The Truth About Spontaneous Human Combustion

Ever felt like you were on fire during a hot summer afternoon? You better watch out – because you might be close to exploding if that ever happens.

Throughout history, people have recorded several cases of spontaneous human combustion, which, in plain terms, means a person bursting on fire for no reason other than because God finds explosions entertaining.

Or, perhaps, because someone was close to a stove – and there’s no such thing as SHC.

Before you buy a fire extinguisher to put under your bed, we’re going to explain what SHC is, when it happens, and if it’s real – because maybe it isn’t.

What is Spontaneous Human Combustion?

The name says it all: Spontaneous Human Combustion is the sudden explosion of a human without an external cause. To paint a picture more vividly, it’s when a person catches on fire and goes boom because something went wrong inside of him.

We’re not talking about indigestion here – but literally exploding. And, strangely enough, there have been plenty of cases recorded throughout history.

More often than not, this thing happens in the kitchen or the living room; someone is making tea one second, and the next, they are engulfed in fire. During the Victorian era, SHC was linked with alcoholism – so back then, it wasn’t a cup of tea but a pint of beer.

CrossFit athletes should take this seriously, as several doctors pointed out that ketosis was a possible cause of SHC. When following the keto diet, the body produces an extra amount of acetone which is highly flammable.

So, one minute you’re doing a high-intensity workout that makes your quads feel on fire; the next, you’re literally on fire. Or, maybe not, nobody could prove that theory.

Common scenarios where SHC happens

  • In The Kitchen: Perhaps the number one spot to spontaneously combust, the kitchen is the go-to place for human-shaped bombs – or that’s what we tend to think. Most people know how flammable a kitchen can be, and perhaps lighting one too many matches could be the reason behind one too many SHC cases.
  • In The Living Room: The second place to burst into flames seems to be the comfort of your living room. You sit back, turn on the TV, and turn into ashes. There are plenty of recorded cases where a man or woman has exploded in such a way they turn themselves and the chair they were sitting on into ashes.
  • After Going to the Pub: As you now know, one of the many theories that explain SHC is alcoholism. You ingest a highly flammable liquid – and, before you know it, you explode like a man-made Molotov cocktail! Strangely enough, the recorded cases don’t happen at the pub, but right after the person gets home.
  • In Ireland: For some odd reason, plenty of spontaneous human combustion cases happened in Ireland. The most notable one is the last ever recorded; back in 2010, an Irish man seemingly burst in flames, and the coroner deemed it as spontaneous combustion.

Can you suffer from Spontaneous Human Combustion?

After reading about the different scenarios where people tend to burst into flames, you’re probably thinking how likely you’re to do the same – especially if you’re an Irish man coming back from the pub sitting in the kitchen.

Well, you’re probably safe. Spontaneous Human Combustion is less of a real thing and more of a blanket term we use when we don’t know how something (or someone) exploded.

Think about it: every recorded case is either ancient or, if it happened in modern times, SHC is deemed possible when there’s no evidence for anything else.

For example, the last recorded case of SHC, the Irish man back in 2010, was ruled as a spontaneous combustion because there was no evidence of anything else happening. The man caught on fire – but we don’t know why.

Just to be sure, don’t tempt your fate and try to sit down to watch TV in your living room after going to an Irish pub or something.

Possible explanations for Spontaneous Human Combustion

  • Poor health. The most terrible explanation of them all is that certain people do not spontaneously combust but instead are in such poor shape that they cannot move when they catch on fire, for whatever reason.
  • Wick effect. A hypothesis suggests that humans can combust when they are near a fire (e.g., a cigarette or a stove). For example, being near a stove might cause your clothes to catch on fire and, when that happens, your skin will split and release subcutaneous fat, which will act as an ignition agent. Then, you explode.
  • Being Irish: Statistically speaking, being Irish tends to be enough to suffer from SHC. Or not. We don’t know for sure.

Want More? Check Out Our Podcast Episode All About SHC Below!

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