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No. 89: Sep-Oct 1993

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Smoldering Corpse

Most cases of SHC (Spontaneous Human Combustion) are written off by mainstream scientists (if they acknowledge the phenomenon at all) as easily explained by the "human candle effect." The elements of this accepted scenario are: (1) An ignition source, say, a fireplace; (2) The accidental ignition of the victim's clothing and/or adjacent bedding or upholstery; (3) The rendering of fat from the (assumed) corpulent victim, which combined with the surrounding wick-like material simulates a candle; and (4) The nearly complete, slow consumption of the victim, who is assumed to be asleep, drunk, or otherwise unable to rescue himself. But some cases do not involve all of these elements, as in the following item:

"Syracuse (AP) -- Police have scheduled an autopsy today for a woman whose body was found smoldering next to a cemetery tombstone.

"The woman's body was found lying on its back Wednesday afternoon next to a massive, 5-foot-high tombstone in St. Agnes Cemetery in Syracuse by the cemetery's caretaker, police said. .....

"'We just don't know what happened,' said the Rev. James Fritzen, who runs the cemetery for the Catholic Diocese of Syracuse. 'We don't know if this was foul play or (someone) grieving.

"Authorities have been unable to determine the age and identity of the woman because her body was charred."

(Anonymous; "Smoldering Corpse Found Lying next to Tombstone," Buffalo News, April 15, 1993. Cr. L. Gearhart.)

From Science Frontiers #89, SEP-OCT 1993. 1993-2000 William R. Corliss