View Full Version : freezing to death??

08-25-2012, 06:38 AM
So I know it's not something that would happen i nreal life, but my novel's fantasy/fiction so it doens't have to be. Basically, one of the characters has the ability to freeze things, and he uses this ability to freeze a 19-year-old girl's blood, then unfreezes her just after she dies, before the ambulances get there. This is in modern times, more specifically, 2009. While he does it in a very crowded party, he is across the room and other than a few people who know the murderer, it is unknown that he has this ability, and there's no way to really prove it other than those few people that know. She's indoors at a very formal party during the beginning of December near Paris, so there would be no real reason that she would freeze to death in the eyes of the police or medical examiner. She just collapses in the middle of the party. I'm not sure if the rapid unfreezing would make it hard to tell what happened to her or not, as I'm not a medical expert. I have two questions. One, what would the coroner find symptoms wise to point to the freezing, if any? Two, after a medical examination, based on what signs would be found, what would they claim the cause of death to be(assuming that it is never mentioned that the boy can freeze things, since it is not common for people to have abilities in the setting.)?

Sorry the explanation is so long, I just wanted to make sure not to leave out any details.

08-25-2012, 07:35 AM
First to clarify something on terms. A medical examiner never deals with symptoms. Symptoms are the subjective things you tell the doctor. Signs are detected by a doctor, and include such things as an elevated blood pressure, and cancer spots on an x-ray.

To be honest, I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around how this works. Blood is throughout the body. It would seem like if the person's blood were to actually freeze, then the person would be literally frozen in place. Even the skin would freeze. Death would be within seconds.

Then the bad guy thaws the blood to normal temperatures? So that when first responders arrive, her body doesn't feel abnormally cold?

Autopsy would reveal freezing consistent with frost bite, although spread through the internal organs. At that point, the medical examiner would be totally baffled, as internal organs don't freeze before death other then in very, very unusual and unnatural circumstances. My guess is the medical examiner, if good, would list cause of death as unknown, but consistent with freezing. More likely the medical examiner would list cause of death as unknown.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

08-25-2012, 08:35 AM
Do you mean freezing blood only in certain vessels? For her to collapse she can't be frozen solid. It sounds like you are talking about some sort of very rapid process in both the freezing and thawing in which case there wouldn't be external signs such as frostbite since there wouldn't be time for the digits to die before the rest of the body, but there would be microscopic cellular rupturing found at autopsy. I'd imagine overall the picture would look analogous to disseminated intravascular coagulation but with only microscopic tissue damage consistent with freezing. There'd be some head scratching.

08-25-2012, 10:46 AM
I agree with the above in saying I don't really like this.

Water expands when it contracts, and there's a lot of water in blood. While I have not studied instant freezing of blood tissue in my laboratory, I can make an educated guess that all capillaries, some arterioles/venules, and maybe some arteries and veins, will rupture. Definitely suspicious. Keep in mind I don't think I've dealt with frozen blood before, but I think you're scenario is more elaborate than need be.

Dead people tend to hug the floor, if you catch my drift. So unless this person was half-frozen while on the floor, expect some shattering of blood when they high five the floor with their face.

And, body temperature is used as a tool to indicate time of death.
Any rapid freezing and thawing will affect this formula unless the person restores the thermal energy of the body with algor mortis in mind...

Also, energy flows in the path of least resistance. I don't understand how you could make a persons blood, and only their blood freeze through your magic powers. Wouldn't it be easier and more realistic if thermal energy was leached from an expanding area, rather than a specific network?

Something like that^ although don't take it for pure, gold standard science, because I don't think human flesh shatters when flash-frozen (I read an article about that somewhere. I think "denting" what happens when frozen skin is struck).
Now that I think of it, I have dealt with frozen blood before (cow uterus, to be specific)

I have an alternate suggestion. I think there is something called the white death. I read about it in deception point, so I don't know if it's true. But some Europeans would pack snow into the throats of unconscious people, suffocating them. However, residual body heat would melt the snow and the water would slide into the stomach, making determining cause of death harder to solve. I would research that some more, if you decide to run with it.

If you have a character with cyrokinesis I recommend you brush up on some basic thermodynamics too. It drives me crazy when people write about "ice energy" or "cold energy." Things acquire heat as they acquire thermal energy. Things lose heat when they lose thermal energy. Technically, it doesn't "gain cold." Hot and cold are relative terms.

Just something I want to point out to you. You said something along the lines of "it's okay, I'm writing sci fi/fantasy, so this world's rules don't apply to me." That's not totally true. You do have rules to follow if you want it to be believable. Breaking rules to fuel a plot will upset writers. I know I lose interest when I see creative science rather than science fiction.

Happy writing!

08-26-2012, 02:51 AM
Thank you for all of your answers. I will definitely look into the white death thing, it sounds quite interesting. When I made the comment about the fantasy, it was only meaning how he had the ability and about how the police wouldn't understand if anyone were to tell them about his ability.
It looks like I have a lot of research to do before I write the scene. I appreciate the help very much.

08-26-2012, 03:34 AM
Under a microscope any tissue effected would have massive cell wall disruption that could only really be caused by freezing. So they might have no way to explain it, but the evidence would be there.

08-26-2012, 04:04 AM
What if he had the ability to specifically freeze cardiac muscle?

If the heart can't pump , the circulation will cease. Victim will drop to the floor when oxygen supply to brain runs out. Keep the heart frozen just long enough for brain stem to die, then rewarm.

Pathologist will be suspicious of massive heart attack, but confused by absence of blood clot in vessels supplying heart which is the usual cause. Under microscope, as someone else said, there will be massive disruption to cell architecture but this would also be confusing in absence of other markers of hypothermia.

08-26-2012, 04:57 AM
You're welcome. Good luck with your story! Sorry if I got intense, but these kind of things just do that to me haha. If you want to see it in writing go to google books and see if you can search the book "deception point" for a character named nora manger (I think that's it) she's the unlucky lass to die that way :/

Happy writing!

08-27-2012, 08:54 AM
Alternative. Working inside the concept of the character able to cool just the blood, if instead of freezing it solid in the guy just lowered the temp it would thicken and interfere with oxygenation of the blood. I imagine that shock would kill the victim first though.

Still, I think it would be hard to make that work. Sudden acute hypothermia might work. The victim would act kind of drink and belligerent, then collapse. If the murderer moves heat around, not just makes thing cold, he could then warm the body back toward 98.6 before EMS makes it there. That wouldnt leave tissue damage like freezing would. I can imagine a generic death by heart failure would show up on the ME's report. That would be a head scratcher.

08-27-2012, 03:16 PM
I ended up going with him freezing the heart itself. He can freeze any liquid, so any blood or other fluids in or around the heart would be frozen solid. That would avoid her body or other blood vessels shattering when her body hits the floor. Also, no one would be able to feel the coldness of her body in case someone was able to reach her before he could thaw her out fully. The coroner will mention the stranges signs of freezing in her heart, which allows the other characters to figure out what happens and seek revenge without the police understanding. Thanks for all of your help, and I'm glad to finally be able I write this scene.

08-27-2012, 05:54 PM
Under a microscope any tissue effected would have massive cell wall disruption that could only really be caused by freezing. So they might have no way to explain it, but the evidence would be there.

Humans don't have cell walls, plants do. Although cell membranes also get damaged by freezing, it's not a cell wall.

08-27-2012, 06:24 PM
Yes, i meant membrane.

If I was the killer I would just create a small frozen plug in a vital artery near the heart. You might get away with that if they don't look to close.