The Dangers Lurking In The Smallest Room In The House

VennerRoad By VennerRoad, 23rd Jul 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Humour>Off Beat

A sideways look at the dangers of ablutions from ancient to modern.

The Dangers Lurking In The Smallest Room In The House

Toilet humour is old as the hills, but there are dangers lurking in both the toilet and the bathroom. Many of us have to settle for both these essentials in one room, which may also come with a shower, or without a bath but with a shower, but have you ever wondered what life would be like without flushing toilets and bathrooms courtesy of modern plumbing?

The invention of the flushing toilet is often attributed to the appropriately named Thomas Crapper (1836-1910). Although this is not true, he did invent the ballcock. The company he founded is still trading today. And no, his name did not give rise to that expression!

In reality, the flushing toilet dates to the late Sixteenth Century. Although the Romans and other early civilisations had sewers as well as toilets, it was all a very unpleasant business. And a dangerous one. At least one author has claimed the flushing toilet has done more to save human lives than antibiotics. Combined with washing one's hands with soap and water after using it, this could well be true.

There is though one rather bizarre myth about the toilet, that it has been known to explode. This is one of the urban legends highlighted by the great American folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand. The story has many variants, the latest appears to have been circulated in Spain earlier this year (2014) and was apparently reported in the first instance by a radio station, then paraphrased and parroted blindly by both mainstream tabloids and so-called citizen journalists. The story contains no details worthy of the name, and there has been no follow up. Having said that, there has been at least one documented incident of toilets exploding, but this had nothing to do with the classic version of a man throwing a lighted cigarette into the bowl or of a build up of gas. Rather it was due to a build up of air pressure in the pipes during plumbing works. This happened in New York, and as you can see from the injuries suffered by Michel Pierre, it was neither a hoax nor a laughing matter.

It is not only toilets that can be dangerous though, both showers and baths can be positively fatal. Apart from that scene in the film Psycho complete with mood music, slipping on the soap can be an unnerving experience. People have been known to drown in the bath – accidentally or otherwise – but no one can drown in the shower, right? Sadly no, last December a mother in Nashville did just that. Michele Morley suffered a seizure, fell, her head got stuck in the drain, and she drowned. Unique, tragic and sad.

Which brings us to arguably the most dangerous fixture in the bathroom, the bath itself. Elderly and disabled people may need assistance using the bath, in extreme cases a hoist. Even though modern baths are enamelled inside, you might like to fit yours with some aesthetic wooden bath panels, but in addition to slipping on the soap or falling asleep and drowning, or becoming incapacitated at the wrong moment resulting in being scalded by hot water, the greatest danger may be the person you let in the room with you.

In 1793, Jean-Paul Marat was infamously murdered in his bath by Charlotte Corday. Marat suffered from an irritating skin disease and routinely received guests while soaking in his bath to alleviate the pain. After bluffing her way into his apartment, Corday stabbed him to death in the bath. The many times married serial killer George Joseph Smith disposed of no less than three women by drowning them; the Brides In The Bath Murderer was hanged in August 1915 while Britain was at war with Germany. More than half a century later, another serial killer, Dennis Nilsen, murdered at least one of his victims by drowning him in the bath. Finally, perhaps most tragically, in 2001, mother of 5 Andrea Yates drowned all her offspring in her bath, apparently suffering from severe depression. In Texas, the death penalty will normally be sought for crimes of this nature, but Yates was sentenced to life imprisonment although that verdict was later reversed when she was found to be insane.

To end, let us return to toilets, specifically plane toilets. Although you are not likely to injure yourself in a plane toilet, they have – or rather did have – the potential to cause serious injury or more likely death to people on the ground.

According to one author: "Between 1979 and 2003, at least 27 wads of blue ice fell from the sky in the United States alone, impacting with enough force to tear through roofs and smash cars." If you haven't heard the term blue ice before, let us say only that the ice may have been blue but that wasn't its natural colour. From 1982 though, airlines began installing vacuum toilets on their craft, so next time something drops from the sky onto your car or worse still your dress, remember that line from the Superman films: "It's a bird. It's a plane. No, it really is only a bird. Thankfully."


Blue Ice, Toilet Humour

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author avatar VennerRoad
Independent researcher based in South East London.

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author avatar Joyce Singha
25th Jul 2014 (#)

Dang, I'll have think twice before entering one. Nice article and enjoyed all the info. Welcome and have fun.

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
28th Jul 2014 (#)

Well deserved highlight. Better to take care anywhere as poisonous snakes are also comfortable inside flushing toilets. Thanks to the one who invested this from all of us who take them for granted - siva .

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