Inspired by Alexander Litvinenko’s recent death courtesy of polonium-210, Geoff Boucher, a staff writer for the LATimes, has written a great piece about some of the most famous poisonings throughout history.
Fabian Escalante, the retired chief of Cuba’s secret service, either kept meticulous files or he knows that odd numbers make a tall tale more believable. Escalante’s new book, “Executive Action: 638 Ways to Kill Castro,” is a tally of the assassination attempts against the island dictator and, of course, there’s plenty of poison plots among them . . .
Here how the story goes: At the turn of the last century, there was a saloon in Chicago’s gritty Levee district called the Lone Star with a former pickpocket named Mickey Finn as the barkeep. He and the tavern’s working girls had a scam that became famous. Finn would slip an extra something-something in the drinks – some say it was chloral hydrate, others say it was (ouch) horse laxative – that left patrons in no shape to watch their wallets once they reached the backroom. It’s hard to sort out the myth from fact but now, a century later, doctoring a drink is still known as “slipping a Mickey.”
Not all poisoning victims are taken by surprise. In 399 BC, Socrates was found guilty of corrupting youth and flouting the state-approved religion. The 70-year-old philosopher was a cranky gadfly in his later years, and after he sarcastically suggested that for his penalty he should receive a payment from government coffers, he ended up getting a death sentence. His admirers wept as he sipped his hemlock but the crusty thinker chided them: “I have heard that one should die in silence. So please be quiet and keep control of yourselves.”
And more fascinating stories here . . .