a spontaneously combustible baby? somehow i don’t think so

By Alison Campbell 26/08/2013


At one point the husband had quite an interest in something known as ‘spontaneous human combustion’ (SHC) – the claim that humans can, on occasion & often with no apparent ignition agent, burst spontaneously into flame. What’s more, their bodies may sometimes be totally consumed, & yet it appears the fire doesn’t spread to the rest of the room they’re in. The library turned out to have several books on it, with pictures, even. (Pictures of the bits that remained, that is; no-one ever seemed to capture the actual event.) We read the lot & decided that the idea was a bit of a crock, really: ignition sources were there if you looked, and it seems that the lack of involvement of other parts of the room is down to physics & the fact that the body and its clothing/wrappings may act like a smouldering, short-flamed wick rather than a vigorous bonfire.

I was reminded of this a few days ago when a news story about a spontaneously combusting infant hit the headlines. There’s a wide range of stories about it, some more credulous & others (thankfully!) less so. The horrifying thing about the story is that this has apparently happened to a 3-month-old-infant, and not once (which would be bad enough) but FOUR TIMES!

An infant is unlikely to be a heavy drinker of spiritous liquors (one explanation frequently put forward in the ‘literature’ on the subject), nor should it be wearing clothing capable of spontaneous combustion (records of such events are here), or putting combustible items in its pockets. It really does beggar belief that the infant could self-ignite so often (if at all), & never with witnesses around to see the actual event. The United Press of India reports that investigators are trying to determine whether someone set him on fire, which sounds a lot closer to the mark in my opinion.

Poor wee child 🙁