The mystery of spontaneous human combustion

A modern problem

Don’t be fooled: while the history of spontaneous human combustion is filled with hearsay, superstition, and pseudoscience, it still crops up in the modern age. A BBC article reports that in 2010, Michael Faherty, a 76-year-old man, died at home in West Galway, Ireland. According to reports, he was burned to a crisp. The floor below and the ceiling above were also damaged. The rest of the house was fine. While the forensic investigators determined that Faherty’s fireplace was lit, they said that the furnace wasn’t the cause of the fire. You probably know where this is going.

Dr. Ciaran McLoughlin, the coroner who handled Faherty’s case, was baffled. He consulted medical texts. He talked to experts, and performed other types of research. He didn’t find any answers. Left with a blank death certificate, McLoughlin only had one choice. “This fire was thoroughly investigated,” McLoughlin said, “and I’m left with the conclusion that this fits into the category of spontaneous human combustion, for which there is no adequate explanation.”

Did Faherty really die of spontaneous human combustion, or was McLoughlin simply out of options? We’ll leave it to you to decide.