Join 3,496 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Spontaneous Human Combustion
September 23, 2011 5:43 AM   Subscribe

Irishman dies of 'Spontaneous Human Combustion'.
posted by veedubya (140 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
A self-proclaimed expert on spontaneous human combustion, Larry Arnold, has suggested that the phenomenon is the work of a new subatomic particle called a pyroton, which he says interacts with cells to create a mini-explosion.

This is a completely logical assumption and in no way violates Occam's Razor.
posted by nathancaswell at 5:49 AM on September 23, 2011 [68 favorites]


Larry Arnold - A self-proclaimed expert on spontaneous human combustion.

Coolest business card EVER!
posted by Fizz at 5:53 AM on September 23, 2011 [18 favorites]


I wonder if they were able to determine where on the body was the origination of the fire.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 5:53 AM on September 23, 2011


I wonder if they were able to determine where on the body was the origination of the fire.

Probably his pants.
posted by Fizz at 5:53 AM on September 23, 2011 [39 favorites]


The fact that he was sitting next to an open fire is pure coincidence, obviously.
posted by unSane at 5:53 AM on September 23, 2011 [11 favorites]


She was walking on Rodeo Drive
She exploded with a flash
The police had no explanation
Their only clue -- a pile of ash
Did her Visa card reach its limit
on that shopping spree?
Did she blow her top when she read
"Buy one -- get one free"?
posted by bondcliff at 5:54 AM on September 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


Bet he was a smoker, .i.e. dropped a fag down himself when asleep.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 5:54 AM on September 23, 2011


Probably his pants.

It's his desire.
posted by nathancaswell at 5:57 AM on September 23, 2011 [8 favorites]


What is it with fire investigations that brings out the woo?
posted by polyglot at 5:58 AM on September 23, 2011


Now I have The Bobs' song stuck in my head! Next will be "Slow Down, Krishna".

YouTube link to "Spontaneous Human Combustion"
posted by Man with Lantern at 5:59 AM on September 23, 2011


Also, can you imagine going on a date with Larry Arnold?

- So what do you do?
- I'm an expert on spontaneous human combustion.
- Really?
- Yep, it's caused by a subatomic particle called the pyrotron which interacts with cells to create a mini-explosion.
- I have to go to the ladies room, no don't get up... I'll be right back.
posted by nathancaswell at 5:59 AM on September 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think Wikipedia is probably a better source of info on this. That said, I have to quote this hilarious "unverified natural" explanation:
SHC victims are sometimes described as lonely people who fall into a trance immediately before their incineration. Heymer[3] suggests that a psychosomatic process in such emotionally-distressed people can trigger off a chain reaction by reacting nitrogen within the body and setting off a chain reaction of mitochondrial explosions.
Is there even a single fact in paragraph?
posted by DU at 6:00 AM on September 23, 2011 [13 favorites]


polyglot: "What is it with fire investigations that brings out the woo"

Probably has something to do with how people burn up in a way that is totally inconsistent with anything fire science teaches about how a person should burn up, or how that burning person interacts (or rather, doesn't interact) with the environment.
posted by charred husk at 6:01 AM on September 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


This week on HOUSE...
posted by Fizz at 6:02 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Skeptic's Dictionary is a better commentary on spontaneous human combustion
posted by blob at 6:03 AM on September 23, 2011 [9 favorites]


Anyways, doesn't mean it is aliens or something, just unexplained phenomena. Unexplained phenomena always invites the woo because it stuffs into the crevices so nicely.
posted by charred husk at 6:03 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


uggested that the phenomenon is the work of a new subatomic particle called a pyroton

This is probably true. I remember when Fermilab observed the top quark in '95...and I hadn't heard of any new subatomic particles since then...but modems kept getting faster and faster.

