The strange and unexplained phenomenon of spontaneous human combustion (SHC) has been recorded throughout history and continues to puzzle experts today. This phenomenon is defined as a human body igniting and burning without an external source of ignition, and typically results in death. In most cases, the torso and head of the victim are burned to ashes or char, while the extremities remain relatively unharmed.
There have been over 300 documented cases of SHC since the 16th century, with the vast majority occurring in the 19th and 20th centuries. The first recorded case was in 1540, when a woman in France suddenly burst into flames while sitting in her chair. In 1744, another woman in France was reported to have spontaneously combusted while taking a nap.
The most famous case of SHC occurred in 1951, when Mrs. Jean Peyton of London suddenly and inexplicably burst into flames while sitting in her armchair. Her husband and two children were in the room at the time and witnessed the event. Mrs. Peyton was burned to death, but her husband and children were unharmed.
A study of SHC cases was conducted in 1986 by Dr. John DeHaan, a criminologist and former coroner. He identified over 200 cases of SHC from medical literature and news reports. He found that the vast majority of victims were elderly women who were alone at the time of the incident. Dr. DeHaan also found that most cases occurred in the winter months and that the victims were often found near an open fire.
While the exact cause of SHC remains a mystery, there are several theories that have been proposed. One theory suggests that the human body is composed of flammable chemicals, and that under certain conditions, these chemicals can ignite and cause the body to burn. Another theory suggests that SHC is caused by a build-up of static electricity in the body, which can then cause the body to ignite.
Whatever the cause, SHC remains a puzzling and unexplained phenomenon.