The villain, or hero, in your story needs to murder someone. It could be an enemy or someone he or she just doesn't like. Could be someone who is a threat in some way. The death cap mushroom could the instrument used to accomplish what is desired and it would appear to be just a mistake of eating the wrong mushrooms.
Mushrooms have been used in many murder mysteries as a weapon of death. Exactly what varieties of mushroom cause death? Can they be easily recognized? Or are they easily confused with non-toxic varieties? How easy would it be for someone to commit murder using mushrooms? In this article, we take a look at the Death Cap mushroom.
This deadly little mushroom, also called Destroying Angel or the Fool's Mushroom, is responsible for most of the mushroom poisonings that occur. Its cap is five to six inches wide and its stalk is up to five inches tall. Often sticky to the touch, the color of its cap can be snow-white, pale green, or light brown. This toxic mushroom can be found growing underneath dogwoods, oaks, pines, and other trees. There are several different species of this mushroom, and depending on what species you use, it could be found anytime from May to December.
For those who are not well-acquainted with the appearance of these mushrooms, they can easily be mistaken for other forms of mushroom that are not so deadly. Those who know exactly what they look like and what effect they will have are able to use them to accomplish deadly things.
The two main poisons in this mushroom are amanitin and phalloidin. What do these poisons do to the victim? Amanitin, which can be detected almost immediately in the blood (hypoglycemia), may affect a person as soon as six hours after ingestion or take up to forty-eight hours. Nausea, vomiting, and bloody diarrhea are usually the first signs. These will be followed by extreme stomach pain, unquenchable thirst violent vomiting, and cyanosis.
Phalloidin will cause changes in the kidneys, liver, and cardiac muscles that are definitely not beneficial. Almost immediately after ingestion, it begins to degenerate these muscles and organs. If your character were to use this mushroom to poison someone, the victim would suffer great pain.
Agrippina, the mother of Nero, used to feed these mushrooms to anyone who tried to stand in her son's way. There have been many more death cases involving these mushrooms, some of them accidental, some not. This mushroom has also been used in fictional stories several times.
Since these mushrooms can easily be mistaken for non-toxic varieties, a simple, but not sure-fire, way to poison the victim would be to plant these mushrooms in the vicinity of where this person lived or was known to hunt for mushrooms. Might work, might not work. It would definitely be more likely to work if the person was known to eat mushrooms frequently.
Another way would be to mix them in with non-toxic mushrooms so it would appear that they were picked by mistake. Invite the person over for dinner, just be sure and cook your own mushrooms first. A chef at a popular restaurant could easily pick and choose who he wanted to kill by having a batch of this deadly edible fungus cooked up and hidden away, yet within his reach.
Write out an idea for a story where murder is committed using the death cap mushroom. Decide how it is administered to the victim, why it was administered to that particular person, and whether or not the criminal gets away with it. Have fun with it. Who knows? You may end up using the idea for a great book.
The Book of Poisons: A Guide for Writers talks about the death cap mushroom, as well as many other poisonous mushrooms. It also talks about household poisons, medical poisons, and many more. If you would like to buy a copy of this book for your library, I have provided a link to Amazon below.