Aconite – A two-edged sword!

Many botanical compounds have important medical uses, and some of modern medicine’s most important drug classes were derived initially from plant sources.

narrow_therapeutic_index_ntiHowever, some of these botanical compounds have a very narrow dosage range between a therapeutic effect and toxicity. This tight range of beneficial action is alternately referred to as the Therapeutic Index or the Therapeutic Window.

This concept certainly applies to a very interesting botanical that has been used throughout the ages and is present today in many homeopathic preparations.

Aconite is the usual reference to aconitum, a plant genius that resembles wildaconite_as parsley or horseradish. There are 350 species of aconite that exist around the world, 170 in China alone. Many are found throughout Asia, Africa and Europe; and more than 100 species are found in the temperate climates of both the United States and Canada.

Throughout the ages, aconite alternately has been referred to as monkshood, wolf’s bane, leopard’s bane, devil’s helmet and blue rocket.

In modern homeopathic medicines, aconite is used for general malaise, undefined 2d38865b498b0a2a5ee034f4a057e6b4_nweakness and to stimulate poor circulation. People with numbness in the extremities or poor circulation (as in cold hands and feet) use aconite preparations to stimulate circulation, hence its colloquial reference name of “blue rocket” to the variety that produces beautiful deep blue flowers. In the same way, aconite preparations are used to alleviate joint pain, inflammation and certain skin diseases by stimulating blood circulation throughout the body.

The mechanism of action appears to be the increased production of nitric oxide in the human body. There has been considerable interest recently in nitric oxide supplementation for athletes involved in performance sports to increase their exercise intensity and endurance.

Since aconite is readily absorbed through the skin, topical aconite preparations (liniments, creams and lotions) are available that are used as “counterirritants”, products that stimulate local blood circulation and produce localized warmth to relieve joint pain and the leg pain from sciatica.

However, it should be noted that aconite is a highly poisonous plant and small amounts of the pure plant are highly toxic. So the above-mentioned preparations contain very small, very defined quantities of aconite.

As little as 2mg of pure aconite or one gram of the plant can cause death! Even640px-Aconitum_variegatum_110807f slight contact with the flowers can cause the fingers of one’s hand to become numb—a typical example of the therapeutic effect of aconite progressing to a toxic side effect with excessive exposure.

The therapeutic, as well as the lethal, compound in aconite is aconitine, a toxic alkaloid that generally accounts for about 1.5% of the dry weight of the plant.

Safe dosing of aconite tincture depends on meticulous processing of the plant using everything but the root, and pounding it into a pulp that can be pressed and mixed in alcohol to extract the aconitine alkaloid. Straining and diluting the resulting product will produce the desired homeopathic therapy, and a more concentrated tincture produces an interesting poison if you’re attempting to develop an unusual murder plot idea.

heart2battackSymptoms of aconite poisoning include nausea, vomiting, sweating, breathing difficulties and heart problems. Death usually results from paralysis of the respiratory system or cardiac arrest.

Although aconite can be lethal when applied to the skin, smaller doses are deadly when taken orally, and any oral dose beyond the therapeutic range will cause burning and tingling of the lips, tongue, mouth and throat. Numbness of the throat will follow, with difficulty in speaking, blurred vision and an interesting green-yellow vision distortion.

This last side effect would make for an interesting clue in a murder scene when deciding to use an aconite preparation to kill off a character in your murder mystery.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

Posted in About James J. Murray, About Medications/Pharmacy, About Murder, Aconite - A Two-Edged Sword, Aconite and Homeopathic Medicine, Aconite and Murder Mysteries, Aconite as a Medicine, Aconite as a Poison, Aconite Used For Murder, Aconitine Dosing and Usage, Aconitine Toxicity, Aconitum Plant Species, All About Murder, Blog Trends, Blogging, Bloodless Death Scene Writing, Bloodless Death Scenes, Blue Rocket Plant and Murder, Botanical Murder Weapons, Chemicals Used For Murder, Contact Poisons, Devil's Helmet and Murder, Drug Poisoning, Drugs For Murder Plots, Drugs Used For Murder, How To Write A BloodLess Murder Scene, Ideas for Murder Scenes, Instruments of Death, Interesting Murder Weapons, Leopard's Bane and Murder, Medical Uses of Aconite, Monkshood and Murder, Murder Weapons, Murder With Drugs, New Methods To Kill Characters in Your Novel, Plant Poisons, Plants That Kill, Plants Used For Murder, Plotting Murder Scenes, Poisonous Aconite, Poisonous Plants, Tools of Murder, Ways to Murder, Wolf's Bane and Murder, Writing Death Scenes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Socratic Method of Murder!

