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[[quoteright:350:[[Webcomic/CyanideAndHappiness http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/rsz_spontaneous_human_combustion.png]]]]

->''"You know, dozens of people spontaneously combust each year. It's just not really widely reported."''
-->-- '''David St. Hubbins''', ''Film/ThisIsSpinalTap''

A fire or explosion occurs from within a person's body without a direct external cause for ignition. There's often no warning and not much in the way of an explanation.

A classic {{Urban Legend|s}}, hundreds of allegedly true accounts of this phenomenon have been reported for over centuries, the oldest known stories dating from as far back as the [[OlderThanSteam the mid 1600's]], and thanks to the aura of mystery and strangeness surrounding these incidents, Spontaneous Human Combustion is an anomaly that some canít help but try and find a valid explanation for.

As such, works of fiction tend to explore this subject in a few ways. Comedic works, more often than not, tend to let such occurrences happen without a clear explanation of how it happened being given. On the other hand, more serious stories--especially SpeculativeFiction works or strange tales about the paranormal--may try to provide some kind of explanation and may even reveal an external cause (likely one that is pseudoscientific and even more bizarre than spontaneous human combustion already is on its own--possibly involving anything from aliens or ghosts causing it, an uncontrolled [[PlayingWithFire Pyrokinetic]] ability, or something even weirder).

In RealLife, occurrences that look like this trope are usually explained by the [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wick_effect "wick effect".]]

See Also: MadeOfExplodium, ManOnFire.

Not to be confused with WreathedInFlames.

Not actually the {{Inver|tedTrope}}se of the trope ExternalCombustion.

'''Naturally, as this is a DeathTrope, be prepared for some spoilers.'''



[[folder:Anime & Manga]]
* ''Manga/RurouniKenshin'' villain Makoto Shishio meets his end this way. The story indicates that after being badly burned, he lost all of his sweat glands and can only fight for limited periods because of danger of overheating. The guy also has a FlamingSword supposedly powered by the fat of people he's killed, which probably contributed to his end. While that detail is also total pseudoscience, if you go with the assumption that spontaneous human combustion is possible, it's not ''that'' hard to believe it would happen to a guy wrapped in bandages covered in oil.
* In ''Manga/HellTeacherNube'', a few documented cases of people just beginning to develop [[KillItWithFire pyrokinesis]] end up [[SuperpowerMeltdown consuming the person]] instead, because [[PowerIncontinence they have failed to develop]] the RequiredSecondaryPowers to control their own flame. When Izuna suddenly starts to burst into flame at random times ([[ClothingDamage reducing her clothes to ash]], but [[NakedPeopleAreFunny leaving her otherwise unharmed]]) Nube worries that she could lose control and ignite herself. [[spoiler: She manages to control these abilities at the last moment.]]
* In ''Anime/MawaruPenguindrum'', this is what happens to [[spoiler:Momoka after she changes Yuri's fate so Yuri can escape from her [[AbusiveParents abusive father]]. In a subversion she actually ''survives'' the incident, though she's left with serious wounds and has to be hospitalized.]]
* In ''[[Manga/{{Gunnm}} Battle Angel Alita: Last Order]]'' it has become the leading cause of death. Much like cancer and heart disease in modern times, it's said to be something anybody can die from. It's explained that before medical technology became more advanced, most people just died of other things first.
* In ''Manga/EnenNoShoubotai'', this has killed people for so many generations that those born in the Second generation and above gain the ability to control it instead of letting it kill them. Those in the First generation, however, experience this along with a BalefulPolymorph transformation into a nigh-unstoppable fire beast. The deaths also seem to be extremely random, so it's impossible to tell who will combust next.
* ''Manga/{{X 1999}}'':
** In the original manga, Kamui's mom Tohru spontaneously combusted in the BackStory. The reason for this, however, was made pretty clear: She made herself a shadow sacrifice of the entire planet Earth and, by burning to death, delayed its destruction by GlobalWarming. ItMakesSenseInContext.
** In TheMovie, Tohru is seen bursting in flames in Kamui's dream at the beginning. We don't know if she truly died like that, however.

