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-   -   Gun based suicide Temple vs Mouth (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=662195)

BurnMeUp 08-15-2012 04:57 PM

Gun based suicide Temple vs Mouth
 
Many movies and TV shows prior to the 80's depicted people with the gun to the side of their head method for self termination. However starting in the 80's, it seemed to get more and more common for the barrel to be in the person's mouth (possibly starting with Lethal Weapon?). These days you rarely if ever see the gun to the temple style.

My question is, why the change? Is it life imitating art? The other way 'round? Is one truely more effective than the other?

KneadToKnow 08-15-2012 05:01 PM

I wonder if Budd Dwyer has anything to do with it.

sachertorte 08-15-2012 05:27 PM

I doubt there is a factual answer, but here is what I've heard. I've been told that a temple shot is better for suicide as it is more foolproof. Gun in the mouth is more likely to not kill you or not kill you right away. Miss the brain and you're in for a whole lot of distress.

(1) Don't shoot yourself -- at all.
(2) If you must, don't shoot yourself in the mouth!

Little Nemo 08-15-2012 05:35 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by sachertorte (Post 15387786)
I doubt there is a factual answer, but here is what I've heard. I've been told that a temple shot is better for suicide as it is more foolproof. Gun in the mouth is more likely to not kill you or not kill you right away. Miss the brain and you're in for a whole lot of distress.

(1) Don't shoot yourself -- at all.
(2) If you must, don't shoot yourself in the mouth!

See, I've heard the exact opposite. The mouth shot is more certain. With the temple shot, you're more likely to flinch as you pull the trigger and pull away from the gun.

I'm betting we won't see this one on Mythbusters.

Maggie the Ocelot 08-15-2012 05:36 PM

See, I'd heard that a gun to the temple can very easily lobotomize you without killing you, and that it was more certain in the mouth. I suppose it depends on the gun, etc.

Still, better off not to do either. My cousin tried, and wound up blind and brain-damaged, but alive. Don't remember what angle he used, probably temple.

Covered_In_Bees! 08-15-2012 05:52 PM

I think people are more likely to screw up with the gun in their mouth because of the pressure required to pull the trigger combined with the awkward angle you'll be holding the gun at. Your hand is in a more natural position when you put it to your temple, but I think you have a higher chance of just blowing your face off and not your brains out.

Tim R. Mortiss 08-15-2012 06:15 PM

I've always heard that the mouth method is more effective, as the barrel is relatively constrained, and the soft pallet is easier to penetrate than the skull.

But if I were giving advice, I'd recommend playing it safe and jumping out a high window. No chance of missing the target that way.

Saint Cad 08-15-2012 06:18 PM

Chris Chubbuck was told to do it right behind the ear. Seemed to work for her.

TriPolar 08-15-2012 06:22 PM

I've heard the mouth was the way to do it with a rifle or shotgun. Otherwise it's hard to aim and pull the trigger. But for movies I think the mouth shot just makes a better shot. You can focus right on the face where the temple shot has the distracting hand and pistol off to the side. The temple shot probably originated at a time the mouth shot was considered too distasteful to be shown.

For some reason, sometimes people were shown closing their eyes before shooting themselves in the temple. The mouth shut always seems to have the eyes wide open, and staring into the camera like they were looking at a mirror.

jz78817 08-15-2012 06:43 PM

aimed properly, the mouth shot will put the bullet through your brain stem.

KneadToKnow 08-15-2012 06:52 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Saint Cad (Post 15387948)
Chris Chubbuck was told to do it right behind the ear. Seemed to work for her.

From Wikipedia (emphasis added):

Quote:

Camera operator Jean Reed later recalled she thought it had been an elaborate prank and did not realize Chubbuck had actually shot herself until she saw Chubbuck's twitching body.

Chubbuck was taken to Sarasota Memorial Hospital.... she was pronounced dead fourteen hours later.
Or maybe not.

Saint Cad 08-15-2012 08:35 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by KneadToKnow (Post 15388063)
From Wikipedia (emphasis added):



Or maybe not.

I said it worked.
I didn't say it worked well.

Incidently her information came from police officers.

thelurkinghorror 08-15-2012 09:26 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Maggie the Ocelot (Post 15387809)
See, I'd heard that a gun to the temple can very easily lobotomize you without killing you, and that it was more certain in the mouth. I suppose it depends on the gun, etc.

