Tag Archives: chloroform

Regarding your last answer about chloroform, will it make a good way to kill sentries, faster than strangling them? I don’t want my character to struggle for 5 minutes to dispose every guard he finds, and fast options are too messy (knives, gunshots..).

Unfortunately, with chloroform, you’re looking at spending more than five minutes on each guard. Putting them under wouldn’t take that long, but making sure they were dead would be a more time consuming process.

Amusingly enough, there have been a few serial killers who used chloroform to kill their victims. So, yes, deliberately overdosing someone to kill them with the stuff really is an option. It’s just not a quick, or efficient method of dispatching people.

The trade-off, when we’re talking about serial killers is, they’re working in a somewhat controlled environment, and can afford the time. When you’re talking about someone neutralizing sentries, where an extra ten seconds could be the difference between getting in undetected, and being hunted down and killed. Chloroform just isn’t a viable option.

There’s also the issue of the smell. Someone who works in organic chemistry can probably confirm my recollection here, but chloroform has a thick, sweet, chemical smell. This is something a sentry will notice. They might not know what it is, but if they’re alert enough to be a threat, they’re probably alert enough to notice it, and then try to find the source. Or grab a buddy and then try to identify the smell. You can see where this is a situation that’s rapidly spiraling out of control.

When it comes to dealing with sentries, knives, firearms, and in rare circumstances bows (more often crossbows) are your best options. Suppressed pistols will make some noise. In situations where that’s not viable, then you’re back to knives and bows. There are specialized sentry removal tools, small hooked knives, or sometimes punch daggers, that were designed for exactly this kind of situation. If you’ve never looked at them, they’re something to research.

Sentry removal is, sort of, a solved problem. The specific situations vary, but techniques to deal with them exist. When you’re writing, it’s usually a good idea to start there, and work your way back. The concerns about noise and mess are real considerations, and, as a result, factor into the solutions people have developed and used.


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What about the good ol’ movie/television standby, rag soaked in chloroform? Is it as fast as they make it seem? Is the victim in significant danger?

It’s fast enough that it was used for general anesthesia. If inhaled, I’d go out on a limb and say under 30 seconds. Once the chloroform is discontinued, a couple minutes before they’re back up and groggy.

The problem is, chloroform is actually more dangerous as a general anesthetic than diethyl ether (which it replaced), and why it was discontinued. You can use either one to put someone under for surgery, in an emergency, but they’re not ideal choices.

Additionally, as with most general anesthetics, the threshold between sedated and dead is moderated by a good anesthesiologist. Just slapping a rag on someone and hoping for the best tilts the odds towards dead.

Also, a fun distinction with chloroform. At room temperature, it’s highly volatile; that is to say, it evaporates quickly. If you’re looking at the Hollywood rag tactic, you’d need to absolutely saturate the rag right before using it, and you’d be getting a lungful of the stuff yourself. Probably not enough to actually put you under, but it might slow you down a bit.

There is also one major medical issue associated with chloroform; it has a nasty habit of inducing fatal cardiac arrhythmia. (Where the heart beats irregularly.) In a controlled medical environment, this has a frequency of between 1:3000 to 1:6000.

So, yeah, no, Hollywood likes it, because you can stick water in a vial, pour it on a rag, hold it to your actor’s face, and it’s all safe. The reality is not nearly so accommodating.


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Hey, what about that thing we always see on several movies, where the kidnapper covers the mouth and nose of the victim with a towel soaked on some liquid and the victim faints shortly after? Is this safe or even viable?

That’s usually identified as chloroform, which was used as a surgical anesthetic in the nineteenth century. So, yes, it can sedate someone. If wiki’s to be trusted, it takes at least of five minutes of continuous, constant dosage, to put someone under with it, which is in line for medical uses, if a little inconvenient, but a hell of a long time to hold onto someone who’s struggling to break free, or trying to put a finger through your eye socket.

EDIT: For fun and OHGODWHY, I went digging through the toxicology reference book I keep around. A lethal dose of Chloroform for a 150lb adult, is going to be someplace south of 50 milligrams.

EDIT 2: for Just-A-Writer: No, I actually mean lethal. The book I was referencing is a little vague on exact dosages once you get into the “supertoxic” category; however the EPA has no qualms on that subject. If ingested, 10ml will kill a human. For inhalation, they’re actually using parts per million (PPM), and I can’t remember how to convert that a usable number. The transition there is from 30k PPM as an anesthetic to 40k PPM being lethal.

So, short version, yeah, incredibly lethal stuff. Also, I botched the math slightly when I was converting lbs to kg, it it should have been “someplace south of 340mg”, which is a little more than a single aspirin tablet.