In one extremely bizarre case that surfaced in the August of this year, in a remote village in Tamil Nadu, India, a 2 months old baby burst into flame without any apparent external ignition. When his mother was doing household chores in the other room, a sudden cry erupted from the baby’s room. When she rushed in to see what the reason was, what she witnessed she could never justify even to herself. Her son’s belly and legs were on fire, but there was no apparent source that could have caused the fire. The baby suffered second degree burn injuries.
Hoping to God that, that was just a crazy incidence and will not happen again, the family settled back to daily routine and her baby healed of his injuries. But not even a month passed when the crazy incidence repeated itself. By August, 2013, the baby caught fire by itself five times. By now, even the wary neighbours expressed their fear that the baby could burn down the entire locality, and the family had to leave their village. When they went to the doctors in Chennai, they were as clueless as them.
This was a rare case of Spontaneous Human Combustion. In it, a living human body catches fire all by itself without any external source of ignition. Although cases of spontaneous human combustion have been reported in the past, they are extremely rare in occurrence. The first reported case was in 1745, when an Italian countess feeling tired and ill went to bed one night, only to be reduced to a pile of ashes and a pair of unburnt legs, discovered by the servants the next morning.
There have been many reported hypotheses about the possible cause of this mysterious phenomenon, especially because of the fact that human body is difficult to burn. A typical dead human body takes about 50 cubic meters of fuel and preheated air to burn completely, then how can it be reduced to ashes without any source of flammable substance. And even if it does catch fire, to turn the bones into ashes will require more than a small provocation.
The most plausible explanation was given by British research biologist, Brian J. Ford. He said that the spontaneous combustion could be a due to the chemical acetone that is naturally produced in the human body. Usually, the acetone which is produced in the body is disposed through urine. But sometimes, due to digestion and lever related health issues, acetone produced by the body is more than normal and doesn’t get completely disposed of through urine. It is retained in the body, and is absorbed by the body fat. The excess acetone also comes out of the body through sweat, and acetone being extremely flammable in nature, the sweat can catch fire very easily. The absorbed acetone in the body fat also helps sustain the fire and causes the entire body to turn into ashes.
The often reported remaining unburnt legs can be explained by the fact that the legs have very less fat and more bone mass and hence remain unburnt. The hypothesis was later proved when a pork carcass marinated in acetone, burnt itself to ashes with a provocation as minimal as static fabric charge.
True indeed, there is an explanation to even the most bizarre of phenomenons.