Media linking woman’s death in Germany to “spontaneous” combustion. Not so fast.

News out of Flensburg, Germany today reports that a woman sitting on a park bench experienced “spontaneous combustion” and has died. As usual, the connection to SHC (spontaneous human combustion) is flawed and there is undoubtedly more to the story than the media reports. However, the headlines are what get attention and lead people to think there is something mysterious about the incident. What IS mysterious, so far, is what really happened. But the media has chosen to take a mystery mongering angle and that is being spread around.

Here is the report from Yahoo news:

A Mauritius-born woman, who apparently burst into flames due to ‘spontaneous human combustion’ as she sat on a park bench in Germany, has died. A horrified passerby attempted to smother the flames with his jacket. The woman – thought to be in her 40s – was rushed to a local hospital by air ambulance to Lubeck with severe burns, but could not be saved.

So the suggestion is that she died from burns. The odd part is that she made no sound according to witnesses as she was on fire. There is speculation that it was suicide or that she was stabbed and then set on fire in an attack. But there is no conclusion made so far as the investigation continues. In either situation, or if it was the result of something else, the idea that she mysteriously erupted in flames, as many of these stories suggest, is incorrect. The media pieces include a discussion of the wick effect where people burn to ash in a closed environment. That is not this at all.

There have been cases where cigarettes, chemical, or electronics have caused burns on people. Those are more likely explanations here. When people are found in their homes burned, we frequently hear of sleeping pills, alcohol or health problems involved.

As this story gets passed around using the SHC tag, do your part in the comments to clarify that she either caught fire or was set on fire but did not “spontaneously” erupt in fire. As with most cases of SHC, a probable cause may be obvious after all the facts are in.

More on SHC cases:

Coroner rules death by spontaneous combustion in Ireland and Inquest coroner disputes spontaneous human combustion explanation

Oklahoma Sheriff surprised by fire victim, considers spontaneous human combustion (UPDATE: not spontaneous)

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

  16 comments for “Media linking woman’s death in Germany to “spontaneous” combustion. Not so fast.

  1. Larry Arnold
    November 5, 2015 at 11:54 PM

    And you are awaiting the world’s most foolish person – he who advocates that SHC does happen – to weigh in.

    A colleague tipped us off to this story tonight. Perhaps it’s a faulty e-cig. Perhaps it’s a faulty BIC lighter. Perhaps foul play or suicide. And just perhaps, this might really be a rare instance of true SHC. Yes, SHC really does happen, both as concept and as cause, though we know you and will will likely never concur with that statement. What we should both agree to, however, is that too little info is provided to make any determination from this article at this time, as no description of the burn scene and nature of the burns injuries are given. Hopefully there will be follow-ups by non-prejudiced investigators/authorities that are factual, so the truth of what befell this flaming female will be known to all.

  2. November 6, 2015 at 6:26 AM

    Yep, Larry. I expected you would chime in. I don’t say foolish but too wishful in thinking. The evidence and PLAUSIBILITY is just not there.

  3. Larry Arnold
    November 6, 2015 at 10:49 AM

    You are kinder than many of our critics, thank you. We are in no way claiming this ‘newest’ case is SHC; so far, far too little information has been credibly released. Everyone has to rely on competent and honest investigators in the local jurisdiction, first, to conclude their investigation.

    Clearly on this topic, tho, one of us is wrong. We choose to stake our belief in SHC on four decades of interviewing first-responders at unconventional fire scenes; listening to the “skeptics” misrepresent – even outright lying about – facts when they claim to have debunked SHC; and marveling at SHC-naysayers who refuse to acknowledge their anti-SHC criteria is easily refuted by the photographic documentation of the very cases they reject.

    Wish we had been able to meet you when you were speaking at a conference in nearby York several months ago, but work schedules precluded the privilege.

    To conclude (for now), you provide a valuable – and enjoyable – service to both the scientific and the fortean communities.

  4. Bonnie
    November 6, 2015 at 12:05 PM

    I recently read an old news item (late 1800s) about a very depressed woman who doused her clothing with kerosene & set herself on fire. That’s the first thing I thought of when I read this story.

  5. MisterNeutron
    November 6, 2015 at 5:51 PM

    That’s the key, here. There is no plausible mechanism to explain how SHC could occur. It would violate what we know about biology, chemistry, and physics. And all of the “evidence” consists of, “Gee, we just don’t how this person was consumed by fire,” followed by a leap to the least likely explanation.

  6. Artor
    November 6, 2015 at 11:51 PM

    “Yes, SHC really does happen, both as concept and as cause,…”
    Really? I don’t suppose you can provide links to confirmed cases, with all the evidence that “confirms it” fully documented? Or are you just making a gut judgement that some cases sound more plausible or mysterious than others?

