A second case of the rare phenomenon of spontaneous human combustion (SHC) has occurred. This incident of SHC struck an as yet unidentified man standing at a train station in Gothenburg, Sweden. The man was lucky as witnesses saw him suddenly catch fire and rushed to his rescue, helping him beat out the sudden inferno.
Just two months ago in Ballybane, Galway, Ireland a spectacular case of SHC killed 76-year old Michael Faherty in his home. The grisly death made headlines around the world. Most of what remained of Faherty were ashes.
What made that case all the more remarkable was coroner Dr. Ciaran McLoughlin returned an official verdict on the cause of death as spontaneous human combustion, something officials normally are reluctant to list as the cause of death in such cases.
The Gothenburg train station incident
Gothenburg is a city on the west coast of Sweden and its railway station is famous. Built in 1858, it's next to a modern shopping mall—the very mall where the incredible SHC episode occurred.
Police called to the scene admit the whole incident is a mystery. Asked by a reporter of the local paper, Göteborgs-Posten officer Åsa Andersson stated: ”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.”
The Local, an English language newspaper, reports that eyewitnesses to the bizarre conflagration told reporters and police that the man was just standing outside the train station near a record shop when—at approximately 10:30 p.m. local time—he suddenly began screaming as crackling flames engulfed his body.
Responding to questions from the amazed newspaper reporter, a tram diver who had seen the entire incident and helped save the stranger's life said, ”He just stood there burning outside the shop. 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 badly burned man, placed under heavy sedation, was rushed to Gothenburg's Sahlgrenska hospital. Doctors say it may be weeks before he'll be able to talk. Because of the severity of the burns attending physicians plan to keep him sedated while he heals.
The mystery of SHC
Records reveal almost 200 documented cases of SHC exist worldwide. No medical expert has been able to definitely point to an incontrovertible cause.
Victims are burned at such high heat the temperature sometimes exceeds that of commercial crematories. Yet many victims are found incinerated except for feet still in shoes, or parts of lower limbs.
In rare cases, such as this, a victim may be able to stop the intense flames before being entirely consumed.
Although paranormal theories abound, none fit the evidence nor offer a real explanation.
Cases have emerged over the past 100 years of people who related incidents where they suddenly became aware of a blue flame emerging from the front of their thighs or lower torso. They claimed that they immediately beat the fire out with their hands and suffered only minor burns.
If those are truly cases where people avoided becoming a SHC victim it would be hard to determine as the evidence is strictly anecdotal.
In the case of the Gothenburg SHC incident, however, many witnessed it and serious investigation may finally begin to crack the mystery that shrouds this frightening and often life-ending phenomenon.
Man catches fire in Gothenburg train station
Rare case of 'spontaneous human combustion' kills man in Ireland