May 2023 Newsletter

Hello Everyone,

April and May are the two busiest months for me. I have four birthdays and a Mother’s Day celebration, all within a few days of each other. If I believed in reincarnation, I would demand my family spread out their births! Only joking.

Today, I would like to talk to you about human combustion, aka, the random burning of humans. I know it’s creepy, but a mystery still surrounds these phenomena. What happened to those people? Can someone sit alone in their home and suddenly burst into flames? Yes. According to some of the articles I read, there are 200-300 cases, but only twelve have undergone a thorough investigation.

Here are some facts I found in my research that might interest you.

First, did you know that human combustion occurred in the 17th century? Most people who lived during the 1800s feared it could happen to them. Many authors, including Melville, Twain, and Irving, used human combustion to kill off their characters. The most famous combustion story occurred in Charles Dicken’s book Bleak House.

Stories of human combustion are like road kill, you don’t want to look, but you do. Images of a victim’s remains include a hand, a foot, and maybe a pair of legs. Nothing else. The chair, sofa, or bed they occupied are blackened or reduced to ashes.

My research, which I posted on our Facebook page, found the following commonalities. For one thing, there is no evidence of a fire starter in the surrounding area. Most people think the ignitor, whether a match, twig, piece of cloth, or cigarette, burned in the fire and thus, eliminated the evidence.

Second, most human combustion cases are in one area. In other words, instead of the fire spreading throughout the home, the flames consume a piece of furniture and whatever is behind or above it. Most investigators explain that fires rise upwards and spread slowly. So, it is possible for a fire not to ravage a house.

Third, each case usually involves cigarette smoking, older people (primarily women), alcohol, and extra weight. What’s more, if a woman is obese, scientists propose the wick effect played a role in the sticky residue left around the burn area. What is the wick effect? When fat burns, it acts like a candle wick and keeps the flames burning—the more fatty tissue, the longer the consumption of flames. Hello Weight Watchers.

As I said above, the initial cause is what is most worrisome. If we add up the common factors, it is easy to imagine an elderly, obese woman, drinking a bottle of whiskey while enjoying a cigarette, falling asleep, and catching on fire from the butt of a cigarette. It’s a reasonable theory.

However, the hypothesis I liked the best is the static electric shock we all encounter from rubbing our feet on rugs and then touching something like a door handle. Zap! It’s painful. Some theorists believe that is the spark needed to start combustion. A sudden spurt can trigger the already consumed liquor and continue to feed off the fat of a victim. Viola! Human combustion.

It’s a weird science.

So, what do you think? Should I eliminate a bad guy in my book through human combustion? Too gory? Yeah, I think so. Let me know your thoughts by emailing me or posting your response on Facebook.


Harper Gale

Published by Harper Gale

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