Skeptic News: Oklahoma sheriff: ‘Spontaneous human combustion’ killed 65-year-old man

96784_top_foto1_erqvnFrom: Raw Story

The sheriff of Sequoyah County in Oklahoma believes that a 65-year-old man recently died by spontaneously bursting into flames.

“If you read about spontaneous human combustion that’s what we have here,” Sheriff Ron Lockhart told a local radio station

After a neighbor contacted police on Monday, authorities discovered the burned body of Danny Vanzandt in the kitchen of his home.

“The body was burned and it was incinerated,” Lockhart explained. “You hardly ever have a burned body, especially when there’s no damage to the house. Where the fire occurred, there was no damage to the furniture or anything around the fire. So, it was a low-heat fire.”

“We started researching and talking to other fire investigators and we started looking at this spontaneous human combustion, and anything that’s in that is basically what we have,” he added. “It’s an unusual and bizarre case, but we’re not ruling out spontaneous human combustion.”

Spontaneous human combustion (SHC) describes reported cases of the burning of a living (or very recently deceased) human body without an apparent external source of ignition. There have been about 200 cited cases worldwide over a period of around 300 years.

There are many hypotheses that attempt to explain human spontaneous combustion:

  • Natural explanations based on unknown or otherwise unobserved phenomena (e.g. that the production of abnormally concentrated gas or raised levels of blood alcohol might cause spontaneous ignition)
  • Natural explanations relating to health and lifestyle factors (e.g. smoking, not consuming adequate levels of water etc.)
  • Natural explanations that involve an external source of ignition (e.g. the victim was drunk and dropped a cigarette)

Objections to natural explanations typically refer to the degree of burning of the body with respect to its surroundings. Indeed, one of the common markers of a case of SHC is that the body – or part of it – suffered an extraordinarily large degree of burning while the surroundings or the lower limbs remained comparatively undamaged.

Although there is no scientific evidence to support them, supernatural explanations of spontaneous human combustion remain popular.

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