Spontaneous Human Combustion / Ghostly Encounters

Hosted byGeorge Noory

Spontaneous Human Combustion / Ghostly Encounters

About the show

Larry Arnold is regarded by some as the world's expert on spontaneous human combustion (SHC). In the first half, he discussed case studies of the unbelievable phenomenon of people inexplicably burning up while their surroundings remain undamaged (view related images). He defined SHC as "when the human body smokes, blisters, or burns in the absence of a known, identifiable nearby burn agent." As a cause, Arnold has ruled out the 'human wick' effect (often invoked by non-believers of SHC), which suggests that clothing becomes ignited, and then body fat becomes the wick for a fire. "In some cases, we believe that the origin of the energy that burns the body does indeed originate within the body," he remarked, adding that in other cases, the source of combustion might be external, but one that "currently is not recognized, identified or even understood by mainstream fire and medical science."

"In most cases where the event is witnessed, the observer reports the victim being surrounded by electric blue colored lights, the kind of electric blue you'd see at the end of an acetylene torch," he revealed. The 1951 case of Mary Reeser in St. Petersburg, Florida, generated a great deal of public interest at that time. The 170 lb. woman was found reduced to 8-10 lbs. of ash. Her left foot was undamaged, but her skull was said to be shrunken, he recounted. Fire officials and a forensic anthropologist, Wilton Krogman, were completely puzzled at the time, and there was an absence of the smell of human flesh, which is normally found at a fatal fire scene. Arnold also delved into the cases of Dr. John Bentley, George Mott, and Jack Angel (a survivor of an SHC incident).


Steve Gonsalves has been a public speaker and educator about paranormal phenomena for over two decades and a cast member of the hit TV series Ghost Hunters, and Ghost Nation. In the latter half, he recalled his experiences at many haunted locations he visited, where he encountered such phenomena as disembodied voices, haunting EVPs, and mysterious dark masses. Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Kentucky stands out to him as one of the most fascinating haunted places, as every time he's gone there, some paranormal activity has happened, which is quite rare in these kinds of investigations, he said. Gonsalves talked about meeting renowned parapsychologist Dr. William Roll, who investigated poltergeists. Roll gave him tips on using EMF meters, and how to discern different types of energies within a building structure.

As to what causes a haunting, Gonsalves noted that while the specific mechanics are not yet understood, there is often unfinished business or an unresolved issue, or a spirit may have a very strong emotional attachment to a place or an object, sometimes mired in a tragedy. He recalled his friendship with the late singer Meat Loaf, who joined some of the Ghost Hunters investigations, and had a unique way of relating to spirits by sharing personal details of his life with them so that they would, in turn, open up to him. Regarding the use of EVPs (electronic voice phenomena), he described his team's investigative method called "real-time analysis." One team member wears headphones plugged into a digital or even an analog recorder and listens for things happening in the moment so that the investigation can be adjusted as it's happening. Instead of going back to the EVPs after the fact, you're able to say, 'Did you hear what it just said?' It really helps you investigate in the moment and get better interactions, he explained.

News segment guests: Lauren Weinstein, Steve Kates

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