Still, better off not to do either. My cousin tried, and wound up blind and brain-damaged, but alive. Don't remember what angle he used, probably temple.

Mostly. A real frontal lobotomy is nothing like the movies. These people can have productive lives.

Diagram of our brain, and yours if you're a shark

Any part of the telencephalon you don't strictly need to stay alive. But losing a part can severely impair your life and make you worse off.

The hind brain is basically designed as your life support. The medulla and anything around there.

It is unlikely you'll hit the latter with a temple shot. You may, e.g. damage your temporal and become Leonard from Memento, or many other possibilities.

LouisB 08-16-2012 04:14 AM

I would think that a 357 magnum round to the head would do the job regardless of mouth or temple for the aiming point.

KarlGauss 08-16-2012 04:51 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by jz78817 (Post 15388029)
aimed properly, the mouth shot will put the bullet through your brain stem.

This. And, even if not aimed "properly", a gun in the mouth will almost certainly ping the brain stem, or a good part of it. Since the brain stem is densely packed with various connections and control centres, any injury to it is life-threatening.

For those not too familiar with neuroanatomy, the brainstem is the densely packed, compact part of the brain through which every connection to and from the brain travels, and in which are located centres for control of breathing and other basic life functions.

It is also worth mentioning that consciousness resides in the brain stem, or at least depends on an intact brain stem. In other words, you will be unconscious the instant the brain stem is hit (either directly by the bullet or a bone fragment, or torn apart by the tremendous shock and pressure waves generated by the gunshot).

Hail Ants 08-16-2012 10:13 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by BurnMeUp (Post 15387671)
Many movies and TV shows prior to the 80's depicted people with the gun to the side of their head method for self termination. However starting in the 80's, it seemed to get more and more common for the barrel to be in the person's mouth (possibly starting with Lethal Weapon?). These days you rarely if ever see the gun to the temple style.

My question is, why the change? Is it life imitating art? The other way 'round? Is one truely more effective than the other?

Let me break with the forensics and say a better answer to the OP is that it has little to do with any physiological reasons. In terms of why it started being portrayed this way on TV & film, it's simply the evolution of showing a serious, taboo act more and more graphically. I think the original Hayes Code banned any actual on-screen depiction of even attempted suicide. It had to happen in another room or at most implied by only showing the shadow of a character raising a gun but still having to turn the camera away from that before the shot is heard (plus it usually had to be a cowardly villain only doing it to escape capture & punishment).

Regardless of any statistics of how often or successfully it's actually done temple vs. mouth, showing an actor actually put the gun into their mouth is inherently much more graphic (not to mention phallic!) then just raising it to their head. So as movies & TV strived to become more gritty & realistic this started to include showing suicides this way.

As an aside: There was long debate over which way Hitler did it. Many wanted to imply that only putting the gun to your temple was more 'cowardly' compared to putting the barrel in your mouth...

Bullitt 08-16-2012 10:25 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Saint Cad (Post 15387948)
Chris Chubbuck was told to do it right behind the ear. Seemed to work for her.

Christine Chubbuck - that was a long time ago, 1974, and I had to look that up. Shot herself on her own live TV show. Brutal.
(Her suicide, on Wikipedia)

Sicks Ate 08-16-2012 10:27 AM

A few years ago, police responded to a suicidal subject, teenage male. He was armed wiith a .22 rifle.

When they got there he was in the back of a hog shed, and as they came it he put the rifle in his mouth and fired.

Unfortunately, a .22 isn't a very powerful bullet, and he also fired almost straight up through the top of his mouth.

Didn't work so well. It bulged/blew one of his eyes out, but he was determined to make it work, so he fired again. Similar result, didn't get the job done. Third time was a charm.

I can't imagine the willpower it took to pull the trigger a second and third time.

Elendil's Heir 08-16-2012 10:31 AM

I read somewhere, long ago, that the most pleasant way of killing yourself (weather permitting) was just going out and lying down in a snowdrift. After the initial pain of getting too cold, you just drift off and die. Dunno if that's true.

Bullitt 08-16-2012 10:37 AM

Either location will do it, temple or mouth, and if in the mouth the person has to point the gun up to the brain instead of towards the back of the mouth.

It's not merely where you aim but also maintaining that aim point while squeezing the trigger. I can imagine that a long double-action trigger pull, combined with the anticipated result, will cause the shooter to move the gun. I see that happening more easily when pointing at the temple. So if one has a double-action only (DAO) revolver, the mouth is the better aim point, IMHO. Just point up, not back.

