Monday, April 18, 2016

26+ Ways to Kill: O is for Obtruncate or Obvallate

Welcome! Since I write culinary mysteries, “Parsley, Sage, and Rosemary Time” deals with food topics and with mysteries. This month I am sharing ways to kill people—in your mysteries, of course—and some tips on getting away with it! To avoid the pronoun problem, I’ll use heesh (he or she), shis (his or hers), and shim (him or her) throughout the entries. Tune in for murder and mayhem.

There are some great O words of interest to mystery writers. Obfuscate is the bread and butter of mysteries. We attempt to occlude the obvious and obstruct the investigation leading away from the obvious. We make the obvious obscure. We milk obsequies (funerals) for hints. We murder both the odible (worthy of hatred) and the laudable.

We set our mysteries within rites such as omophagy (eating raw flesh) or ophism (snake worship). Perhaps we have the cult leader, who handles the venomous snakes previously “milked”, switching out a non-milked snake to a follower who is questioning shis authority.

Sometimes we have a caregiver oppilating (blocking up) old folks in a senior center via opoid constipation. Or administering an “accidental” overdose.

Or maybe orf (viral infection in sheep) is transmitted to a person. It can happen on farms. My father became infected with a cow disease and was hospitalized for weeks as they searched for the cause of his illness. He almost died when given antibiotics he was allergic to.

On a ship, we kill a passenger with oakum (old ropes untwisted and used to caulk the ship) to throw suspicion onto a crew member and away from the guilty captain. Ah, yes. We are good at using the usual in unusual ways.

But that’s not what we are doing today. Today, O is for Obtruncate or Obvallate.

When we kill someone by obtruncation, we have lopped off our victim’s head, decapitated shim. Sometimes, in our mysteries, we might make the obtruncation the coup de grace, the cherry on the top. A way for your killer to say to the world, “See me. I can kill and mutilate this body.”

Other times, our stories would lead us to a ritual killing (like kaishakunin—Japanese ritual beheading—or some such rite). We know beheadings were often used for political executions (look up Henry VIII, for example). Your historical mystery might have a character caught passing seditious codes and executed for treason.

In a beheading, some scientists say, the heart stops immediately but there is still about 15 seconds of consciousness. Maybe that accounts for the story of Mary, Queen of the Scots, moving her lips after her botched beheading (it took three whacks).

A blunt instrument ax/sword or a clumsy executioner are the most common causes of a painful and botched obtruncation. Use that to your advantage in your story line. To ensure success, your ax/sword needs to be heavy and double-edged. Both hands are used by the executioner to wield maximum leverage.

A less bloody way to kill your victim is obvallation. To obvallate is to wall in or seal up. It’s related to occlusing, the closing of an opening, passage, or cavity. As both child and adult, I have been fascinated with stories of being buried alive. To come to consciousness behind a newly-bricked wall would be terrifying. It would take the victim a while to realize shis circumstance and then the panic would set in. Imagine the scenes you could write of sheer terror.

The task of the killer is to incapacitate the victim long enough so that heesh couldn’t break through the fresh masonry. To make sure the majority of the wall is solid, I would brick up the wall a few weeks in advance leaving only enough of an opening to insert my victim’s living body. Then I would put a heavy appliance flush against the wall so the bricks couldn’t be dislodged. That should do the trick.

The victim will die of thirst, starvation, or lack of oxygen. But heesh will know heesh is dying long before it happens. Alone. In the dark. With no chance of rescue.

 On the other hand, one could obvallate a dead body as a way to conceal it. No body, no trial. I want to write a story about a house renovation and the discovery of a skeleton in the basement walls. Oooh!

What did you think of these ways to kill? Do you have other O ways to do in your victims? Whatever will I share for P? Come back tomorrow to check out more outrageous crimes.

If you take time to share this post on social media, I would be most grateful. 

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#Mystery writer, need killer ideas? O is for Obtruncate or Obvallate . Lots of tips this month! #atozchallenge

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Looking for new, fresh ways to kill (in books of course)? Check out Obtruncate or Obvallate on “Parsley, Sage, and Rosemary Time” at

Check out Sharon Arthur Moore’s culinary mystery, Mission Impastable  


  1. Wow. You can have your head chopped off and still be conscious for 15 seconds. What would that be like? I hope I never find out :-)

    Cheers - Ellen |

    1. Yeah, right. On the other hand, what a great paranormal you could write, right?

  2. I reckon we are getting more gruesome as get further into the alphabet. god help us at Z

    1. Ha ha! I am astounded at the many ways to die! Yet, there are still only a few categories. It's mostly variations on a theme, which I do address at Z! Hope you'll be back!