‘Spontaneous Human Combustion and You’ at Morbid Anatomy Museum

Boom! Greenpointer explains spontaneous human combustion

The Brooklyn Paper
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The spontaneous combustion rate of Spinal Tap drummers is far above the world average.

Brooklyn’s own resident expert on the mysterious phenomenon says that people igniting from the inside and then burning to their death happens at a rate of far less than one in a million. So it is unlikely that it would happen to your drummer, let alone a series of drummers.

“It is not mythological, like a unicorn,” said art historian and Greenpointer Karen Bachmann. “It actually does happen, just not very often.”

Bachmann will give a presentation called “Charred Remains: Spontaneous Human Combustion and You” at the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Gowanus on Nov. 24. The presentation will look at the history of people automatically going alight.

“I am just presenting it at one of the odder phenomenon in history,” said Bachmann. who is this month’s resident scholar at the museum.

No one knows exactly why people burn up from the inside. It may be an excess of electrical current in the body or it might be from drumming too fast.

Bachmann, a jewelry and art history teacher at the Fashion Institute of Technology and Pratt Institute, said she is most intrigued by the fact that subjects who have combusted leave behind their limbs — while their head and torso are reduced to ash.

“The fact that they leave their hands and feet behind is, for me, the creepy fascination,” she said.

“Charred Remains: Spontaneous Human Combustion and You” at Morbid Anatomy Museum [424A Third Ave. at Seventh Street in Gowanus, (347) 799–1017,]. Nov. 24 at 8 pm. $8.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her at
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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