I recommend single action semiautomatic pistol, preferably .45 ACP. Or possibly a cocked revolver, single not double action, in either .357 magnum or .44 magnum. And, hollow points. That should do it.

And, please drape several towels over your head so you don't spray too much blood and brain matter on my ceiling and walls.

Better yet, take it outside.

TriPolar 08-16-2012 10:47 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by echo7tango (Post 15389854)
And, please drape several towels over your head so you don't spray too much blood and brain matter on my ceiling and walls.

Better yet, take it outside.

Yeah. Some people are just inconsiderate.

Bullitt 08-16-2012 10:58 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by TriPolar (Post 15389904)
Yeah. Some people are just inconsiderate.

True enough. Where I live it happens once or twice a year on the local commuter train tracks. The train conductors have to get counseling because they see the whole thing.

Very inconsiderate, and this time I'm not being tongue-in-cheek.

eightysix 08-16-2012 11:00 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by echo7tango (Post 15389854)
and if in the mouth the person has to point the gun up to the brain instead of towards the back of the mouth.

I have to disagree with this. Upward from the mouth will hit the cerebral hemispheres, probably lethal, but as non vital structures, survivable with significant debility. Too forward an angle and the bullet may just pass behind the face, not entering the cranial cavity at all. Survivable with debility and disfigurement.

Better to aim straight back into the mouth, as behind that is the brain stem. As said already, damage to that is with high probability fatal.

Bullitt 08-16-2012 11:00 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Elendil's Heir (Post 15389821)
I read somewhere, long ago, that the most pleasant way of killing yourself (weather permitting) was just going out and lying down in a snowdrift. After the initial pain of getting too cold, you just drift off and die. Dunno if that's true.

Apparently it does happen that way, and happens often enough with mountain climbers. It almost happened to Beck Weathers, a member of the 1996 Rob Hall Mt. Everest expedition and described very well in Jon Krakauer's book, Into Thin Air. Weathers was laying face down in the snow on the South Col (elev. 26,000') and dreamed/hallucinated he was with his family in sunny, warm Texas. At that altitude, people can't pick you up and help you down, you are left on our own.

Weathers almost drifted off to die, and would have if he didn't somehow realize that holy shit!, I'm in deep kimchi and the cavalry ain't comin'!

madmonk28 08-16-2012 11:02 AM

When I was a volunteer EMT years and years ago, we had a call where a guy had shot himself in the mouth with a shotgun. It made a horrible mess, but he didn't die on the scene. He was just writhing around in horrible agony and died later that night. Put that on my list of ways I won't off myself.

Clothahump 08-16-2012 11:12 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by sachertorte (Post 15387786)
I doubt there is a factual answer, but here is what I've heard. I've been told that a temple shot is better for suicide as it is more foolproof. Gun in the mouth is more likely to not kill you or not kill you right away. Miss the brain and you're in for a whole lot of distress.

(1) Don't shoot yourself -- at all.
(2) If you must, don't shoot yourself in the mouth!

Actually, that's backwards. You are more likely to flinch at the last second with a temple shot. Budd Dwyer's suicide shows how close he came to blowing it (no pun intended), even with a mouth shot.

The best way is to put the barrel in the mouth, pointed straight back, not upward. When the round fires, it takes out the base of the skull where the spine comes into the brain. It turns you off like a light switch.

Lanzy 08-16-2012 11:38 AM

I know people that tried both and not surprisingly, both worked.

Little Nemo 08-16-2012 12:46 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Sicks Ate (Post 15389801)
A few years ago, police responded to a suicidal subject, teenage male. He was armed wiith a .22 rifle.

When they got there he was in the back of a hog shed, and as they came it he put the rifle in his mouth and fired.

Unfortunately, a .22 isn't a very powerful bullet, and he also fired almost straight up through the top of his mouth.

Didn't work so well. It bulged/blew one of his eyes out, but he was determined to make it work, so he fired again. Similar result, didn't get the job done. Third time was a charm.

I can't imagine the willpower it took to pull the trigger a second and third time.

That's nothing. I've mentioned before I once read an article about a man who committed suicide with a power drill. He had to use it six times to successfully kill himself.

Now that's willpower. I figure most people would have drilled two or three holes in their head, maybe four tops, and decided it wasn't working and switched to another power tool.

