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Shubhi, XII-B 2015 To study the cause, mechanism and history of Exploding Man Syndrome (Spontaneous Human Combustion) The picture above shows baby Rahul, a three month old boy, from Villupuram district of Tamil Nadu, who spontaneously busted into flames for the fourth time in august 2013, without any source of ignition! He was said to be suffering from spontaneous human combustion (SHC) - one of the rarest diseases in the whole world. With mere 200 cases in the last 300 years, all round the world; it hasn’t been much researched on. I came through his case in 2013, and didn’t pay much attention. But recently, in January 2015, I came through another similar case in Times of India (I didn’t get the clipping here), where a 10 day old newborn was diagnosed with same syndrome. Surprisingly, this 10 day old child was baby Rahul’s sibling. Now, the news caught my attention and I researched on it to bring this disease, one of the world’s rarest syndromes, in your knowledge. Flip over the pages to know more about this syndrome. The sole reason of this investigatory project is the aim of bringing this rarest disease to people’s general view so that there be some researches to further explain this- “unexplained natural phenomena”. Biology investigatory project Kendriya Vidyalaya Janakpuri New Delhi

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Page 1: biology investigatory project

Shu

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The picture above shows baby Rahul, a three month

old boy, from Villupuram district of Tamil Nadu, who spontaneously busted into flames for the fourth time in august 2013, without any source of ignition!

He was said to be suffering from spontaneous human combustion (SHC) - one of the rarest

diseases in the whole world. With mere 200 cases in the last 300 years, all round the world; it hasn’t been much researched on.

I came through his case in 2013, and didn’t pay much attention. But recently, in January 2015, I came through another similar case in Times of India

(I didn’t get the clipping here), where a 10 day old newborn was diagnosed with same syndrome.

Surprisingly, this 10 day old child was baby Rahul’s sibling. Now, the news caught my attention and I researched on it to bring this disease, one of the

world’s rarest syndromes, in your knowledge. Flip over the pages to know more about this syndrome.

The sole reason of this investigatory project is the aim of bringing this rarest disease to people’s general view so that there be some researches to further

explain this- “unexplained natural phenomena”.

Biology investigatory project Kendriya Vidyalaya Janakpuri

New Delhi

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Certificate

This is to certify that this project work is submitted by SHUBHI, XII-B, Kendriya Vidyalaya Janakpuri, New Delhi. The

aforesaid project was originally carried

out by her under the guidance & supervision of MR. ANWAR AHMAD, P.G.T. (Biology) during academic year 2014-15.

Principal Teacher MR. V.K.YADAV MR. ANWAR AHMAD Kendriya Vidyalaya Janakpuri P.G.T. (Biology)

New Delhi

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Acknowledgement

I wish to express my deep gratitude and sincere thanks to Principal, Mr. V.K. YADAV, Kendriya Vidyalaya Janakpuri, New Delhi for his encouragement and for all the facilities provided to me by the school management for this project. I am thankful to him for his unstinting

cooperation towards the completion of this project. I extend my hearty thanks to MRANWAR AHMAD, P.G.T. (Biology) and

my biology teacher, who guided me to the successful completion of this project. I take this opportunity to express my deep sense of gratitude for his invaluable guidance, constant encouragement, constructive comments, sympathetic attitude and immense

motivation, which has sustained my efforts at all stages of this project work. I can’t forget to offer my sincere thanks to my classmates who helped me to carry out this project work successfully. I am thankful to their valuable advice and support which I received from them, time-to-time.

-SHUBHI

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Spontaneous human combustion (shc)

INTRODUCTION

Spontaneous human combustion (SHC) is a term encompassing reported cases of the burning of a living (or very recently deceased) human body without an apparent external source of ignition. In

addition to reported cases, examples of SHC appear in literature, and both types have been observed to share common characteristics regarding circumstances and remains of the victim. Forensic investigations have attempted to analyze reported instances of SHC and have resulted in hypotheses regarding potential causes and

mechanisms, including victim behaviour and habits, alcohol

consumption and proximity to potential sources of ignition, as well as the behaviour of fires that consume melted fats. Natural explanations, as well as unverified natural phenomena, have been proposed to explain reports of SHC.