Now I know that the subatomic particles were hard at work making new particle technology.
posted by hal_c_on at 6:03 AM on September 23, 2011


Somehow the distinction between 'News of the Weird' and 'stop me if you've heard this one' lies in the differentiation between Irish man dies of 'Spontaneous Human Combustion' and Irishman dies of 'Spontaneous Human Combustion'.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:04 AM on September 23, 2011 [7 favorites]


The Skeptic's Dictionary is a better commentary on spontaneous human combustion
If the deceased had recently eaten an enormous amount of hay that was infested with bacteria, enough heat might be generated to ignite the hay, but not much besides the gut and intestines would probably burn. Or, if the deceased had been eating the newspaper and drunk some oil, and was left to rot for a couple of weeks in a well-heated room, his gut might ignite.
Eating hay vs newspaper and oil pretty much all the possible cases. If this Irish guy hadn't been doing that, I guess it must be the pyroton.
posted by DU at 6:08 AM on September 23, 2011


His body had been completely cremated, and because of the extensive damage to the organs, it had not been possible to determine the cause of death.

The coroner said he was satisfied nobody had entered or left the house.

While a fire had been burning in the fireplace in the home, he was also satisfied that the fire itself was not the cause of the blaze that had burnt the deceased.


This does not seem like enough proof of SHC to me. 1.) Why was the coroner satisfied that nobody had entered or left the house? Was someone watching all the doors and windows at all time? 2. If the body was cremated completely then there may have been something destroyed in the fire such as cigarette ash. What about alcohol? Wouldn't all trace of alcohol evaporate leaving behind only cremated remains?
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:11 AM on September 23, 2011


Maybe he was a huge alcoholic and had two weeks of hardened feces in his intestine that served the same function as oily hay.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 6:12 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think the SHC ruling is less proof that it exists and more "nobody killed this guy but we have to give some natural cause or investigate it FOREVER".
posted by DU at 6:13 AM on September 23, 2011


An italian diet is known to cause this. After just a few weeks of a lower calorie intake you become a lighter.
posted by hal9k at 6:15 AM on September 23, 2011 [10 favorites]


It happens sometimes. People just explode. Natural causes.
posted by incster at 6:15 AM on September 23, 2011 [35 favorites]


This sounds like a classic example of the current explanation for 'spontaneous human combustion.' The man likely had a stroke or other incapacitating event, which you know happens with diabetes, when an ember from the fire or a cigarette on him. With him incapacitated the ember then combusted a part of his clothing hot enough to burn him thoroughly enough to reach a layer of fat, which then melted and fed the slow fire like wax to a wick in a candle. This model for human combustion has been tested successfully in pigs and works, slowly and horrifically over the course of a day, but leaves the same tell tale signs of intact feet and hands as they do not have enough fat to feed the flames.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:15 AM on September 23, 2011 [51 favorites]


I worked on ABLAZE!, Larry Arnold's SHC book. Man, everybody picked up that book to look at the photos. Nobody bought it though. At the time, Larry made his living as a school bus driver in rural Pennsylvania. His pitch for the follow-up book was about how pterodactyls are still alive and living in rural Pennsylvania. For a while we had an editor who was trying to tap the "woo-woo" market. Some of those books were pretty funny, but they made you feel dirty to be publishing them.
posted by rikschell at 6:16 AM on September 23, 2011 [36 favorites]


Larry Arnold is an expert on spontaneous human combustion AND pterodactyls? Probably robots and space rockets too.
posted by DU at 6:18 AM on September 23, 2011


pterodactyls are still alive and living in rural Pennsylvania.

I support this theory. Have you been to western PA? Shit is prehistoric out there.
posted by nathancaswell at 6:18 AM on September 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


How is it that we went 25 comments before some pointed out the fifteen year old science that completely explains this, and how the hell are the staff of the Irish Independent, much less the Irish fire marshals so unaware?
posted by Blasdelb at 6:21 AM on September 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


I had the privilege of seeing SHC live in Cincinnati in 02. One hell of a show. Irishman, you will be missed.

.
posted by SouthCNorthNY at 6:21 AM on September 23, 2011


His body had been completely cremated

I wonder exactly what that means, though. Surely they're not saying the guy was just a pile of ash. So what was left?

http://www.joe.ie/news-politics/current-affairs/spontaneous-combustion-killed-galway-man-0016054-1

"State Pathologist, Dr. Grace Callagy noted that due to burning, Mr. Faherty’s stomach, intestines, liver, pancreas, kidneys, heart and some of his bones were not present when his body was found. That means the fire would had to have been between 700-1,000 degrees Celsius in order to burn bones."
posted by heatvision at 6:23 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dr McLoughlin said: "This fire was thoroughly investigated and I'm left with the conclusion that this fits into the category of spontaneous human combustion, for which there is no adequate explanation."

