Taking a bath is risky business, at least in entertainment media. Nine times out of ten, either something happens to interrupt the bath, or you die. This is the latter.
In part, this is due to the Law of Conservation of Detail
. The only reason to show somebody doing something as mundane as bathing is because something narratively important
is going to happen during that bath — unless it's just for Fanservice
And it isn't hard to see why the bathtub or shower would be such a common place for murderers to show up. Bathing is when you're at your most vulnerable
; relaxed, alone, naked, possibly with water in your eyes, in a small room that usually has one door and no windows.
Or, alternatively, it's a Bath Suicide
; a time that should be relaxing and pleasant becomes suddenly awful.
Whether murder or suicide, there may be an Electrified Bathtub
involved. The "Psycho" Shower Murder Parody
is a particularly common example of this trope — or a subversion, depending on the humor content. A Deadly Bath will very commonly lead directly to Blood Is Squicker in Water
. Genre Savvy
characters may feel they Can't Bathe Without a Weapon
in anticipation of this trope.
A Candlelit Bath
can easily turn into one of these when it isn't turning to romance.
Subtrope of the Bathtub Scene
and Shower Scene
Not to be confused with Blood Bath
As a Death Trope, all spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.
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- In the controversial ad campaign for the Hitman game Blood Money, the "Shockingly Executed" ad◊ features a dead woman who has been electrocuted by a toaster in a romantic candelit bath.
- Subverted in Addams Family Values: Debbie tries to kill Fester by tossing a radio into the tub, but it only gives Fester his ability to light lightbulbs with his mouth.
- A character in Cabin Fever attempted to soothe her Gorn-battered nerves with a lantern-lit bath. As the gruesome disease in the film is water-borne, this was not a wise move.
- In Children of the Corn: Revelation a stripper/exotic dancer decides to take a candlelit bath... and ends up killed by cornstalks.
- The "girl goes to take a shower with the psycho in the house" variation is subverted in Hard Candy. When the man holding the knife bursts into the bathroom and pulls back the shower curtain, he finds it empty. Then the girl runs in from behind and stunguns him into submission.
- The second Hostel movie offers a very twisted example where the woman taking a candlelit bath actually is the psycho killer. She actually seems pretty relaxed after she's done cutting her victim up, letting her bleed to death, and bathing in her blood.
- In the original I Spit on Your Grave Jennifer kills the leader of the men who raped her by seducing him into taking a hot bath with her, then slicing his nuts off causing him to bleed out.
- In Mirrors (American remake of a Korean film Into the Mirror) the main character's sister draws herself a bath.... guess who dies in one of the most painful and gruesome scenes of the film? A bath is used again but this time all the taps in the house have been turned on and the mother goes to turn the tap off...
- Double subverted in the first A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). Nancy falls asleep in the tub and Freddy's bladed glove pops out of the water, but she wakes up in time for nothing to happen. When she doses off again, he suddenly drags her under into a huge underwater space that he created with his dream powers, and she almost drowns.
- Played with in Poltergeist, where a silent scene of Diane taking a bath is intercut with shots of the children sleeping alone to build tension for the start of Round 2 with the ghosts.
- Played straight first in a flashback in The Princess and the Warrior, when a mental ward patient throws a hair dryer into a bathtub with a nurse he's in love with. Later, a fugitive hiding from the law in the same mental institution is relaxing after a botched heist in the same bathtub, and the same patient throws a toaster at him. He instinctively catches it, and both stare in shock at each other for a moment before the fugitive leaps up with murder in his eyes.
- In Sherlock Holmes, Sir Thomas is murdered by his son while taking a bath.
- The film She Woke Up starts with the heroine attacked in a bathtub. She survives, but falls into coma for 15 months.
- In the film Stigmata, Frankie steps into her candlelit bath to relax, only to be suddenly struck with a vision of the last tortured moments of the Messiah, complete with wounds opening in her wrists.
- In Stardust, Lamia kills Primus in her inn's bath by cutting his throat.
- Antony Horovitz has a story Bath Night. It's about a bathtub haunted by a ghost of a serial killer, who killed women in this tub, before being hanged. He now stalks the heroine, an adolescent girl.
- In Boardwalk Empire, Gillian kills Roger, who looks a lot like her dead son Jimmy, in a bathtub in a perverse effort to gain closure for the latter's death.
- With Jimmy declared officially dead, she would inherit the (whore-)house as well.
- In an episode of Bones the Victim of the Week was found in her shower. She had been there for days with hot water pouring over her.
- In The Borgias, Micheletto tries to kill Della Rovere at a public bath, but he fails because someone else sees him underwater and yells a warning before he can actually get close to Della Rovere.
- Played with in an episode of the 1994 revival of Burkes Law, entitled "Who Killed the Starlet?" A woman is relaxing in a candlelit bath while listening to some music. A killer sneaks in and drops her boombox into the bathtub, killing her. It turns out that the killer and girl are merely actors on a movie set, and they're filming a murder scene. Then it turns out the boombox was plugged into a live outlet by an unknown party, and the actress in the bathtub is really dead.
- CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
- There was an episode where a woman was drowned in a bathtub by her employer, just because she was causing him to lose by messing up his Feng Shui. Note that both she and her employer had apparently enjoyed such baths on many previous occasions without incident.
- Averted in another episode where the bathtime preparations do lead to a bloody corpse, but all the damage was self-inflicted.
- An episode involved a man who killed his wife while she was taking a bath (he pressed her head underwater until she drowned), then made it look like an accident.
- CSI: New York, where a woman who has filled a bath with rose petals and water ends up electrocuting herself.
- In "Flag on the Play", the body of a lingerie football player is found in the whirlpool tub in the team's change room.
