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mrsmig
08-17-2015, 12:53 AM
Hey, all you experts in things medieval:

In my medieval-setting fantasy series, I have a murder take place in a royal hunting lodge. The lodge is a tall stone structure, more like an L-shaped fortress than a simple lodge. It backs onto the edge of a ravine. On the first floor is the main hall, which has a high ceiling, and leading off it, a kitchen area. In the crook of the L is a courtyard which can be accessed from outside by crossing behind the lodge, or from inside by passing through the kitchen. On the second floor are a couple of large sleeping chambers and a garderobe which empties down a chute to the bottom of the building and into the ravine. The murder takes place in one of the sleeping chambers.

Originally I'd had the murderer carry the body outside and around the lodge to toss it over the precipice, where the underbrush, combined with an oncoming snowstorm, will hide it. Eventually the body will be discovered, but not for some days, and the murderer will be long gone by then.

Part of the problem is that there are a couple of servants at work in the kitchen, and the murderer is worried about being seen if one of them comes out into the courtyard. In my original draft the murderer just got lucky and no one came out. Having given the scenario more thought, I'm wondering if he could shove the body down the garderobe instead (the victim is a thin woman).

So my questions are:

1) How big can a garderobe chute be? I'm thinking the potty in question might be a two-seater.

2) Is it feasible to dispose of a body down the chute? I don't mind if the body gets jammed there (the murderer is REALLY angry at the victim and would revel in the knowledge that her body will be shat upon). If the chute is plugged up as a result, that might make for a more dramatic (if messy) discovery of the body.

Am I out in left field here? Thanks!

shakeysix
08-17-2015, 01:13 AM
Gruesome murder here in Kansas, back in the fifties. The body was thrown down an outhouse hole. It was a pre-teen boy, raped and then murdered by a carnival worker. The only way the murderer was caught was that another victim managed to live and crawl out of an outdoor toilet, where he had been dumped. Once law enforcement started investigating they found bodies in Texas too, in outhouses. Seems that was the perfect disposal place because they routinely dump lye in outhouses. Wish I didn't remember this gruesome stuff--s6

Rufus Coppertop
08-17-2015, 01:58 AM
I don't think anyone would want to sit on a potty that they're likely to fall downand they didn't necessarily have chutes.

My understanding of garderobe design is that in a siege, an archer below the garderobe could, if he were any good, put an arrow in your arse while you're taking a dump.

Roxxsmom
08-17-2015, 02:06 AM
I've seen pictures of some. They usually look like narrow chutes in the side of a building that open over the moat, or sometimes they just dump out between the two layers of wall or something. I suppose if your castle is fictitious, you could describe the thing so it sounds plausible.

Ariella
08-17-2015, 02:42 AM
In the twelfth century Chateau Gaillard in Normandy fell to invaders who climbed up a garderobe shaft, so it's feasible that a body could fall down one.

Roxxsmom
08-17-2015, 02:47 AM
In the twelfth century Chateau Gaillard in Normandy fell to invaders who climbed up a garderobe shaft, so it's feasible that a body could fall down one.

It's just a little poo...

Errant Lobe
08-17-2015, 02:56 AM
I've seen pictures of some. They usually look like narrow chutes in the side of a building that open over the moat, or sometimes they just dump out between the two layers of wall or something. I suppose if your castle is fictitious, you could describe the thing so it sounds plausible.


I could give you a more updated picture of the latrine, outhouse, indoor garderobe situation, having lived in the third world for a significant period of time. Latrines are never bigger than they need to be for the needs of the individual family. Eg., in rural areas, like on farms within my specific experience, the outdoor latrines were not built to a size to endanger the safety of the smaller bodied people who used it often. And if there were unusually large people in the family it was built to their accommodations.

That being said, no one builds a latrine bigger than they need to without some specific reason. Similarly, like the sewer pipes in your building are not overly large, because they don't need to be. I can't imagine that things would be any different in the medieval period regarding the indoor latrine or garderobe. And when they added the gravity water tank much later, the piping's diameter had to remain small for the system to work efficiently.

Plus, having safety concerns of infiltration from intruders, they would never make it wide. Another thing, the chute doesn't have to hang straight down, it can be sharply angled.

The scenario you describe would end up in a blocked chute.

Errant Lobe
08-17-2015, 03:03 AM
I am sqeamish about this subject since a friend of mine in childhood had the fatal plunge. He was using the adult side and slipped and had to spend overnight in the *****.
I am sorry, I have nightmares about this.
We spent half of a day scrubbing him over and over and over.

CWatts
08-17-2015, 05:30 AM
This makes it even more gross, but does the body need to be in one piece? If the killer has a sword or axe...well, you get the idea. Though with the designs discussed, her head could still block the chute.

Errant Lobe
08-17-2015, 07:09 AM
This makes it even more gross, but does the body need to be in one piece? If the killer has a sword or axe...well, you get the idea. Though with the designs discussed, her head could still block the chute.

Yeah, the same issue became obvious to me.

Errant Lobe
08-17-2015, 07:42 AM
Mrsmig, did you search archive.org?
They have a lot of architectural tomes on that site. You should be able to find enough among eight and a half million free books.

Roxxsmom
08-17-2015, 08:22 AM
They had something in many parts of Asia called pig toilets in the olden days. In some places they still do, I believe.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pig_toilet

Might provide an opportunity to blend two popular body disposal tropes in novels...