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* A ''ComicBook/JudgeDredd'' 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 failures.
* In the ''ComicBook/StrikeforceMorituri'' "Electric Undertow" limited series, this happens to random people due to [[spoiler:psychic harvesting by the alien [=VXX199=].]]
* In ''Comicbook/AllSuperheroesMustDie'', 90s causes people injected with it to explode in 90 seconds if they don't get the antidote in time.
* In the final issue of ''ComicBook/NthManTheUltimateNinja'', a character begins to combust soon after she arrives in the past. This is because [[OnlyOneMeAllowedRightNow she's being born at the same moment, and cannot exist in two places simultaneously.]]
* In the ''Comicbook/SamAndMax'' comic book episode "Monkeys Violating the Heavenly Temple", the eponymous duo are saved from a [[AppeaseTheVolcanoGod volcano sacrifice]] when the high priest performing the ritual [[DeusExMachina suddenly goes up in flames]].
-->'''Max:''' Spontaneous human combustion! What a stroke of luck!\\
'''Sam:''' For those unfamiliar with the term, spontaneous human combustion is the unexplained phenomenon of extreme, increased body temperature.\\
'''Max:''' Adapt your wardrobe accordingly -- Preferably light cottons and knits!

[[folder:Comic Strips]]
* {{Discussed}} in one ''ComicStrip/CalvinAndHobbes'' strip, which has Calvin ask his dad whether this ever happens. When he says no, Calvin bursts a blown-up paper bag around the corner, asking whether he was fooled.

[[folder:Film -- Live-Action]]
* Multiple drummers in the title band in ''Film/ThisIsSpinalTap'' die in this a fashion.
* Shown in the horror film ''Film/SpontaneousCombustion'', naturally. A couple who were involved in an atomic weapons test spontaneously bust into flames shortly after the birth of their son. When their son grows up, he discovers a pyrokinetic ability and begins setting people on fire when he gets angry.
* In ''Film/{{Bowfinger}}'', spontaneous combustion is mentioned by Kit to be one of his biggest fears, along with aliens and a giant foot trying to squash him.
* {{Invoked|Trope}} in ''Film/ConAir''; after Pinball intentionally sets fire to a fellow prisoner to create a distraction for the other more dangerous prisoners about to attempt to hijack the plane, in the middle of all the confusion Pinball humorously exclaims that this was an act of spontaneous combustion.
* Ambassador Standish in ''Film/SherlockHolmes'' bursts into flames when he attempts to shoot Lord Blackwood. [[spoiler: This is intended to be taken as a magical occurrence, displaying the dark powers Blackwood has protecting him from those who oppose him, but in the end a clear, external cause is revealed by Holmes that has nothing at all to do with magic. Standish was rained with oil without knowing (it was genuinely raining at the time) and his gun was sabotaged to create the spark.]]

* Krook in Creator/CharlesDickensí ''Literature/BleakHouse'' dies like this and is '''possibly''' the UrExample of this trope appearing in fiction, though "true stories" were already said to have existed at the time, and Dickens was known to have strongly believed that this was possible. [[ArtMajorBiology (He believed it to be due to people drinking excessive amounts of highly flammable alcohol.)]]
* In ''Literature/CrimeAndPunishment'', while Raskolnikov is reading the newspapers trying to find an article on the pawnbroker's murder, he relays the headlines of several terrible news stories, one of which involves the spontaneous combustion of a shopkeeper from alcohol. [[NoodleIncident Nothing more is said on the matter.]]
