Weird Georgia: Spontaneous Human Combustion, Part 1
Stop laughing.. SHC is a serious subject to many researchers, and certainly to every victim of what might be called a paranormal affliction, disease, or condition. Occasionally a human being bursts into flame from no observable external physical cause. They apparently self immolate from within, their bodies sometimes burning so violently that large portions of the body are cremated to ashes while other parts are left undamaged. Wait. The story gets weirder. External objects, clothing on the bed or chairs on which the victims were found, often bear no traces of being affected by heat.
The phenomenon is rare. Georgia has a single recorded incident of SHC, but at first glance it seemed to be the most important one ever investigated. Why? Because the victim survived! On the other hand, further investigation uncovered serious questions about the case. In the original Weird Georgia, I told the former story. In the second Weird Georgia, I reported the second account. Hore we go.
His name was Jack Angel. Late on November 12, 1974, he pulled his plush motor home-rolling showroom into a hotel parking lot in Savannah. Sixty-six years old, he was in good health, had recently married, and ran a successful clothing sales business. This night he called his wife, then turned in early, planning on meeting customers in the morning.
But that morning passed. And three more. On the fourth day Angel awoke to find both sides of his right hand charred from wrist to fingers, a frightening cavity in his chest, and assorted other burns. Remarkably, his pajamas, sheets, and bedcovers were untouched. Nothing in the motor home had been disturbed or marked by fire.
“It was just burned, blistered,” Angel said of his hand. “And I had this big explosion in my chest. It left a hell of a hole. I was burned...on my ankle, and up and down my back, in spots.”
Although his wounds throbbed, he felt no pain, but was disoriented by the long sleep.
Remarkably, Angel managed to shower and dress before walking toward the hotel to call his wife. Fainting in the parking lot, he woke up at Savannah Memorial Hospital.
Except for the obvious wounds, Angel was fine. There were no other injuries or evidence of what had scorched him. The doctors “told me I was burned internally,” Angel said.
It was a bizarre story.
Angel, certain there had been a problem in his motor home, asked his wife to investigate. Determined to find the cause of his serious injuries, Angel engaged an engineer consultant to take the motor home apart and hired lawyers to sue the manufacturer. After two days of exhaustive scrutiny, the vehicle was found to be sound.
“(They) couldn’t find a thing, not a thing,” Angel revealed. “No burn spots on the clothing. No evidence of any fire in that bus.” There were no faulty wires, no electrical problems. After two years of study, Angel still had no case. There was no evidence of problems in the motor home, no evidence of tampering with any part of the vehicle, and no evidence of criminal activity.
Angel’s life was wrecked by the phenomenon. Infection caused the amputation of his right arm, and he suffered from psychological problems. His wife divorced him, and he experienced financial reverses. Angel became disabled and was confined to his house.
“Our own conclusion is that Jack burned himself inside,” stated Larry E. Arnold, an expert on SHC who wrote Ablaze! The Mysterious Fires of Spontaneous Human Combustion. According to Arnold, on occasion a person’s internal electrical system “appears to go haywire” and ignites internal gases in the human body. The fire burns the body to varying degrees, sometimes including total cremation.
Another psychic phenomenon that seems to originate from within humans is poltergeist activity. Michael Harrison, in his book Fire From Heaven, suggests that the phenomenon that results in objects being remotely manipulated without physical cause can also ignite people. In both phenomena, those responsible have no idea that they are generating the results.
Whatever the cause might be, it was no relief for Jack Angel.
From Weird Georgia (2000).
Jim Miles is the author of nine books about the Civil War and two weird Georgia books. See Jim’s books.