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  1. Vanderdecker

    Vanderdecker New Member

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    Q: fast-acting poison

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Vanderdecker, Feb 17, 2020.

    vocallyI have a scenario where a fast-acting (an hour or less; two is suboptimal but workable) poison is administered to someone by ingestion in a glass of whiskey, without their knowledge. The person administering the poison is supposed to have at least academic understanding of such things (poisons in general) but does not have access to commercial sources and would have to make something on their own.

    Undetectability isn't important--it's in a setting where the police are incompetent/corrupt/uncaring and the victim isn't important, so there wouldn't be a postmortem. But it's fine, maybe desirable, if it's just off enough that some people have some doubts (without an incentive to pursue them).

    My thought is a really old standby: poison hemlock. I've seen reports of people who've been killed confusing the plant with a wild edible and eaten the leaves in a salad, or mistaking the roots for parsnips, though obviously either won't work for drinking. It's set in a season where seeds wouldn't be available so it would probably be the roots; would making them into a tea and pouring that into the whiskey do what I'm asking about? Could/would the tea be concentrated enough to be slipped into another drink?

    Hemlock also works because, from what I've read, it has a period where paralysis sets in but the victim is aware, and the poisoner needs to gloat a bit.

    Any other suggestions?
     
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  2. Xoic

    Xoic Active Member

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    Look into Ricin. It was used in Breaking bad, Apparently easily made (from rice I think?) and extremely deadly. I think it was also very fast-acting, like almost immediate.
     
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  3. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    From Kidney beans

    Other options include Lily of the Valley and Oelander

    Taxine from yew trees would be an option, but quantity might be a problem

    Then there are Fungi with things like Death caps or destroying angel

    Or you could make something up
     
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2020
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  4. Xoic

    Xoic Active Member

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    Moose, you possess a scary amount of knowledge about how to kill people...
     
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  5. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    "There are two sorts of people who sit around thinking about ways to kill people, serial killers, and mystery writers... i'm the sort that pays better" (from the credits to Castle)
     
  6. Xoic

    Xoic Active Member

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    Ricin would definitely kill through ingestion. It's a white powder, at least the form they made, and they rolled some in a cigarette to kill somebody. So a small amount ingested will do the trick, even just smoked. Powerful stuff apparently.
     
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  7. Xoic

    Xoic Active Member

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    Also, I just realized, of course Hemlock will kill in drink form—that's how it was administered to Socrates. Leaves or roots could be crushed and juiced in a juicer or something. I just don't know how much it would take, it might affect the color, transparency or flavor of the whiskey. Of course, if it's after a sufficient amount the recipient probably wound't notice or care.
     
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  8. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Senior Member

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    Castor beans, isn't it?
     
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  9. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Good point , yes it is

    Kidney beans contain phytohaemagglutinin - which is also highly toxic

    While Lima Beans contain a substance that decomposes to hydrogen cyanide when eaten

    Uncooked beans are bad news generally
     
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  10. Vanderdecker

    Vanderdecker New Member

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    I'd actually originally considered ricin. Two problems, though: it takes too long (symptoms take up to 10 hours; death in days), and from one source I read, if you mess up making it, you kill yourself. Walter White could handle it, but an inexperienced person with a general academic knowledge of it (without access to lab equipment) would be as likely to kill themselves as the target.

    Time is also an issue with fungi like death caps or destroying angel (featured on an episode of Midsommer Murders): it takes days.

    Lily of the Valley was what Walter White used on the kid, Brock. A report I read said that "...the toxicity of this herb is often overemphasized, citing publication in the United States of 2,639 case reports of ingestion, with 6.1% of patients experiencing symptoms, but only 3 showing severe side effects." I haven't found decent info about time/dosage, but it also seems to take too long.

    There's actually an urban legend about oleander, about it killing a Boy Scout who used an oleander stick to roast a hot dog over a fire, but this seems to have been based on some older myths. A website for a poison control hotline says "Symptoms last for 1 to 3 days and may require a hospital stay. Death is unlikely."

    I'm not trying to stick 100% to the science--not tasting the substance in the whisky is already going to be a stretch--but that quick timeline is a must, and sources are saying that symptoms of hemlock poisoning can appear between 30 minutes to hours after ingesting, though death isn't certain.

    My thought was to cut up the hemlock roots and boil them--the character wouldn't have access to a blender (is stuck with limited resources and having to do it on the sly).
     
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  11. Xoic

    Xoic Active Member

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    What I would say then is do what they did on those shows—fictionalize the hell out of it. Since the viewing/reading public has already been led to believe these substances are way deadlier than they really are maybe just sneak it in the same way they did before you.
     
  12. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Cyanide (you can make it from lima beans or from bitter almonds) and instead of whisky serve it in amaretto or pernod to mask the taste
     
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  13. Xoic

    Xoic Active Member

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    On the Hemlock thing, you could juice it the old fashioned way, mortar and pestle style. Use the back of a spoon in a bowl or something. Not you, the character—you know what I mean.
     
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  14. Vanderdecker

    Vanderdecker New Member

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    As for the drink I'm limited to the victim's (actually, a minor villain) drink of choice, and though it could be changed to something other than whiskey it definitely wouldn't be amaretto (maybe tequila). Much easier for the victim to drink the whiskey, then make a face and mutter about the whiskey being off. :)

    As far as mashing, I have two competing issues: from what I've read, the roots are more toxic than the leaves (except for young spring plants). The roots are apparently parsnip-like in appearance and texture, so I'd either need something big for pounding it in a mash (like what they use to make mofongo), or switch to the less-toxic leaves to be able to use a spoon and bowl. I'd still have to steep or tincture it.