Here are some links to pictures of more conventional medieval garderobes.

http://www.jamesmdeem.com/stories.castle5.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garderobe

http://imgadvisor.com/pages/m/medieval-toilets-in-castles.html

AW Admin
08-17-2015, 08:31 AM
They'd put the body in the midden.

I know this because we've found the remnants of corpses murdered and tossed in the midden, and because plague laws had to forbid midden-tossing of plague corpses.

blacbird
08-17-2015, 08:34 AM
I had no idea this structure, or the word for it, even existed. i wish i still didn't. Maybe with therapy . . . ah! i have some Laphroaig.

caw

Errant Lobe
08-17-2015, 08:55 AM
I had no idea this structure, or the word for it, even existed. i wish i still didn't. Maybe with therapy . . . ah! i have some Laphroaig.

caw

I'm with you, here, blackbird.
I would gladly volunteer those tainted brain neurons to science.
I gagged at that unspeakable scene with the hiding children in Schindler's List...
I wish I could scrub my brain with the finest Lye!

Errant Lobe
08-17-2015, 09:03 AM
Blackbird, I'll take all the Lagavulin that you have. With what coin I have left, can I have some Oban with that?

Rufus Coppertop
08-17-2015, 01:43 PM
I might be able to source some chlorpromazine or haloperidol and even a bit of benztropine for the side effects.

mrsmig
08-17-2015, 05:39 PM
Thanks, all. So the consensus seems to be that it's possible if the chute is big enough. Judging by the links Roxxsmom kindly provided, plus my own interweb prowling, it looks as if the size and length of the poop chute is variable.

The lodge was built on this particular ravine because it looks right down on the border of a neighboring, none-too-friendly kingdom. (The river that runs through the ravine is the actual border.) If the chute is built out from the lodge wall so everything empties into the ravine, it's an extra poke in the eye to the occupants on the other side. I like it. :greenie

(Can't do the cutting-up business; it would leave a tremendous amount of blood and my murderer doesn't have the time to dismember a corpse nor clean up after the process.)

Again, thanks for all the advice and opinions.

mccardey
08-18-2015, 12:59 AM
Am I too late? I've seen quite a few of these in various castles and things, and all the ones I've seen have been quite small - smaller than the gap in the average toilet seat. I'm also with Rufus on the chutes.

I think what you might want to do is stick in a note to the fact that this is just a different kind of 'robe. Perhaps (I don't know) you can set it up early, mentioning that the guy who built the castle insisted on outsized everything - fireplaces, doorways - and then drop a nod to that when you intro the garderobe as a potential *ahem* dumpsite.

Twick
08-18-2015, 01:05 AM
Could be a good foreshadowing scene - someone says they always get nervous on it. "A soul could fall in and plummet to their death!"

- - - Updated - - -


They'd put the body in the midden.

I know this because we've found the remnants of corpses murdered and tossed in the midden, and because plague laws had to forbid midden-tossing of plague corpses.

You've found medieval murder victims? That is SO COOL!

Deb Kinnard
08-18-2015, 04:42 AM
Actually, they couldn't. Normally wooden seats similar to those in a modern outhouse were placed over the larger waste shaft/hole. In the UK, I've seen keeps where the seat is still there, and where they've been removed. So it's plausible.

("I reject your reality and substitute my own!"--Mythbusters)

Roxxsmom
08-18-2015, 04:57 AM
People using "sewers," underground passageways, and catacombs under castles or fortresses for various nefarious purposes is a pretty stock in trade tactic in fantasy novels. It seems like it's almost expected (I think Pratchett had some fun with it). Realistic or not, it probably gets a pass because people just think secret passageways and creepy, underground places are fascinating and cool and love reading about them in stories. I've lost more than one evening of writing to sites like these:

http://emmaros.hubpages.com/hub/Secret-Hidden-Passageways-and-Tunnels-Over-Time

http://www.abandonedstations.org.uk/

Rufus Coppertop
08-18-2015, 01:07 PM
Well, that was fun but.............

Warning! Do not click this link
http://emmaros.hubpages.com/hub/Secret-Hidden-Passageways-and-Tunnels-Over-Time if you intend to do any actual writing right now!

Roxxsmom
08-18-2015, 01:20 PM
Well, that was fun but.............

Warning! Do not click this link if you intend to do any actual writing right now!

They really are interesting, aren't they? Something about abandoned, underground places and secret passageways fascinate people in and out of fiction. I think it's because they're a little scary, and there's that faint hope that you might find some forgotten artifact or something.

WeaselFire
08-18-2015, 06:06 PM
I've seen these in two medieval castles, one in England, one in Germany. The German one was wide enough that a body could drop through, only the top boards had a small hole in them. The rest was a rectangular shaft about three foot by five foot. The one in England was a square hole, but maybe 18" on a side. A small body might fit but I wouldn't.

My belief was that these shafts were merely the space left by the construction, not designed to any specific size. It was basically a convenient indoor outhouse.

Jeff

mrsmig
08-18-2015, 06:50 PM
Once again, thanks to all for the info and advice. There's a scene earlier in the book where the murderer is showing another character around the lodge (he designed the place). It would be easy enough to add the garderobe to that tour, along with a description of it and an explanation for its placement.

This thread is an example of why I love this subforum. So much great information; so many interesting discussions.