"If there's one thing I know about radios and dryers, you
never use them around baths or showers!"
Someone drops a mundane electric appliance (classically a toaster) into a bathtub or other pool of water lying around. A classic way to attempt murder
in the movies.
Fictional depictions are much flashier than the real thing, with arcs of electricity and bright flashes many seconds long and the complete shorting-out of electrical service to the entire building. In Real Life
, though, the resulting electric current is momentary and nearly invisible and likely would just trip the nearest circuit breaker or fuse — but grabbing
the electric device while in the bathtub would be just as lethal in real life as the trope is in fiction. This is also a victim to Technology Marches On
. It was much more common in the past when most bathtubs had copper piping; however, as more and more homes have PVC plastic plumbing, most tubs aren't grounded and electrocution is less likely. Though if you think this might be a good idea, please call someone and talk to them before you do it.
Just one of the many ways that a character can die in a bath
This is a Subtrope to High Voltage Death
Since this trope can lead to a character getting killed, expect spoilers below.
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Anime & Manga
- Electricity and water is used as a weapon of murder in Detective Conan; the police were almost going to write it off as an accident until Conan noticed that something was off. Or rather, something didn't quite... plug in... right.
- The second Elf Princess Rane episode shows Mr. Yumenokata getting shocked from using an electric shaver while taking a bath.
- The first episode of Lupin III (Green Jacket), ("Is Lupin Burning... ?!") has Lupin creating a large-scale version of this to take out the leaders of the Scorpion Clan, and rescue Fujiko.
- In Mirai Nikki, Fifth almost killed Yuno this way, and was only prevented from doing so by Yuki cutting the electricity to the entire house.
- Soviet System has a card allowing its drawer to climb a rank thanks to "his skills in bathroom electricity."
- The Far Side once had a guy who kept his pet electric eel in the bathroom, where it could easily fall into the bathtub if knocked over.
- In Young Justice, it's revealed that Secret was originally killed by this method.
- In Fido Dido, a character has an idea while taking a bath, causing an Idea Bulb to appear over her head. Just then a smaller version of her appears, and says, "Hey, that's dangerous!" so the bulb disappears, and is replaced with a flashlight. "That's better."
- DC caused an almighty Internet Backdraft after staging a contest to find a new artist by getting contestants to draw Harley Quinn about to commit suicide this way. The actual context of the panel made it a bit better since it was meant to be a Fourth-wall breaking Imagine Spot where the writers had misunderstood what Suicide Squad meant, but it was still a case of Dude, Not Funny! and the panel was ultimately cut from the final comic.
- In the graphic novel Black Canary and Zatanna: Bloodspell, the ghost of a gang leader is possessing the bodies of the gang members who betrayed her and forcing them to commit suicide. One of her victims takes a plunge into a swimming pool along with a number of electrical devices.
- Used in the under-appreciated classic Troma film Buttcrack.
- Diary of the Dead. The nerdy character experiences this as a zombie tackles him and pushes him into the tub while he's using a blow drier to dry his hair. Strangely, the electricity doesn't disturb the security camera that's watching him the whole time. Also, it wasn't like the shock could hurt him anymore, since he was in the middle of being mawed by a zombie anyway.
- This was how Debbie Jellinsky attempts to kill Fester in Addams Family Values. Fester being Fester (the TV series had him lighting a bulb in his mouth, a gag actually used here), it doesn't work.
- Leads to Fridge Logic when she later tries to kill him with an electric chair. (Especially since Fester would in the TV series strap himself in one to "recharge."
- And Wednesday electrocuted Pugsley in the first film.
- Bill Murray attempts suicide by tub and toaster in Groundhog Day. Like with all his other suicide attempts, he gets better.
- Chucky does it to his girlfriend in Bride of Chucky.
- In an earlier draft of the original Child's Play this was how the babysitter was suppose to die.
- Mel Gibson's character in What Women Want is almost killed by this, but instead ends up with the power to read the minds of women.
- The teaser to Goldfinger, including Sean Connery giving the expected Bond One-Liner.
- Done in The Ring.
- Particularly noteworthy, since rather than just drop an active, mundane electronic device into a bathtub, he sets up a rather complicated metal harness connected to numerous devices, steps into the bathtub, and then switches it on. The result is also more realistic, as it causes the lighting to intermittently short out, and much convulsion and a lot of blood.