OVERVIEW

“Spontaneous human combustion” refers to the death from a fire

originating without an apparent external source of ignition. Writing in the British Medical Journal, Gavin Thurston describes the

phenomenon as having “attracted the attention not only of the medical profession but of the laity” as early as 1834 (more than one hundred years prior to Thurston’s 1938 article). In his 1995 book Ablaze!, Larry E. Arnold wrote that there had been about

200 cited reports of spontaneous human combustion worldwide over a period of around 300 years. The topic received coverage in the British Medical Journal in 1938. An article by L. A. Parry cited an 1823- published paper, “Medical Jurisprudence,” which stated that

commonalities among recorded cases of spontaneous human combustion included the following characteristics:

1. the victims are chronic alcoholics 2. they are usually elderly females 3. the body has not burned spontaneously,

But some lighted substance has come into contact with it.

Alcoholism is a common theme in early SHC literary references, In part because some Victorian era physicians and writers believed spontaneous human combustion was the result of alcoholism.

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An extensive two-year research project, involving thirty historical

cases of alleged SHC, was conducted in 1984 by science investigator Joe Nickell and forensic analyst John F. Fischer. Their lengthy, two-part report was published in the journal of the International Association

of Arson Investigators. Nickell has written frequently on the subject, appeared on television documentaries, conducted additional research, and lectured at the New York State Academy of Fire Science at Montour Falls, NY, as a

guest instructor. Nickell and Fischer’s investigation, which looked at Cases in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth century, showed that the burned bodies were near plausible sources for the ignition: candles, lamps, fireplaces, and so on. Sometimes these sources were left out of popular accounts of the alleged phenomenon while they were hyped as mysterious. The investigations also found that there

was a correlation between alleged SHC deaths and victim’s drunkenness or other incapacitation that could have caused them to be careless with fire and less able to respond properly to an accident. Where the destruction of the body was not extensive, the significant fuel source was the victim’s clothing. However, where the destruction was extensive, additional fuel sources

were involved, such as chair stuffing, floor coverings, the flooring itself, and the like. The investigators described how such materials helped retain melted fat to burn and destroy more of the body, yielding still more liquefied fat, in a cyclic process known as the "wick effect" (or “candle effect”). According to Nickell and Fischer’s investigation, nearby objects often went undamaged because fire tends to burn

upward, and it burns laterally with some difficulty. The fires in question are relatively small, achieving considerable destruction by the wick effect, and relatively nearby objects may not be close enough to catch fire themselves (much as one can get rather close to a modest campfire without burning). As with other mysteries, Nickell and Fischer cautioned against “single, simplistic explanation for all

unusual burning deaths” but rather urged investigating “on an individual basis.”

EXPLANATION

Some hypothetical, scientific explanations:- Some hypotheses attempt to explain how SHC might occur without an external flame source, while other hypotheses suggest incidents that

might appear as spontaneous combustion actually had an external source of ignition – and that the likelihood of spontaneous human

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Combustion without an external ignition source is quite low.

Benjamin Radford, science writer and deputy editor of the science magazine Sceptical Inquirer, casts doubt on the plausibility of

spontaneous human combustion, “If SHC is a real phenomenon (and not the result of an elderly or infirm person being too close to a flame source), why Doesn’t it happen more often? There are 5 billion (editor’s note: quoted in 2011-albeit world actually population reached 5 billion in 1987, right now, 7.5 billion- as per 2013 census) people in the world, and yet

we don’t see reports of people bursting into flame while walking down the street, attending football games, or sipping a coffee at a local Starbucks.” Paranormal researcher Brian Dunning states that SHC stories “are simply the rare cases where a natural death in isolation has been followed by a slow combustion from some nearby source of

ignition.” He further suggested that reports of people suddenly aflame should be called “Unsolved deaths by fire,” stating that the cause being unknown did not necessarily imply that it had not resulted from an external ignition source. Explanation on the basis of natural phenomena

1. Almost all cases of SHC involve persons with low mobility, due to

advanced age or obesity, along with poor health. Victims show a high likelihood of having died in their sleep, or of being unable to move once they had caught fire.

