How Did Michael Faherty Die? The Story Of Spontaneous Combustion
MICHAEL Faherty, 76, is the first person in Ireland to die of of spontaneous human combustion. His body was found at his home in Galway on 22 December 2010. He was found lying face down near an open fire in his living room.
The house around him was intact. No other item was burned. The ceiling above him and the floor beneath him was scorched. Police found no accelerant. There were no signs of foul play.
Dr Kieran McLoughlin, the West Galway coroner, ruled that Mr Faherty had been consumed by spontaneous combustion. He said:
“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.”
Pathologist Professor Grace Callagy said in her post-mortem findings that Mr Faherty had suffered from Type 2 diabetes and hypertension but she concluded he had not died from heart failure.
Spontaneous combustion is when a person bursts into flame from a chemical reaction within, apparently without being ignited by an external heat source. One porblem is that the body is so consumed with fire that finding the trigger is not possible. And then:
The physical possibilities of spontaneous human combustion are remote. Not only is the body mostly water, but aside from fat tissue and methane gas, there isn’t much that burns readily in a human body. To cremate a human body requires a temperature of 1600 degrees Fahrenheit for about two hours.
Indeed. Such apparent facts make it all the odder. As Arthur C. Clarke noted:
“There’s one mystery I’m asked about more than any other– spontaneous human combustion. Some cases seem to defy explanation, and leave me with a creepy and very unscientific feeling. If there’s anything more to SHC, I simply don’t want to know.”
Are these cases smoking mishaps? Or is smoking just an easy way to further demonise the weed, just as alcohol was once the cause:
Spontaneous human combustion was a phenomenon first described by Victorian doctors, who suggested the body could suddenly go up in flames as a divine punishment for alcoholism.Other explanations for the unexplained combustion of the body include the influence of ghosts or other paranormal entities, the production of unusual concentrations of gas, or external factors like cigarette sparks. In the 1850s Charles Dickens, the novelist, attracted controversy after Krook, a rag and bottle merchant, spontaneously combusted in Bleak House.
Smoking or drinking? Give it time and some expert will explain it away as the product of being overweight – fat being the great unwanted ill. And then we discover that it’s already been done. It’ s called the Wick Effect:
BBC 1’s QED – which brought together the world’s top fire experts – looked at cases of spontaneous human combustion from around the world.
And the programme discovered that the so-called wick-effect, in which a body is devoured by flames from its own body fat, is behind the mystery. Using a dead pig wrapped in cloth, they simulated a human body being burned over a long period and the charred effect was the same as in so-called spontaneous human combustion.