O’DONNELL: The Curious Case of Michael Faherty
When I was in middle school, I was assigned a project in my science class. The project was pretty wide open and was simply meant to focus on a topic related to the field of science. I didn’t want to choose an over used subject, so I attempted to think outside the box. I eventually settled on spontaneous human combustion to be the focus of my project. I did in depth research and gave a charismatic presentation. So what was the final result? My teacher gave me a D- citing the usage of topic lacking scientific legitimacy and overall stupidity.
It has taken several years but a news story being reported by CBS.com has given me a bit of vindication. Unfortunately, my joys of proving my middle school science teacher wrong are a bit flattened because the procession of my new found proof of spontaneous human combustion cost an Irishman his life.
Last year, Michael Faherty was found dead in his home. His body was scorched as if it has burst into flames. The aspect of this case that had authorities scratching their heads was despite Faherty’s body clearly being burned to death the rest of the house showed no signs of fire damage.
Coroner Dr. Kieran McLoughlin, a 25-year veteran of the field, told an Irish newspaper that he had come to only one conclusion. McLoughlin believes the death of Michael Faherty can be blamed on spontaneous combustion.
Another researcher, Dr. Joe Nickell, who has investigated paranormal claims for 30 years, discredits the idea Faherty died from spontaneous combustion. Like my middle school science teacher, he points out that there has never been one validated case of spontaneous combustion recognized by mainstream science.
So what killed Michael Faherty?
Dr. Nickell’s points out that Faherty was elderly and had a fire raging in his fire place at the time of his death. He pointed out that it is very possible an ember could have sparked out from the fire and landed on Faherty’s clothes. This more logical explanation would explain how Faherty apparently “burst into flames.” Despite Dr. Nickell’s explanation sounding completely possible, the fire chief who was on the scene has ruled it out.
Dr. Nickell defends his idea on Faherty’s death by comparing the human body to that of a candle wick and fat to fuel. He furthers his point by saying an ember could ignite one’s clothes and then human skin and fat will burn slowly similar to a candle. He points out that at Faherty’s age he may not have been capable to put the flames out in time and suffered a heart attack, a blow to the head or passed out due to trauma.
Another discredit that Dr. Nickell points out about the ruling of the coroner is the damage done to the body. He cites that once the coroner arrived the body had burned for hours and suffered so much damage that it would be impossible to determine a cause of death. Speaking like a true Irishman, Dr. Nickell describes the coroner’s findings as “a bunch of blarney.” In his opinion, throwing out a cause of death as spontaneous combustion is similar to saying Faherty died because of “a ghost playing with matches.”
Despite the reports, many still have their doubts of what exactly killed Michael Faherty. Though spontaneous combustion has been officially named as the cause of death there still are so many burning questions.
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