Let’s say that you have a particularly nasty villain in your novel and want to kill him or her 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 resulting 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: this 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.
I 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!