Sleeping Gas Theory

Ether and chloroform are not the same chemical, and no, it doesn’t work as in the movies.

From this 1847 account of the introduction of chloroform, from the Lancet:

"1. A greatly less quantity of chloroform than of ether is requisite to produce the anæsthetic effect – usually from a hundred to a hundred and twenty drops of chloroform being sufficient, and with some patients much less. I have seen a strong person rendered completely insensible by seven inspiration of thirty drops only of the liquid.

  1. Its action is much more rapid and complete, and generally more persistent. I have almost always seen from ten to twenty inspirations suffice – sometimes fewer. Hence the time of the surgeon is saved, and that preliminary stage of excitement which pertains to all narcotizing agents, being curtailed, or indeed practically abolished, the patient has not the same degree of tendency to exhilaration and talking.

  2. Most of those who know, from previous experience, the sensations produced by ether inhalation, and who have subsequently breathed the chloroform, have strongly declared the inhalation and influence of chloroform to be far more agreeable and pleasant than those of ether."

So we have seven to twenty “inspirations” required from a calm willing “victim”. At least thirty seconds of steadily breathing chloroform in and out. You’d have to completely overpower your unwilling victim before chloroforming them - someone fighting back, full of adrenalin, snatching the occasional breath of fresh air, could take forever.
Both ether and chloroform are highly volatile liquids - they could be easily gasified by spraying as a mist of fine droplets. As I mentioned earlier, doing this with ether invites a flash burn or worse.

Not AKA - chloroform (trichloromethane) and diethyl ether are two separate compounds:

Both were used as anesthetics in the 19th century. Ether was used much more recently - when I was a kid I was given ether to have my tonsils out, though I believe it was kind of unusual, and not that many places were still using it. I’ve been able to recognize the smell ever since, for instance in cold-weather starter fluid. Based on that experience, I can’t see it as an abusable drug - I didn’t find it terribly pleasant.

It might work to knock somebody out with a chloroform soaked rag as in the movies, but not in 5 seconds, and you’d stand a good chance of killing them instead. Wiki’s take:

I can’t believe movies and TV have lied to me! :frowning:

Now I don’t believe in nothing no more!

I think they are pretty sure that the “gas” used in the Moscow theater fiasco was a derivative of fentanyl. It is not a gas, it is an aerosol. One suggestion is 3-methylfentanyl, although given the speed that it had to act, I suspect they would use an even stronger derivative. If this is indeed the anesthetic used, it is tragic mistake of the military not to disclose it to the doctors. Since fentanyl is an opiate, an opiate blocker may have been able so save some lives.

Wait, they found traces of gasoline in the blood of people who slept near a road? Imagine that!

And nobody’s mentioned the most obvious impracticality… burglars lugging big gas tanks into somebody’s house.

Flodnak is right, the truth is that burglars can be very quiet. People don;t want to believe that someone could have been in their house (or in their room) without them knowing about it.

I don’t know how to cut down the quote, so please forgive me.

Having been in maintenance in apartment buildings, you don’t have to be very quiet.
I have replaced toilets, and unclogged sinks, not knowing that someone was asleep in the bedroom.

The policy was to knock really loud at least twice, then unlock the door and open about six inches and announce yourself.

“Maintenance, anybody home, I’m here to fix the so-n-so!”

However, unless the work to be done was in the bedroom, we didn’t check if the door was shut.

How did I know if someone was sleeping, when they woke up and found the notice that we had fixed whatever, they invariably called the office to complain that we had been there while they were sleeping.

Then there was the time we were halfway setup to fix the ac, and I noticed movement on the couch. The Boss and I quietly packed back up and left. We really didn’t want her to wake up as she was “nekid as a jaybird” and we really didn’t want to be there when she woke up. She had slept through the knock, two announcements, and we were talking in normal tones, sifting through tools, the couch was facing away from us, but only standing about 6 ft away.

Since there is a newer thread on this subject here, I’m closing this one to keep all the responses in one place.

General Questions Moderator