TheChileanBlob 08-16-2012 12:50 PM

What about putting the gun under your chin, like the warden in The Shawshank Redemption? Would the result be similar to the mouth shot? It seems like that would be the easiest place to stablilize the gun barrel: a soft spot with a triangle of bone to rest the gun between.

Sicks Ate 08-16-2012 12:53 PM

I just had a creepy thought: what if somebody is researching the best way to actually do it, and makes their decision based on this thread? Ew.

TriPolar 08-16-2012 12:55 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Sicks Ate (Post 15390442)
I just had a creepy thought: what if somebody is researching the best way to actually do it, and makes their decision based on this thread? Ew.

Why is it creepy to use this thread as research for shooting a movie scene?

Zsofia 08-16-2012 01:20 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by TheChileanBlob (Post 15390434)
What about putting the gun under your chin, like the warden in The Shawshank Redemption? Would the result be similar to the mouth shot? It seems like that would be the easiest place to stablilize the gun barrel: a soft spot with a triangle of bone to rest the gun between.

I'd think you'd be more likely to just blow the front of your face off with that.

Slithy Tove 08-16-2012 01:42 PM

Not recommending under-the-chin. Remember the two teenagers in Nevada who shot themselves, for which their parents sued Judas Priest? One of them survived, even though they'd used a shotgun, not just a pistol.

UncleRojelio 08-16-2012 02:02 PM

All I have to add is a bit of trivia from a Sheriff's dept briefing I attended long ago. Women are more likely to shoot themselves in the chest than men. They apparently feel the need to leave a pretty corpse.

baka420 08-16-2012 02:17 PM

Daniel Von Bargen (Commandant Spangler in Malcom in the Middle/Mr Kruger in Seinfeld) attempted suicide with a gunshot to the temple. He ended up blowing both his eyeballs out and had to phone 911 for help. I think this happened in February and there is still no update on his condition. The 911 call can be found on the internet if you search it up but I must warn you when I say how horrific it is. I don't think shooting yourself in the head, even if suicidal, is a good idea. It's also messed up how this guys 911 call made it to the internet, what's privacy?

greenslime1951 08-16-2012 03:00 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Lanzy (Post 15390133)
I know people that tried both and not surprisingly, both worked.

I can't help but ask: which one did they try first?

Donnerwetter 08-16-2012 03:17 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by baka420 (Post 15390776)
Daniel Von Bargen (Commandant Spangler in Malcom in the Middle/Mr Kruger in Seinfeld) attempted suicide with a gunshot to the temple. He ended up blowing both his eyeballs out and had to phone 911 for help. I think this happened in February and there is still no update on his condition. The 911 call can be found on the internet if you search it up but I must warn you when I say how horrific it is. I don't think shooting yourself in the head, even if suicidal, is a good idea. It's also messed up how this guys 911 call made it to the internet, what's privacy?

The same happened to German general Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel who tried to shoot himself after the failed plot of July 20th 1944.

thelurkinghorror 08-16-2012 03:22 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Sicks Ate (Post 15390442)
I just had a creepy thought: what if somebody is researching the best way to actually do it, and makes their decision based on this thread? Ew.

If someone wants to, then they'd choose another method if they didn't come here.

Quote:

Originally Posted by UncleRojelio (Post 15390716)
All I have to add is a bit of trivia from a Sheriff's dept briefing I attended long ago. Women are more likely to shoot themselves in the chest than men. They apparently feel the need to leave a pretty corpse.

I found a link agreeing with you. But: men are much more likely to use a firearm than women, who often choose other methods. And men are more likely to succeed in general, because of firearms and other reasons.

Hail Ants 08-16-2012 08:28 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by LouisB (Post 15389206)
I would think that a 357 magnum round to the head would do the job regardless of mouth or temple for the aiming point.

The aforementioned Budd Dwyer used this exact weapon, in his mouth. And although it certainly got the job done (he dropped like a stone) it did not blow the back of his head apart like you see in the movies. I'm not sure if the bullet even exited his body, which actually helps to kill you quicker, having the slug bounce around inside your brain.

A few notes for those who haven't ever seen the Dwyer video:
SPOILER:
Although his skull does not explode it's still very unpleasant and graphic. Although his brain appears to turn off like a switch and he immediately falls to the floor, his heart keeps beating, causing blood to literally pour out of his nose & mouth like a fountain, and the camera has a near close-up of this.
If you haven't seen it, do yourself a favor and don't. Like someone else said, eww...

basset hound 08-16-2012 09:19 PM

I worked as a hospital orderly during the summers while in high school (long time ago). Among our responsibilities was helping in the ER with beligerent folks, perform long-term CPR (chest compressions), or insert tubes in uncomfortable places.

