I saw a movie recently where a man was strangled to death. The whole ordeal was about one minute long. The attacker came up behind and wrapped a piano wire around the victim’s neck. The victim struggled for maybe thirty seconds, then there was silence for another thirty seconds, and the attacker backed away. The victim was dead. It was fast. Too fast, and I couldn’t help but think how unrealistic that is. I’ve seen this a lot of times in movies, not always by piano wire, sometimes by hand, sometimes by hanging, but always instant death.
I remember when I was in 7th Grade I read a book entitled The Black Pearl by Scott O’Dell, which featured fairly lengthy descriptions of diving for pearls. The narrator stating that most divers could be underwater for two minutes, some three, and the best over four minutes. The narrator himself was able to dive for four minutes at one point in the novel. I never forgot about reading that. If these divers were able to hold their breath for several minutes, then why can someone in a movie get strangled in less than one? It bothers me a little, but then I also understand that watching someone get strangled for several minutes, could get pretty old fast, and make for a lame scene.
Maybe the divers described in this novel were the exception, though. Maybe they had trained themselves to be able to hold their breath for that long. Either way, I have personally held my breath for one minute. Not long enough to suffocate, but even if someone was obstructing my breathing, I think I could have hung on for at least another one, maybe blacking out, but certainly not dying.
I did an internet search to see how long it takes to strangle someone. I didn’t come up with any scientific research on the matter, but I did see the question posed on one of those Q&A sites, and someone had responded with, “I don’t know. I guess about a minute.” Obviously the respondent was basing his answer off of movies.
This actually brings me some comfort. Because if someone starts to strangle me, I’m just going to stop struggling, and hope that my attacker is basing his techniques off of movies. That way he’ll just leave me be, and after he’s gone I’ll get up, brush my clothes off, and walk away. Okay, realistically I’m probably not going to get strangled, and maybe that wouldn’t work anyway, but I’d at least give it a shot. Maybe my attacker would just give up after a few minutes, when he realized it takes a long time to strangle someone.
I also understand that there is more to getting strangled than just holding your breath. As in the movie I saw, a piano wire would probably cut off the circulation of the carotid artery, in which case the brain wouldn’t be getting any blood. This would easily cause someone to pass out in a few seconds and maybe even die. I don’t know enough about human biology to know for sure. I guess the best thing to do is just hope that no one wants to strangle me.