- One character in Jean-Pierre Jeunet's and Marc Caro's Delicatessen has a penchant for Rube Goldberg Device suicide attempts, one culminating in an Electrified Bathtub.
- According to Word of God, this later happens to the man who spends the whole of The Truman Show watching TV in the bath.
- In The Astronauts Wife (Rosemary's Baby with aliens), the wife of one of the astronauts commits suicide this way, after her husband dies of a stroke. When the main character confronts her alien-possessed husband, she's standing with her feet in water dripping down from the sink, preparing to commit suicide the same way... and after confirming that he's been possessed, water pours down from above, as she's left the tub and sink on the other floor on, causing him to be electrocuted instead... It Makes Sense in Context. But too bad this frees up the alien to possess her instead.
- In The Royal Tenenbaums, Etheline is concerned about her daughter, Margot, watching TV in the bath. Margot does at least have the TV tied up so it doesn't fall in.
- In Eating Raoul this technique is used on a hot tub filled with swingers.
- A bizarre variation occurs in Snake Eater 3: Soldier (Lorenzo Lamas) electrifies a biker perp's toilet bowl, killing the biker as he relieves his bladder. Ouch!
- One girl in Slumber Party Massacre III takes a bath after having sex, and is electrocuted when a buzzing dildo is thrown to the water.
- During the prison riot scene in Watchmen, Rorschach kills one of the inmates by breaking a toilet on him and then letting the water reach an exposed wire near the wet guy.
- The same principle is used is Wristcutters: A Love Story, except instead of throwing an appliance into liquid, Eugene throws liquid (a beer) onto an appliance (his guitar) for a rock 'n' roll suicide. Works just as well, apparently.
- In Stay Tuned, while the main characters are stuck as cartoon mice and being chased after a robotic cat, they lead it into a bathtub and throw a hair drier into it.
- Subverted in House Of 9, Francis attempts to kill Lea by ripping a light fixation while Lea washes her hands and drop it into the sink. Lea is shocked and knocked out, but awakens later.
- The ditzy female serial killer in Neighbor ties a girl up, puts her in a bathtub, and throws a hair dryer in, but it fails to kill the victim. When next shown, the bath is now full of random appliances and electronics (including an entire television) and the victim still isn't dead. The killer decides to just drown her.
- Return to Cabin by the Lake: In the climax, Allison tries to kill Stanley by knocking him into a bathtub and then throwing in a blowdryer. She ultimately relents because she doesn't want to become a killer like him and alerts the police who just arrived on the scene, but this just gives Stanley a chance to escape and disappear forever.
- The protagonist in the Stephen King short story A Very Tight Place uses this trope when he confronts his would-be murderer, tossing an electric hair-dryer into the man's lap while he's sitting in his jacuzzi. It turns out to be just a psychological attack, as the dryer's not plugged in.
- A genuine bathtub electrocution takes place in King's "The Monkey".
- The title character in Harlan Ellison's Jeffty Is Five. The protagonist doesn't realize until it's too late that Jeffty's mother deliberately propped the radio by the tub precariously enough that it would tip into the tub as soon as Jeffty changed the channel.
- This is the cause of death/murder method in the Carter Dickson mystery The Reader is Warned.
- In the Dresden novel Blood Rites, an actress is nearly killed when a huge industrial light falls into the puddle created after a burst of scalding water causes her to fall through and break a glass shower door. Yes, someone was trying to kill her.
- William F Buckley Jr at one time when he needed a murder method for his Blackford Oakes series discussed methods with an electrical expert. I believe the letters did speculate the actual use of a bathtub. However in the end, in Stained Glass it was an electric booby-trap inside a cathedral that was undergoing a massive restoration (and thus had plenty of stray wiring to blame) that did the deed. It's been a long time since I read the letter I am referring to so I am not sure I am accurate.
- In Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Dr. Gonzo asks Raoul Duke to do this during the high point of Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit," believing that it will get him the ultimate high. Raoul flings a grapefruit instead (though he doesn't bounce it off his head like in the movie,) unplugs the radio (leaving it to run on its harmless batteries,) and then gets the hell out before Dr. Gonzo can realize what happened. When he gets up the nerve to check, Gonzo's started to come down from his trip.
