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No. 81: May-Jun 1992

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Shc or h/t homicide?

The possible case of SHC (Spontaneous Human Combustion) just reported above may have a rational but bizarre explanation. S.L. Wernokoff commented as follows in the Journal of Meteorology:

"The very first thing that comes to mind is whether overloaded hightension [H/T] or low-tension wires were anywhere nearby. Since this incident occurred at a roadside, nearby power lines may well have been present. If such lines are overloaded or badly insulated, fatal arcing can occur from the ground at a considerable distance from the power lines. This has happened often in our country [the U.S.], in rural areas where public utilities have quietly exceeded the capacity of their lines. The resulting discharges can easily electrocute livestock over mile from the 'leaky' H/T lines. I would wager that the Hungarian utility agencies are guilty of the same practice. Personally, I suspect that this unfortunate young man may have been electrocuted through his own urine! The 'blue light' witnessed by the victim's wife may have been St. Elmo's Fire -- an ungrounded luminous corona visible around the victim in the humid, pre-thunderstorm conditions. The hole in his heel and tennis shoe indicate where the current finally grounded itself."

Wernikoff goes on to tell of a case in Canada where a man washing up at an outdoor table, 100 yards from overhead power lines, was electrocuted when he emptied the basin onto the ground. He, too, had a hole burned through the heel of his boot! (Wernikoff, Sheldon L.; "The 'Hungarian Spontaneous Combustion' Case -- Another Explanation," Journal of Meteorology, U.K., 17:22, 1992.)

Reference. Our catalog Biological Anomalies: Humans II contains a long entry (BHC7) on SHC and its evaluation by scientists. To order this book, see: here.

From Science Frontiers #81, MAY-JUN 1992. 1992-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987