How can a serious court return a verdict of "spontaneous human combustion"?

Discussion in 'Letting Off Steam' started by Brendan Burgess, Sep 23, 2011.

  1. Brendan Burgess

    Brendan Burgess Founder

    Not at all.

    There is no such thing as Spontaneous Human Combustion.

    As I understand the wick effect, there still has to be some outside spark.

    The Coroner said that the fire was not the cause and therefore it had to be spontaneous human combustion.

    It is far more likely that the investigators made an error in concluding that the fire was not the cause than some unnatural process took place.
  2. onq

    onq Former user

    An expert in death confirms the cause was spontaneous human combustion.

    An expert in fire related emergencies confirms the fire in the room was not the cause

    Do old people die in mysterious circumstances where part or all of their bodies are burnt as if by an intense heat while the surroundings show few if any effects?

    Yes, this is attested and the "wick effect is well known".

    Denial of facts is a form of madness.


    Rebutting experts by citing the "discovery channel" isn't making THEM look unconvincing.
  3. hastalavista

    hastalavista Frequent Poster

  4. Purple

    Purple Frequent Poster


    Spontaneous Human Combustion is a myth. It is nonsense. It has no basis in fact or science.
    If the same supposed experts who claim spontaneous human combustion said the man was murdered by pixies or executed by aliens I'd be equally critical.

    Hint: read my post again. I never rebutted the so-called experts by citing the discovery channel. I simply said it seemed they didn't watch it. If they knew their business they wouldn't have made such a verdict in the first place. Things that are 60-70% water don't generally spontaneously combust; there is always an outside cause.
  5. ajapale

    ajapale Moderator

    I see the original link from the indo has now gone dead. But not before it flashed around the world. I heard a reference to the case on BBC World Service last night.

    Heres my take on it:

    The coroner reached the conclusion that this death was unexplained. He "googled" this and found what looked like some plausable references to SHC on the internet. He made an mistake in referencing SHC in his findings. He could have just returned an open verdict but taking the needs of the next of kin in mind decided SHC might be of more benfit to them.

    I think we all (professionals or otherwise) fall into the trap of googling something and accepting as fact something we read on the internet or see on the Discovery Channel.

  6. Remix

    Remix Frequent Poster

    I don't know how much he learns from the telly :) but he's very likely aware of the Wick Effect. In a BBC interview he said he referred to Professor Bernard Knights book on forensic pathology. The Wick Effect is described in the section on "Atypical Localized Burning an Spontaeous Combustion". The book is obviously dismissive of the spontaneous element but recognizes that many cases in this category are on record.

    It's not uncommon in the medical field for descriptive terms to loose their original meaning but still remain in use. For example 'coma' means deep sleep but a person in a coma is not in a deep sleep and the brain shows disorganised patterns of activity totally unlike those of sleep. But nobody would deny a person is in coma by focussing purely on the literal meaning of the term.

    Similiarly the term "spontaneous human combustion" appears to have become a catch-all category for all the strange instances of fatal burning that have occurred in apparently inexplicable cases where the ignition source is destroyed. One can easily think of better terms but unfortunately it this one that has stuck.

    The most complete test of the wick effect that I have come across was published in the Journal of Forensic Science with a summary on pubMed. A pig carcass was used in the experiment.

    The similarity of pig fat and muscle tissue to those in humans is well recognised. (In fact on a morbid note, scientists involved in terminal ballistics research with the goal of killing or maiming humans, have used pigs as a substitute for humans in their tests.)

    But in the Wick experiment a necessary condition was 1L of fuel to provide the sustained temperature and burning to initiate the wick effect. If this article represents the best understanding of the effect in peer-reviewed literature, then one can see why having no evidence of an accelerant presents a problem in this particular case.

    There has to be some mundane - possibly the wick effect or possibly still unknown - cause to this and similiar cases. There has to be because as someone pointed out, nowadays if this were divine intervention we'd be seeing it every day :D

    Edit: p.s. the article is still available on the indo site. Link may have changed:
  7. Guest105

    Guest105 Guest

    I thought it was Michael Flatley there for a moment, I was thinking that he overstepped the mark :D
  8. michaelm

    michaelm Frequent Poster

    Best neutrino joke I've seen so far . .
    The barman says "we don't serve neutrinos in here" . . . a neutrino walks into a bar.
  9. Brendan Burgess

    Brendan Burgess Founder

    Inquest told spontaneous human combustion 'probably urban myth'

    At least the Donegal coroner did a bit of research. (I wonder did he read this thread?)

  10. Brendan Burgess

    Brendan Burgess Founder

    And now, the State Pathologist adds her weight

    Spontaneous human combustion a myth

  11. Complainer

    Complainer Frequent Poster

  12. Brendan Burgess

    Brendan Burgess Founder

    Hi Complainer

    That is a great article. A good insight into news journalism and it's interesting that the editors held back an enthusiastic young journalist from making a fool of himself and the paper.