View Full Version : Injuries from wet skin being struck with naked, electric cable

04-20-2011, 08:08 AM
I have a couple questions.

One of my characters is kidnapped, kept in a basement and tortured. Not enough to kill or seriously harm her. Her captors, if she makes noise (i.e. crying out, trying to escape, etc), come down, douse her with water and then flick a cable at her, its ends naked, metal and electric. (Like the opening of And Soon the Darkness)

Like I mentioned, I don't want to kill or seriously harm her. I'm not too sure how this works, so correct me if I'm wrong, but a low voltage wouldn't kill her? What I'm asking is that if they were to maybe cause welts or suffering or to try and incapacitate her and prevent escape, what would the specifics of the electricity be and what sort of scars would she have afterwards? Also, long-term and short-term effects if there are any?

Please and thank you!

Mac H.
04-20-2011, 08:48 AM
The character will have a burn mark at the point of contact.

Since it the cable has two exposed wires I'm guessing that the current will flow between them rather than through her body to ground.

This is ideal - it will cause localised pain but not have too high a risk of killing.

The 'arc or flash burns' on this page http://osha.gov/SLTC/etools/construction/electrical_incidents/burn_examples.html might be fairly close.

It's a little misleading because the pictures in those sights are from typical accidents which involve current going through the body - instead of 'just' (!) across the skin.

This kind of injury is what I've seen from similar:
Smaller injury (http://t1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQtfYgbZ-TnAFc36VgtvPkeP8jHZsBcQI_YiW4bSof7tP-o2FA5)

Good luck with your writing,


Mac H.
04-20-2011, 08:57 AM
.. a low voltage wouldn't kill her?Not quite. A low voltage will have a lower current through her which will cause less damage - but it isn't as simple as that. That's why the bad guys are applying water (hopefully salt water) to increase conduction.

Here's an injury from a 12 volt car battery:

In that case it is a burn from the user wearing a ring that heated when it shorted the battery, but it gives you an idea of the damage you can do that technically might not be electrocution. (One fun experiment - a car battery, a pair of jumper cables and some steel wool - instant fire!)

A standard electrical flex cable from the house would be quite plausible. A taser would be the most practical ... the shock from those is very cleverly designed to cause maximum pain and disruption but minimal long term effects. (There's a nice paper describing the waveform that I can't find at the moment). Yes - they will kill the occasional person but it is the safest way to torture someone with electricity.


Drachen Jager
04-20-2011, 09:02 AM
Those examples are for much higher than household electricity Mac H.

She would have burns but not severe ones. I have been hit with North American 120 volts dozens of times and European 220 two or three times and I never suffered burns, although the contacts were farther apart.

I'd imagine the burns would be a little like burning yourself with a cigarette cherry.

NO voltage will kill her under the circumstances you described. You need to cross the heart or the brain with serious voltage to cause instant death. I suppose if she were burned badly enough she might die, but that would take a lot of burning. Remember electricity takes the path of least resistance, so in this case, it travels between the positive and neutral wires. Only the flesh between those wires is damaged.

Short term effect, pain. Long term effect, if she was really badly abused with the electricity she might have nerve damage.

04-20-2011, 09:30 AM
She would have to be on a bed or something insulated, not lying on a concrete floor, else the water poured on her could cause the current to go through her chest and to the floor, possibly electrocuting her.

The car battery injury wasn't caused directly by the electricity, but by the heating up of the ring that carried the current. Car batteries have several dangers (they can also explode), but the voltage they make is too low to make an electric shock.

A little off topic, but if you like doing torture, have you considered waterboarding your character? :)
Search youtube with these two strings:
hitchens waterboarding
mancow waterboarding
These show the actual event being done. It didn't last long for either of them and it really doesn't look bad at all (to me), but they both say "oh yeah, this is TORTURE!"