* Some "Drummers" in Creator/NealStephenson's ''Literature/TheDiamondAge'' end up like this [[spoiler: due to the heat generated by extensive computation done by nanosites in their bloodstreams]]. A major character almost suffers from this fate near the end of the book only to be saved in the last minute.
* ''[[Recap/DoctorWhoNewAdventuresAllConsumingFire All-Consuming Fire]]'' features what appears to be a case of spontaneous human combustion, but ultimately turns out to have been murder-by-pyrokinesis.
* Creator/TimPowers' novel ''Literature/ExpirationDate'' reveals that ghosts sometimes burst into flames if they are suddenly alarmed. From this, it's suggested that human combustion happens when a person dies, but their ghost doesn't immediately notice and keeps walking around in their body for a while before suffering some kind of shock (such as, often, the shocking realization that they've been dead for a while and hadn't noticed).
* The novel ''Fire Pattern'' by Bob Shaw is all about this: it turns out that combustion is the result of failed attempts by a dying alien species to [[GrandTheftMe implant their minds]] into humans.
* Reports of people bursting into flames circulate in a couple of the ''Literature/GarrettPI'' novels, as a rumor going around the city. Garrett finally looks into the matter in ''Whispering Nickel Idols'', and learns that [[spoiler: Chodo Contague triggered some of them with the help of some pyrogenic rocks planted by his lawyer]]. Saucerhead also tracks down some cases that turn out to be ordinary accidental fires, under circumstances very similar to the RealLife mishaps that inspired the Spontaneous Human Combustion Urban Legend.
* ConversationalTroping in ''[[Literature/JohnnyMaxwellTrilogy Johnny and the Bomb]]''; it's mentioned that Johnny once read about the phenomenon and [[ParanoiaFuel slept with a bucket of water by his bed for weeks]].
* In ''Literature/TheSecretsOfTheImmortalNicholasFlamel'', the phenomenon is explained as the result of one over-exerting his/her aura.
* In the ''Literature/SimonArk'' short story "The Witch is Dead", Mother Fortune is found burned to death [[LockedRoomMystery inside her locked trailer with nothing else touched]]. Spontaneous human combustion is suspected, but it is actually murder.
* Creator/MarkTwain, in one of his books, discusses the fate of someone he knew:
-->[[TheAlcoholic Jimmy Finn]] did not die in the caboose, but instead died a natural death in a tanning vat from a combination of delirium tremens and spontaneous combustion. When I say a natural death, I mean it was a natural death for Jimmy Finn to die.
* ''Literature/WrittenInBone'' features a body for which this is considered. Then Dr Hunter explains how spontaneous combustion is not all that spontaneous.
* Stephen King's ''Literature/{{Firestarter}}'' suggests that this is due to a form of PowerIncontinence brought on to normal people in very occasional bursts of the same pyrokinetic abilities the novel's protagonist Charlene "Charlie" [=McGee=] obtains from her parents' involvement in an experiment with a psychoactive drug, and then ultimately learns to control.
* Interesting variation with Fëanor from Literature/TheSilmarillion whose corpse cremates itself after he gets killed apparently due to his sheer [[HotBlooded hot bloodedness]]. Note that this guy's name means "spirit of fire" in one of Tolkien's {{Constructed language}}s

