- The Entrancing Flame
"The Entrancing Flame"
1996is a book by John E Heymer, which gets its title from one deductive conclusion that he has reached from examining many cases of alleged spontaneous human combustion.
* Victims apparently remain motionless while on fire, even though they are alive when it starts.
Jeannie Saffinis a good example of this. Heymer observes that it is very rare for people who find themselves alight to remain motionless, yet all alleged SHC victims seem to have gone to their deaths peacefully, without struggle.
* Victims also show no sign of awareness while alight.
* Victims do not cry out while alight.
* Survivors of apparent "mini" SHC events (see Jack Angel and
Wilfred Gowthorpe) have no memory of what happened to them. Even hypnosis cannot retrieve the memory—meaning that there is no memory there at all and the victim cannot have been consciouswhen they were burned.
While there is natural uncertainty over whether all these criteria fit all alleged victims of
SHC, the circumstances are broadly supported by circumstantial evidence in the best cases for the SHC hypothesis.
Victims such as Saffin (1982) and Gowthorpe (1991) are known to fit the above descriptions, although it must be said that Saffin did not speak between her combustion and eventual death meaning that
amnesiacannot be proven.
Heymer therefore concludes that SHC victims fall into a form of trance before catching fire. He does not reach any conclusion about why this might be.
Heymer also notes that all of the victims have one thing in common: aloneness and probably
He points out that
mentally handicappedJeannie Saffin may have burned to death in front of loving relatives, but observes that she had been devoted to her mother.
Her mother (in her 90s) had died a year before Jeannie herself caught fire. Heymer observes that Jeannie had mourned and pined constantly since her mother died, and that she could not understand where her mother had gone (Jeannie, in common with many six-year-old minds, had no concept of death).
She had had the one constant presence in her life inexplicably removed and was under great emotional stress as a result. Heymer says that Jeannie Saffin may well have been the loneliest victim of all.
As for the putative mechanism behind SHC, Heymer speculates that defective
mitochondriain the body are to blame, breaking down and allowing free hydrogento build up within the cell.
The potential for such accident certainly exists, when hydrogen is generated (and normally bound) during the
Krebs Cycle. However, it is not a known malfunction of the Krebs cycle to produce free hydrogen.
Heymer then supposes that a small pocket of hydrogen is detonated by the 0.225
voltof electricity generated across the inner membrane of the mitochondrion.
Heymer claims that the human body, through
mitochondria, carries 45,000 voltsper cubic centimetreand that the process of a single cell erupting sets off neighbouring cells in a chain reactionthat destroys the body until biological action ceases.
In support of his hypothesis, Heymer points out that it is typically the lower extremities (the legs, below the knee) and skulls of alleged SHC victims that survive combustion.
This, he says, indicates that SHC typically begins in the region of abdomen and burns very rapidly outwards (the skull, he suggests, often falls down into the body during combustion, and is therefore destroyed outright).
Heymer suggests that by the time the process has consumed the heart and lungs, all circulation ceases and the fire comes to an abrupt halt just seconds after commencing -- hence the reported blue flames, the sharp edges of burns to clothing, and the failure to ignite surroundings.
Heymer also thinks that a
psychosomaticprocess in emotionally-distressed people can trigger off his supposed mitochondrialexplosion.
Spontaneous human combustion
Heymer, John E (1996): 'The Entrancing Flame'; London; Little, Brown; ISBN 0-316-87694-1;
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