UWASocrates_gobeirne_croppedIn 399 BC the philosopher Socrates was found guilty in Athens, Greece of corrupting the youth and refusing to recognize the gods of the state.

His crimes centered on his method of teaching—later known as The Socratic Method—in which one is taught to question everything, and that exclusive belief in anything beyond a doubt can prevent one from truly knowing anything. This method of teaching allows for open discussion of the possibilities that eventually can reveal the truth about a subject.

Socrates was sentenced to death for his original thinking and the method of by Jacques-Louis David his death has become a famous means to murder.

In ancient Greece, hemlock was a common method used to poison condemned prisoners and, by forcing Socrates to drink his own cup of poison, he became his personal executioner.

Later, Shakespeare as well as other literary greats popularized this method of death for murder scenes—likely as much for the general availability of hemlock as its historical connection to the famous philosopher.

Hemlock was and is found throughout most parts of England and Europe. It’s prevalent in neglected meadows, along hedge banks and near the borders of hemlock(c)AndrewGaggsteams. Hemlock is a member of the parsley family along with fennel, parsnip and carrot.

It ancient times, the plant was prepared into a drug and administered in minute amounts as an analgesic. But the plant (poison hemlock or conium maculatum) is so poisonous that just a few drops could be fatal to small animals.

Every part of the hemlock plant contains the lethal alkaloid coniine,Hemlock2 especially the fresh leaves and the fruit. Coniine is a volatile, colorless, oily liquid. It’s strongly alkaline, bitter to the taste and with a disagreeable odor (said to resemble a “mouse-like” odor).

As an analgesic drug, the preparer would use fresh flowering plant parts, including the roots, and macerate them in alcohol before diluting to therapeutic dosages. Hemlock is used today in homeopathic remedies as a sedative and antispasmodic, and it has been used as an antidote to strychnine poisoning, tetanus and other similar poisons in the past.

Prepared hemlock, however, has a very narrow therapeutic window and more concentrated preparations can quickly turn from a beneficial drug to a deadly weapon. It is said that a lethal dose of prepared hemlock is a mere 100mg, or about 8 fresh leaves of the plant.

Overdoses of the drug produce total paralysis of the body with an initial loss of speech and respiratory distress. Early signs of overdose include excessive salivation (drooling), dilation of the pupils, and small muscle twitches all over the body before paralysis sets in.

MH900438746Eventually, all respiratory function ceases and the person dies from asphyxia. An interesting effect is that the mind remains unaffected and is active until the time of death, so the person is aware of the body shutting down and experiences the effects of medicinal suffocation to the very end. Hemlock murder is definitely not a peaceful death.

In modern times, hemlock poisoning has been used in murder plots both in literature and on film. And periodic news reports describe murders using hemlock as the lethal poison.

Interestingly, poison hemlock was brought to the United States from Europe as an ornamental plant in the late 1800s and now grows throughout North America. It is most commonly found in the lower elevations and coastal regions of California.