In other words, he had to write something on the form, but doesn't really have a clue what happened.
posted by three blind mice at 6:24 AM on September 23, 2011


In supposed SHC cases, observers always note that the human body was consumed but that the surroundings were hardly touched. Which I'm sure is an eerie thing to observe. But that fact doesn't necessarily mean anything.

In cases where the surroundings also caught fire (which could well be the majority of such cases, for all we know), the headline isn't "Man dies of SHC" but rather "Man dies in house fire."
posted by Western Infidels at 6:25 AM on September 23, 2011 [7 favorites]


He should have taken anti-spontaneous-combustion pills.
posted by martinrebas at 6:25 AM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Spontaneous Human Combustion is pretty common, actually -- I think it's what happened to Bat Boy.
posted by Killick at 6:27 AM on September 23, 2011


I think the SHC ruling is less proof that it exists and more "nobody killed this guy but we have to give some natural cause or investigate it FOREVER".

I'm pretty sure they can rule that his death was due to "cause or causes unknown." The coroner doesn't have to investigate any further, however the police will keep it as an open file.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:27 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


SHC was cool back when it was spontaneous and not publicized. Now it's just another pseudo-hippie institution.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 6:27 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Skeptoid did a good podcast on SHC - and there's a transcript on the download page.
posted by kcds at 6:29 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, the Loch Ness Monster is back.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 6:41 AM on September 23, 2011


His body had been completely cremated
I once learned that at a crematorium, the bones still have to go through a pulverizer. I think people think it's easier to reduce a body to dust that it is.
posted by Straw Cab at 6:41 AM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


This news arrives exactly 20 years to late to be of use to myself at the height of my interest in the matter, in Grade 7.

Coincidentally, news of a subatomic particle called the pyroton arrives 20 years too late to be of use to the writers of Star Trek: The Next Generation, who could have milked at least three plot resolutions out of the things.
posted by bicyclefish at 6:42 AM on September 23, 2011 [10 favorites]


Maybe it was something he saw.
posted by Smart Dalek at 6:43 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why did the article not mention whether or not he was a smoker?
posted by empath at 6:43 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Props to incster for the obscure and very appropriate Repo Man reference!
posted by smrtsch at 6:44 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


.
posted by stevil at 6:44 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


My husband had a three minute fart in the middle of the night. He's still here. So no, there is no such thing as spontaneous human combustion.
posted by stormpooper at 6:47 AM on September 23, 2011 [9 favorites]


charred husk: "polyglot: "What is it with fire investigations that brings out the woo"

Probably has something to do with how people burn up in a way that is totally inconsistent with anything fire science teaches about how a person should burn up, or how that burning person interacts (or rather, doesn't interact) with the environment.
"

STEEL DOESN'T MELT! SHC IS A CONSPIRACY! WAKE UP SHEEPLE!
posted by symbioid at 6:47 AM on September 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Marty DiBergi: Now, during the Flower People period, who was your drummer?
David St. Hubbins: Stumpy's replacement, Peter James Bond. He also died in mysterious circumstances. We were playing a, uh...
Nigel Tufnel: ...Festival.
David St. Hubbins: Jazz blues festival. Where was that?
Nigel Tufnel: Blues jazz, really.
Derek Smalls: Blues jazz festival. Misnamed.
Nigel Tufnel: It was in the Isle of, uh...
David St. Hubbins: Isle of Lucy. The Isle of Lucy jazz and blues festival.
Nigel Tufnel: And, uh, it was tragic, really. He exploded on stage.
Derek Smalls: Just like that.
David St. Hubbins: He just went up.
Nigel Tufnel: He just was like a flash of green light... And that was it. Nothing was left.
David St. Hubbins: Look at his face.
Nigel Tufnel: Well, there was...
David St. Hubbins: It's true, this really did happen.
Nigel Tufnel: It's true. There was a little green globule on his drum seat.
David St. Hubbins: Like a stain, really.
Nigel Tufnel: It was more of a stain than a globule, actually.
David St. Hubbins: You know, several, you know, dozens of people spontaneously combust each year. It's just not really widely reported.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:48 AM on September 23, 2011 [16 favorites]