- Used as a murder attempt in Christopher Pike's The Graduation.
- The hazard-to-musicians variant described in the "Real Life" section appears in fictional form in Espedair Street by Iain Banks. The band Frozen Gold are performing behind an elaborate special effect rig that involves multiple streams of water circulated by a pump. This thing malfunctions and dumps a deluge of water over lead guitarist Davey, causing him to be electrocuted.
Live Action TV
- In The Sarah Connor Chronicles, the heroes shock Cameron into reset mode (after her brief Face-Heel Turn in the second-season opener) with a clock radio hidden in a baptismal font.
- A woman died in the teaser of the Six Feet Under episode "An Open Book" when her cat knocked her electric hot rollers into the tub.
- Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) uses this.
- Used in an episode of Psych.
- In The Adventures of Superman (the 1950's TV show with George Reeves), a gullible rich person is told by a phony psychic (hired by the rich guy's heirs) that he would chase away the Evil Spirits around him if he stepped into a bathtub while holding a live electrical cable. Superman saved him (of course).
- The cliff-hanger of one story on Batman had the Penguin and his mooks electrify a swimming pool and were going to throw Chief O'Hara (who's locked in a trunk) in.
- In "Mr. Monk Gets Cabin Fever", Kathy Willowby kills her husband Martin by dropping a radio into the tub while he's bathing, then freezes the body and puts it out in the boat the next night so that it looks like Martin got struck by lightning while fishing on the lake.
- And in "Mr. Monk and the Big Game", Julie's basketball coach Lynn Hayden is killed in an electrified shower.
- Happened once in CSI, with the suicide variant. Or so it appears at first glance...
- And in CSI: Miami, as a murder. Justified in that the circuit breaker didn't work as the victim put herb salt (?) in the bath water.
- And in CSI: New York, where... *Glasses Pull* it's complicated.
- Subverted in Black Books. Manny is making toast in the bath (while using a hair dryer at the same time). When he's applying the jam (which is in a soap dispenser) to the toast and attaching it to a Rube Golderberg -esque device designed to deliver it to Bernard, he accidentally knocks the hairdyer into the tub. He proceeds to take it out, comment, "That was lucky" and continue using it. There may be a radio by the bath too.
- Tested by MythBusters, who confirmed it. However, they also showed that a working Ground Fault Interrupter will cut the power to an appliance in time. Appliances without GFIs, on the other hand, will kill, which is an issue because the overwhelming majority of small appliances don't have GFIs. They didn't test GFIs built into power outlets (required for new bathroom construction by several building codes), but presumably they'd work the same way - but a murderer could simply plug the appliance into an outlet in another room using a cheap extension cord.
- In the Columbo episode "Double Shock", the killer uses an electric mixer.
- In the MacGyver episode "A Lesson in Evil", the Hannibal Lecter-esque Dr. Zito sets a trap for Mac by restraining a hapless victim (his own therapist, who he had succeeded in convincing he was "cured") in a bathtub, attaching an electric heater on top and leaving the water running.
- Oz. Prison guard Claire Howell murders inmate Nikolai Stanislofsky this way, after first giving him some hand relief.
- Used in an episode of Perry Mason.
- Double subverted on Life: When facing a hitmanwoman (sic) who kills using household materials, Charlie thinks that a bathtub was rigged to be electrified as a backup plan to murder the victim in case the murderer's Plan A failed. Bobby says that it's a myth because the circuit breaker would prevent the electrocution from taking place. Charlie then tests this claim by throwing a TV into the bathtub. The TV explodes after hitting the water, and the power for the entire building goes out. They then realize that the killer had circumvented the circuit breaker as well.
- Used in an early episode of Smallville.
- Used in an episode of the 1994 revival of Burkes Law, entitled "Who Killed the Starlet?" A woman is the bath while listening to some music, when a killer sneaks in and drops her boombox into the bathtub, killing her. It turns out that the killer and lady are merely actors on a movie set, and they're filming a murder scene. Then it turns out the boombox had been plugged into a live outlet by an unknown party, and the actress in the bathtub really ''is'' dead.