Anyway, one of my most vivid memories from that job was the day a fellow came in who had attempted suicide by shooting himself under the chin with a handgun. I think it was a .38, but I'm not sure. I have no idea what type of bullet he used, but it didn't touch his brain or eyes. He did take out most of his mouth and tongue, including almost all of the lower jaw. The EMT I spoke with said they found him outside of his house squirting himself in the face with a garden hose -- he was trying to wash off the blood and damage he had done. Though he had to be in shock, he was in lots of pain and was tremendously agitated and confused.

He didn't die that day, but I imagine the rest of his life was very different from the one he tried to end. I don't know what happened to him, but it was mighty sad to see.

AaronX 08-16-2012 09:49 PM

I thought the in the mouth method was aiming for the "apricot", the part of the brain behind the nose that snipers aim for to knock people out immediately. Relevant to the thread on whether people have enough reflexes to pull a trigger after being shot in a standoff.

G0m3r619 04-16-2013 07:43 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by sachertorte (Post 15387786)
I doubt there is a factual answer, but here is what I've heard. I've been told that a temple shot is better for suicide as it is more foolproof. Gun in the mouth is more likely to not kill you or not kill you right away. Miss the brain and you're in for a whole lot of distress.

(1) Don't shoot yourself -- at all.
(2) If you must, don't shoot yourself in the mouth!

Actually putting the barrel of a high caliber hand gun in your mouth pointed slightly up will be like switching off the lights. The bullet will destroy the portion of the brain that controls things like breathing and heart beating as well as consciousness. It's also where most of the big veins are that feed the brain with blood. It's essentially instant death.

Koxinga 04-16-2013 08:10 AM

Herbert Sobel, who was portrayed as the unpopular commander of Easy Company in _Band of Brothers_, tried to shoot himself after the war using the temple method; but he only managed to blind himself by severing his optic nerve, and spent the rest of his days being cared for in a VA hospital, where he eventually died of malnutrition.

hotflungwok 04-16-2013 10:02 AM

I heard that a .22 is good for a suicidal head shot because the bullet has enough power to get into the skull, but not back out again, so it just bounces around inside. Any truth to this?

Slithy Tove 04-16-2013 10:57 AM

The Russians, with their work cut out for them in the Revolution and Civil War, quickly found firing squads to be sloppy and time-consuming, so they developed the same method still used today: a bullet fired almost point-blank into the base of the skull, with the victim bowing his head. I suppose a person using both hands could do this to himself.

Elendil's Heir 04-16-2013 11:17 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Slithy Tove (Post 16199528)
The Russians, with their work cut out for them in the Revolution and Civil War, quickly found firing squads to be sloppy and time-consuming, so they developed the same method still used today: a bullet fired almost point-blank into the base of the skull, with the victim bowing his head....

And here's the guy who did much of the killing for Stalin; you can find quite a few of the grim details in this bio: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vasili_Blokhin

kunilou 04-16-2013 11:24 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by BurnMeUp (Post 15387671)
(possibly starting with Lethal Weapon?)

In the 1949 movie Adam's Rib, Spencer Tracy stuck a revolver in his mouth. Being a prank (the gun was made of licorice), this was played for laughs. However, it's interesting that they shot the scene that way, rather than, say, having Tracy bite through the gun's chamber or grip.

Annie-Xmas 04-16-2013 05:36 PM

I once asked a cop this very question, and he told me the best place to shoot a gun to kill anyone is the base of their neck in the front. It pretty much blows the head to smithereens.

flight 04-16-2013 06:10 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Elendil's Heir (Post 15389821)
I read somewhere, long ago, that the most pleasant way of killing yourself (weather permitting) was just going out and lying down in a snowdrift. After the initial pain of getting too cold, you just drift off and die. Dunno if that's true.

Better than that is a suicide bag. Either a plastic bag or gas mask with pure nitrogen. You just fall asleep.

Elendil's Heir 04-16-2013 06:18 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by flight (Post 16201160)
Better than that is a suicide bag. Either a plastic bag or gas mask with pure nitrogen. You just fall asleep.

Interesting - never heard of that. How does the nitrogen get in the bag, or what's to prevent it from rushing out?


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