No, he really didn't, you know.
posted by Decani at 6:48 AM on September 23, 2011


Never open a gift from Lily Carver.
posted by sonascope at 6:52 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


To protect myself from SHC I'm going to douse myself in water every day. I'll make it part of my daily routine.
posted by ob at 6:57 AM on September 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Too many pistachio nuts?
posted by Naberius at 6:58 AM on September 23, 2011


My husband had a three minute fart in the middle of the night. He's still here. So no, there is no such thing as spontaneous human combustion.
posted by stormpooper at 9:47 AM


Eponyst....you know what, you need a title belt or something.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:06 AM on September 23, 2011 [16 favorites]


Stormpooper: I have rarely laughed that hard at a fart joke but I think it was a combination of your username plus the matter of fact way you put the matter plus the image of a three minute fart that made me bust a gut.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:08 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Haters will hate, but C. Dickens described a similar case in his documentary "Bleak House".
posted by rainy at 7:09 AM on September 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


the image of a three minute fart that made me bust a gut.

another gutbuster would have been holding it in.
posted by DU at 7:10 AM on September 23, 2011


Should I find the "Irishman" in this FPP's title kind of vaguely offensive as compared to "Irish man"? Because I do, and I feel weird about it.
posted by Shepherd at 7:17 AM on September 23, 2011


Well - it depends. Monty Burns might use 'Irishman' and 'Chinaman' in a derogatory light, however people here in Ireland will say 'Chinaman' with no malice intended, just because what the hell do we know from multiculturalism.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 7:19 AM on September 23, 2011


Paging Detective Dee to the front desk.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:19 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I worked on ABLAZE!, Larry Arnold's SHC book...

The context provided by rikschell's comment as related to the FPP is simply MeFi at its finest.
posted by dry white toast at 7:21 AM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Shepherd, why do you find it offensive?
posted by veedubya at 7:23 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Spontaneous combustion? please.

If no person had entered the house and there was no accelerant, it was obviously assassination by alien satellite death ray.
posted by beau jackson at 7:27 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


They say that she burst into flames
Late one afternoon
While sitting in her favorite chair
Alone up in her room
They say that what was left of her
Would fit into a spoon
posted by murphy slaw at 7:31 AM on September 23, 2011


Hmmm. Dickens probably picked up on SHC from David Brewster's Letters On Natural Magic, which has a section on it. (Pg 288 et seq)

Brewster published in 1832 and Bleak House came out about 20 years later.
posted by warbaby at 7:31 AM on September 23, 2011


Beware of your cursor....
posted by Kronos_to_Earth at 7:32 AM on September 23, 2011


Obligatory Cecil Adams column.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:32 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Spontaneous? How do they know he wasn't planning this well in advance?
posted by pracowity at 7:33 AM on September 23, 2011 [10 favorites]


Larry Arnold is an expert on spontaneous human combustion AND pterodactyls? Probably robots and space rockets too.

Okay, THAT is the perfect business card.

I think this guy committed suicide--I don't know how, maybe stuck his head in the fire or something, and since there's no actual evidence like cigarettes, etc., they are being kind to the family in not going there, and sticking with the SHC story. There could be insurance money involved that the family wouldn't get if it were a suicide.

Also, why does a 76-year-old diabetic man have an alias: "Michael Faherty (76) -- also known as Micheal O Fatharta"?

Maybe he WAS an alien!
posted by misha at 7:35 AM on September 23, 2011


In case misha's really asking - people here very often have both an English and an Irish-language version of their names.
posted by genghis at 7:37 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I once learned that at a crematorium, the bones still have to go through a pulverizer. I think people think it's easier to reduce a body to dust that it is.

