Spontaneous Combustion YKTTW Discussion

Spontaneous Combustion
(permanent link) added: 2010-10-02 18:12:24 sponsor: shimaspawn edited by: SeanMurrayI (last reply: 2010-12-14 22:11:49)

Add Tag:
Do We Have This?, Needs More Examples

Sometimes things just set themselves on fire. There's no warning. No explanation. They're just suddenly on fire. In real life, this is normally caused by a slow build up of heat that eventually sparks and causes a fire. In fiction this occurs because sometimes things just need to be on fire.

This does not include people who create fire constantly, use their powers to set themselves or others on fire on purpose, or have an aura of flames that shows up as part of a battle mode. Those are all triggered and are not by definition spontaneous. Most of the origins of this trope are crouched in Urban Legends about spontaneous human combustion. Though there are no documented cases of people combusting, there are cases of buildings doing so if the conditions are right.


Comic Books
  • A Judge Dredd story centered around a person who compulsively always had to one-up anyone around him who got more attention than him. One such person who got more attention than him was someone who spontaneously burst into flames at a dinner party, "and everyone figured that was about the coolest thing ever." The jealous main character of the piece did eventually do one better and went out with a nuclear bang... but he had to expose himself to radiation and get struck by lightning to do it, after vain attempts to will himself to explode were complete faliures.


  • Krook in Bleak House, possibly the fictional Ur-Example though it was known of as "really" happening at the time, which is why Dickens used it.
  • The Doctor Who Virgin New Adventures novel All-Consuming Fire features what appears to be a case of spontaneous human combustion, but ultimately turns out to have been murder-by-pyrokinesis.

  • One episode of Fringe explored this. People who were used in experiments involving Pyrokinesis would burst into flames and explode if they couldn't focus their attention on other things around them when their power builds up inside of them.
  • The X-Files suggested this as an explanation in the first-season episode "Fire", although there turns out to be an external cause. Also suggested as an explanation in "Soft Light" and "Trevor", both of which turn out to be something weirder.
  • In the Bones episode "The Foot in the Foreclosure" they find ashes of a pair of lovers; Booth suspects SHC but Brennan says it's just an Urban Legend.
  • An episode of Picket Fences wrote the depressed, alcoholic mayor out of the plot by having him spontaneously combust within his own house. He already figured his political career was over, apparently making him a literal burn-out was the final blow to the character.

  • The a capella group The Bobs have a song about this, called "Spontaneous Human Comubstion".

Western Animation
  • In one episode of South Park Kenny died via Spontaneous Combustion.
Replies: 30