  7. Old Limpy
    November 16, 2015 at 8:23 PM

    The use of the word ‘spontaneous’ in a news article places onus on the reporter to provide the facts to support the claim otherwise it just begs the question for which there is obviously no answer and is why the word ‘spontaneous’ was used in the first place… because their was zero information available, it must have been magic. The newspaper reporting the event is shamelessly using a massive argument from ignorance to fill space and sell papers.

  8. Larry Arnold
    November 17, 2015 at 10:46 AM

    Thanx for asking. Sure we can.

    You might start by reading our book ABLAZE! for 100s of cases that challenge what are officially believed to be impossible fire fatalities. This includes fire brigade commander Jack Stacy, who with his fellow first-responders witnessed “fire” emanating “with force” from the abdomen of a Robert Bailey, deceased; and medical documentation from physicians treating patient Jack Angel for severe 3rd-degree burns to his forearm, who declared the burn injuries were “internal in origin” though by what means they could not ascertain. Of course, too, you can dismiss such cases and invoke the “human wick” scenario – which crematory owners universally seem unable to get to work for their “clients” – or ignore or invoke allegations of lying for the testimonies (also found in ABLAZE!) of those who witness or personally experience “combustion” that originates within a person.

    Just a suggestion.

  9. Larry Arnold
    November 17, 2015 at 10:51 AM

    We agree completely. Invoking the “outrageous” as news requires – should require – detailed reporting to substantiate the sensational claim. Instead we got “zero information” – bummer, indeed. Such is the state of much of modern (dare we term it) journalism. There might truly be something mysterious and scientifically/medically significant to this event, yet the reporter/publisher fell woefully short in substantiation.

  10. Larry Arnold
    November 17, 2015 at 10:59 AM

    Well, what is your definition of “plausible mechanism” and are all plausible mechanisms relegated to current knowledge? Seems to us that if you told a Pony Express rider that written documents could be delivered transcontinentally the same day, he’d laugh in your face and scream not only “Totally not plausible!” but “Impossible!” Then too, maybe we delude ourself in thinking that new plausibilities can arise from researching difficult subjects to make new discoveries …

  11. Badd_KungFu
    December 1, 2015 at 11:09 AM

    “Hopefully there will be follow-ups by non-prejudiced investigators/authorities that are factual, so the truth of what befell this flaming female will be known to all.”

    “You might start by reading our book ABLAZE!”

    interesting bit of hypocrisy, larry. your motivation has been noted. 😉

  12. Larry Arnold
    December 1, 2015 at 2:23 PM

    Hypocrisy? It was you who asked for a source of material on the topic. We obliged. Why should we not recommend the book that we did? Thought we’d save you the time, measured in decades for us, that otherwise you would have to invest on your own if you REALLY wanted to know something about this subject, like maybe pouring through obscure medical tomes and tracking down first-responders who, if still living, might choose to share their observations with you that they graciously (sometimes hesitantly) shared with us about strange fire fatalities they never expected to encounter and could not easily explain. Silly us, we were so gullible to think you really, genuinely wanted to know more about SHC. Seems the hypocrisy is more on your shoulders, by asking for information though you actually sought none from us. In our experience, that’s what a debunker does. Duly noted.

  13. Larry Arnold
    December 1, 2015 at 2:38 PM

    This is the intended response to B.KungFu.

    Hypocrisy? It was the person who asked for a source of material on the topic to whom we responded. We obliged. Why should we not recommend the book that we did? Thought we’d save that person the time, measured in decades for us, that otherwise he would have to invest on his own if he really wanted to know something about this subject, like maybe pouring through obscure medical tomes and tracking down first-responders who, if still living, might choose to share their observations with him that they graciously (sometimes hesitantly) shared with us about strange fire fatalities they never expected to encounter and could not easily explain.

    Where’s the hypocrisy in that?

  14. Badd_KungFu
    December 1, 2015 at 7:36 PM

    in 1 post you lament the bias of investigators. in the next, you promote your book. that makes you a salesman, larry. that makes you biased. caveat emptor. i dont understand how you couldnt see how those 2 quotes from your posts are at odds. tends to make me wonder about the attention to detail, and level of honesty, you have applied to your lifes work. well, that and you not noticing that it wasnt me who asked a question. you seem to me to be either a true believer, or a scammer. either or, you are definitely a salesman promoting a product, and none of those 3 can be trusted. 😉

  15. Peter Jan
    December 12, 2015 at 11:22 AM

    From the German news: “Der Verdacht, dass es sich bei diesem Fall im Suizid handelt, hätte sich erhärtet. Auch weil man mittlerweile wisse, dass die Frau die Mittel für ihren Suizid selbst besorgt habe. ”

    Translation: The suspicion that this was a case of suicide has become more concrete, especially since it has been estalblished that the woman has bought the means for her suïcide herself.

  16. Larry Arnold
    December 13, 2015 at 9:01 AM

    Thank u so much for the follow-up info. Very kind! And appreciated.

Comments are closed.