Man burst into flames in Sweden – Spontaneous Human Combustion is hot topic (updated)

Swedish man bursts into flames while waiting for train

An unidentified man burst into flames while waiting outside a train station in Sweden.

Witnesses said the man was standing outside a music shop at the Gothenberg central train station around 10.30pm, when he suddenly caught on fire.

Police have been at the hospital since the incident trying to piece together what happened.

“All we know is that it’s a man. We have no knowledge of his identity, nor of his age or any motive or even the circumstances of the incident,” a police officer told the Swedish newspaper Göteborgs-Posten.

Credit: @thatnerdwoman/@RebeccaWatson via Twitter

Note of “hmm”: We can not find the Göteborgs-Posten source for this story.

There are two kinds of reports for SHC, one is when a body is found nearly completely consumed in an area that has not been engulfed in flames. An example of this was the recent report of the Irish woman’s body found. This can be explained by the wick effect – a slow burn. Joe Nickell looked into this phenomena in the Investigative Files: Not-So-Spontaneous Human Combustion.

The second type is when someone just standing around bursts into flame. Reasons for this can be very flammable clothing and an unseen source of ignition, a chemical reaction and possibly a spark from static electricity. Any one of these under very specific conditions can cause a sudden fire or burning of clothing.

What SHC is NOT is nuclear reactions, burning of alcohol in your blood, or some disruption of an energy force. While this may seem mysterious, it should be labeled “rare”, natural explanations can account for the event. We will update this story if more information becomes available. For more on SHC, see the Skeptic’s Dictionary entry.

Update: There are a few additional articles but with very few details. They do not know who he is. He has not been able to talk to police. Here are some additional details:

Witnesses said the man was standing outside a music shop at the Gothenberg central train station around 10:30 p.m. Sunday, when he suddenly caught on fire.

“He just stood there burning outside the shop,” a witness told the paper. “After a while he started screaming. There were a few people about but they just watched him. I ran up to him, tore my coat off and managed to put the fire out together with another guy.”

The man, who sustained serious injuries, was taken to Gothenburg’s Sahlgrenska hospital, where he was sedated.

  8 comments for “Man burst into flames in Sweden – Spontaneous Human Combustion is hot topic (updated)

  1. November 23, 2011 at 7:47 AM

    They say “motive.” Do they suspect he was doused?

    Also, I occasionally burst into flames when my flamethrower malfunctions. Someone should check around and see there was a flamethrower involved. To do that I would look for the remnants of a destroyed flamethrower nearby.

    I’m Bob. I’m here to help.


  2. idoubtit
    November 23, 2011 at 12:19 PM

    Geez. Bob. That’s some help. 🙂

    Don’t go putting gasoline on as cologne.

    I’m still looking for details on this story. The crack assistant editor is on his way to Sweden. However, I suspect he will return with no scoop, but lots of cigarettes. Ah, well.

  3. November 23, 2011 at 7:39 PM

    I did feel warmer when I crossed the border….

  4. prompel
    November 26, 2011 at 3:41 AM

    I’m betting he had a disposable lighter in his pocket, with a slow leak. Just like this story from Göteborgs-Posten:
    (woman lost lighter, caught fire)

  5. November 26, 2011 at 4:20 PM

    It could also be a botched terrorist plot. Look at the underwear bomber .

  6. idoubtit
    November 28, 2011 at 11:04 AM

    Exploding Apple device?

  7. Ross Balch
    December 1, 2011 at 4:56 AM

    Lol, maybe given as this took place in a train station there should be video footage, perhaps they will detect their errouneous flamethrower.

  8. Pingback: #007 Sciencism: Critical Eye – 01/12/2011 | Sciencism: Critical Eye Podcast

Comments are closed.