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* ''Series/TheXFiles'' suggested this as an explanation several times but it was subverted in each case. In the first-season episode "Fire", 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. The "Trevor" reference to this trope is funny, since it is [[AgentScully Scully]] that offers it as an initial cause:
-->'''Scully:''' Spontaneous human combustion.\\
'''Mulder:''' (''grinning'') Scully!\\
'''Scully:''' Well, isn't that where you were going with this?\\
'''Mulder:''' "Dear Diary, today my heart leapt when AgentScully suggested spontaneous human combustion."\\
'''Scully:''' Mulder, there are one or two somewhat well-documented cases.\\
(''Mulder nods, grinning'')\\
'''Scully:''' Mulder, shut up.
* In the ''Series/{{Bones}}'' episode "The Foot in the Foreclosure" they find ashes of a pair of loafers; Booth suspects SHC but Brennan says it's just an Urban Legend.
* One episode of ''Series/DeadLikeMe'' sees an untalented stand-up comedian, literally, die on stage by inexplicably exploding after one of his bad jokes.
* ''Series/DoctorWho'': In [[Recap/DoctorWhoS34E1DeepBreath "Deep Breath"]], this apparently happens to [[spoiler:the ''[[TyrannosaurusRex T. rex]]'' that the Doctor accidentally brought to London at the beginning. Vastra discovers that London's been having a rash of cases of spontaneous combustion. Of course, it's not actually spontaneous: the villain has been [[HumanResources killing people for their organs]] and burning the bodies to [[FieryCoverup hide what was taken]]. The dinosaur was merely the most public victim.]]
* ''Series/{{Fringe}}'':
** A Season One episode 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.
** Later, in Season Four, a fringe incident is initially believed to involve several people spontaneously combusting after their bodies exerted too much energy (with others in the affected area needing to stand perfectly still to avoid meeting the same fate), but it is revealed to have been spurned by nanotechnology entering the affected persons' bloodstream.
* ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer'':
** In one of the first episodes, Giles initially attributes this as the cause for a cheerleader bursting into flames; it's later revealed to have been caused by a witch's spell.
** In the MusicalEpisode, this is a side-effect of [[FanNickname Sweet's]] power. Those unable to release their emotions through song burst into flame. Buffy herself barely escapes this fate.
--->'''Sweet:''' ''[[VillainSong All those hearts lay open, that must sting]] / [[BreadEggsMilkSquick Plus some customers just start combusting]]!''
* ''Series/{{CSI}}'' had an episode with a subplot dedicated to SHC. After finding a charred corpse with all the hallmarks of RealLife SHC cases, the characters conducted an experiment: They wrapped a pig's corpse in the woman's clothing, put the corpse on an identical lounger to the victim, doused the pig with liquor, and lit it up, thereby replicating the scene that they found. Grissom, who already knew about [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wick_effect the Wick Effect]], congratulated the experimenters on a successful experiment, and then told them that this was coming out of their paycheck since it was unnecessary.
* In ''Series/GarthMarenghisDarkplace'', Rick Dagless's old college buddy spontaneously explodes (though his head survives long enough to ask Rick to finish him off); in the commentary, Dean Learner mentions that while filming the scene it was clear to everyone that "someone close to Garth had exploded" in real life.
* In the ''Series/{{Haven}}'' episode "Survivors", a man unknowingly had the ability to recreate events he feels guilty about. He was guilty about his friend dying in a fire, so people around him would burn up.
* [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FN5rqMxmmpM Mrs. Niggerbaiter]] in ''Series/MontyPythonsFlyingCircus''.
-->'''Mrs. Shazam:''' It's funny, isn't it, how... how your best friend can just... blow up like that. I mean, you wouldn't think it was medically possible, would you?
* PlayedForLaughs (of course) on ''Series/TheMuppetShow'' in a news segment:
-->'''Reporter:''' Reports are coming in from all over that television news reporters are blowing up! These unlikely rumors have-- '''Boom!'''
* Mentioned in an episode of ''Series/{{NCIS}}'' when a post-operation patient's body suddenly explodes. Turns out that the explosion was set up to destroy evidence of a botched surgery; the patient was already dead.
* An episode of ''Series/PicketFences'' 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 burnout was the final blow to the character.
* ''Series/RedDwarf'': Lister catches a mutated form of pneumonia and begins to hallucinate. His dreams turn into matter. It rains fish in his bunk, and the Mayor of Warsaw appears and then spontaneously combusts in front of Rimmer.
* ''Series/RizzoliAndIsles'': Frankie is obsessed with spontaneous human combustion and keeps hoping that it will be the solution to one of the team's cases, despite Maura (and others) continually telling him there is no such thing. He thinks he has finally found it in "Dead Weight" when a cyclist seemingly explodes in the street, but there turns out to be another explanation: [[spoiler:a bomb made from human fat]].
* ''Series/{{SCTV}}'' had a "Farm Film Report" program where the two overall-clad rustic hosts rated reviewed movies on how much stuff "blowed up" -- later they took to having celebrity guests for the sole purpose of watching them explode, which roused them to ecstatic cheers.
-->"He blowed up ''good!''"\\
"Blowed up ''real'' good!"
* On ''Series/TheSeanCullenShow'', an episode revolved around a talisman which granted Sean's every wish in exchange for famous figure skaters spontaneously combusting.
* ''Series/TotalRecall2070'': In the episode "Burning Desire", several people spontaneously burst into flames inside their private VR machines. This later turns out to be the result of a remote signal that causes some sort of chemical reaction inside the body that acts as the ignition. The guy responsible for this is eventually killed by his corporate masters in the same way to silence him.
* ''Series/KolchakTheNightStalker''. In the episode "Firefall", an evil pyromaniac ghost kills several people by causing them to be instantly incinerated and reduced to ashes.