My wife once worked at a shady veterinary hospital that had its own crematorium attached. One time, their bone grinder broke, and so for a while the vet had the high school kids that worked at the hospital go out back and bash the bones to bits with rocks. Deeply disturbing to watch.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:37 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Irishman" is offensive now? It's so hard to keep up. Is "Englishman" offensive too, or is that different?
posted by joannemullen at 7:48 AM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


No. Irishman is ok. Modifiers or tone can make it kind of not ok, but that's true with anything.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 7:50 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fucking potato-eating mackerel-snapping mick bastard is OK, too, if you smile while you're saying it and buy me a pint first.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:53 AM on September 23, 2011 [11 favorites]


What if I say it in a phony Irish accent, and then start capering about and going on about me lucky charms and me pot o' gold?
posted by Naberius at 7:55 AM on September 23, 2011 [10 favorites]


Maybe the old man died from snapping mackerels. I hear those things can spark.
posted by ardgedee at 7:57 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Shepherd, why do you find it offensive?

That's the thing -- I don't know, and I'm not really sure that I do. It's not raging oh-my-god offense, either, it's just a weird little tickle.

Probably conflation with my knowing that Irish people have been the traditional butt of jokes in the UK for a while -- I have a hoary old book of "Irishman jokes" passed down from a grandparent, somewhere around the house -- and my being a long-term resident of Quebec and hearing "Frenchman" used as an epithet by RoC residents and Americans alike.

More an observation on my reaction than any real concern. Before joannemullen gets in a flap and starts accusing all of MetaFilter of being "PC Police" or something ludicrous, I'm not asking anyone to change anything, I'm just interested in the tiny mental flinch the lack of one space gave me.
posted by Shepherd at 7:58 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


beau jackson: " If no person had entered the house and there was no accelerant, it was obviously assassination by alien satellite death ray."

Hence the missing organs.
posted by zarq at 7:58 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Welshman", however, is always a compliment. Even if it wasn't originally intended as such.
posted by metaBugs at 8:06 AM on September 23, 2011


snapping mackerels

The trick is to freeze them first.
posted by zamboni at 8:09 AM on September 23, 2011


Shepherd, that's interesting. For the record, I'm Irish. Well, first generation English, family from Ireland. I understand what you mean, it just didn't occur to me when I wrote it. I remember a time when just about every joke started with, 'So, there's an Englishman, an Irishman, and a Scotsman.' Maybe the fact that it didn't occur to me is a sign that those days are long gone.

Also, I'm pretty sure that De Valera would have described himself as an Irishman.
posted by veedubya at 8:09 AM on September 23, 2011


I wish De Valera had combusted, spontaneously or otherwise.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 8:14 AM on September 23, 2011


From the BBC article, it said that the original inspector just couldn't find an ignition point because the body was burned so badly. So spontaneous combustion - is that really just a fire inspector's version of "I dunno?"
posted by medea42 at 8:17 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


So is it only people that spontaneously combust? Are there ever any reports of Farmer Brown's prized pig spontaneously combusting?
posted by device55 at 8:23 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


@Secret Life == he told me I yelled at him saying, "OH COME ON!" I don't remember the fart nor the yelling. Perhaps his farts have another scientific anomaly that no one knows about. HE MUST BE STUDIED!

*sprays bed with Lysol*
posted by stormpooper at 8:25 AM on September 23, 2011


I also am a skeptic regarding spontaneous combustion. Spontaneous bustion on the other hand is a stone cold fact. One minute your toaster, computer program, car, whatever, is working perfectly and the next minute...busted. I have seen this with my own eyes.
posted by madmethods at 8:28 AM on September 23, 2011 [9 favorites]


"So is it only people that spontaneously combust? Are there ever any reports of Farmer Brown's prized pig spontaneously combusting?"

Yes actually, it was even caught on video. Why are we still arguing about whether this happens? The actual answer is mundane, horrific, and sad.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:41 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


If no person had entered the house and there was no accelerant, it was obviously assassination by alien satellite death ray.

Alien? Hathaway finally got Project Crossbow re-funded, is all.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:42 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dear Metafilter:

Please stop linking to really unfortunate Wikipedia articles that I feel like I need to fix. My day job is going to start noticing the drop in my output as I put all my time into headdesking and trying to source unsourceable articles, the topics of which I don't even care about.

Love 'n' kisses,
Badger
posted by badgermushroomSNAKE at 8:48 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


vampire that doesn't like night?
posted by Neekee at 8:52 AM on September 23, 2011


Metafilter: a three minute fart in the middle of the night.
posted by theora55 at 9:08 AM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes actually, it was even caught on video.