- Shower variant in Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Buffy is set up to shut off the water in a locker room shower just as the puddle reaches a live wire. She sees the trap and jumps out just in time, with only static-frazzled hair to show for it (which concerns her quite a bit).
- Buffy is given a malfunctioning Initiative taser in The Uriah Gambit set up by Prof. Walsh — she throws it into a pool of water in which a demon is standing.
- Murder, She Wrote: "Unauthorized Obituary"
- Parodied in a Scenes From a Hat segment on Whose Line Is It Anyway?. "A nice bath and some toast."
- The Mentalist: In "Scarlet Ribbons", a security guard is found dead in his bathtub with a hairdryer dropped into it.
- Rizzoli & Isles: In "Partners in Crime", the killer pushes a boombox into the hot tub of the first Body of the Week. This does not kill her but stuns her so the killer can hold her head underwater till she drowns.
- The Blacklist: Two suspects kill themselves by pulling a laptop into a bath.
- The Glades: The Victim of the Week in "Second Chance" is murdered when the killer pushes a vacuum cleaner into the pool where he is swimming.
- Some of the later Radio Gradittis on True Capitalist Radio had Ghost wishing this on the Tub Guy. He specifically said that Tub Guy should use a toaster, no less.
- Rum Rogers Sr. in Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge dies in a bathtub thanks to his habit of bathing while eating toast. In The Curse of Monkey Island Lechuck reveals that he killed him there, and made it look like an accident.
- In BioShock, any Splicer in the same water will instantly die if you hit them with an electric shock. Killing a Splicer in this manner unlocks an achievement called "Toaster in the Tub".
- In Urban Chaos Riot Response, during one of the hostage situations, a burner will use a reporter as a human shield. When you successfully shoot him, he will fall backwards into a conveniently filled bathtub and said reporter will then drop a television on top of the guy ("Fry you bastard!") as payback.
- One of the installments of Hitman series even had this move on advertisement posters. And indeed, in one mission this is the possible, and indeed advisable for a "true", never-seen never-recognized, killer, way to assassinate one of your targets.
- Taking into account how difficult it would be to kill yourself this way, however, doing this won't be counted as an "accident".
- Fallout 3 has a few skeletons found in the bathtub, as they were likely killed upon the bombs falling, this means many of them died in the tub. However, a rare few apparently died afterwards. A few can be found with a toaster in the bathtub with them. Although really, if you're going to choose between semi-instant frying by toaster assisted suicide or waiting for your flesh to fall off from radiation, fry my problems away.
- In Scribblenauts, you can use this to kill hostile creatures in bodies of water, or Maxwell if you don't make sure he's safe.
- The Disney game Nightmare Ned has a whole song about this. The level it appears on requires you to leap from bathtub to bathtub and avoid getting shocked in the process.
- In Alone In The Dark 2008, there are some points where you have to pull electric cables out of the water so you can traverse through the area without getting zapped.
- Multiple puzzles in Half-Life 2 involve a large pool of water in contact with live wires. Gordon must shut off the power source or else suffer severe damage should he find himself swimming.
- Using a Lightning Gun in the water in Quake discharges all of your ammo into the surrounding area. Damage scales exponentially; one cell (out of a maximum possible of 100) will be a small hit. Ten cells will viciously maim you. Twenty or more cells will gib the player and anything nearby.
- One puzzle in Silent Hill 3 has you drop a hair dryer in a sewer main to kill a monster guarding a bridge.
- Played for laughs in Tales of Vesperia. Raven is perfectly aware that he'll get electrocuted if he goes in a hot spring because of his blastia heart. When Yuri brings it up to him, he simply says that it's Worth It.
- One of the characters in Lucius dies when Lucius drops a hairdryer into her bathtub.
- In Soldier of Fortune II, you kill Domingo Sanchez by blowing a fuse box while he's standing in a puddle of water.
- The water segment of Shock Man's stage in Mega Man Rock Force has a Corridor Cubbyhole Run section that features this. The electrical rods in the background will descend, and will damage Mega Man if he's inside as soon as they touch the water.
- Invoked in Amazing Super Powers, though it's unclear whether they did it or poor Wade later died of something else. See also Alt Text and the hidden comic.