2. Cigarettes are often seen as the source of fire, as the improper disposal of smoking materials causes one of every four fire deaths in the USA. Natural causes such as heart attacks may lead to the victim dying, subsequently dropping the cigarette, which after a period of smouldering can ignite the victim’s clothes.

3. The "wick effect" hypothesis suggests that a small external

flame source, such as a burning cigarette, chars the clothing of the victim at a location, splitting the skin and releasing subcutaneous fat, which is in turn absorbed into the burned

clothing, acting as a wick. This combustion can continue for as long as the fuel is available. This hypothesis has been successfully tested with animal tissue (pig) and is consistent with evidence recovered from cases of human combustion. The human body typically has enough stored energy in fat and other chemical stores to fully combust the body; even lean people have

several pounds of fat in their tissues. This fat, once heated by

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the burning clothing, wicks into the clothing much as candle

wax (which typically was originally made of animal fat) wicks into a lit candle wick to provide the fuel needed to keep the wick burning. The protein in the body also burns, but provides less

energy than fat, with the water in the body being the main impediment to combustion. However, slow combustion, lasting hours, gives the water time to evaporate slowly, which would require less energy than boiling the water off quickly would. In an enclosed area, such as a house, this moisture will recondense nearby, such as on windows. Note that feet often have the least

fat, so don't typically burn. (Hands also have little fat, but may burn if on the abdomen, which provides all the needed fat.)

4. John Abrahamson suggested that ball lightning could account for spontaneous human combustion. “This is circumstantial only,

but the charring of human limbs seen in a number of ball lightning cases are very suggestive that this mechanism may also have occurred where people have had limbs combusted,” says Abrahamson.

5. Scalding can cause burn-like injuries, including death,

without setting fire to clothing. Although not applicable in cases where the body is charred and burnt, this has been suggested as a cause in at least one claimed SHC-like event.

6. Brian J. Ford has suggested that ketosis, possibly caused by alcoholism or low-carb dieting, produces acetone, which is highly flammable and could therefore lead to apparently spontaneous combustion.(most accepted hypothesis for SHC).

7. Sometimes there are reasonable explanations for the deaths, but

proponents ignore official autopsies and contradictory evidence, in favour of anecdotal accounts and personal testimonies.

Occurrence of shc in nature- an unverified natural phenomenon

Larry E. Arnold in his 1995 book Ablaze! Proposed a pseudoscientific new subatomic particle, which he called “pyrotron”. Arnold also wrote that the flammability of a human body could be increased by certain circumstances, like increased alcohol in the blood. He also wrote that extreme stress could be

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the trigger that starts much combustion. This process may use no external oxygen to spread throughout the body, since it may not be an "oxidation-reduction" reaction, however, no reaction mechanism has been proposed. Researcher Joe Nickell has criticized Arnold’s hypotheses as based on selective evidence and argument from ignorance. Some of the notable examples of SHC round the world are given below:

1. Henry Thomas, a 73-year-old man, was found burned to death in the living room of his council house on the Rassau council estate in Ebbw Vale, south Wales, in 1980. His entire body was

incinerated, leaving only his skull and a portion of each leg

below the knee. The feet and legs were still clothed in socks and trousers. Half of the chair in which he had been sitting was also destroyed. Police forensic officers decided that the incineration of Thomas was due to the wick effect. His death was ruled 'death by burning', as he had plainly inhaled the contents of his own

combustion.

2. In December 2010, the death of Michael Faherty in County

Galway, Ireland, was recorded as “spontaneous combustion” by the coroner. The doctor, Ciaran McLoughlin, made this statement at the inquiry into the death: “This fire was thoroughly

investigated and I'm left with the conclusion that this fits into the

category of spontaneous human combustion, for which there is no adequate explanation.”

