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Mr. Glover's Letter

Dear Aaron,

I've been reading your paper on "Spontaneous human combustion myth snuffed out" for an article I am writing about the phenomenon. While the paper is certainly a spirited refutation of the phenomenon, I wonder if you have been a little hasty and sweeping in your assertions.

For instance, you wrote, "I decided to try and find a SHC case that had a "witness." I couldn't do it. Every single "case" that I can find has the phrase "was found by" or "was discovered by" or some variation. If there are any actual cases of SHC that have independent witnesses, congratulations occult enthusiasts. You've hidden them well. Since the claim is universally made that SHC events occur only indoors and only when the victim has been alone for a long period of time, I'm going to say I'm pretty sure that the ones that claim there are witnesses are wrong."

Ignoring the possible contradiction underlying "every single case... was found by" and "the ones that claim there are witnesses", which leaves the reader unsure whether you did or did not find any cases with witnesses (?), I wonder if you might have any thoughts about the cases I have found where witnesses were present to see instances of inexplicable burnings.

For example, there is the very well-known cases of Jeannie Saffrin. The statement of Donald Carroll in 'The Entrancing Flame' includes these statements: "I had been upstairs for something and was just coming down to go home for some food when I heard Dad shout out, "Jeannie's burning!" I ran into the kitchen and saw Jeannie standing near the sink with flames coming out of her mouth and her midriff. Dad was at the sink with a cup and he was throwing cups of water over Jeannie [...] When I went to the inquest [...] a couple of other people were there [...] I heard one of them mention human combustion and someone laughed [...] I said, "How can you say that when I was there and saw it." [...] The coroner said, "I sympathise with you but I cannot out down SHC because there is no such thing. I will have to out down misadventure or an open verdict [...] It was definately SHC. There was no way that she could have caught fire. She was terrified of fire and would not touch matches [...] Even if there was some way she could have caught fire how could she have been burning more than her clothes? [...] Her clothes were not burning much at all. When I went into the kitchen the flames were coming from her mouth like a dragon and they were making a roaring noise. I am deaf [...] Even so I heard the sound of the flames coming from Jeannie [...] The flames kept coming from her mouth and her abdomen until I extinguished them with the water. Jeannie never made a move while all this was going on [...] The flames were coming from her middle and her mouth. It was obvious that the flames were coming from inside her.'

The next statement is from Jack Stacey, a fire officer who, in 1967, witnessed the burning of a man named Bailey: 'When I got in through the window I found the body of a man named Bailey lying at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the second floor [...] There was a four-inch slit in his abdomen from which was issuing, at force, a blue flame. The flame was beginning to burn the wooden stairs.' Interviewed on television he said, 'The flame itself was coming from his abdomen. There was a slit of about four inches in the abdomen and the flame was coming through there at force, like a blowlamp - a bluish flame [...] There's no doubt whatsoever, that fire began inside that body. It couldn't begin anywhere else. That's the only place it could have begun - inside the body.' Considering this is from a fireman with over twenty years experience it surely carries weight. Bailey was an alcoholic non-smoker.

There is also the case of Agnes Philips who burst into flames while sitting in a parked car in a suburb of Sydney, while on a shopping trip with her daughter in 1998. Mrs. Phillips burned in front of her daughter and Bradley Silva, who beat out the flames. She died in hospital a week later. The New South Wales Fire Inspector told the inquest that at the time she caught fire, the car engine was not running; there was no trace of liquid accelerants and no faulty wiring. Neither Mrs Phillips nor her daughter were smokers and the maximum temperature on the day of the fire was 16º C. This is another case where firemen were perplexed by the fire's origin.

I'd like to propose that these instances where witness were present at inexplicable burning events tend to lend credibility to an unexplained phenomenon, one not so easily ruled out by the statements in your article, particularly the one that 'There are absolutely zero reasons to believe in SHC', and that equating it with a belief in unicorns is rather overstated and unfairly dismissive. I'd be very interested indeed to consider any comments you'd care to make about this. Many thanks.

Sincerely yours,

Jerry Glover