* The a capella group [[http://www.bobs.com The Bobs]] have a song about this, called "Spontaneous Human Combustion".
* This is the subject of the Music/{{Incubus}} song "Pardon Me".
* Music/TheyMightBeGiants:
** The song "The Statue Got Me High" makes reference to spontaneous human combustion supernaturally induced by a mysterious statue.
--->''The statue made me fry\\
The statue made me fry\\
My coat contained a furnace\\
Where there used to be a guy''
** They do it again in "You're On Fire".
--->''Oh damn, you musta got one of them\\
Combustible heads, I read an article all about them''
* Music/DieArzte's "Meine Ex(plodierte Freundin)" is about this, playing the supposed spontaneous explosion of the singer's latest girlfriend (after the first already suddenly burst into flames and two others suffered similarly implausible fates) entirely for comedy.

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* In ''TabletopGame/MagicTheGathering'', human combustion does happen but it's [[http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/Details.aspx?multiverseid=234075 specifically pointed out to not be spontaneous]].
-->'''Chandra Nalaar:''' Spontaneous combustion is a myth. If you burst into flame, [[KillItWithFire someone wanted you to]].
** There is a card named [[http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/Details.aspx?multiverseid=4919 Spontaneous Combustion]], though.

[[folder:Video Games]]
* ''VideoGame/{{Bioshock}}'': This is one of the core powers you obtain. Who needs fireballs when you can instantly hit the "on_fire" button on anything in your line of sight with a snap of your fingers! It's as fast as your lightning spell and just as tactically usable!
* In ''[[VideoGame/GuitarHero Guitar Hero II]]'', the drummer is shown exploding and leaving behind a puff of smoke after performances of "Tonight Iím Gonna Rock You Tonight" as a ShoutOut to the band that wrote the song, [[Film/ThisIsSpinalTap Spinal Tap]].
* This is a pretty common occurrence in ''VideoGame/ParasiteEve''. Eve does this by making the mitochondria of a victim generate an energy over-charge, which causes the body of a victim to burst into flames. Using this, she massacres the cast, staff and most of the audience of an opera, the staff at the Central Park Zoo, the skeleton crew at a hospital, numerous NYPD officers and Aya's partner. Twice. She even manages to use it as a means to start a carriage, by ''setting the horses on fire''. In fact, one of the central plot elements is the fact that Aya's own mutated mitochondria prevent her from going up like a Roman candle whenever she gets within a thousand feet of Eve, which makes her the only one able to defeat her.
* ''VideoGame/ResidentEvilCodeVeronica'''s Alexia Ashford, who is an {{expy}} of Eve, gains pyrokinetic powers upon her viral mutation.
* In the original ''VideoGame/TheSims'', it was possible for sims to catch fire spontaneously. Also in earlier versions, the flames would be ''invisible'' causing them to thrash around for no apparent reason, then turn into an ash pile. In the ''Seasons'' expansions for the later two games, sims can also spontaneously combust in hot weather; in the second game, they could be swimming, in which case they'd get out of the water, take a few steps, ''then'' catch on fire.
* This is the "Urban Legend" theme of Fujiwara no Mokou in ''VideoGame/{{Touhou}} 14.5 -- Urban Legend in Limbo''. Because Mokou exhibits CompleteImmortality, Mokou uses this as a kind of SuicideAttack from which the character can [[ResurrectiveImmortality resurrect]].

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* Unexpectedly and unceremoniously happens to [[spoiler:Tory]] near the beginning of ''Webcomic/NotIncluded'', leaving behind a pair of SmolderingShoes and a message from the narrator, "And then [[spoiler:Tory]] burst into flames and died."
* The world of ''Webcomic/GirlGenius'' has a disease (probably engineered by some MadScientist), "[[http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php?date=20090810 Hogfarb's resplendent immolation]]", that causes this effect. The body is filled with an incendiary substance, and in the end the victim will "go up like a torch".

[[folder:Web Original]]
* Website/CollegeHumor:
** The article [[http://www.collegehumor.com/article:1813069 "Things to Do Before Dying in a Freak Accident"]] ends with the main character of the piece suddenly blowing up.
** The brief 3-frame animation graphic that plays before any of the site's animated shorts depicts a man handing a lighted stick of dynamite to a friend, covering his ears, and spontaneously combusting.
* The Wiki/SCPFoundation describes [[http://scp-wiki.wikidot.com/scp-081 SCP-081]] as a virus that's said to be the cause of many instances of spontaneous human combustion throughout history.
* Caitlin Evans dies this way in ''Roleplay/SurvivalOfTheFittest'' v2, abruptly exploding due to a chemical reaction in her digestive tract.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* In ''WesternAnimation/CelebrityDeathmatch'', this is an established medical condition, referred to as "SHD" by Nick, who claims it's "been known to take out entire city blocks". In said episode, it appears that referee Mills Lane is about to suffer from this, but it turns out it's just gas. Later, interviewer Stacy Cornbred starts showing signs of it, and Nick Diamond and Johnny Gomez think it's just gas... until she suddenly explodes. (Later revealed to have been [[MythologyGag the result of stress from her contract negotiations]].)
* PlayedForLaughs in a ''WesternAnimation/FamilyGuy'' CutawayGag in the episode "A Fish Out of Water," when Stewie imagines how his family would look if they were more cultured. Cue the Griffin men sitting in the living room wearing formal clothes, drinking wine, talking with British accents... [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIgwY1pRzTw and Peter spontaneously bursting into flames.]]
* ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic'': Discussed in the episode "Feeling Pinkie Keen". When Pinkie Pie's [[MySignificanceSenseIsTingling Pinkie Sense]] predicts a "doozy" in Froggy Bottom Bog, where Fluttershy is working, Spike worries that it means something truly terrible and bizarre happened to Fluttershy, like exploding "for no reason".
-->'''Pinkie Pie:''' What if she exploded, and then... and then exploded ''again''?!\\
'''Spike:''' Can you do that? Can you explode ''twice''?!
* In one episode of ''WesternAnimation/SouthPark'' Kenny is shown dying via Spontaneous Combustion; itís later explained that Kenny had a new girlfriend and was holding in all his farts. Other South Park citizens get killed the same way.
* In one episode of ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons'', Mr. Burns claims one of his siblings died this way, although he was probably murdered.