3. The most awaited, our cover story- baby Rahul :

In August 2013, Rahul, a two and one half months old infant

from Tamil Nadu, India, was admitted to the Kilpauk Medical

College and Hospital in Chennai, having four reported burn injuries since birth. Initial tests ruled out any abnormalities, and

further results led the hospital to conclude that it was not spontaneous human combustion. The baby’s mother used to live in another village which had come in the news in 2004, when residents had complained that their homes spontaneously burst into flames. Investigations had shown that phosphorus hidden in

cow dung had been present in the huts; phosphorus has a low ignition point and can cause fires.

4. And, the baby Rahul’s sibling- his 10 days old brother:

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In January 2015, an infant boy from Parangini village near

Tindivanam, Tamil Nadu, India suffered 10% burns, claimed

to be due to spontaneous combustion. He is reported to be the

biological brother of the other child Rahul, who also suffered burns that were claimed to be the result of spontaneous human combustion in 2013. However, doctors at Kilpauk Medical College Hospital have reported the claims as suspicious. When interviewed about the cases, the physician who treated the older

brother in 2013 stated that "there is no such thing as spontaneous human combustion. When Rahul was admitted to the hospital last year we clearly told the parents that it looked like someone was deliberately setting the infant on fire.”

And the parent’s of baby Rahul were asked to file a police complaint.

The last two cases, namely, the baby Rahul and his sibling case,

suggest the inheritability of this disease.

I thereby propose-

1. The disease to be hereditary (as it occurred in both the siblings) and caused due to activation of an inactive gene, either in parents or in predecessors. The gene must have remained in recessive state and came up expressing itself in homozygous condition. (Parents did not suffer from the disease.)

2. due to mutation- the mutagens still being unclear.(since the disease is extremely rare, and there hasn’t been any close biological link b/w the people suffering from it all round the

world, throughout the history; The symptoms are same everywhere and maybe there is a common mutagen in all cases.

If it is so, then a detailed study of the cases is required).

I request the reader, the examiner, the principal, the head

examiner, and all those respected people who are reading these

lines, to appreciate study and research in this field for coming up

with a better and liable conclusion in explanation of this

“UNEXPLAINED NATURAL PHENOMENON”.

Thanks for reading.

SHUBHI, XII-B, K.V. JANAKPURI, NEW DELHI.

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News headlines:

Three-month-old baby boy suffers horrifying burns 'after spontaneously bursting into flames for the fourth time'

A three-month-old baby boy is recovering in hospital after allegedly spontaneously catching

fire - for the fourth time.

Rahul was admitted for treatment of ten degree burns at an intensive care unit in Chennai,

India last week, and doctors at the hospital say he suffers from 'spontaneous human

combustion'.

Medical staff alleges that - for the fourth time in his short life - Rahul has burst into flames with no external source of ignition.

Rare case: Rahul, three months, is receiving treatment for his burns at a hospital in Chennai, India, after allegedly self-combusting

According to doctors Rahul may have caught fire due to the excretion of gases through his

skin, which has led to him suffering burns on his chest and head.

‘The baby is stable and treatment is on for burn injuries and scars. Life-saving support

systems are there for Rahul in the intensive care unit,’ said R. Narayana Babu, head of

paediatrics at the hospital.

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He told IBN Live that the baby will be under observation and may be discharged after two

weeks depending on his condition.

Rahul, from Villupuram, an area 100miles from Chennai, suffered the first incident when

he was just nine days old.

Fire boy: Rahul is being examined by a doctor with his mother by his side, who claims this is the fourth time her son has burst into flames

‘People thought I set him on fire deliberately,’ his mother, Rajeswari told IBN Live.

According to the parents, their community ostracized them, and Rahul’s father, a farm

worker, says they have lost everything as a result of his son's condition.

SHC- PHENOMENON OR FRAUD? Spontaneous human combustion (SHC) has been implied as a cause of death in a number of documented cases where burned corpses have been found without an apparent external source of ignition. An estimated 200 cases have been found throughout history and victims are often elderly, sick, or under the influence of alcohol, which would explain why they have not been able to escape the flames. Puzzled scientists have come up with the ‘wick theory’ to explain such events. The theory is that the human body can become an ‘inside out’ candle

The person’s clothes are the wick, while their body fat is the wax or flammable substance, which

keeps the blaze going. Limbs may be left intact because of the temperature gradient, with the bottom half of the body being cooler than the top. Some have postulated that static electricity could cause the needed spark.

