Spontaneous Human Combustion
Spontaneous Human Combustion (SHC) is the phenomena of a human body spontaneously igniting into flames. The flames begin in the torso or chest and burn the body from the inside out. Often the surrounding area is left unscathed by flames. Victims' extremities, such as hands and feet, are often left intact. One theory is that certain digestive juices can result in a chemical reaction, causing flames to ignite within the body. It is said that the spine acts as a wick (as in candle wick) with the human fat acting as the wax. This is referred to as the "wick effect."
The most famous fatality speculated to have been caused by Spontaneous Human Combustion is that of Mary Reeser. The sixty-seven-year-old woman was found in her Florida apartment, nothing more than a pile of ashes, with only one foot and her skull remaining intact. Her skull had shrunken to several times its natural size confounding investigators who said that the extreme heat should have caused her skull to explode. Furthermore, the armchair that she died in was mostly intact, causing people to speculate that the fire must have started within Mary's body. The circumstances of Mary Reeser's death were so unusual that the FBI was brought in to investigate, but even they were unable to determine exactly what happened in Mary Reeser's apartment that night. Spontaneous Human Combustion as her cause of death remains the prevailing theory among the paranormal community. Skeptics point out that Mary Reeser was a smoker and she did take sleeping pills the night of her death. However, this still doesn't explain all the strange findings at the crime scene.
One of the most notable occurrences of SHC in fiction is in Charles Dickens', "Bleak House." In more modern fiction, there is Joe Hill's, "The Fireman".