Spontaneous Human Combustion

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Jenny Randles and Peter Hough are names that belong on the shelves of anyone with an interest in the fringes of human experience. In this comprehensive and superbly-researched book, the pair visit the thorny subject of Spontaneous Human Combustion. While you might not agree with their conclusions, there is little doubt that they bring a welcome open mind to the subject and provide a wealth of rarely-seen detail.

Firstly, they set the subject in historical context - looking at how cases have been reported both in reality and in fiction through the centuries, and thus make a fairly convincing case for the existence of the phenomena through history.

Then, they examine in great detail some famous cases - most notably the Kirby sisters and the case of Mary Reeser. Mrs. Reeser's tragic and inexplicable death remains the poster child of SHC cases and Randles and Hough use interviews with Mrs. Reeser's son (himself a doctor) and those who investigated the case to take us closer than ever before to events on that night.

In terms of more contemporary research, they highlight work done within the fire fighting community to try and identify and explain alleged cases of SHC. It is these chapters that are perhaps the most illuminating, as the demonstrate how seriously some people take the subject and, equally, how determined the authorities are to deny its reality. Whether you agree with one side or the other, it is fascinating to see inside the reality of how deaths from fire are investigated.

Finally, the book wraps up with a series of chapters that look at various theories advanced as explanations over the years. Some - like the 'wick effect' - come with a stamp of official authority but other more esoteric explanations are given a fair airing by the authors.

Essential reading for anyone interested in the subject of Spontaneous Human Combustion.


4.0 / 5 stars


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