I woke up this morning with death and poisons on the mind……..no, I don’t really want to kill anyone, I simply find it intriguing.
Researching this topic has been so much fun. Trying to decide what to share with you has been the hard part. I’ll stick with the highlights:
Strychnine– produces foaming at the mouth, uncontrollable muscle spasms, exaggerated movements due to tensing muscles and death by asphyxia. (The muscles become too tense and erratic to allow breathing.) In the mid 1800s, Thomas Neil Cream killed several prostitutes with it and as he was waiting to be hanged, he said he’d killed many more as Jack The Ripper!
Death is quick and dramatic- not good for a stealthy kill.
Mercury– This is a clever one. Take some mercury and a light bulb (or any another heating element) and you have a great murder weapon. Once the light bulb heats the mercury on top, it vaporizes into a deadly gas. It won’t kill suddenly, this has to be a patient, well thought out murder. It will take about a month and it can cause skin to peel, burning and itching, kidney failure, tachycardia, and high blood pressure. One of the few tell-tale signs? Gold fillings will turn black inside the mouth. Make sure they have modern fillings and it’s hard to detect unless they do a specific drug screening.
Oxygen– Yes! It can be a killer! Our bodies need CO2 to tell our lungs to function. Bad things happen when that balance gets out of whack. Twitching, convulsions, retina detachment, dizziness, nausea, death. It doesn’t sound pretty.
Arsenic– Victorian girls applied it to their face because they wanted very white skin (like snow) and little movement. The girls would teach each other in school about the right amounts and the dangers of using too much. They would dissolve it in liquids and bathe their faces in it. What were they thinking? There are several recorded cases of school girls dying from this and yet, the practice continued!
In 1857, one of the most infamous cases of it being used as a murder weapon happened. Madeleine Smith took a lover, but he turned out to be a gigolo who would then blackmail his bed partners. He threatened to show her parents the very explicit letters she wrote to him. Angry, she invited him over for hot cocoa. ( Huh?) He thought he had her over a barrel and came that day and the next, drinking her delicious cocoa. It was laced with the colorless, odorless poison and they found over 70 grains of aresenic in his stomach. She was very serious about retribution! Through botched legal wrangling and good luck, she got off completely. Before he died, he suffered cramping, profuse sweating, confusion and intense stomach pain. Again, not a pretty way to die.
Cyanide– This is thought to be a slightly more humane way of killing people because it knocks them out before setting off convulsions and the inability to absorb oxygen. Interestingly enough, Lizzie Borden might have been convicted of killing her parents by axing them to death, if her pharmacist had been allowed to tell the jury she had been in only days before to inquire about buying cyanide. Unfortunately for her, it was no longer available because too many people were using it to kill others. His statement was thrown out of court on a technicality.