No, actually. "We put some petrol on a pig and lit it," doesn't quite qualify as "capturing spontaneous combustion on tape," in my opinion. And we're still arguing about it because a fair number of intelligent people find the evidence unconvincing.
posted by neuromodulator at 9:12 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


posted by charred husk

Better late than never... eponysterical!
posted by kmz at 9:13 AM on September 23, 2011


The trick to avoiding spontaneous combustion is to think about something boring until the time is right to light your fire.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:14 AM on September 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


The man likely had a stroke or other incapacitating event, which you know happens with diabetes, when an ember from the fire or a cigarette on him. With him incapacitated the ember then combusted a part of his clothing hot enough to burn him thoroughly enough to reach a layer of fat, which then melted and fed the slow fire like wax to a wick in a candle.

Well, that's just all kinds of horrifying.

And I'm sure my friends and coworkers will be thrilled when I explain this to them in a really detailed and graphic way.

I do it because I care.
posted by quin at 9:16 AM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


SHC victims are sometimes described as lonely people who fall into a trance immediately before their incineration. Heymer[3] suggests that a psychosomatic process in such emotionally-distressed people can trigger off a chain reaction by reacting nitrogen within the body and setting off a chain reaction of mitochondrial explosions.

Is there even a single fact in paragraph?


It should be "midchlorian explosions", then all would be well with the wiki woo woo.
posted by chavenet at 9:19 AM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


FINALLY! An opportunity to link this
posted by Jibuzaemon at 9:19 AM on September 23, 2011


DU: "Is there even a single fact in paragraph?"

Well, this:

SHC victims are sometimes described as lonely people"

is probably uncontroversial.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 9:30 AM on September 23, 2011


Please stop linking to really unfortunate Wikipedia articles that I feel like I need to fix.

What, that someone misspelled "Midi-chlorian" in the SHC article? No worries, I just fixed it. That's the nice thing about wikipedia.
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:30 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Goodbye Irish Man
Though I never knew you at all
You had the heat to toast yourself
While those around you trolled...

And it seems to me you burned your fat
Like a candle in the wind
Never knowing pyrotons cause
Mitochondrial explosions
And I would have liked to have known you
For just a bit
But your candle burned out long before
I could light my cig
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:31 AM on September 23, 2011 [10 favorites]


No, actually. "We put some petrol on a pig and lit it," doesn't quite qualify as "capturing spontaneous combustion on tape," in my opinion. And we're still arguing about it because a fair number of intelligent people find the evidence unconvincing.

There's zero evidence for spontaneous combustion ever having occurred. What you have are human bodies which have been burned in particular ways. What they captured on tape was a way of burning a pig which very closely resembles those cases after it burns out.
posted by empath at 9:41 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


people here in Ireland will say 'Chinaman' with no malice intended, just because what the hell do we know from multiculturalism.

I hear you're a racist now, Father!
posted by infinitewindow at 10:04 AM on September 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


I thought CSI settled this 10 years ago - can I not believe TV?
posted by pupdog at 10:16 AM on September 23, 2011


Hate to break it to ya, bud.
posted by kmz at 10:20 AM on September 23, 2011


'Slow Human Candling' never caught on as a cause of death.
posted by benzenedream at 10:21 AM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: it's just a weird little tickle.
posted by ob at 10:33 AM on September 23, 2011


This subject has been stuck in my head for 30 years after seeing it covered on That's Incredible! IMDB places it around 1980.
posted by cgk at 10:35 AM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


This news arrives exactly 20 years to late to be of use to myself at the height of my interest in the matter, in Grade 7.

Me too! Except for me it's 30 years too late. I remember being obsessed with this topic. I must've read several books about it at the public library and in my memory it seems like there was a year or two when they talked about it on TV all the time.

This subject has been stuck in my head for 30 years after seeing it covered on That's Incredible!