Socrates once said that the only thing he really knew was that he knew nothing at all. In our modern age of instant, electronic knowledge gathering, we can become experts in almost anything in a short amount of time—even learning the proper way to prepare poison hemlock and for describing that perfect, dramatic murder scene using an ancient poison in a modern setting.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

Posted in About James J. Murray, About Medications/Pharmacy, About Murder, About Writing, Acute Poisons, Blog Trends, Blogging, Bloodless Death Scene Writing, Bloodless Death Scenes, Botanical Murder Weapons, Developing Story Plots, Developing Storyline Ideas, Drug Poisoning, Drugs For Murder Plots, Drugs Used For Murder, How To Write A BloodLess Murder Scene, Ideas for Murder Scenes, Instruments of Death, Interesting Murder Weapons, Killing With Poisonous Plants, Murder With Poisonous Plants, Plants Used For Murder, Plotting Murder Scenes, Poison Hemlock as a Method to Kill, Poison Hemlock as a Murder Weapon, Poisons Used For Murder, Socrates and Hemlock, Socrates and Murder, The Science of Murder, Tools of Fiction Writing, Tools of Murder, Ways To Kill, Ways to Murder, Writing Death Scenes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Allergic to Murder!

We all know that poisons and toxins can kill. I’ve blogged about those often, and such lethal chemicals create interesting focal points for murder scenes and the basis for enticing murder plots.

But an unsettling reality is that normal foods can kill also. We’ve seen newsMH900406537 reports of contaminated food products being recalled because the food contained lethal bacteria.

However, there’s another side to the story of lethal foods. Food allergy issues can cause severe allergic reactions, and the statistics on such reactions are staggering.

Food allergies affect over 15 million Americans, and every three minutes a food allergy sends an American citizen to the emergency room.

One in 13 children are included in this category—roughly two in an average American classroom—and nearly 40% of these children have experienced a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. This rapidly progressing allergic reaction, if left untreated, would likely lead to death with initial symptoms that include a severe rash, plummeting blood pressure, swelling in the oral mucosa and closure of the airways.

MH900448407When a severe food allergy leads to anaphylaxis in a child, the entire family is impacted. The best prevention is knowledge and preparation, and every parent should go to Anaphylaxis 101 for a short education regarding food allergies, what symptoms to look for and what to do if a severe reaction should occur.

Researchers tell us that the numbers of people with food allergies are increasing significantly—an 18% jump in the decade between 1997 and 2007—and that peanut allergies have tripled. Scientists theorize that our “cleaner society” prevents ourMH900177951 children from being exposed to the common environmental and food-borne irritants that older generations experienced, and that fact may explain the increase in allergic events.

Besides peanuts, some of the more common causes of severe food allergies include shellfish, wheat, soy, milk and eggs.

In 2012, the Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) organization was established to address the need for a cure to lethal food allergies. The focus of FARE is increased awareness of this growing problem and the need for increased education about the impact of food allergies.

Having lived through a severe, nearly lethal allergic reaction to a medication when I was a child, I have personal knowledge that an anaphylactic reaction is a frightening experience—one that will stay with you for the rest of your life.

As a writer, however, I can tap into that frightening experience and use severe food and drug allergies as the basis for murder scenes. We only have to search through news articles to find creative ways to use severe allergies as a murder weapon.

In researching such articles, I found that a husband tried to kill his wife by smearing a door handle with peanut oil to trigger the wife’s severe allergy to peanuts. Another tapped MH900202201into the fact that his ex-wife was severely allergic to latex and inserted a latex-gloved finger into her mouth until she had a life-threatening reaction. Both husbands were arrested and charged: the first with criminal harassment and the second with attempted murder.

However, recent statistical data tell us that a person is more likely to be murdered than to die of a food allergy. As murder mystery writers, we can certainly increase those odds by combining the two into one spectacular event.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

Posted in About James J. Murray, About Medications/Pharmacy, About Murder, All About Murder, Anaphylaxis, Blog Writers, Blogging, Bloodless Death Scene Writing, Bloodless Death Scenes, Characteristics of Murder, Chemicals Used For Murder, Common Food Allergies, Developing Story Plots, Developing Storyline Ideas, Foods and Lethal Allergic Responses, Foods That Kill, Foods Used For Murder, Ideas for Murder Scenes, Instruments of Death, Killing a Villain in a Novel, Killing Off Characters in Your Novel, Lethal Food Allergies, Murder With Food, Peanut Allergies, Peanut Oil as a Poison, Plotting Murder Scenes, Severe Allergies Used For Murder, Severe Food Allergies, The Art of Storytelling, The Art of Writing, The Science of Murder, Tools for Murder, Ways To Kill, Ways to Murder, Writing Death Scenes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

DEVIL’S BREATH – A New Global Threat!

