great balls of fire


remember when we talked about spontaneous human combustion? I love an unexplained mystery as much as the next person


this is all that was left of Dr Bentley who died in 1966.  When Mary Reeser of Florida perished in 1951 supposedly all that was left behind was her shrunken skull though a pile of papers nearby was completely unscorched. The newspaper that reported her death was inundated with theories from the public: suicide by petrol, ignition of methane gas in her body, murder by flame-thrower, atomic pills, magnesium, phosphorous, napalm, balls of fire…..


Twenty five cases of supposed SHC were investigated by J L Casper in his Handbook of the Practice of Forensic Medicine. Of these he found 20 happened in France, 2 in England, 1 In Italy, 1 in Germany and 1 in America. 

“Moreover, it must be remembered, as an incontrovertible fact, that the mass of the French people are more credulous than the Germans and this helps to explain why France has been the birthplace of  “spontaneous combustion” of which it is hoped we will hear no more.”


Some theorists speculate that ball lightning may be to blame – the same stuff that’s said to be the cause of many purported sightings of flying saucers. An offbeat explanation was advanced by Livingston Gearhart, in an article for Pursuit magazine. Using data collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on readings of the Earth’s magnetic-field strength, Gearhart found six cases of SHC that he could correlate to a time of sharp increase in the Earth’s magnetic intensity.


Not  Mr Gearhart

Published in: on March 4, 2009 at 7:03 am  Comments (37)  

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  1. I watched a doco on SHC once, it went on about the ‘wick effect’. basically once the body fat gets hot enough it melts and catches fire, or something like that.

  2. So, if we put the tin foil on our heads to ward off the UFO’s – does that mean we turn into KFC if we SHC?

  3. haha good one abigail

  4. I got your email I have no idea if the reply went through so here it is again

    ‘It’s been doing that to me a bit over the last few days, but my whole internet has been screwy. I’m not sure try reloading/refreshing it or maybe swearing at it a bit that might work, other than that I’m out of ideas. If it keeps up please contact me and I’ll send blogger a query…’

    God damn crappy interwebs connection :[

  5. I saw that documentary as well – it made sense which is a bit of a shame – I quite like the thought that some people just blow up …….

  6. So some people really do get the hots – – –

  7. My second wife spontaneously combusted whilst at the bank. I was contacted by her colleague, “Handsome John”, who told me the unfortunate news.

    It seems she was paying some bills when she burst into a ball of flames. A peculiar consequence was that she destroyed our live savings, but left everything else intact.

    I took it badly, but not as badly as “Handsome John”, who went mad with grief and hasn’t been seen since.

  8. Cancer from saccharine. Cholesterol from fat. Terrorism, bird-strike, hit-and-run. Now spontaneous human combustion. I may die of worry. Which is yet another thing to worry about.

  9. Hey Dubious George welcome to the Gimcrack. sorry about the wife.

    Headbang8: what’s happened to your blog darlin’? You haven’t posted for weeks….. 😦

  10. It nothing else, it’s a dramatic way to go.

  11. Correct me if i’m wrong but it that guy wearing a Tron costume, the brilliantly shite movie staring a pre-Lebowski Jeff Bridges.

  12. did you ever play that game, where you’re looking for something and another person tells you “warmer” or “colder” depending on proximity? when you get really close, it changes to “hotter, hotter.”
    did you ever consider that the spontaneously combusted may have finally found what they were looking for?

  13. Re: SHC, I refer you to this excellent article at The Skeptical Inquirer.

    Now, where can I get some of those wonderful electric beans?!

    thanks tobymarx – excellent article

  14. Love that Tron guy.

  15. My own research into SHC found some other interesting facts… Several cases occurred when the victim was intoxicated. Further? They somehow caught fire after passing out on a bed of straw next to an open fire. Truly a great mystery, isn’t it?

  16. Oh, and Tron-guy? He’s attending my current technology convention. I swear, there’s a guy here that looks just like him!

  17. I like the alien theory. There is an obvious connection between SHC and Cattle Mutilation that I hope I don’t have to point out.

  18. Yes, I too clicked on that bloke in the Tronsuit. Was he also the model for the soap dispenser in your previous post?

  19. all i can really say about Tron-guy after taking another look is… Holy Nut Sack Batman.

  20. Strangely, this is something you don’t often hear about anymore.

    I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing.

    Thomas 🙂

  21. As I said on mine a while back, it’s down to hydrogen peroxide in hair bleech and acetone in nail polish. They get absorbed by the body and form TATP explosive in the tits.

    xoggoth – you should leave us the link here…..

  22. I’m going to have to cut down on the Tabasco.

  23. I’m chubby but so far I’ve only had one high fever and the occasional burning sensation. I do have things to worry about though: on Monday, a meteor, which was not a ball of fire but was about 100 feet wide passed pretty close to Earth. Pretty close in this case is 40,000 miles, which even I know is just an eyelash in space distances. The newsman said it would have made an impact like 100 Hiroshima-sized nukes. Who feels lucky?

    Luke Yee

  24. Excuse me, I would like a little respect please. My Mother says I’m the coolest kid on my street. You’d be surprised how often this suit gets me laid.

    -Tron Guy

  25. Fixed your computer yet Mr Tron?

  26. Burn baby burn….

  27. i have truly been obsessed with this phenomena aince i was a kid…….. always fascinated me!!?

    what on earth would cause a human to just catch fire and implode like that?

    it has got to be some sort of fibre in clothing getting too close to some sensitive heat! or a mega fart gone wrong

  28. Looking at the photo of Dr. Bently, it is obvious to me that he lit a match while farting. Now that’s what I call spontaneous human combustion.

  29. It’s in “unpleasant medical conditions 2” at top of here:

    another of your hilarious observations xoggoth. I tried to leave a comment but your commenty thing wasn’t working 😦

  30. Difficult to decide which photo is most disturbing. Was leaning toward Dr. Bentley and her asbestos foot but Mr. Tron really can’t be denied.

    Great blog, nursemyra.

    And I’ll never look at my bedbugs the same way again.

  31. Does Electro Balm help prevent chapping elsewhere? Tron Guy might need some. He might also need that disco belt/sash Jeff Bridges wore in the movie Tron because his package was too prominent.

  32. I suspect it’s going to turn out to be some aberrant EM phenomenon.There was a case of a girl who kept catching fire while dancing and had to be rolled in blankets to smother it. I don’t believe it was even disco.

  33. Mr Tron is an absolute instant classic – I love it 🙂

    Not sure I really believe in the SHC phenomenon. Spontaneous Share-Portfolio Combustion.. that’s a different matter.

  34. @nurse re headbang: don’t worry about him. He’s turned his blog into a shareholder company and is only required to post results quarterly.

    It’s worth the wait, anyway! 🙂

  35. but it’s been weeks…. 😦

  36. I remember hearing about SHC as a kid….& it reallllllly freaked me out! Thanks for stirring up an old phobia Nursie! HA!

    How HOT does ones fat have to get before you blow up I wonder?

  37. That is tron guy in the last picture who was a bit of an internet sensation a while back. He may still be. Not sure.

    There are people I’d like to see spontaneously combust.

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