Yes! Exactly. Was this just a temporary media fad, or did I get distracted by girls or something a year later while the other SHC nuts have continued to obsess over it?
posted by straight at 10:42 AM on September 23, 2011


I don't know what's all the racket about, I used to light up regularly until I quit.
posted by hat_eater at 10:44 AM on September 23, 2011


I think that maybe the perceived hinkiness of Irishman as opposed to "Irish man" is in making it their identifying noun, as opposed to calling him a man and using Irish as a modifier. So it's like you're defining someone by a single attribute.

I can't even think of a modern example of correlating terms, but it'd be like the difference between calling someone a crippled person vs. a cripple, or a retard vs. a retarded person. And it's probably compounded by the history of bigotry and stereotypes about the Irish.

Aww, man. When did I get so boring that I am more interested in this than I am in someone being incinerated?
posted by ernielundquist at 11:06 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


In case misha's really asking - people here very often have both an English and an Irish-language version of their names.

This is true. In English, my name is Bunny Ultramod, and in Irish it's No You've Really Fecking Got To Be Having Me On With That Name.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:09 AM on September 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


Spontaneous Human Combustion

This isn't a real thing.

Flagged, news of the weird.
posted by IvoShandor at 11:49 AM on September 23, 2011


Thing not explainable given current evidence or understanding != Supernatural thing
posted by StrangerInAStrainedLand at 11:58 AM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hah! I love this.

"MAN CATCHES FIRE NEAR OPEN FIRE PLACE; EXPERTS BAFFLED, SUSPECT WITCHERY"

Good job guys.
posted by kavasa at 12:47 PM on September 23, 2011 [7 favorites]


I wonder if they were able to determine where on the body was the origination of the fire.
First he grew a spontaneous bust, I guess...

Actually, I was clicks away from starting an Askme about this. I mean it's on BBC news for Pete's sake, and no 1st of April in sight.
Thanks for discussing it here. Very, hum, illuminating.
(after this rainy summer, I'd need a lot of whisky to spontaneously combust, so I can't really wrap my mind around this in any case...)
posted by Namlit at 12:59 PM on September 23, 2011


Why do they have to call it spontaneous human combustion? Isn't it really idiopathic human combustion? I mean, we don't know how quickly he burned, and we don't know why.
posted by ocherdraco at 1:20 PM on September 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


bicyclefish: "This news arrives exactly 20 years to late to be of use to myself at the height of my interest in the matter, in Grade 7. "

Oh, they had SHC in one of the Book of Lists volumes, and it scared the CRAP out of me as a kid.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:34 PM on September 23, 2011


I was in the cub scouts earlier in my life, and recalled watching a fire started by the vigorous rubbing of a stick--hence, it was adolescence which brought about my fear of SHC.
posted by maxwelton at 1:55 PM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hmmm... I've done some extensive research into this phenomenon, and "R is for Rhoda consumed by a fire," and "T is for Titus who flew into bits" are as close as it gets.

If it's not specifically covered in Gorey's seminal 1963 work on causes of death, I can only conclude this is not a real phenomenon.
posted by fikri at 1:56 PM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's tragic when one of Ireland's firestarters has an accident like this. For millenia they've helped keep their land safe from zombies, ever since Amergin the Druid granted a few heroes and their descendants the power to create fire with their minds. Since the ancient Druidic technique for disabling zombies by inserting stones in their mouths was lost after the Christianization of the island, these pyrokinetics are the last line of defense, and there are too few of them already.
posted by homunculus at 1:59 PM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


We had an Irishman perish in a similar way a few days ago. It was during the Ireland-Australia rugby match, and he met his fate by the fists of an Aussie supporter. It was spontaneous and explosive :)
posted by Space_Lady at 2:27 PM on September 23, 2011


I wonder if I could do a post doctoral fellowship in SHC, it would be fun. Could rent CERN for a couple of days, looking for pyrotons. Let's face it, it ought to bring at least as good results as looking for the Higg's particle *evil chuckle*
posted by Space_Lady at 2:31 PM on September 23, 2011


My husband had a three minute fart in the middle of the night. He's still here. So no, there is no such thing as spontaneous human combustion.

Yes, but why are you still there? DTMFA!
posted by hal_c_on at 2:39 PM on September 23, 2011


*sprays bed with Lysol*

Maybe you should get him a Better Marriage Blanket as an anniversary gift.
posted by homunculus at 3:50 PM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


My husband had a three minute fart in the middle of the night. He's still here. So no, there is no such thing as spontaneous human combustion.