This interesting chemical is alternately known as “the most dangerous drug in theMH900448711 world” and “the scariest drug in the world.”

Devil’s Breath is a powerful drug that is currently being dealt with on the streets of Columbia. It’s a strong hallucinogenic and an amnesiac. It’s highly addictive and can be deadly.

Usually in the form of a powder, Devil’s Breath comes from the borrachero tree, a botanical in Columbia with a name that loosely translates into “the-get-article-2143584-130FB037000005DC-752_634x514you-drunk” tree. This plant blooms with deceptively beautiful white and yellow flowers.

The drug is said to be so powerful that within minutes of administration, people turn into zombie-like creatures. The victims remain coherent, but they become child-like and have no free will.

Columbian drug gangs are using this drug, and its interesting side effects, as an innovative and lucrative new business, and stories of victims of these gangs are becoming urban legends.

People have been raped, robbed, forced to empty bank accounts, and even coerced into giving up body organs while under the drug’s influence. One man even killed while under the influence.

The substance is odorless, tasteless and is especially easy to administer either by inhalation or ingestion. In large doses, it can be deadly.

An often-used method of administration is to blow the powdered drug into the face of a42-15655456 passer-by on the street. Within minutes, the victim is under the drug’s influence and loses all capacity for rational thinking. The victim is turned into a complete mental zombie and the memory process of the brain is blocked.

While under the influence, the victim is easily controlled by suggestions and verbal commands to perform unspeakable acts. People have even been known to help robbers steal valuables from the victims’ own homes or hotel rooms.

After the drug wears off, victims have no recollection of what happened, what they did under the influence and cannot even identify the people responsible for administering the drug in the first place.

Interestingly, in ancient times the drug was administered to the mistresses of dead Columbian leaders. The women were given the substance, told to enter their master’s grave and were then simply buried alive and forgotten.

As with many botanical substances that are used for illicit purposes, this chemical also has MH900399267beneficial effects. In fact, the chemical is marketed in the United States under the name scopolamine and hyoscine. Cruise ship travelers might even use this chemical in the form of a scopolamine patch for seasickness.

So, for a very unique method of controlling a character in your novel (or possibly your spouse), blow a little Columbian Devil’s Breath into their face. They’ll never remember what was asked of them or what they did as a result.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

Posted in A New Street Drug, About James J. Murray, About Medications/Pharmacy, Almost in a Vegetative State, Blog Trends, Blog Writers, Blogging, Bloodless Death Scene Writing, Borrachero Tree Drug, Chemicals Used For Murder, Columbian Drug Business, Columbian Drug Trends, Columbian Street Drug, Deadliest Drugs in America, Deadliest Drugs in US, Designer Drug Deaths, Developing Story Plots, Developing Storyline Ideas, Devil's Breath, Difficult to Solve Murders, Drugs and Amnesia, Drugs and Zombie-Like States, Drugs That Create Memory Loss, Drugs That Mimic Death, Drugs Used For Murder, Ideas for Murder Scenes, Instruments of Death, Interesting Murder Weapons, Internet Drugs, Most Dangerous Drug in the World, Murder without Evidence of Foul Play, New Methods To Kill Characters in Your Novel, Plants That Kill, Plants Used For Murder, Psychoactive Designer Drugs, Scariest Drug in the World, Street Drug Abuse Substances, Walking Dead in Writing, Zombie Drugs | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Brain-Eating Amoeba

As we wind down our summer activities, I recall seeing several cases in the news of people thacquiring serious infections from swimming in contaminated lakes and improperly treated pools. These events remind me of the lethal dangers of recreational water illnesses (RWIs).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that one in eight public swimming pools are unsafe because of improper chlorination procedures.

Serious illnesses can result and these include gastrointestinal, skin, ear, respiratory, eye and even neurological infections. The most common symptom of such contamination is diarrhea, but any of these symptoms can turn lethal if not properly treated.

