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Top 10 Curious Cases of Spontaneous Human Combustion

Our world is full of strange and shocking occurrences. Despite the tremendous breakthroughs in the world of science, sometimes some of these happenings cannot be easily explained with science. Spontaneous human combustion (SHC) is one of such anomalies that leaves even the most reputable medical experts confused. The controversial phenomenon entails some parts or the entire body of a living human suddenly bursting into (usually blue) flames and combusting either to death or inflicting severe burning wounds on the victim’s body, without any clear source of ignition.

There are different theories and school of thoughts, but no known cause or established scientific explanation for spontaneous human combustion. Many have simply described this unexplained phenomenon as “a strange paranormal occurrence” making it mostly a mystery. Below is a list of the top ten cases of spontaneous human combustion in which regular people’s bodies have suddenly caught fire from the inside. Although rational theorists often try to offer logical explanations for each of the cases, as you will see, the facts wouldn’t just add up.

1. Robert Francis Bailey

A homeless man, Robert Francis Bailey burned to death on the morning of September 13, 1967. According to spontaneous human combustion researcher, this is the strangest of them all. In the morning, while everyone was waiting on their bus to work, they noticed a flame up in the window of a building and rushed to the scene. Robert’s body was ablaze. The police officer first at the scene reported blue flames forcefully oozing out of his abdominal cavity consuming him alive.

They managed to put out the fire by squeezing a water hose through his belly, but he was already dead. Surprisingly, everything else around him didn’t catch fire. He was a non-smoker, and no source of the fire could be found. One theory claimed that being an alcoholic who drank cheap denatured alcohol, something must have reacted with the denatured alcohol in his gut to ignite the fire.[1]

2. Mary Reeser

Mary Reeser

The landlord discovered Mary Reeser who was burned to death in 1951 in Florida. Except for the bones and skull, everything else in Mary’s body had been entirely combusted into ashes. The FBI report claims that she set herself on fire, citing her body fat to have acted as the catalyst to burn everything down. Surprisingly, everything else in the house remained intact; the pile of stack newspapers, clothes, among other combustible items remained unburned, only her body was burned. The mystery behind her death does not fit the profile suggested by the FBI.

The nature of fire that did not spread and the intensity of the damage done on her body indicates the extreme intensity of heat that would have only emanated from within her body. Researchers have, therefore, dismissed the police report as their assumption is only possible if the fire had spread in the house if it emanated from the outside source. Experts believe the case points at spontaneous combustion as the only valid explanation for the mysterious demise of Mary Reeser.[2]

3. Dr. John Irving Bentley

Dr. John Irving Bentley
‘Spontaneous Human Combustion’ The remains of Dr. John Irving Bentley (age 92) almost totally burnt in his home at Coudersport, Pennsylvania

Dr. John Irving Bentley was the Pennsylvania based physician was reported in 1966 to have hosted friends at his home before spontaneously combusting later that night in his bathroom. The only remains of the ninety-two-year-old were his lower leg and one slipper along with a pile of ash from what used to be his body. The factors behind his burning was a mystery that remains unexplained till date. The house did not burn, the smoking pipe was away from the bed, and yet the man is combusted into ashes.

Investigations into the cause of his death suggested the pipe that was at a safe distance from the bed as the source of the fire. This assumption is however farfetched and unlikely to be the actual cause of the fire. The pipe itself remained intact. The real cause of Irving’s death is believed to be spontaneous human combustion that completely consumed him into ashes without setting the house ablaze or burning surrounding items.[3]

4. Baby Rahul

In 2013, there emerged reports of the baby of an Indian family who caught fire four times within his first three months on earth and survived each time. The starnge phenomenon occurred for the very first time when the kid was a mere infant of less than a week old, for no reasons clear to the parents. They endured the pain of watching baby Rahul engulfed in flames on three more occasions.