Mrs. Mcable? is that you honey? When did you get a Metafilter account?
posted by Mcable at 4:09 PM on September 23, 2011


Every time I hear the phrase "Spontaneous Human Combustion" I think of Henry Ford and the assembly line and all that. I imagine a guy there who just gets fed up with it all one day and from out of nowhere jumps up and runs out of the plant screaming.
posted by iamkimiam at 4:58 PM on September 23, 2011


"OH MY GOD, HE'S ON FIRE!"
posted by Meatbomb at 5:02 PM on September 23, 2011


Well, that explanation of how people have strokes and then burn to death alone in their apartment has added another entry to the list of 'horrific ways I am likely to die'.

I don't smoke, though, so I'll just have to avoid open fireplaces.
posted by winna at 6:10 PM on September 23, 2011


A self-proclaimed expert on spontaneous human combustion, Larry Arnold, has suggested that the phenomenon is the work of a new subatomic particle called a pyroton, which he says interacts with cells to create a mini-explosion.

PHLOGISTON PHLOGISTON PHLOGISTON!!! I knew it was real! "Oxidation" my ass!
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 6:14 PM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


we're still arguing about it because a fair number of intelligent people find the evidence unconvincing.

See, I think this is where your argument spontaneously combusts.
posted by smoke at 6:33 PM on September 23, 2011


To me, the easiest and simplest explanation was that he passed out (sitting in his chair?) and fell backwards and his hair caught on fire and then the human candle phenomenon took over. He was probably dead before he burnt (I still don't get how they can't determine COD due to his charred remains but they can somehow determine that he didn't have heart failure--and isn't all death caused by heart failure at some point?).
posted by 1000monkeys at 6:38 PM on September 23, 2011


however people here in Ireland will say 'Chinaman' with no malice intended, just because what the hell do we know from multiculturalism however people here in Ireland will say 'Chinaman' with no malice intended, just because what the hell do we know from multiculturalism

Also, Dude, "Chinaman" is not the preferred nomenclature. "Asian-American," please.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:49 PM on September 23, 2011


> and isn't all death caused by heart failure at some point?

Hypoxia.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 6:50 PM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not a single Dutch Oven reference for stormpooper's story? That's how you can tell you're on MetaFilter and not 4ch, the sheer classiness of the joint.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 8:40 PM on September 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Our shit doesn't stink.
posted by homunculus at 8:48 PM on September 23, 2011


> and isn't all death caused by heart failure at some point?

Hypoxia.


I dunno about ALL death.

If I atomize and burn your brain, you will be dead, but at the same time your brain (or the bits of it) will be more or less fully oxygenated. Or at least oxidized. Same difference.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:54 PM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


> Same difference.

Not really. One burns with fire from the outside and the other starves a chemical process from within.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 9:03 PM on September 23, 2011


"Also, Dude, "Chinaman" is not the preferred nomenclature. "Asian-American," please.


Considering the locale, Walter, wouldn't it be Sino-Hibernian?

Also OH SHIT THE BUTTONS HAVE CHANGED. I wonder if clicking "Post Comment" will make me burst into flames?
posted by kavasa at 9:56 PM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not really. One burns with fire from the outside and the other starves a chemical process from within.

thatsthejoke.jpg
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:09 AM on September 24, 2011


I'm trying to work out how you can pass wind for three minutes. I think my best is around ten seconds. I mean, how is it even physiologically possible? And if it is, can you learn the technique?

That would at a stroke transform my ability to survive long meetings by ending them.
posted by Devonian at 12:44 PM on September 24, 2011


I'm trying to work out how you can pass wind for three minutes. I think my best is around ten seconds. I mean, how is it even physiologically possible? And if it is, can you learn the technique?

This YouTube search page might help you, Devonian. It's SFW, but just one click away from going to NSFL.

And just like that, I take MeFi right into the gutter. My work here is finished.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 2:07 PM on September 24, 2011


« Older Mukimono [wiki] is the artistic carving of mangoes...  |  Taxpayers in the San Francisco... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments