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'Spontaneous' Combustion: Can Bodies Burn From the Inside Out?

It might be urban legend, sheer magic or divine wrath, but even detectives and coroners are willing to take the idea seriously.

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The main cause of alleged SHC? Burning shirts.

"Cotton and cotton-polyester blends are the most flammable fabrics, needing just one tiny flame to ignite them. Looking down at your burning shirt is simply not survivable. But honestly: If your shirt caught fire, what's the first thing you'd probably do?"

Anneli Rufus is the author of several books, most recently The Scavenger's Manifesto (Tarcher Press, 2009). Read more of her work at

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