Exploiting tragic death: Claims girl died from SHC is hurtful to family

This one really got me angry. Author and others pushing story that girl may have died from spontaneous combustion. Mother annoyed. As she should be.

Please read this entire story:

Mother tells paranormal investigators to cease speculation over ‘spontaneous combustion’ role in daughter’s death – Runcorn and Widnes Weekly News.

A Widnes mother whose daughter died after suffering horrific burns at Halton College has begged paranormal investigators to stop speculating about whether spontaneous human combustion was to blame.

Jean Fitzsimon, 77, spoke out after the latest work to feature a probe into the death of her child Jackie was published.

She was adamant that her 17-year-old daughter died from complications due to the burns that she suffered at Halton College in January 1985.

Mrs Fitzsimon told the Weekly News that Paranormal Merseyside by Widnes author Steven Tucker is among a string of publications and newspaper articles that have offered spontaneous combustion as a possible explanation for Jackie’s tragic death.

Since this tragic accident, where the girl died after catching on fire in a cooking class, the story has been featured on a TV documentary and in this book.

In the book, Tucker says spontaneous combustion may be a viable theories, but includes the lit oven. Therefore, making it sound possibly more mysterious than it really is. This happens a lot with SHC cases. The actual or plausible cause is downplayed for a more dramatic one. Once you mention SHC, THAT is what people remember. The reenactment of the case on TV was disturbing to the mother and a national magazine doctored a picture of her engulfed in flames.

What are people thinking?!

Many times, I’ve seen paranormal authors and investigators cross the line by exploiting a tragedy for their own means. It’s sickening. It hurts the family and it’s also made up. I want this story to go far and wide because were this my child and someone did this, I would probably go farther. There is ZERO excuse to exploit such a tragedy for your own ends. It’s unethical and sickening.

Tucker has apparently apologized to the family but the damage is done. These are people first, an interesting story for your media nothwithstanding. Have some scruples.

Hear me talk about the problem with SHC on the Skeptical Connections podcast.

More:

Spontaneous Human Combustion – Skeptoid
Spontaneous Human Nonsense – CSI
Not-So-Spontaneous Human Combustion – CSI

  10 comments for “Exploiting tragic death: Claims girl died from SHC is hurtful to family

  1. RDW
    April 11, 2013 at 9:17 PM

    It’s shameful that they would exploit that poor girl’s death and dredge up old, painful memories for the mother and sister. Jean Fitzsimmon’s life had almost all the happiness in it removed on that day. Any happiness she’s had since then has been a struggle to achieve, I have no doubt. They should have let that poor woman be and let her forget about her troubled past and cope with her grief as best she could. They’re like vultures. Or vermin.

  2. Bob
    April 11, 2013 at 10:08 PM

    There is a lot of disaster and tragedy porn in the areas that skeptics investigate. 9/11? School shooting? College student on fire? Party in the paranormalists’ pants!

  3. April 12, 2013 at 12:46 AM

    I remember Hayley Stevens worked to get correct information out when a supposed ghost of a dead baby surfaced in the UK press. The ghost was the work of a stupid internet ap. The child had died in the home, and she was shocked at how the family of the child that died must feel, with the press showing a supposed photograph of their dead child. It’s not just the paranormal enthusiasts, it’s the press that go along with these stories without checking, or even thinking of the incredible hurt these families must feel.

  4. Mr. Shreck
    April 12, 2013 at 8:11 AM

    Tasteless, not my cuppa indeed, but I am inclined to wonder how different it is from the way the media exploits tragedy to sell ads or politicians exploit it to score political goals. I wish more people would speak out in all situations where their loved ones memories are exploited with or without the woo angle.

  5. spookyparadigm
    April 12, 2013 at 10:23 AM

    Politicians usually exploit already known public tragedies, and usually with at least a modicum of intention of improving something broader related to it (though not always).

    Media exploitation of tragedies is fairly indefensible, especially in its current form of finding cases and blowing them up to stories on an international level.

    But there is a distinct difference between both of these, and plucking obscure tragedies, making things up about them, leading to unwanted and completely made up infamy for the people involved in the tragedy. All to satisfy a paranormal adventure itch for the entertainment of people (some paranormalia serves spiritual needs for people, but a lot of it fits the same niche for consumers as fantasy tv or roleplaying games, it allows them to make believe in an especially intense way as it could be “real.”). In this case it is even worse as some who believe in SHC tie it into Christian or other mysticism of being cursed or demons or damnation, and you can imagine how wonderful that is.

    PS: A close reading of the linked article is interesting in terms of which parties might benefit from keeping this particular woo alive.

  6. April 12, 2013 at 1:09 PM

    The SHC angle has leaped the fence and is well established on the internet, as a quick google for the poor girl’s name will confirm.

    Reading the author’s comments in the linked article about his book, you wouldn’t think from his chirpy quotes – “I don’t necessarily believe in all of the stories but I find them all absurd and amusing – they make me laugh” – that there was anything quite as exploitative and callous as this. The book’s also apparently illustrated with his own cartoons. That’s all a bit hard to take, given Mrs Fitzsimon’s reactions.

    If anyone ever asks “yeah, but what real harm does this stuff do?” then you can say, this, this is what it does.

  7. spookyparadigm
    April 12, 2013 at 1:15 PM

    “Reading the author’s comments in the linked article about his book, you wouldn’t think from his chirpy quotes – “I don’t necessarily believe in all of the stories but I find them all absurd and amusing – they make me laugh” – that there was anything quite as exploitative and callous as this.”

    But don’t you know? If you treat all this as a joke, it’s ok. Same with “just asking questions.” Or treating it as “stories.” They’re all get out of jail free cards, apparently.

  8. April 14, 2013 at 8:09 PM

    Jean Fitzsimon, 77, spoke out after the latest work to feature a probe into the death of her child Jackie was published.

    She was adamant that her 17-year-old daughter died from complications due to the burns that she suffered at Halton College in January 1985.

    If she’s 77 and the child 17, she had her daughter at 60. Surely that’s a bigger story than a paranormal investigator saying something incredibly stupid?

  9. P.McGeever
    April 17, 2013 at 8:42 AM

    some people are so …uncompassionate.There were 3 people there on that sad day when this happened…Jackie ,Wendy,and myself….
    these ridiculas stories about it…years later…
    just LEAVE alone…. let people rest in peace

  10. April 18, 2013 at 12:31 AM

    Pardon my earlier comment–I didn’t realize that the mother is 77 now, 28 years after the events. For some reason I thought the tragic death happened recently.

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