Is human spontaneous combustion a real thing? Damned if I know. But some coroner in Ireland has just ruled that a 76-year-old man who burned to death in his home died after catching on fire without external provocation, so according to that coroner, the answer is YES.

The case in question involves Michael Faherty, a pensioner from the Irish city of Galway who in December 2010 died at home for no apparent reason other than his body just done burned itself up. The Irish Times described the conditions surrounding his death:

Garda Gerard O'Callaghan said he had gone to the house after the fire had been put out and found Mr Faherty lying on his back in a small sittingroom, with his head closest to an open fireplace.

He said the fire had been confined to the sittingroom and the rest of the house sustained only smoke damage. The only damage was to the body, which had been totally burnt, the ceiling above him and the floor underneath.

In determining Faherty's cause of death, coroner Ciaran McLoughlin tried to find an alternate explanation by consulting fancy medical books and other trustworthy sources, but after examining the evidence no other explanation really fit. One of the books he consulted as part of his research says spontaneous combustion victims are "almost always near an open fireplace or chimney," so maybe the lesson here for all of us is to stay far away from fireplaces and chimneys. And always, always remember to hydrate.

[BBC. Image via Shutterstock]