Monday, February 4, 2019

Is It Possible to Commit Suicide With Chloroform?

Philadelphia, Penn. (1878)
06/13/1878: Mrs. Geistlach and her two children found dead from chloroform poisoning.  Because she was illiterate, her suicide note was considered a forgery.  Her husband, an out of work shoemaker, had disappeared, leading to suspicion that he was the actual killer.
Category: family
Suicide: no
Cause: unknown (perhaps poverty)
Weapon: poison (chloroform)[1]

[1] “A Shoemaker Named Geistlach,” [Winsboro, S.C.] News and Herald, Jun. 18, 1878, 1.

I can see how you could hold a chloroform-soaked cloth over a child's face long enough to kill, but over your own mouth?  Wouldn't you pass out first?


  1. You could lay on your back with the cloth over your mouth and nose. Easier, of course, for someone else to do it.

  2. You could drink it, or you could spill a large quantity in an enclosed space.

  3. Given the time period the home was probably quite small. All you would need to do is open the bottle, or two, and then just sit down and wait. First you would pass out and then you would overdose.

    In those times people also used armore to hold clothing. Homes didn't come with closets in those times. A woman could shut herself into such a closet, open a couple of bottles, pass out and then die.

  4. the fatal dose of the liquid is easily ingested. it's actually pretty nasty stuff. it just wasn't quite as bad as surgery without anesthetic.

  5. Yes.

    I had a call, back in the mid 1980s, where the man killed himself using chloroform.

    He poured it into a basin and used a large plastic trash bag as a hood. He put the basin on the floor of his apartment and then laid down on the floor next to it. He then pulled the hood over his head.

    He left a very neatly written suicide note explaining his reasons and apologizing to his friends for killing himself.

    At the time I remarked that you always see chloroform being used on TV and in movies, but it's odd to see someone do it in real life.

    Almost 40 years later, I can still picture the scene in my mind.

  6. Soak a bandana and tie it around your head.