Friday, February 19, 2010

Four and Twenty Blackbirds? Sleeping With The Lights On, Part One

By Lonnie Cruse

On a recent cold winter morning here in Southern Illinois our front yard was covered with large black dots. Blackbirds to be exact. Zillions of them. This happens now and then. The birds are hunting for food. They usually appear like this when a storm is predicted, though one is not predicted for this week. Still, the birds usually know more than the weatherman so I'm keeping an eye on the sky.

The sight of the birds reminded me of the movie, THE BIRDS. If you saw it, you know how scary it is. The Hitchcock version, of course. Nobody does it like Hitch. Then there is the Agatha Christie mystery, POCKET FULL OF RYE. It features blackbirds in part of the mystery. This got me thinking about master writers and movie makers. They can take simple things in life, like Blackbirds, and turn them into something that makes us sleep with the lights on for several days. Murder weapons you and I probably would never think of.

Don't know about you, but I check out binoculars very carefully before I look through them ever since I saw a movie where binoculars were used in a particularly nasty way to murder a woman. You know the one I mean? Came out in the fifties, still scares the daylights out of me to think of it. Ewwww!

How about the frozen roast used in a Roald Dahl story to kill someone, then baked and turned into dinner and served to the investigating officers? That has to be one of the best unusual weapons ever to appear in fiction. Sigh.

My point here is that some authors don't have to use guns or knives or ropes or poison to kill off a character. They use everyday items to do the job. Items that are generally thought to be safe. Birds or binoculars or things like that.

What's the most unusual murder weapon used in a book or movie that you can think of? Care to share? Do authors even use unusual weapons in today's mysteries?

Most important, will I have to sleep with the lights on tonight? Sleeping with the lights on, part two, next Friday. See you then!


Sandra Parshall said...

My favorite unusual weapon has always been the frozen roast you mentioned. The Alfred Hitchcock TV program had a film version of the Roald Dahl story, featuring the sweet-faced Barbara Bel Geddes. Her tiny smile as she watched the cops devour the weapon she had thawed and cooked was priceless and so much more chilling than any showy action would have been. (I wonder if the Hitchcock episodes are in reruns anywhere on cable. I'd love to see them all again.)

The mystery I'm writing now features an unusual weapon... which I don't want to reveal yet.

Susan D said...

Binoculars? Hmmm, I don't know the one you mean. Can you tell us, please?

signlady217 said...

I heard "ice bullets", but I don't know if that would really work. I think the friction from the gun being fired would melt too much of the ice for the bullet to work properly.

Ever watch "The Tingler"? Old black and white horror flick that kind of freaked me out when I was a kid (around 11 or so).

Lonnie Cruse said...

This is REALLY yucky, someone put spikes inside a pair of binoculars and when she put them to her eyes, they popped out and killed her (brain shot.) Ewww. Forever terrified me of binoculars.

Sandra Parshall said...

Oh my gosh, Lonnie, I really wish I hadn't read your comment about the binoculars! I'm a birdwatcher, and now I'll never pick up my glasses again without remembering those spikes...

Speaking of spikes, the extraordinary icicles I've seen on houses around here for the past two or three weeks have made me aware of how lethal a big, thick one could be if it fell and the sharp end penetrated somebody's neck, back, chest... Our next door neighbors had an amazing icicle that reached from the gutter on the second floor of the house almost to the ground. It must have been a foot thick. I was glad to see yesterday that it had finally fallen off.

Julia Buckley said...

I've read at least two mysteries, Sandra, in which an icicle was the murder weapon. Melts right away and leaves no evidence.

My husband suggests that you should watch a movie called BRAIN DEAD, in which a bunch of people are killed by a lawnmower. (He watches stuff like that).

kathy d. said...

Three murder methods come to mind although if I thought about it for hours going back to high school days of reading, I'd think of more.

Murder by snake in "The Adventure of the Speckled Bank," by Arthur Conan Doyle; Murder by orangutan in "The Murders in the Rue Morgue,"
by Edgar Allan Poe and murder by the poisonous oleander plant, in "White Oleander," by Janet Fitch and another mystery, can't remember author.

When I was a teen-ager, my cousin told me about the shower scene in "Psycho." I didn't take a shower for a week although I didn't see the movie.

I heard about "The Tingler," and couldn't see it. It scared me just to hear about it.

Anonymous said...

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