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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 into a bathtub or some pool of water lying around, often times a toaster. A classic way to attempt murder or suicide 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.
Just one of the many ways that having a Candlelit Bath can turn out badly.
Anime & Manga
- Electricity and water is used as a weapon of murder in Case Closed; the police were almost going to write it off as an accident until Conan noticed that something was off.
- The second Elf Princess Rane episode shows Mr. Yumenokata getting shocked from using an electric shaver while taking a bath.
- In Mirai Nikki, Fifth almost killed Yuno this way, and was only prevented from doing so by Yukki cutting the electricity to the entire house.
- 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."
- 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.
- 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".
- 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 Childs 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 the very expected Bond One-Liner:
Bond: Shocking. Positively shocking.
- 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 intermittantly short out, and much convulsion and a lot of blood.
- One character in Jean-Pierre Jeunet'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 Astronaut's 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.
- One of the traps in Saw V.
- 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!
- Done with a dildo in Slumber Party Massacre III.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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).
- In "Mr. Monk Gets Cabin Fever", the neighbor woman kills her husband that way, and then frames it to make it look as if the man got struck by lightning while fishing on the lake.
- And in "Mr. Monk and the Big Game", this is how Julie's basketball coach is killed.
- Happened once in CSI, with the suicide variant. Or so it appears at first glance...
- 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 Myth Busters, 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"
- No Doubt's video for "It's My Life": Gwen Stefani, in the guise of a Jazz Age murderess, dispatches drummer Ade Young this way.
- The Alkaline Trio song Radio recounts an ex-girlfriend with the chorus "I wish you would take my radio to bathe with you, plugged in and ready to fall"
- The culmination of the tryst depicted in 'Digital Bath' by Deftones.
- Blink-182's "Adam's Song" starts with this.
"I traced the cord back to the wall. No wonder, it was never plugged in at all."
- Rum Rogers Sr. in Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge dies in a bathub 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".
- During one of the hostage situations in Urban Chaos: Riot Response, 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.
- 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.
- You can use this to kill hostile creatures in bodies of water in Scribblenauts. 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 the 2008 version of Alone in The Dark, 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 instantly gibs the player and anyone 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.
- 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.
- The Joker Blogs: Joker murders the best man at Harleen's wedding this way.
- It's actually a camera (still filming!) in the bathtub.
- The Nostalgia Critic
Is this a pep talk? Because pep talks are supposed to make you feel peppy, not make you want to take a shower with a FUCKING TOASTER!
- 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.
- It gets better, he then asks Hank if he can BORROW HIS EXTENSION CORD!
- 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.
- 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.