    I do get bugged (and bogged down) by these details, which is why I dropped the ricin angle. I tend to get excessively irked when they get stuff like this wrong in fiction. As it is, I'm forcing myself to ignore whether the character would need to concentrate the steeped liquid for it to be effective.
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2020
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  15. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Yes. I wondered what he meant about the kidney beans.

    Castor beans are common in California. One day I brought some to school to make Christmas ornaments and my teacher intervened.

    I'm not sure it's easy to make ricin though. I'd look it up but I don't want to get on a terror watch list. :p


    Edited to add just an FYI, botulinum toxin and cyanide act instantaneously.
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2020
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  16. SnowWhiteBriBri

    SnowWhiteBriBri Member

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    After reading this thread, I remembered hearing the story of a woman who poisoned her husband using algaecide tablets (used for home aquariums to get rid of algae). I finally found the information here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stella_Nickell

    It says he was affected fairly quickly, and the ingredients are easy to obtain at a local pet supply store (though I assume that they no longer have the same amount of cyanide in them as they used to due to this incident...). Might be helpful for you?
     
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  17. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Slight confusion - though as i said Kidney beans are toxic uncooked/unsoaked too (as are Lima beans and various other types) - the bean family didnt really want to be food
     
  18. Dogberry's Watch

    Dogberry's Watch Active Member

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    I have a book on poisons literally written for writers, so here's what it says on plants that are quickly fatal:

    Belladonna: reaction time, a few hours to several days depending on the potency. All parts of the plant are fatal if not caught in time. The victim most likely won't have the necessary antidote on hand.

    Hemlock, as previously mentioned: reaction time - first symptoms start within 30 minutes. Death takes five to ten hours after ingestion, but the process to that death is excruciating.

    Lily of the valley, also mentioned: Reaction time is immediate, with death following if no remedy is handy. The interesting thing to note here is even the water from the cut flowers is toxic, so someone could dose the victim with that water, depending on how potent the dose is.

    Monkshood: symptoms start rapidly, death occurring within ten minutes to a few hours. If a less than fatal amount is eaten, then recovery occurs within twenty four hours. Note of interest: this one is the more grisly sounding death of all I've seen so far. First signs are : burning, tingling, and numbness in the tongue, throat and face. Nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, prickling of the skin, paralysis of the respiratory system. Dimness of vision, low blood pressure, chest pain, giddiness, sweating and convulsions. At the end, severe pain happens, breathing is rapid then slow, and finally paralysis of the heart. And my favorite part: consciousness often continues until the end.

    Strychnos nux vomica: same as strychnine, with reaction time being immediate and no antidote/treatment. They'll be dead as a f.

    Finally, yew: reaction time is immediate, and there is no antidote. Note of interest: pregnant women wanting an abortion took this poison, often overdosing on accident. Survival after poisoning is rare.


    Hope this helps!
     
  19. Malisky

    Malisky Sirocco Contributor

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    How about puffer fish?

    Fugu contains lethal amounts of the poison tetrodotoxin in its inner organs, especially the liver, the ovaries, eyes, and skin. The poison, a sodium channel blocker, paralyzes the muscles while the victim stays fully conscious; the poisoned victim is unable to breathe, and eventually dies from asphyxiation. There is no known antidote for fugu poison. The standard treatment is to support the respiratory and circulatory systems until the poison is metabolized and excreted by the victim's body.

    The symptoms from ingesting a lethal dose of tetrodotoxin may include dizziness, exhaustion, headache, nausea, or difficulty breathing. The person remains conscious but cannot speak or move. Breathing stops and asphyxiation follows.

    - Wiki

    It takes up to 20 minutes to kick in. If the victim is not rescued quick enough it will most probably die.
     
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  20. andallthatjasper

    andallthatjasper New Member

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    The algaecide was not the poison, that was just how they caught her. The actual poison she used was cyanide, which she crushed in a mortar and pestle. She just so happened to have also used the same mortar and pestle before to crush the algaecide tablets. Source: one of the best episodes of forensic files ;)

    As for the actual question, I'd argue that most plant based poisons are a terrible option. Many taste bad or would require a lot of prep, all for essentially no reason. They don't tend to be much harder to trace (except oleander, but it tastes awful). They're very rare methods of poisoning in the modern day. Additionally, if your story is set in a specific place and hemlock doesn't grow there, how are they going to get it? Ditto with pufferfish- talk about a major paper trail!
    Household chemicals are usually your best bet. Many old rat poisons contain arsenic and cyanide. And because they tend to be lying around in somebody's basement, there's no paper trail. The issue is that there is no tasteless substance that works within an hour. Arsenic is tasteless and with a high enough dose should kill somebody withing two-three hours, whereas cyanide kills in minutes but tastes awful. Both are a good option in my opinion.
     
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  21. Thorn Cylenchar

    Thorn Cylenchar Active Member

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    Boy, this could lead to some interesting questions if someone saw my browsing history........
     
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  22. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Senior Member

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    I like the pufferfish option.

    "Fancy some sushi tonight?"
     
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  23. Thorn Cylenchar

    Thorn Cylenchar Active Member

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    And the puffer fish gives plausible deniability because there have been cases of people dying even when prepared by professional chefs who knew how to handle it.

    Though if they are drinking whiskey, if they are doing whiskey sours, maybe a high dose of antifreeze?
     
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  24. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Or pure alcohol for that matter, there was also a case of someone being poisoned with eyedrops https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/visine-eyedrops-poison-murder-husband-lana-clayton-stephen-a9287696.html

    That wasnt quite as fast acting as you wanted but you could up the lethality for dramatic purposes
     
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  25. andallthatjasper

    andallthatjasper New Member

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    I love the idea of antifreeze shots lol. Unfortunately it takes a really long time to die from it
     
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