By Daniel Kelly
Spontaneous Human Combustion
Reports of spontaneous combustion date back as far as 1640.
For you troglodytes, Spontaneous Human Combustion (SHC) refers to the phenomenon of suddenly and unexpectedly finding oneself or others to be aflame.
According to Wikipedia L.A. Parry’s 1823 journal: Medical Jurisprudence: recorded victims of SHC tend to have the following commonalities…
Their arms and legs usually fall off.
They tend to burn in isolation, like the wick of a candle.
Bodies have a residue of ‘greasy’ and ‘fetid’ ashes and are very ‘offensive in odour’ (Parry, 1938)
A suspected case of SHC happened as recently as four months ago in North London. A pensioner was out near his home in Haringey. One moment he was happily unignited. Next minute he was lit. He had no known enemies and there was no external cause. He had many tropes of an SHC victim. He was old, alcoholic and Irish.
The pensioner joined the group of 200 others throughout history whose unexplainable deaths are attributed to the mythical phenomenon. Coroner reports on the death of a spontaneous combustion victim in 2010 (Irish, old) was the first reported case in 25 years. No foul play, no sign of an external source of ignition. Man one minute, ashes the next.
From the epoch of all things English and macabre, SHC was solidified in the minds of Victorian England via the writing of Charles Dickens. When Mr. Krook went up in flames in an edition of Bleak House, Victorian England signed on to a mini hysteria. One imagines everything in this period was flammable. The buildings, the clothes, the air. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to imagine oneself prone to an outburst of flame after a pint of port and a turpentine bath. Like the phenomenon itself, SHC continues to randomly spark the imaginations of this seemingly uniquely British phantom affliction.
And here we are, 2018 and SHC still strikes sporadically. Rarer than alien abduction; an explanation willing to be inferred by coroners before a death can be ruled unexplained. Remaining as elusive as Bigfoot but sufficient for a cause of death, accepted by the loved ones of those claimed. Our cancerous bodies continue to suffer their slow death and as we breathe in oxygen, it reacts in our body the only way oxygen does. A mild combustion in the
engine meeting organs old and soaked in alcohol. The brittleness of the soul too close to the burning of desires.
Here’s my verdict:
I recommend adding SHC to your list of fears.
Rarer things will happen in your life than its searing and confusing end. The fact you ever existed at all is harder to explain than the pile of limbs and ash caused by an apparent fire in the belly. Seriously though. There’ll come a time when there’s nothing left to burn but yourself.