The doctor suggested that the child emitted combustible gases from his pores which could be the only viable explanation behind the mystery. The parents were directed to keep their baby away from flammable objects and things in the home such as clothing, fireplaces, and gasses. The medical team was unable to understand the actual cause of flames from the baby, or even determine whether it will happen again or not.[4]

5. Countess Cornelia Di Bandi

Sometime in 1731, the maids of countess Cornelia Di Brandi were worried about her whereabouts, and when they finally broke into her house, they found her dead. The entire body was consumed by fire and reduced to ashes. The investigation pinpoints the case to spontaneous human combustion as the primary cause of her death. The whole body was burned except for the lower leg, small skull, and three fingers. Just like other cases of spontaneous human combustion, nothing else in the house was consumed by the fire. The candles did not start the fire because they lost the wax with just wicks standing, illuminating a different source caused the mysterious fire that consumed the body completely.[5]

6. Franker Baker

In 1985, the Vietnam war veteran, Franker Baker survived spontaneous human combustion while relaxing on his couch before embarking on a fishing tour with his friend. The friend, Willey, played an instrumental role in extinguishing the fire. Baker, however, seemed unhurt with the fire. When he consulted medical experts, he was informed that the fire originated from within his body. As a platform to narrate his tale, Baker was slotted in the TV show The Unexplained Files.

In the documentary, Baker outline his encounters with spontaneous human combustion, one occurred in his house, while the other one happened while he was fishing with his friend, Willey, who again played an integral role in smothering the fire off his arm and torso.[6]

7. George Mott

The fireman made a wish while watching the episode of Twilight Zone, and got his wish granted. The Crown Point NY man, George, stated to his friend that nothing weird has ever happened to him, and wished it did. The child found him in his house reduced to just ashes in his bed. The only remains found of him was the shrunken skull and rib while the entire body was burned to ashes. Everything else in the house remained intact and undamaged, fitting other related cases of spontaneous human combustion where the fire started from within hence increasing the intensity and magnitude of combusting the body into ashes, strangely leaving out other things in the house.[7]

8. Jack Angel

The salesman is one of the survivors of spontaneous human combustion in 1974. Jack slept for several days, and when he woke up, he discovered his arm and back have been burned and have a burned hollow chest. He investigated himself and found no other evidence of the fire outbreak in the house; he fled the home in terror at the nearest hotel, where he collapsed due to starvation and injuries from SHC. Based on the assessment by the medical team, the clothes he was wearing were intact; the fire emanated from his arm. He featured in the TV show, That is Incredible in the section representing the reenactment of paranormal in the show. This represents one of the cases of spontaneous combustion survival cases in the world.[8]

9. Sik Kim

He moved around by means of the wheelchair and had spent his entire life of 73 years in Hawaii, Honolulu. In the year 1956, a sudden fire began from his stomach and engulfed his entire body within seconds. His neighbor reported the incident citing that he was completely immersed in blue flames. The firefighters came late and found Kim reduced to a pile of ashes along with his wheelchair.

Similarly, except for the wheelchair and Kim, the house and its contents remained undamaged. The flame seemed to be on a mission of reducing the paralyzed man into ashes and when the goal was achieved, the fire just diminished instead of spreading. To the amazement of the firefighters and investigators, the fire did not even catch the papers and books that were all over the palace in the house close to the main inferno.[9]

10. The Brazilian Woman

The last month of 2007 in the streets of Brazil, many people including the police witnessed the woman burst into flames, turning into ashes in just seconds. The entire body was consumed by the fire incinerating her beyond recognition. Her legs and arms were severely damaged by the consuming fire. Strangely, the clothing she was wearing appears not to be severely damaged as compared to her body; this is because the fire began from inside her body.

Several theories were advanced to explain the phenomenon, for one, that the woman was a victim of ball lightning. Secondly, that the woman was set ablaze as part of the initiation of the grim gang, however, no specific gang showed up to claim the credit and non-was mentioned to be involved as well. The theories are unlikely as there were no accelerant signs on her body or clothing. The only correct and valid exposition of the mystery flames that engulfed and incinerated the woman is the spontaneous human combustion theory.[10]

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