I was just reading the "news". There's a story going around about a baby in India who has spontaneously combusted 4 times. The story has turned up in numerous "news" sites around the globe.

"A THREE-MONTH-OLD boy has reportedly burst into flames four times during his young life as doctors order tests to work out if it is due to his sweat."

Previously, skeptics has debunked spontaneous combustion, but the story specifically says

"His mother... rushed him to hospital in disbelief, after watching her son burst into flames without any source of combustion in the vicinity"

(emphasis added)

Is this real or a hoax?

  • 8
    how about a third possibility? - ignorance.
    – Drew
    Aug 13, 2013 at 2:28
  • 1
    possible duplicate of Spontaneous human combustion, is it possible?
    – user5582
    Aug 13, 2013 at 6:20
  • 3
    The other question's answer establishes that the claim "the baby spontaneously combusted" is false.
    – user5582
    Aug 14, 2013 at 6:30
  • 8
    The elephant in the room: fallible witnesses and factitiuos disorder imposed by another. I have absolutely no evidence, but it seems far more plausible than a child being plagued by magical fire.
    – Oddthinking
    Aug 15, 2013 at 8:23
  • 2
    Most likely explanation: the mother is a liar, the baby is mistreated at home – either by the mother or by another person – and the doctors are incompetent. But until we have some proof of this the correct answer to this question would be ac course in Bayesian statistics which unfortunately isn’t seen as acceptable here. Aug 27, 2013 at 11:16

2 Answers 2


From http://www.theskepticsguide.org/podcast/sgu/422:

Spontaneous human combustion is a phenonmenon that has no plausibility — no scientific evidence whatsoever showing that anything like this actually exists in nature.

The only other plausible theory is that there is some form of child abuse going on here unless there was just some source of flame in the house near the crib or something that they weren't aware of.


No, the baby did not. Latest report:

tests to determine whether the baby emits inflammable gases that could be triggering combustion have all returned normal, prompting doctors to rule out SHC.

I pity the child. Someone(s) clearly in need of either parental training or mental assistance.

  • 5
    If this is a true report of the doctor's findings, it is rather concerning, because it shows a complete lack of logic. They start by accepting that SHC was an option (dubious). They come up with one hypothetical mechanism, flammable gases. They test for some flammable gases, and don't find them at the moment they test. They illogically conclude there are no flammable gases ever. They illogically conclude there is no other mechanism. They therefore think they have eliminated an option that should never have been seriously considered in the first place.
    – Oddthinking
    Aug 27, 2013 at 10:40
  • 3
    I'm for giving the doctors the benefit of the doubt, and assuming that this was the only way they could communicate to what must be very uneducated people that the believed was not the actual.
    – Drew
    Aug 27, 2013 at 11:01
  • why was this downvoted?
    – vikki
    Aug 27, 2013 at 18:25
  • @AndrewHeath They hospital seems to be a government/college owned one. Generally govt. employees in India are selected through reservation, bribes, political recommendations etc.
    – Dudey
    Apr 13, 2016 at 20:54

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