"Spontaneous Human Combustion" Expert

I have invested years in the study of bizarre deaths popularly attributed to "spontaneous human combustion" (SHC). Typically in such cases, a body is severely destroyed, while nearby objects are undamaged and there may be no apparent source for the ignition. Forensic analyst John F. Fischer and I investigated thirty historical cases and concluded that they were accidents, often involving the elderly or incapacitated, wherein probable ignition sources could be demonstrated or inferred, and the extensive destruction was due to special factors such as the "wick effect" (in which the body's fat liquefies and is absorbed by clothing, chair stuffing, carpet, or the like, to fuel the flames and continue the cyclic effect). (See Joe Nickell and John F. Fischer, "Spontaneous Human Combustion," The Fire and Arson Investigator 34 (March 1984): 4-11; no. 4 (June): 38; see also Joe Nickell, Real-Life X-Files, Lexington, University Press of Kentucky, 2001, 28-36.) I lectured on the subject at New York's Academy of Fire Science in 2010.

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