- An unusually bloody example shows up in the beginning of Hell(p)'s second chapter. Serves as a Framing Device to show how people enter Hell in this universe.
- Done on Sealab 2021 in the episode "Waking Quinn". Stormy drops a high powered hair dryer into a pool which electrocutes Quinn, causing him to experience lots of odd hallucinations. He did it not out of malice, but out of stupidity. Later, when Quinn wakes up, Stormy tries to revive him with a defibrillator (by putting it directly in the water, away from Quinn himself), then shows him his "bitchin'" homemade Tesla coil.
- In a later episode, Sparks kills Murphy by dropping the same Tesla coil into the jacuzzi Murphy is sitting in. However, because of the slow speed of the aforementioned visible arcs of electricity, Murphy lives long enough to take Sparks down with him.
- The title character of The Brave Little Toaster has a nightmare of falling into a bathtub full of water.
- Happens to Donald Duck in the Classic Disney Short How to Have an Accident in the Home.
- Hilariously attempted by Dale in King of the Hill to Hank when he heard he had an Erotic Dream about his wife. Dale ran in with a toaster in hand, but forget it was still plugged, so he just tripped and fell before he could make it.
- On the season one Family Guy episode "A Hero Sits Next Door," (it's the episode that introduces the Swansons, for those who haven't seen Family Guy's first season) when Peter mentioned how much he hated new neighbors because they always borrow his stuff and never return it, the scene cuts to a man about to commit suicide in a bath with a toaster (implied to be one of the many things he lent to his neighbor and hasn't seen since).
- Done in Rocko's Modern Life episode "Fatal Contraption" when the new jealous appliance destroys the toaster by throwing it a piece of bread to chase in which said piece of bread falls into the sink so that the toaster follows it.
- Interestingly, water in its pure form won't readily act as a conductor. In fact water is a pretty good insulator. Unfortunately, water is also a great solvent...this means that there's almost always some minerals and/or other salts dissolved within. It's these salts that readily conduct electricity. Even if you took a bath in pure H2O, the moment you dipped your toe in the tub, the salts and other contaminants on you skin have doomed your fate!
- Thomas Merton died this way. Conspiracy theories abound.
- The same can be said of French singer Claude François.
- Flavia Boricea, a teenage girl from Romania died from using twitter on a laptop while in the bathtub.
- Another teen died from dropping a hair dryer in the tub.
- One method of execution by the Nazis involved lowering a group of prisoners on a metal plate into a vat of water, then running current through it. Then the apparatus was raised out of the water and electrified again to burn the corpses.
- This murder attempt. Fortunately for the woman, she tossed out the radio in time and survived.
- This is actually a common hazard for live performing musicians, especially when the set/venue/etcetera involves a pool or fountain or other large body of water and/or it's raining. Since vocalists (and to a lesser degree guitarists) might not exactly remember they are holding a highly charged electrical object when they decide to jump into the pool/run out from under the canopy/etcetera, people have almost died doing this - the only thing saving them being someone grabbing their mic or guitar or kicking it loose from power before they hit the water.
- Preventing this is why more advanced setups for video or festival or venue performance will set up redundancy to knock out power - the cables and cords themselves visible so a roadie or another band member can respond if he or she sees this about to happen or happening, and the soundboard/lighting tech being able to cut the breakers from his/her position - ruining the show, but saving the life of a forgetful singer or guitarist, if he or she sees it happening from their vantage point.
- Also a hazard for photographers: batteries on modern camera gear can easily charge it up enough to deliver a fatal shock if the photographer falls into water. In at least one incident caught on video, a photographer at a wedding aiming for a better shot forgot to look behind him and fell into a fountain - the only thing making it not fatal was that someone grabbed his camera gear from him using a strap of his backpack.
- There was a case in Austria in the late 1980s where a wife tried to kill her husband by throwing a running hairdryer into the bathtub he was sitting in. The residual current circuit breaker did its job and saved the man's life. The manufacturer of the circuit breaker quoted the incident in their advertising to prove the high quality of their product, which just goes to show that the ability to make quality electric parts is not always paired with good taste.
- According to both Hunter S. Thompson and other friends of Oscar Zeta Acosta, the bathtub scene in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was loosely based on an actual event, though it didn't take place during either of their trips to Las Vegas.