Bringing the Text to Life
"One of our gentlemen found time to say 'How delicious!'" declares Aunt Abby. She is speaking to a mortified Mortimer, who has just discovered a corpse in the 1944 movie classic, Arsenic and Old Lace. The film's depiction of rapid death after drinking arsenic-spiked elderberry wine captures perfectly, just perfectly, our fear of this poisonous metallic element.
What a surprise, then, to discover that this devious death was not due to arsenic.
No, not at all! The killer additions to the elderberry wine were the powerful poisons strychnine and cyanide. While none of us would want to quaff an arsenic apéritif, the symptoms of this poisoning are typically not acute, says Dr. Robert Gallagher of the Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx.
Contrary to popular opinion, arsenic won't cause you to keel over in a dramatic Hollywood death. Instead, this metallic element predisposes people to a variety of diseases, including skin, bladder, lung and liver cancers, and arsenic...