Funtabulously Frivolous Friday Five 211

Just when you thought your brain could unwind on a Friday, you realise that it would rather be challenged with some good old fashioned medical trivia FFFF, introducing the Funtabulously Frivolous Friday Five 211 – the spooky Halloween edition

Question 1

Can you be scared to death?

Reveal the funtabulous answer

Yes, there are multiple media reports of young people dying from “Sudden sniffing death”

The proposed mechanism is a catecholamine surge when teenagers are caught e.g. by parents shouting “what are you doing”. The already sensitised myocardium from the inhalants then has a second hit of catecholamines resulting in an arrhythmia and potential death. [Reference]

Question 2

According to a BMJ paper what disease do you have if you are experiencing the following:

a shambling gait, tendency to moan, loss of dexterity and prior personality traits, and the eventual rotting of flesh

Reveal the funtabulous answer


The detailed paper talks about the epidemiology, treatment and prevention including a historical perspective to the 1500’s when Haitian zombies (best described) were often thought to be controlled by practitioners of voodoo.

They may have been created via a neurotoxin, typically described as tetrodotoxin, which puts the victim in a sleep-like state. [Reference]

Question 3

Could humans and vampires co-exist?

Reveal the funtabulous answer

Possibly, various mathematical models exist

The Buffy model: both populations could exist in harmony if vampire numbers were kept static by a sufficient number of vampire slayers.

Dracula model: No slayers, Dracula feeds every 4-5 days and their victims turns into a vampire, results in no humans would be in existence by day 153 and then eventually all the vampires would die out.

A more romantic model like the “Vampire Chronicles” where there are no slayers, vampires only need a little blood, low rates of conversion and occasionally a human is turned into a vampire would lead to extinction in 48.7 years.

A Twilight model: where vampires co-exist, drink the blood of animals, occasionally humans and converting a human into a vampire takes extreme effort. Well, yes symbiosis is possible but once one population’s growth declines we could again be taken over by vampires. [Reference]

Question 4

Can a voodoo doll cause death?

Reveal the funtabulous answer

It all depends on your faith

Walter Cannon wrote in 1942 about a number of historical cases whereby people knew they were cursed and deeply believed they were going to die. A number of hypotheses exist, the most popular includes the subject’s belief they are going to die along with a community acting as if this were also the case. The patient then becomes so terrified they inadvertently cause a “state of shock” lower their blood pressure and develop end organ damage. [Reference]

In World War II there are also reported cases of soldiers with minimal injuries dying days later who appeared to be in some kind of petrified catatonic state.

  • Cannon WB. Voodoo Death. American anthropologist. 1942; 44(2): 169-181

Question 5

Who died on October 31st, 1926?

Reveal the funtabulous answer

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Funtabulously Frivolous Friday Five

Dr Neil Long BMBS FACEM FRCEM FRCPC. Emergency Physician at Kelowna hospital, British Columbia. Loves the misery of alpine climbing and working in austere environments (namely tertiary trauma centres). Supporter of FOAMed, lifelong education and trying to find that elusive peak performance.

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