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Larry Arnold is the author of Ablaze! The Mysterious Fires of Spontaneous Human Combustion and the world's foremost expert on exploding people. Here he gives us a summary of why SHC is so difficult to explain through science, as well as his best estimations of what might cause it.
Spontaneous human combustion has always been, if you'll excuse the pun, a hotly debated subject. The usual outcome is that the victim's body is almost entirely consumed to powder. SHC is frightful, horrific, and xenophobic—it challenges what experts understand about the effect fire has on the human body. Due to its bizarre nature, it is easier for academics to deny cases of SHC and invoke more comfortable scenarios, such as the Human Wick Theory (in which a person's clothing plays wick to the fuel of human fat), or simply refuse to accept the evidence altogether.
While I haven't been able to come up with a single mechanism that is applicable across the hundreds of cases I've studied, I have developed a few theories concerning what I believe could cause a human being to spontaneously combust.
One of my favorite explanations is the Subatomic Pyrotron Theory, which is based on quantum physics. The theory states that there is an extremely small but high-powered particle—like a neutrino—that zips through the spaces between the quarks that make up the atoms, which compose the molecules of the human body. On rare occasions a rogue particle scores a direct hit with a quark and sets off an internal chain reaction. I've dubbed this occurrence the Internal Hiroshima Effect, which may result in SHC.
Another theory concerns kundalini—an energy that flows up and down the spinal column of every living human being. Although kundalini is well known to Eastern physicians and metaphysicians, it's less so in the Western world. Kundalini is a very powerful bio-energy that, among other psychokinetic phenomena, can produce intense internal-temperature spikes when out of balance. While I'm not entirely sure what causes kundalini to become unbalanced, in some cases factors such as one's state of consciousness and emotional distress seem to affect it. Some people can increase their kundalini energy through meditation, while others have reported spontaneous movement of energies throughout the body without attempting to accelerate the flow.
You can picture the out-of-balance energy as a quasi-plasma-like ball that seems to originate in the abdominal region. Strangely, whatever lies anatomically beyond the radius of that ball of energy usually escapes incineration. From what I have observed, the radius of the sphere is normally about a foot to a foot and a half, which means that the victim's extremities are often left unburned but their torso is reduced to ash.
The third theory I'm working on is called the Cartography of Combustion. I've plotted the many instances of abnormal fire phenomena relating to people and property in the United Kingdom. I've noticed that most can be connected by straight alignments. Some lines link five, six, or sometimes as many as a dozen anomalous fires. Our findings are somewhat similar to the idea of ley lines, which are based on the supposed geographic alignments of things like ancient monuments and other places of interest that are traditionally associated with earth energy mysteries. I believe these connections follow lines of energy that flow around the planet and that heretofore unknown and unidentified geophysical energy, under the correct circumstances, can cause spontaneous combustion in property, buildings, and people.
Although I am constantly speculating about what could cause those patterns to manifest, at this point I have nothing I can take into a scientific laboratory and reproduce under controlled conditions. This is essentially why it's so easy for the experts and the scientific orthodoxy to dismiss spontaneous human combustion. It is truly spontaneous.