6,910,000 pageviews

Saturday, May 6, 2023

Spontaneous Human Combustion

     Soak a rag in linseed oil, ball it up and throw it into a bucket. This rag, as a result of a chemical reaction that creates heat, will eventually catch on fire and burn. Fire scientists call this reaction spontaneous combustion. Under the right conditions all kinds of material will self-combust. So, can the human body, under the right conditions, catch on fire from within? People who believe that a body can self-generate ignition temperature heat call this phenomenon human spontaneous combustion.

     For decades fire investigators around the world have been baffled by fire death scenes involving a badly burned corpse lying in bed or sitting in a stuffed chair. In these cases the middle section of the body has been almost completely consumed by fire suggesting high, localized temperatures. In the immediate vicinity of the body, and in the room, there is very little burning. This fire pattern seems out of joint with normal fire spreading behavior. To add to this cause of origin mystery, investigators at these sites--encountered mostly in Great Britain--find no traces of fire accelerants such as gasoline. Are these fires accidental, arson/murder or something else altogether?

     In December 2010 fire fighters in Ireland discovered a 76-year-old man dead in his sitting room. It looked as though someone had lit him up, but there seemed to be no source of heat other than the blaze in the fireplace. Except for some charring on the ceiling above his chair, the room did not burn. Although the man's body was almost completely consumed by the fire, investigators found no evidence that an accelerant had been used to jack-up the heat.

      The Irish coroner, having ruled out accident and arson as the manner of death, declared the cause as spontaneous human combustion.

     In the 1980s the American fire scientist, Dr. John de Haan, conducted an experiment in which he set fire to a pig wrapped in cloth. The low-heat, long-burning fire almost completely consumed the hog without creating high ambient temperatures. Dr. de Haan called this the "wick effect." The cloth held the flame like a wick while vapors from the pig's heated fat slowly burned like candle wax.

     As it turns out, most so-called spontaneous human combustion fire scenes have involved people who had been drinking in bed or in their chairs while smoking. They fall asleep and their clothing catches on fire. In the Irish case a spark from the fireplace had probably ignited the man's clothing.

The Baby Rahul Case

     In May 2012, Rajeshawri Kamen, a 23-year-old farm worker, gave birth to a son named Rahul. The mother and her 26-year-old husband Karnan Perumal already had a 2-year-old girl. The couple resided in a village in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

     The baby was a month old when his parents rushed him to the hospital. According to their account of what happened they were outside of their hut when they heard Rahul scream. They ran to him and found the baby on fire. They saw flames on his belly and right knee. The father put out the fire with a towel.

     After being treated at the local hospital and released, Baby Rahul, during the next two months, caught on fire at least three more times. The child was badly burned but survived. The couple's neighbors, believing that the baby was haunted by an evil spirit that caused the combustion, and that the fire could spread to their huts, forced Rajeshwari and her husband to move to a nearby village where Rahul caught on fire again.

     Dr. Naarayan Babu, the head of pediatrics at the Kilpaul Medical Hospital in the city of Chennai told a reporter with The New York Times that "We are in a dilemma and haven't come to any conclusion [regarding the cause of the fires]. The parents have said that the child burned instantaneously without any provocation. We are carrying out numerous tests. We are not saying it was spontaneous human combustion until all investigations are complete."

     On August 20, 2013 the Times of India reported that upon completion of the hospital tests doctors found no evidence of spontaneous human combustion in Baby Rahul's case. Dr. Jagan Mohan, head of the burn unit at the Kilpauk Hospital, told reporters that "There is no such thing as spontaneous human combustion. The possibility of child abuse exists and needs to be explored."

     Baby Rahul's parents denied setting fire to their baby. The boy's father, in speaking to a reporter with The New York Times, said, "Some people don't believe us, and I am scared to return to my village and am hoping for some government protection. There is also the fear that our child could burn once again."

     On April 15, 2015, Baby Rahul was discharged from the hospital and sent home to his parents. Police and child welfare authorities were told to monitor the child's health. After that, this mysterious case dropped out of the news.

     Since Baby Rahul was not the victim of spontaneous human combustion, he was either burned accidentally or on purpose. It's hard to image how a baby could be accidentally burned on four or more occasions. Moreover, if there was something in the home that caused the fires why wasn't the baby's sister also burned?

     Notwithstanding forensic evidence to the contrary there are those who believe spontaneous human combustion is real. This is not surprising since strong opinions are not always based on what people know but what they want to believe.

No comments:

Post a Comment