- In the final season of Damages, the whistleblower's murder is staged as a suicide in a full bath tub.
- A variation of this trope was put into historical context in Desperate Romantics. Elizabeth Siddal is posing for Millais as Ophelia in a tub of cold water heated by candles. She almost drowns when the candles go out, the water cools down and she loses consciousness. Her parents are understandably not too happy.
- The Trinity killer from Dexter murders women in their bathtubs. Eventually, he takes revenge on Dexter by killing Rita this way.
- One episode of Diagnosis: Murder showed a guy giving a girl a shoulder massage as she lay in the tub, then suddenly pushing her under the water and drowning her.
- Friends: Comically Double Subverted when Chandler accidentally orders Monica Pepsi instead of Diet Pepsi and gets pinched underwater.
- Law & Order: Criminal Intent,
- Varied in an episode where a beautiful woman has drawn a perfumed, candlelit bath, not just for relaxation but to entertain her married lover. They have a quarrel, she threatens to tell his wife about their relationship, and he drowns her in the bath.
- Another episode dealt with a woman whose son was accused of pushing a heater into her bath, and though the water was cold, there were candles and the tub was full. She, of course, is electrocuted, and while they try to decipher her murder they find out that she knocked the heater into the bathtub herself.
- Midsomer Murders: The first Victim of the Week in "Fit for Murder" is drowned in a flotation pool at a spa. Joyce discovers the corpse when she goes for treatment.
- An episode of Psych had a killer picking off members of a sorority, one of them by throwing a toaster into her bath.
- An episode of Six Feet Under had the corpse-of-the-week die when her cat knocked her electric hot rollers into the tub.
- In The Sopranos, Brendan Filone is inside his bathtub when Mickey Palmice visits him to deliver a Moe Green Especial on Junior's orders.
- There's two examples in Spartacus Bloodand Sand which happen in the same scene.
- Glaber's peaceful bath is interrupted by Seppia who smashes a vase on his head in an attempt to murder him.
- She would have succeeded if Ilithyia hadn't snuck up on her to slit her throat.
- Subverted in the Supernatural episode "Dead in the Water" a vengeful spirit drowns people by pulling them into the water. After a case at the lake, a case involving a kitchen-sink and another one at the lake, a woman is being drowned in her bathtub, but the Big Damn Heroes arrive in the nick of time to pull her out.
- Both subverted and played straight in The X-Files on several occasions. Scully's penchant for taking these led to a straight use in "Squeeze", a subversion in "Chinga" (the music builds, we're sure something creepy's going to happen, the phone rings and... it's Mulder, he's bored), and an extremely creepy straight use in "Irresistable" ("Is your hair color-treated?")...and a hilarious one in "Hollywood A.D.".
Mythology and Religion
- Older Than Feudalism: After returning home from the siege of Troy, King Agamemnon died this way, chopped up with axes in his bathtub by his wife Clytemnestra and her lover Aigisthos.
- King Minos of Crete was murdered by King Cocalos of Sicily, and his daughters. After Daedalus the Inventor fled Crete after helping Theseus escape, Daedalus found sanctuary and employment in the court of Cocalos. One of the first things Daedalus did was to invent and install hot and cold running water in Cocalos' palace. In the meantime, Minos went searching for Daedalus, and eventually tricked Cocalos into revealing Daedalus' presence. Because Minos was his guest, and had a legitimate reason for demanding Daedalus' return (and probable execution), Cocalos realized he had no choice but to hand his new favorite inventor over. However, Cocalos had no intention of doing that, so he, and his daughters conspired with Daedalus to murder Minos, in that Cocalus insisted that Minos first try out Daedalus' newly invented hot bath, and as a show of hospitality, Cocalus' daughters would help bathe him. And in doing so, Cocalus' daughters promptly trapped him in the bath, where he was scalded to death.
- In order to restore Jason to the throne of Iolcus, Medea tricked Jason's cousins, the daughters of his evil, usurping uncle Pelias into murdering their father. She did this by performing a magical ritual where she slaughtered a decrepit old ram, cut it into bloody pieces, and placed the remains into a boiling cauldron, whereupon a young, frisky lamb leaped out. Thinking that Medea would restore their father's youth and vitality, the girls eagerly butchered their father and dumped his remains into Medea's cauldron, only for Medea to not cast the spell again at Jason's behest (and horror).
- In WHO dunnit, a case involving the murder of a female character will sometimes begin with a shower murder scene complete with Psycho Strings.
- The Scene of the Crime has a man who was murdered in a bathtub, with the player tasked with investigating the crime.
- Roman Emperor Commodus was strangled in his bathtub by the wrestler Narcissus. note
- It should be noted, if the first point is true, that this would have been a Roman bath, which was more akin to a swimming pool, than an actual bath.
- French Revolutionary Marat, an architect of the Terror and the guillotine, was stabbed to death in his bath by a disgruntled female assassin. This inspired a famous painting.
- Olga of Kiev once killed some ambassadors who came to her with a marriage proposal from another ruler by luring them into a bathhouse and burning them alive.
- Jim Morrison (of The Doors) died in the bathtub, albeit peacefully.
- Professional wrestler Bruiser Brody was killed in the shower room before a match. His killer successfully pled self-defense but there are many who doubt it.
- The Candlelit Bath has been cited by many fire departments as one modern cause of fatal house fires in the United States, especially in homes where the bathroom walls aren't tiled. Lighting a bunch of candles and sticking them next to a painted wall, then falling asleep...how relaxing!
- Whitney Houston died when cocaine intoxication caused her to lose consciousness and fall into a scalding-hot filled bathtub. She drowned.
- Likewise for Hole bassist Kristen Pfaff, but with opiates instead of cocaine.