Bartholin, boozing and burnups

Thomas Bartholin, leading anatomist of the 17th century, believed in the theory of spontaneous human combustion. He also endorsed medicinal use of the unicorn, believed childbirth by mouth was possible and that a cow could be pregnant with 40 puppies. He was not alone in his belief in SHC. In the 17th and 18th centuries, many people favoured the hypothesis that alcohol saturation made a drinker’s body flammable.

The Germans had great faith in liquid manure as a preventative for SHC. When a man believed himself to be at risk after a booze-up, he shovelled large quantities of liquid manure into his mouth. Swedish folklore prescribed human urine, preferably freshly voided by a woman, to be thrown into the flaming mouth of a burning drunkard.


In 1991, a 32 year old habitual drunkard was taken to a Boston hospital for evaluation of a seizure. He had another fit while there and doctors were mystified to observe that the seizure activity changed after a few minutes, with the man arching his back and frantically slapping his thighs while smoke billowed up from around his abdomen. When his clothes were removed the cause was discovered: two books of matches in his back pocket had rubbed together and burst into flames.


Published in: on December 9, 2008 at 7:53 am  Comments (28)  

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28 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I watched a doco on SHC once, well what was the equivalent its called the wick effect, when the fat in the body get so hot it burns continuously. They burnt pigs… it was cool.

    Unicorn is great for gout I hear!

  2. I thought the last bit of newswas actually spontaneous combustion but thank goodness it was not.

    I spontaneously combusted on corset Fridays.

  3. When I think of Bartholin, I think of the glands which occasionally cause women trouble. Had a friend in high school that had to have surgery on them.

    Probably not a good idea to rub two drunks together, eh?

  4. I had a Bartholin’s cyst once…. very nasty…

  5. damien Walshe Howling. I think the show was actually called Blue healers. He played Adam cooper.

  6. oh yeah – the police drama Blue Heelers. I never really watched that but he was good in Underbelly…

    (for anyone who is confused about these comments, ricardo and I are continuing a discussion from over at his blog :-))

  7. It’s peculiar how there’s not, like, Spontaneous Bovine Combustion. You’d think that filled with methane the way they are, they’d be highly likely to just go up in flames.

  8. I think my ex-wife must have been afraid that I would spontaneously combust, because she frequently gave me the liquid-manure-in-the-mouth treatment. Of course, the called it “soup”…

  9. SHC is a real phenomenon… if a saturated drunk falls asleep on a pile of hay near an open fire? my money’s on the fire… shame we can’t direct it toward the deserving, isn’t it?

  10. What a curious thing to believe in, when you never actually get to see it happen. I met someone many years ago who told me she believed that God zapped people with lightning when he didn’t like their behaviour. I said, “really?” and she said, “yes, absolutely, it happens all the time.” I asked, “but where are the bodies?” “they burn up, and then the ashes blow away in the wind”. OK.

  11. “The flaming mouth of a burning drunkard”

    You don’t often see a sentence like that. I will be, forever, changed, and for the better.

  12. actually, Spontaneous Human Combustion, or Implosion, is a verified fact.

    you can see graphic examples of this by watching the movie..”Spinal Tap”.

  13. I love that piccy of the matches – very simple yet a certain ‘savoir faire’ …….

  14. spontaneous human combustion is a common occurrence on the Island.We do it all the time, especially on Sunday.It impresses the hell out of the church minister and the tourists. In fact I just had a session of SHC just about half an hour ago and I’m now contemplating another, oh here I go aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhaaaa ow
    ow ow ow. wow now that feels better, pretty easy when you now how, Nursy poos.

  15. There is quite the diverting book on SHC, called “Fire From Heaven,” by Michael Harrison. It’s been some years since I read it, but it had the usual Fortean laundry lst of documented and inexplicable incidents, few of which actually involved drunks. (The Mary Reeser case is probably the best known.) Harrison ended up with a sort of potted theory about the cause that seemed to involved electromagnetic energy, but I don’t recall exactly how it was supposed to cause the phenomenon or, more to the point, why it should in the kinds of cases that seemed to have solid witnesses.

  16. I think Michael Harrison links SHC with UFOs and poltergeists. there are other ‘experts’ who associate it with geomagnetic fields and something called electrodynamism….. weird…..

  17. Would love to know what Thomas Bartholin tipple was when he came up with his theories… and would absolutely love to watch him give birth by mouth ….. 😉

    I love the match image too … how clever

  18. Oh, I’ve missed this!

  19. I’m against spontaneous human combustion… however, I am for well-planned human combustion. That way you have time to get your camera to document the fun.

  20. Bartholin is my hero

  21. believed childbirth by mouth

    That might be the only way to quiet down a couple of people I know.

  22. I am loathe to admit this but I find that pic of the woman squatting and weeing into the guys mouth..intensely horny. Shame about her tits. Maybe that’s why she’s angry.

  23. I think she’s got cute little bosoms. she’s probably angry with guy because he’s left the toilet seat up again

  24. I think it looks more like he slammed her tits in the toilet seat again.

    Ayyy thenk yo!!!


  25. … any friend of charlie mingles….. 🙂

  26. Indeed I count Mr. Mingles, a fearless and peerless investigative reporter, among my nearest and dearest friend.

    I note with mild amusement that the young ladies breasts are known as “Shelfies” in your chart. Is this a term confined to the antipodes or does it have more international appeal?

    What type does the Nurse sport?

  27. “shelfies” is most definitely not antipodean.

    you can see nursemyra’s bosom by entering “corset friday” in my search widget

  28. […] when we talked about spontaneous human combustion? I love an unexplained mystery as much as the next […]

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