Rajeswari alleges that Rahul has suffered four episodes of spontaneous fire and suffered

burn injuries, the last incident taking place last month.

However, doctors at Kilpauk Medical College Hospital in Chennai treating Rahul say they

only have the mother's version of events to go on as the baby boy does not have any medical records.

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'The baby has to be carefully observed. We have to investigate whether the ailment is

genetic,' Prof. R. Jayachandran of the department of paediatrics at Kilpauk Medical College

Hospital said. 'We will carry out tests to find out the kind of gases generated by the baby’.'

Not all believe the mother's story of self-combustion.

'Spontaneous Human Combustion-syndrome is a hoax theory,' the hospital's burns

specialist Dr J Jagan Mohan told The Times of India.

'A baby catching fire spontaneously is not possible. 'Alcoholics have a very small percentage

of alcohol secreted in their sweat but even that wouldn't generate a fire.' Until a proper diagnosis is made, Rahul is given treatment that is only symptomatic, with the

administration of antibiotics.

Indian baby got self-burnt? And he's not the

first one…

India TV Buzz [Updated 24 Jan 2015, 14:19:24]

You may have seen fictional mutants in X-Men series getting burnt on their own, but

this real life incident of a baby getting self burns will shake you to the core.

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1-1/2 years after a (then) 3-months old Rahul (who was reported to have self-

combusted), another infant from Villupuram district of Tamil Nadu, hogged limelight

for getting burnt on his own.

Yet again, his 10 days old sibling is in the news for the same reason. The baby boy was

brought to Kilpauk Medical College Hospital with 5 % burn injuries on his thigh and

feet. Doctors are yet find any scientific reason for this unnatural occurring.

Even the last time, doctors have told Rahul's parents that they are not at all convinced

with their theory of the baby getting self burnt. Rahul got self burnt for four times in

his short life. Dr. Jagan Mohan, who treated Rahul last year said, "There is no such

thing as spontaneous human combustion. When Rahul was admitted to the hospital

last year we clearly told the parents that it looked like someone was deliberately setting

the infant on fire."

They want police to take a closer look at the matter. When the baby was under medical

supervision there were no signs of self combustion.

There are could be two probable reasons for this unfortunate event, the baby's parents

are doing this for gaining sympathy or seeking attention or it could be some kind of

superstition. While paediatricians are willing offer their services to the infant but his

mother is adamant on not seeking their help.

In between all this, a self style Godman named Napolean has jumped in with a bizarre

claim that the village (from where baby's mother hails from), is under the spell of evil

spirit. Napolean also says that he received a prophecy about Rahul (the couple's first

child born in 2013 and diagnosed with SHC) two days ago and that he had warned the

family members that a similar fate was about to befall the second child.

People can suddenly and inexplicably explode into a ball of fire.

The phenomenon is called spontaneous human combustion (SHC), and it has been

described in many popular books on mysteries and the unexplained. Though this trend

picked up in pre-1900 fiction.

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Bibliography

1. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2389972/Three-month-old-baby-boy-suffers-horrifying-burns-spontaneously-bursting-flames-fourth-time.html

2. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2401922/Baby-Rahul-This-child-claimed-spontaneously-combusted-times.html

3. http://www.indiatvnews.com/buzz/life/another-baby-getting-self-burnt--64.html

4. https://www.google.co.in/search?client=opera&q=baby+rahul+diagnosed+with+shc&sourceid=opera&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8#q=august+25%2C+2013-+the+daily+mail

5. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/In-rare-condition-Tamil-Nadu-infant-keeps-catching-fire/articleshow/21735344.cms

6. http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/Professors-breakthrough-human-combustion-theory/story-22360207-detail/story.html

7. The times of India 8. The Indian express 9. The daily times 10. Rajasthan patrika 11. CNN IBN Chennai 12. NDTV Chennai 13. NCERT biology (pedigree analysis)