Of all the infections that one can get from summer activities, there is one in particular thatamoeba is as lethal as any I’ve come across. The disease is called primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, or PAM for short. Fortunately, PAM is rare and only 128 cases have been reported in the United States between 1962 and 2012.

The bad news is that of those 128 cases, there was only one survivor. PAM is a devastating infection of the brain caused by the free-living Naegleria fowleri organism. It’s been called the “brain-eating amoeba” in the media because the organism enters the body through the nose and travels up the olfactory nerve to the brain. It then causes the often-fatal PAM.

The Naegleria fowleri amoeba is found in warm freshwater (such as lakes, streams and hot springs) and the infection occurs when people go swimming or diving in MH900430603these waters. PAM can occur also from inadequately chlorinated swimming pools. Infections could even result from contaminated tap water if an individual uses the water to flush out the nose, as in using a neti pot for sinus irrigation.

Most infections occur in southern-tier states, with more than half of the occurrences in Texas and Florida, but cases have been identified in Louisiana after the hurricane Katrina hit the area. Aside from such a natural disaster, the PAM infection disproportionately affects males and children, probably as a result of their more aggressive water sports activities.

The infection presents much like bacterial meningitis. Symptoms include severe headache, fever, vomiting, neck stiffness and seizures. The most important medical clue leading to a proper diagnosis of PAM, however, is if the patient presents with the above-mentioned symptoms AND, in the two weeks prior to symptom onset, the patient swam in a freshwater lake, river or stream.

The only certain way to prevent this amoebic infection is to refrain fromMH900442342 swimming in warm freshwater. Barring that, there are several preventive measures one can take to reduce the risk of contracting this disease. You could hold your nose shut while diving into freshwater or use nose clips when swimming in these waters. The best safety measure is to keep your head above water at all times when enjoying outdoor water sports. And never put your head under water when soaking in natural hot spring pools.

Additional advice is to resist digging into or stirring up the sediment in shallow freshwater. The sediment is a perfect breeding ground for such amoeba. And when irrigating the sinuses with tap water, be sure to boil the water first for at least one minute (or for three minutes at elevations higher than 6,500 feet). And always allow the water to cool before use.

These measures may seem drastic, but a PAM infection is nearly ALWAYS FATAL, so act cautiously to ensure your safety against this lethal organism.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

Posted in About James J. Murray, Amoeba and PAM, Biological Weapons, Blog Trends, Blog Writers, Blogging, Brain Eating Ameba, Brain Eating Amoeba, Contaminated Fresh Water, Deadly Amoeba, Developing Story Arcs, Developing Story Plots, Developing Storyline Ideas, Difficult to Solve Murders, Fatal Amoebic Infections, Fatal Brain Infections, Freshwater Lethal Infections, Freshwater Microbes, Freshwater Sports Dangers, Improperly Chlorinated Pools and Death, Infections From Fresh Water, Infections From Katrina, Instruments of Death, Interesting Murder Weapons, Killing Off Characters in Your Novel, Killing With Lethal Microbes, Microbes Used To Murder, Naegleria fowleri, New Methods To Kill Characters in Your Novel, PAM, Plot Development, Plot Ideas and Where They Come From, Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis, The Next Big Thing, Tools of Murder, Water Poisons, Weapons From the Sea | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Laughing Man

It’s been said that the best fiction is based on fact. And, no matter how large or small that books-oldtidbit of information is, it plants the seed that the writer develops as the story arc. It’s the spark that creates the basis for the storyline and it’s the anchor that keeps the story focused.

Often I’ve joked to my fiction writer friends about the stories I create. “You just can’t make this stuff up,” I say, and they smile and I get nods of agreement all around.

But where do these crumbs of fact come from that fester into plots? I either findMH900070935 an interesting newspaper article, an online piece about some new scientific research or I develop a story around something that I’ve experienced—and then embellish on those facts to create believable fiction.

And that’s simply what good fiction really is—a believable lie!

