries TV - Nelson Aters - Larry Arnold - Jack Stacey - Terry Russell - Colin Durham - Dick La Vallee - Robert Purdy - Investigation X - Daryl Haefner - Barbara Jones - Peter Jones - Tanis Helliwell - Spontaneous Human Combustion: Burnt to a Crisp TV - David Gee - Charles Dickens - Robert MacNish - J J Earnshaw & T K Keane - Jonathan Earnshaw - John Haymer - John DeHaan - Unsolved Mysteries TV - Don Gosnell - The Unexplained Files TV -

 

 

89,366.  It has been called the Devil’s Fire.  It’s extremely rare.  And no-one understands how or why it happens.  Unexplained Mysteries

 

89,367.  There are 50 known cases of Spontaneous Human Combustion.  ibid.

 

 

89,368.  I entered the apartment at the fire scene with a hand pump ... and noticing a pile of debris in the center of the room.  I started to squirt it and was stopped immediately by other people who had preceded me into the room.   It turns out it was not just debris but part of a corpse of the lady who had been burnt to death, unbeknownst to me.  There was only her foot and her shoe.  Nelson Aters, firefighter, re Mary Reeser 1951, later investigated by son Dr Richard Reeser

 

 

89,369.  There was a foot.  Just a foot.  That was all I ever saw of the lady.  Nelson Aters, televised interview

 

 

89,370.  It was just hot.  It was very warm, still.  And all the switches in the apartment had melted.  It was not typical to the extent that there was a line of smoke about four feet off the floor – that you don’t see that line of demarcation from the floor to a certain point and smoke damage from there on up.  Nelson Aters, televised interview

 

 

89,371.  Mary Hardy Reeser’s death in 1951 July 2nd set off a firestorm of controversy and heated argument that really extends right to the present day.  Mary Reeser managed to burn up leaving behind one foot, a few pieces of calcine vertebra, a piece of tissue that was later identified as probably liver and ... an ovoid mass later identified as her head.  Larry Arnold, founder Para-Science International

 

 

89,372.  Experts began speaking about a circle of fire not more than six feet in diameter that surrounded Mrs Reeser beyond which combustibles such as the bed linens failed to even singe let alone ignite.  Larry Arnold, author Ablaze! 

 

 

89,373.  Whatever happened to Mrs [Helen] Conway, it happened suddenly and it happened without warning.  Whatever energy, whatever force, consumed her to such an extent was within the body, forcing its way downward and backward, and blowing debris from her body out into the room.  Larry Arnold, investigator Harrisburg Pennsylvania

 

 

89,374.  Everything points to these fires beginning within the body and burning outward under conditions that belie common sense and what is commonly known about fire behaviour and fire pattern.  Larry Arnold, interview Unexplained Mysteries

 

 

89,375.  We got the call at about twenty past five in the morning.  And when we arrived two or three minutes down the embankment there were about half a dozen office cleaners outside this derelict building and were pointing to the first floor and said that we think there’s a fire in there.  And sure enough there was a flickering blue flame coming from the upstairs window.  And when we got up the ladder to the first floor there was a man’s body laying on the stairs and there was a blue flame coming from his stomach, about a four-inch slit in his stomach and it was making a noise like a blow lamp bzzzzzzzzz.  And it was about eight inches long – that was the thing we saw.  A man came up the ladder with the hose-reel, and we actually put the hose-reel inside the man’s body – he was burning from the inside out.  It was the most bizarre thing I’ve ever seen at a fire.  Jack Stacey, firefighter

 

 

89,376.  My immediate thought on seeing the deceased was that this was not an ordinary death.  There was no external damage and no windows broken.  We entered the living room of the premises.  It was a sight that will never ever really leave me.  Sergeant Terry Russell, Ebbw Vale rozzers

 

 

89,377.  And this poor old lady – she was reduced to ashes, except for two lower parts of both legs.  Well this was amazing to me to see a body in such a condition.  The most abnormal thing about it was that there was nothing in the room damaged.  Colin Durham, Newport rozzers

 

 

89,378.  The walls were slightly brownish color; it appeared the place had been subjected to intense heat.  In the bedroom itself there was a single bed; the mattress had been burned though, and the floor which was wooden structure was below the bed was burned through, and there was fragments of bone, possibly a skull, I remember laying on the floor.  Dick La Vallee, Ticonderoga New York firefighter, televised interview re 1986 case of George Mott, fellow firefighter, non-smoker

 

 

89,379.  It was dark.  The inside of the house was warm, humid.  Sweet smell.  And when I finally got to the bedroom, I was astonished.  I’ve seen a lot of fires with fatalities.  I never saw anything like this.  Robert Purdy, interview Investigation X – Spontaneous Combustion

 

 

89,380.  A fire has consumed the bed.  Burned a hole in the floor and melted a television set.  Everything else seems untouched.  Until Purdy realises he is looking at the remains of fellow firefighter George Mott.  It appears the victim burst into flames so suddenly he didn’t have a chance to escape.  Investigation X – Spontaneous Combustion

 

89,381.  For believers in spontaneous human combustion there are four key traits that define the phenomenon.  First, there is no obvious source for the fire.  The body bursts into flame on its own.  Second, the blaze barely spreads beyond the victim’s body.  Third, flames reduce the torso to bone and ash leaving extremities unburned.  And fourth, it appears the fire erupted so quickly victims had no chance to escape.  ibid.

