Arsenic, cyanide, and strychnine are the classic poisons. The seemingly innocent little old ladies in Arsenic and Old Lace, one of my favorite movies, used these three poisons in their deadly elderberry wine. One gallon of this toxic wine contained one teaspoon of arsenic, half a teaspoon of strychnine, and just a pinch of cyanide. Unsuspecting gentlemen were never able to finish their glass of wine; they died first.
This white, odorless, and bitter crystallized powder is also known by the names of dog button, mouse-nots, or mole death. An extremely strong poison, strychnine can be taken by mouth, inhaled, or mixed in with a solution and injected directly into a vein.
The plant Strychnos nux vomica is the primary natural source of this poison. This plant is native to India, Sri Lanka, the East Indies, and Australia. Those living around where the plant grows need to be careful not to accidentally ingest any of it. The seeds contain the greatest concentration of this usually fatal poison, but a smaller concentration is in the rest of the plant. Its blossoms have a smell resembling that of curry powder.
This deadly poison used to be available in pill form and was used to fight different human ailments. At one time, it was even used as a pick-me-up for those who were fatigued. I think that I would rather find something besides strychnine to boost my energy. It has also been used as a laxative and a remedy for stomach problems. Today it is mainly used in some forms of rat poison. There are still missionaries in South America, though, who supposedly take minute doses - doses far too small to do an damage to themselves - to rid their bodies of intestinal worms.
If your character that is going to commit the murder doesn't have access to Strychnos nux vomica , how can he (she) administer it to his (her) intended victim?
1) Powdered strychnine can be mixed into food or drink.
2) It can be released into the air so that it is absorbed by the membranes in the eyes, nose, and mouth.
3) The poison can be mixed with drugs such as LSD, heroin, or cocaine.
4) It could be injected intravenously. This would be easy if the intended victim were hospitalized and had an IV hooked up. Strychnine could be added to the solution in the IV.
How long will it be before the victim begins to feel the effects? If a fatal dose of strychnine is administered, the victim may begin to show symptoms after just 15 minutes, or it could take as long as 30 minutes. Those given a high dose have next to no chance of survival.
What effects will strychnine have on the victim? Strychnine attacks the central nervous system and turns off the chemical that acts as the “off switch” for your muscles. The reflexes will be exaggerated and all the muscles will simultaneously contract again and again and again; they will not stop until the victim is no longer able to breathe and dies. At first, it is possible that this would be confused with tetanus or lockjaw. Death from strychnine poisoning would in no way be easy or pain free. Death would be excruciatingly painful and the victim would probably end up welcoming it. The victim would be conscious until he breathed his last.
Some real life cases of the use of strychnine are shown when we look at the lives of Dr. Thomas Neill Cream and Robert Leroy Johnson. Dr. Thomas Neill Cream used strychnine to kill , while Robert Leroy Johnson was killed by this poison.
1) Dr. Thomas Neill Cream, a Scottish-born serial killer, would put strychnine in drinks, then offer these drinks to prostitutes in London, England. Even though he did not stick around to watch his victims suffer, he apparently enjoyed the thought of how they suffered before death.
2) Robert Leroy Johnson, an American blues singer and musician, died after drinking a bottle of whiskey that had been laced with strychnine.
Many authors have put strychnine to use in their books.
1) In Agatha Christie's first book, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Emily Inglethorpe was a victim of strychnine poisoning.
2) In Cold is the Grave by Peter Robinson, the daughter of the chief constable gets hold of some cocaine that had been laced with strychnine.
This definitely would not be my drug of choice for suicide, but down through history, some have tried to kill themselves by using strychnine. Unless the character you intend to die has some really close attachment to pain, you need to choose another drug for suicide.
1) A childhood friend of Vincent Van Gogh is supposed to have attempted suicide by strychnine.
2) You know the permanent grin that the Joker from Batman & Robin has permanently glued across his face? Well, that is the result of the muscle contractions from a failed suicide attempt with strychnine.
Before having your character use strychnine to kill his (her) victim, you should research how this poison has been used in real life and in fiction, as well as the effects it would have on the victim. Research it well enough so that when people read your book they will feel they are witnesses of the crime.