Setting pigs alight, blowing up microwaves and (literally) rubbing himself the wrong way: Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson once hosted a TV show about people catching fire for no reason

Bruce Dickinson in 2005
(Image credit: Mick Hutson/Redferns)

We all know of Bruce Dickinson as a bit of a polymath. When he’s not fronting heavy metal juggernaut Iron Maiden, the Air-Raid Siren has been a solo artist, airline pilot, fencer, screenwriter and radio presenter. However, one of Brucey’s lesser known pursuits was a 2006 go as a documentary host, presenting the Sky TV programme Inside Spontaneous Human Combustion.

During the hour-long special, Bruce tries to get to the heart of a mysterious phenomenon called spontaneous human combustion. It’s an extremely rare event where someone, for seemingly no reason, just bursts into flames. The show claims it’s affected 100 people in the preceding century, with scientists still being baffled as to what exactly happens and why.

Bruce does a series of wacky experiments throughout the show in the name of both science and a good bit of larking about. Early on, to test the theory that static electricity causes spontaneous human combustion, he gives a wooly jumper a massive electric shock. Then he rubs himself all over to recreate a static shock – “I am, literally, rubbing myself the wrong way,” he comments – and blows up a microwave to recreate the effects of ball lightning.

Bruce also explores the potential of methane (i.e., our farts) being responsible for people going up in flames for no reason. To do this, he dons a hard hat, heads to Cumbria and blows up a barn that’s been filled with gas. The giddy laugh he gives off in response to seeing the explosion shows that, even after decades on metal’s frontlines, this frontman is still just a big kid at heart.

Later, Bruce dives into the phenomenon of, for whatever reason, surrounding areas not being burnt whenever a human spontaneously combusts. To do this, he lays a dead pig down in  a bed, amid a makeshift bedroom, and sets it on fire to see what it does to the surrounding furniture. “We’re making this the most photographed cremation in history,” the singer quips.

Ultimately, Bruce doesn’t come any closer to nailing for sure what causes spontaneous human combustion. However, the documentary remains massively entertaining, and it provides an excellent glimpse into the TV presenting career that the Iron Maiden man never got to have.

Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.