So when I was traveling back from New England recently, I experienced something quite unique that became the seed for a sinister new short story.

It happened while my wife and I were having lunch at an airport. We were seated at a table toward the back of a restaurant off the main concourse. Shortly after we were seated, another person sat at the table next to us.

This fortyish man first ordered food, then placed an ear bud into each ear and connected them to his cell phone. Next he made a call. About that time, another gentleman—this one a twentyish-looking kid—sat at the table adjacent to the fortyish man such that they were facing each other.

The young man ordered and the waiter left his table. Suddenly my wife and I heard the young traveler start to giggle. There was a perplexed look on my wife’s face as she said, “How odd. That young man is looking straight at the guy next to us and giggling.”

I looked to my side, to the fortyish man next to us. He was obviously talking on the phone, but he stopped talking and smiled along with the man giggling. Laughter is often infectious and one cannot help but smile or laugh when someone else laughs. The fortyish man, however, stopped smiling and grew perplexed when the younger man started laughing out loud.

I asked my wife, “Is that kid talking on the phone?”

4460987120_dbcc3d3a88_z“No,” she said. “I don’t see a phone on the table, and there are no ear buds or blue tooth device in either ear. He’s laughing at the man next to us. He’s staring straight at the guy and laughing.”

I gazed over at the man next to us as I heard the chuckles behind me evolve into gales of laughter. Fortyish Man seemed irritated and said as much to whomever he was talking to on his phone, but then he tried to ignore Laughing Man and simply looked down at the table.

But Laughing Man kept at it. He started giggling so hard that others in the restaurant turned to stare at him. The laughter stopped momentarily while his food was served, but then he started up again. It began with some intermittent giggles between bites and then his chuckles cascaded into gales of belly-jiggling laughter that was heard around the restaurant. At that point, the man next to us threw up his hands and asked, “Okay, what’s so funny, man?”

This only encouraged more laughter, but it also brought over the waiter who unsuccessfully tried to quiet the man. Finally, the manager came over and asked the guy to leave. The manager instructed the waiter to package up the man’s food and to prepare his bill.

As my wife and I watched with astonishment, Laughing Man continued chuckling as he paid the bill. We saw the waiter roughly wrap the guy’s food in tin foil and stuff it into a to-go box. Laughing Man took one more look at the man seated next to us and let out another gale of laughter before he turned and walked out of the restaurant.

At that point, Fortyish Man turned to us. “What was with that guy? What did I do?” We confirmed that it was one of the strangest things we’d ever seen, and then all three of us focused on our meals once again and ate in peace.

As I paid the bill and we gathered our carry-on bags, my wife turned to me and said, “You know, you always tell me that there’s a story hidden somewhere in everything. I think we just observed a short story that you should write.”

And that’s exactly what I did. We walked to the nearest airport lounge and settled intoMH900443125 some chairs for another hour to wait for our flight—an hour that I used to outline a short story, a bit more sinister one I might add than the actual event that we witnessed.

The short story is now complete and it has a name. I call it Laughing Man. One of these days I’ll publish a collections of short stories and this one will definitely be included.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

Posted in About James J. Murray, About Writing, Accuracy in Writing, Airplane Murders, All About Writing, Blog Writers, Blogging, Character Development Techniques, Characteristics of a Fictional Character, Developing a Writing Career, Developing Better Writing Skills, Developing Story Arcs, Developing Story Plots, Developing Storyline Ideas, Fiction Based on Facts, Fiction Based on Real Life, Ideas for Murder Scenes, Interesting Event and Ideas Develop into Short Stories, Mastering Your Craft, Plot Ideas and Where They Come From, Plotting Short Stories, Short Story Development, Sources of Story and Plot Ideas, Story Development, The Art of Storytelling, The Art of Writing, Tools of Fiction Writing, Writing Skills, Writing Techniques | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Inert Gases Can Lead To Murder!

Awhile back, I saw an interesting murder plot on television. The scenario involved a Vault-0003awealthy man who had his home office designed such that it was similar to an impenetrable vault—both for security and privacy purposes. The room was so secure that it had its own air supply and other essential life-sustaining amenities for extended periods of work.

