Goatview Farm - The Saint Report www.goatview.com

February 9
Spontaneous Human Combustion

As I mentioned yesterday, spontaneous human combustion (SHC) is my favorite cause of death. I love the idea that someone can be walking down the street, minding her own business, not thinking about anything in particular and--WHOOMPH--be suddenly transformed into an all-consuming ball of fire. Well, not ALL-consuming. It seems that the feet are left.

Even more delightful than the thought of the phenomenon itself is the fact that many people believe that there is such a thing. This makes my heart sing. Until I remember that these same people vote. But more about that later.

Larry Arnold
Larry E. Arnold. Notice that Mr. Arnold wears his hair in a mullet. Coincidence? I think not.

The current self-proclaimed expert on SHC is Larry E. Arnold, a school bus driver in Pennsylvania, who has written, and managed to have published, Ablaze!: The Mysterious Fires of Spontaneous Human Combustion. On Larry's webpage, he has the following blurbs:

"An incredible piece of work ... absolutely riveting." --Barbara Meister Vitale, international educator and brain/mind researcher

Barbara is the inventor of Meta-Intelligence.

"Now this is really strange. Imagine the horror of suddenly discovering smoke pouring from your body. This is no hallucination. This is not fantasy. This is not something we dream. This can happen. You frantically, all of a sudden, find out that the source of the fire is in your body. You try to put it out ... " -- Maury Povich, "The Maury Povich Show," September 14, 1995

Maury...well, he's Maury.

"I've never seen anything like this! Ever! And I doubt I ever will again. It was just, just amazing. I saw it with my own eyes! He burned from the inside out, not the outside in. That's spontaneous human combustion in my estimation ... " -- Robert Purdy, director of Disaster Preparedness, Essex County, New York

This is the only reference to Robert that I can find. Maybe he was the Director of DP in Essex County VERY briefly, like just long enough to review Larry's book.

"Illuminating and insightful. A must-have tome for the library of anyone interested in one of the world's most compelling mysteries!" -- Phyllis Benjamin, president; International Fortean Organization.

The International Fortean Organization is the place where people who feel that there isn't enough real stuff to believe in go for extra material. I did like the use of the word "illuminating."

"Bizarre!" "Astounding!" "Awesome!" -- arson investigation division, Los Angeles Fire Department

Why do I doubt they know they are being quoted here?

"It's encyclopaedic. It truly is. I commend you on that. Also, the cleverness -- how you keep it alive with marvelous creativity. ... It stands on it's own two feet. God what a fascinating subject! And it's still not believed in official circles is it?" -- Robert Durant, former editor of PURSUIT The Journal of the Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained

Strangely, the site for the Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained has no mention of Robert Durant. Insert Twilight Zone music here. Maybe their office has a Bermuda Cubicle. I used to work in an office that had one. It was a bank (not the branch kind with money) and all would be normal one evening when you would leave and then the next day you would come in and the cubicle would have been stripped of everything, including the vice president (they had a lot of them) who used to work in it.

Here is my evidence that there ain't no such thing as SHC (I consider my evidence that it doesn't exist much stronger than Larry's that it does):

1. Twin beds are not the norm.

2. Airplanes have no sprinkler system.

3. Sack races.

4. Tokyo subways.

5. New York subways.

6. Standing room only anywhere.

7. Handcuffs.

8. Elevators.

9. Gas stations.

But why believe me when there's a whole book written by a mullet-headed Pennsylvania school bus driver who says otherwise?

UPDATE: Wikipedia now has quite a lot on this subject, including some stories of survivors.

***

Saints celebrating feast days today include Saint Apollonia (patron saint of dentists, invoked against toothache--betcha can't guess how she was martyred), Saint Nicephorus, Saint Sabinus of Canosa, Saint Tello, Saint Ansbert, and Saint Alto.

 

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Marilyn Jones 2000-2008