Smothered With a Pillow? Does it Really Work?

I find I can breathe pretty well through a pillow, even when I press it down fairly hard over my face.

It’s a standard in murder movies and TV shows, but…does it really work? I’m guessing that being panicked might make the victim gasp desperately, and that doesn’t work…but if you just breathe nice and slow, pillows seem very air-permeable.

Er…only asking out of purely abstract curiosity, of course…

According to this site it works: (warning, photos at the top of the page are disturbing)

And here’s a murder where the killer put a pillow over the victim’s face and then sat on it–there’s one way to minimize air permeability.

Ick! But thanks, that’s what I was wondering. It’s so commonplace in TV and movies…but, then, so is getting hit on the head a second time to cure amnesia. (Astonishingly dangerous!)

Need answer fast?

I will note that it takes a whole lot longer than it is ever shown to take on TV. And there’s plenty of time after they go limp where they will recover.

Why are you looking at me like that? I read about it on a movie myth site.

I remember testing it out with my brother when we were kids and were both swimmers. You can hold your breathe for a long time and i you don’t thrash around you can relax and breathe steadily through the pillow long enough to get bored with the whole thing. I assume big hands or the previously mentioned sitting on the pillow would help.

Field Trip!

  • (*i’m not dead yet… **


Maybe it works better with hospital pillows that are made out of less permeable material for hygiene purposes?

Have you actually tried? It’s pretty hard to breathe through two layers of fabric (pillow case and the actual pillow casing).

You’re not fooling anyone, you know.

–Large Man with Dead Body

What time will you go to sleep tonite?

I usually think of pillow smothering as a tool best used when the person is old or frail. Someone who was already just clinging to life.

Hand over mouth and pinched nose will do the trick. :wink:

But that’s only if you relish the chance to look them in the eyes as they die.

My hunch is that it will work, but only after a very long time. You are not denying the victim of oxygen totally, but rather, simply preventing him/her from getting the adequate supply needed. So over a long period of this slow not-getting-enough-O2, eventually the victim would lose consciousness, and then, die. Especially since a struggling, thrashing victim would need more oxygen than if he or she were peacefully at rest.

As we were going through my MIL’s long decline, I said I never wanted to end up like that, and asked my kids if they would please hold a pillow over my face. To which my engineer son said, “Well, most pillows aren’t sufficiently dense, so air still get’s through.” (So he’s been thinking about how to off me?!) But he followed up with, “Don’t worry, dad - I’ll take care of you!” (That’s my boy!)

Perhaps not too far off-topic, here is a guy speculating that Christianity would never have taken off if the Romans had put Jesus to death by having a fat guy sit on him to smother him, because people would be put off by having to make the sign of the butt.

Seems like you could just turn your head and breathe normally.

Is that you, son?