 

89,382.  George Mott’s case is just one of hundreds recorded since the seventeen-hundreds.  ibid.

 

89,383.  There’s no clear ignition source.  It’s hot enough to burn everything down to ashes, bones and limbs.  But the inferno doesn’t spread beyond the bodies.  Strangest of all, when witnesses come upon the scene, it seems the victims were caught by surprise.  And engulfed before they could react.  All died alone.  But there is a timeline for Helen Conway’s case.  The Fire Chief estimates that it took just twenty-five minutes for Conway to burn.  ibid.

 

89,384.  Peter Jones, survivor; his wife Barbara Jones, eye witness ... ‘Suddenly he just erupted in a cloud of smoke’ ... Less than a minute after it began, the smoke clears.  The couple is startled but no harm seems to have come from the incident.  Peter leaves for work shortly after.  Later that day Peter is on his way home from work when whatever is smouldering inside his body re-ignites.  While stopped at a train crossing, smoke begins to seep from Peter’s arm-pores.  It quickly fills the car’s cabin.  And he is forced to roll down the window.  Unhurt and unmarked, Jones decides not to seek medical help.  ibid.

 

 

89,385.  After I walked around and got squarely in front of where the chair had lit you can see two legs.  And then we realised it was a person sitting there.  Daryl Haefner, Bolinbroke FD

 

 

89,386.  But he had sat down on the edge of the bed to put his boots on – he always wore boots to work.  Suddenly, he erupted in a cloud of smoke.  He was covered in smoke.  No flames.  No flames at all.  Barbara Jones, wife of Peter Jones

 

 

89,387.  It did have a metallic taste to it.  Peter Jones, survivor

 

 

89,388.  There was no sensation at all.  No pain or heat or anything.  Just a billowing cloud of smoke.  Peter Jones 

 

 

89,389.  Somehow I knew that although I was on fire and that’s the way it felt that I wasn’t going to fully ignite and go up in smoke.  I would have these second-degree burns on my face, on my body, on my torso, on my thighs, on my arms, and there would be blisters this large that would swell up and they would break, and they would be running sores ... It was as if I had been plugged in a socket and that my body could not take the amount of energy charge and was shorting out the socket.  I would have to go and sit in water for hours and hours and hours.  That was the only relief that I had.  Tanis Helliwell, survivor

 

 

89,390.  But in deaths thought to be as a result of spontaneous human combustion the bones are consumed even beyond what cremation is capable of doing.  Spontaneous Human Combustion – Burnt to a Crisp

 

89,391.  Ninety-two-year-old Doctor William Bentley had been burnt to ash.  Only the lower half of a leg remained.  Amazingly, neither his aluminium walker  nor the room suffered any significant damage.  ibid.  

 

89,392.  Tanis Helliwell ... believes Kundalini is the probable cause of a series of spontaneous combustion attacks she experienced.  ibid.   

 

 

89,393.  Belief in the occurrence of spontaneous combustion of the human body is of respectable antiquity.  More recently opinion has swung away from the quasi-supernatural views of earlier years to regard such cases as due to unusual degrees of flammability of the human body in such circumstances, distinguishing the condition with the name or preternatural combustion ... Human body fat, melted in a crucible, will only burn with a temperature somewhere about 250°C.  However, a cloth wick in liquid fat will burn, like a lamp, even when the temperature of the fat has fallen as low at 24°C.  Professor David Gee, Official Journal of the British Academy of Forensic Sciences, A Case of Spontaneous Combustion vol 5 1965

 

 

89,394.  ‘I couldn’t make him hear, and I softly opened the door and looked in.  And the burning smell is there – and the soot is there, and the oil is there - and he is not here!’ – Tony ends this with a groan.  Charles Dickens, Bleak House

 

 

89,395.  Whether such a quantity of hydrogen may accumulate in the bodies of drunkards as to combust is not easy to determine.  Dr Robert MacNish, Anatomy of Drunkenness, Chapter XII, Spontaneous Combustion of Drunkards

 

cf.

 

89,396.  Gases in the colon will support combustion, and serious accidents have been reported when diathermy has been used for fulgurating colonic polyps.  Cutting diathermy is often used for enterotomy in surgery on the stomach and small bowel and has been considered safe.  We found, however, that under certain circumstances gases in the stomach may be explosive.  J J Earnshaw & T K Keane, British Medical Journal 6666, Gastric explosion: a cautionary tale

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