Powdered Glass – An Instrument of Death?

Let’s say that you have a particularly nasty villain in your novel and want to kill him or herimages off in some unique way. You have a brilliant idea! Crush glass into fine shards and mix them into the villain’s food. Your character will certainly die an agonizingly painful and slow death. I’ve seen it written that a teaspoonful of crushed glass will puree anyone’s intestines.

Well . . . maybe that could be true. But the science really doesn’t back up that statement, even though the use of finely ground glass covertly mixed in food has been used in murder mystery plots in the past.

We’ve seen it before, both in books and on film: Crush glass into a fine powder and add the pulverized fragments to whatever your victim is about to ingest. Shortly, your victim falls to the floor, writhing in agony and eventually dying a painful death. Supposedly, the victim’s intestinal tract would shred and the person would bleed out internally, eluding all but the most experienced medical examiners.

Unfortunately, the science behind this intriguing method of murder simply doesn’t pan out. In order for the glass to be undetected in food, it would have to be ground so fine that when mixed in food it couldn’t be detected. The problem is that finely powdered glass wouldn’t pose much of a threat to the GI tract. There simply would not be enough rough edges left to “chew up” GI tissue.

On the other hand, if the glass particles were crushed into fine pebbles, then the Plate-of-broken-glassresulting shards would have enough spikes and splintery angles to cause micro-tears to the GI tract and possibly cause enough internal bleeding that the victim would die. However, such gritty nuggets would not be palatable and would be detected when the victim chewed the food.

Hmm! Too finely ground and the glass doesn’t damage enough to kill, and crushing the glass into larger nuggets would kill but could be detected and likely be spit out by the victim before the glass had a chance to do irrevocable damage.

Now that’s a dilemma! This is beginning to seem like a Goldilocks Problem: thisMH900116044 one’s too finely ground, and that one’s too course and would be detected. So could there be a situation where the glass is ground just right to cause lethal damage but yet not be detected? Probably not, but glass splinters would be a good alternative if used in the proper setting.

Fine glass splinters in food or drink that’s quickly ingested could prove to be lethal and yet not be detected, at least not until it’s too late to spit out.

Think about dropping glass splinters into a shot glass, for instance. A shot of tequila, with some glass splinters discreetly dropped in, would go down in one big gulp—down the gullet and on their way to chewing up GI tissue along the way. How about a second shot? Add more splinters and down the gullet again—lethal glass splinters chasing more lethal glass.

dollar-oystersI remember my father loved to eat raw oysters in hot sauce. He’d pry open the shell, add some hot sauce and let the oyster slide down his throat. Sprinkle glass splinters into that hot sauce or over the top of those oysters and you’d have a lethal dose of glass sliding down the throat along with that oyster.

So powdered glass as a lethal weapon might not work so well, but break the glass into slivers and fine splinters and that might prove to be lethal and as painful a death as expected—a perfect combination for writing an exciting murder scene.

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

About James J. Murray, Fiction Writer

With experience in both pharmaceutical manufacturing and clinical patient management, medications and their impact on one’s quality of life have been my expertise. My secret passion of murder and mayhem, however, is a whole other matter. I’ve always loved reading murder mysteries and thrillers, and longed to weave such tales of my own. Drawing on my clinical expertise as a pharmacist and my infatuation with the lethal effects of drugs, my tales of murder, mayhem and medicine will have you looking over your shoulder and suspicious of anything in your medicine cabinet.
This entry was posted in A How To Blog on Murder Plot Ideas, A How To Blog on Murder Weapons, About James J. Murray, About Murder, About Writing, Blog Writers, Blogging, Broken Glass and Murder, Characteristics of Murder, Choosing How a Character Should Die in a Story, Crushed Glass and Murder, Deciding How to Kill Off a Character in a Novel, Designing Murder Plots, Dramatic Murder Weapons, Glass Shards and Murder, Ideas for Murder Scenes, Instruments of Death, Interesting Murder Weapons, Killing a Villain in a Novel, Killing Off Characters in Writing, Killing Off Characters in Your Novel, New Methods of Murder, New Methods To Kill Characters in Your Novel, Powdered Glass and Murder, Prescription For Murder Blog, The Science of Murder, Tools of Murder, Unique Murder Plots and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Powdered Glass – An Instrument of Death?

  1. wrLapinsky says:

    Jim,
    You always have interesting, and a little scary, ideas. But if it is difficult to find or create the Goldilocks size and shape for your glass slivers, why not use very short pieces of fine wire? AWG 40 wire is only 0.08 millimeter in diameter, and there are much smaller wires used in connecting integrated circuits to their package. It would be fairly easy to create a large number of these short wire “slivers” of an appropriate size, and they could be used like your glass slivers.
    Walt.

  2. Walt, what a GREAT idea for a murder weapon. I think sometimes YOU may scare ME with your wonderful new suggestions. Keep those ideas coming and thanks for your comments. All the best!

  3. Arlee Bird says:

    You and your commenters have some devious minds. I love it!

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out

  4. Okay now, see what you’ve done . . . I’ll be checking the bottom of my glasses from now on! Not that I consider myself a nasty dude, mind you . . . it’s just to be sure, you understand.

  5. sciencethriller says:

    It seems to me that any objects sharp enough to shred the gut mucosa would also shred the tongue, pharynx, and esophagus on their way down–something surely the victim would notice before consuming very much of the stuff.

    Better leave this murder weapon for (bad) fiction!

    • True, but if the splintered glass was tossed down from a shot glass, it might make it all the way down to the middle of the esophagus – and that would be a problem. Thanks for your comments. Agreed, bad murders in bad fiction make poor bedfellows.

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