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Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Weird, Blue Flames

Though not spontaneous, this case deserves mention due to the... just plain weirdness of it! Again, this is not literally a case of "spontaneous human combustion," which has largely been explained-away by the "wick effect" theory, but an incredible case, nonetheless:

According to Dr. De Brus in the March, 1829 edition of the Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal, a patient's hands sporadically burned with a blue flame for several hours after the subject had helped his brother, whose clothes had caught fire. The account states the blue fire continued to "flicker" over the patient's hands for hours and only constant submersion in water extinguished it.

The account does not detail the nature of the fire which ignited the subject's brother's clothes, but the specific detail of "blue" flame seems to suggest it was different from the fire he'd helped extinguish. However, this sounds a lot like a case of an alcohol-based (ethanol, maybe?) fire. Blue flames only occur in the hottest fires, and alcohol is known to produce such an effect. It can also stay on the skin and surface of materials for a long time.

© C Harris Lynn, 2010

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