However, this well-designed, perfectly secure room became a murder weapon MH900297789in itself because someone who was displeased with the man added a halon gas canister to the ventilation system. The man was murdered by asphyxiation when the gas canister was remotely activated and halon gas was pumped into the room. This action temporarily replaced the room’s normal atmosphere, thus depriving the man of life-sustaining oxygen.

As you can imagine, it took considerable time and a complicated investigation to determine the cause of death since the room was locked from the inside and there was no evidence of foul play.

Of course, I made some notes during the show and decided to research halon gas!

I found that, for a long time, halon gas was actually the gold standard of fire-suppressant systems for enclosed areas such as bank vaults, museums and other secure areas that contain high-value assets that could be damaged by traditional water-based sprinkler systems. Although, the halon in the TV plot was not part of a fire suppression system for that man’s office, it was attached to the fresh air supply used specifically for his office space.

And I also learned that halon gas production was banned in many countries between 1989 and 1994 when it was discovered that halocarbon agents depleted the ozone layer. Existing halon-based fire suppression systems are still permitted, and recycled halon gas is allowed for maintenance and to refill these systems as needed, but no new halon systems can be constructed.

So my idea of a storyline involving halon gas became less feasible, since halon is not asMH900048773 available as it used to be, and I decided that the TV show writers were possibly working from older research data.

That’s when I decided to dig deeper and search for halon replacement products. I discovered that, after halon was banned, other “clean agent” systems were developed that reportedly have no known ozone-depleting capacity. And these systems are installed now in place of, or as replacements for, halon-based systems.

These mainly include various inert gas fire suppression systems that utilize nitrogen, argon or carbon dioxide—plus a few other inert elements that appear to be more difficult to use.

MH900313889Nitrogen, argon and carbon dioxide naturally occur in the atmosphere, they do not harm the environment and are not toxic to humans (at least to the extent regarding residues on surfaces after their use).

But it’s perfectly feasible that any of these three gases could be used in a murder plot in much the same way as halon gas was used in that TV program. Flood a secure, sealed area with one of these gases and any human within that environment would die from oxygen depletion since the gases replace the regular room air to suppress fires without damaging valuables. This effect requires an airtight environment, of course, and that is termed “enclosure integrity.”

An interesting advantage of these inert gases is that the gas canisters that contain them can be located much further away from the protected enclosure than halon canisters. These inert gases flow much better inside suppression system piping and can be located up to 400 feet away from the area to be protected against fire.

This fact makes it easier for the villain in your murder plot to have access to the equipment that supplies air to the secure area to add an inert gas canister, or to activate an inert gas fire suppression system even without starting a fire. Of course, all this can be activated remotely.

So the next time you need a character killed in one of your stories you mightMH900443125 consider placing that character in a room or vault that can be sealed off rapidly before the character can escape and then remotely activate the fire suppression system or attached gas canister to flood that area with one of these inert gases.

The cause of death will be asphyxiation (suffocation/oxygen-depletion) but without an obvious source and with no external evidence of trauma or foul play.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d like to hear them!

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Posted in About James J. Murray, About Murder, About Writing, All About Murder, Blog Writers, Blogging, Bloodless Death Scene Writing, Bloodless Death Scenes, Characteristics of Killing, Characteristics of Murder, Chemicals Used For Murder, Deadly Inert Gases For Fire Suppression, Developing Better Writing Skills, Difficult to Solve Murders, Fire Suppression Systems Used for Murder, Halon Gas and Murder, How To Write A BloodLess Murder Scene, Ideas for Murder Scenes, Inert Gases and Murder, Inert Gases and Murder Plots, Instruments of Death, Killing a Villain in a Novel, Killing Off Characters in Your Novel, Murder without Evidence of Foul Play, New Methods To Kill Characters in Your Novel, Plotting Murder Scenes, Secure Room as a Murder Weapon, The Science of Murder, Tools of Murder, Unique Murder Plots, Ways To Kill, Ways to Murder, Writing Death Scenes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments