Make sure you know who (and what) your relatives are — and never receive visitors while in the bath!

Plot summary for
The Stepdaughter (2000)

On Susan’s birthday, while everyone is away, Susan confronts Maggie alone while Maggie is taking a bath, and Susan admits to Maggie that she is Maggie’s daughter, and Susan’s real name is Karen Mills. When Karen was born, Maggie’s parents forced Maggie to give Karen up for adoption. For her entire life, Karen has been hurt by the belief that she was never wanted. Karen spent time in institutions and foster homes, living a life of misery, and now she wants revenge on Maggie for giving her up to that kind of life, so she kills Maggie by dropping a radio into the bathtub water, electrocuting Maggie.




Wise Guise

March 21, 2007

Obligatory reference category: When discussing GFI, always refer to the classic example of why you need GFI.

 Woman wondering

How does an Electrical Outlet Work?

For instance, if a radio fell into the bathtub while you were bathing, you would be in for a bit of trouble to say the least. With a standard two or three prong receptacle, the power would continue to pass through the water and you. In all likelihood, you would be electrocuted. If, however, that radio was plugged into a GFI receptacle, the receptacle would sense the lack of electricity returning to pass through the neutral (since it was passing through you instead) and trip, thus killing the power to the radio and potentially saving your life.


PG&E Pipes Up

March 14, 2007

More pop quizzes on radios in the bathtub from an electric company…

 PG&E logo

9. Which of these is a safe thing to do?     

  • a) use a hair dryer while standing in water  
  • b) use a plugged-in radio near the bathtub     
  • c) dry your hands before turning off lights  
  • d) wet an electric shaver cord while shaving




There are always the classics in literature and movies.  And with both sex and violence involved, it’s got to be a classic, right?

Maybe the reason this novel is so steamy is because of the radio in the bathtub!

 book cover for Postman Always Rings Twice

Level of Violence: Frank and Cora have a violent love relationship; they plan Nick’s murder with little emotion. There are several fights, blows to the head, beatings, self-inflicted wounds for the sake of making the murder look like an accident;one attempted electrocution (dropping an electric radio into a bathtub), automobile accidents.


More fun with water and electricity!  Here’s a pointer to a practical application of mixing the two.

User beware, of course!

 Valentines decorative tin

intro:Etched Minty Valentines Candy Box

Or.. a good demonstration of why throwing a radio into the bathtub will kill you. I’ll explain later.

Speaking of killing you, as we are using water and electricity here, please be supper-duper cautious. I can’t be held responsible for burned fingers, house fires, dead cats or any combination thereof. Please use some common sense!


When an idea hangs in there at the fringe of people’s personal reality, it attains a cult, myth-like status. Can this really happen? Did someone just make this up? If it does actually happen only but rarely, it becomes a novel and credible plot item for entertainment, further reinforcing the idea that someone just made the whole thing up.  That seems to be the situation with many memes, and radio in the bathtub is no exception.

Enter Mythbusters! Entertainment about ideas that hang far enough out at the fringe that it almost seems like they simply originated within the entertainment business itself.

Mythbusters in the bathroom

The Electrical-Appliance-in-the-Bathtub Test, from Episode 19

Does Hollywood have it right? Can you really die from an electrical appliance falling into a bathtub? Jamie and Adam went on the case in episode 19: Quicksand.

 text & picture:

electric bath on oceanliner

Another entry for the electric bath sidetrip…

There’s some irony involved in being in a bathtub on an oceanliner. But how about being in an electric bath on an oceanliner?

Electric bath in the Turkish Baths suite of the SS Adriatic, 1907

One of three electric baths provided in the Turkish baths suite at the time of the liner’s maiden voyage. Surprisingly, no attendant is to be seen in this image which was probably drawn before the room was in operation. We don’t know how successful these baths were with passengers. No other liners had such baths installed. illustration


June 2, 2006

Can you predict your future when there's a radio in your bathtub? Another attempt at humor using the radio in the bathtub theme.

Leo (July 23-Aug. 22)
Your cat is going to kill you Thursday morning, by “accidentally” knocking the radio into the bathtub. You may avoid this by hiding the can opener earlier in the week.

Family Ties

May 11, 2006

 Family Ties

If a mother’s job tends towards nuturing the children, a father’s job tends toward getting the little ones ready for the day they leave the nest. Part of that job is ensuring they have heard all of the cautionary tales. The radio in the bathtub tale is on the must-hear list. In this family, the father, an FBI agent, does his part to reduce the likelihood of accidental death by radio in the bathtub.

Always wear a tie clip to an autopsy: that was exactly the kind of thing my father would say, succinct and often gruesome, a truth you did not doubt but hoped never to test. He had an abundant supply of vivid cautionary tales about why we should not dangle our arms out the car window, or play in sand piles, or keep a radio by the bathtub. One of his great hobbies was the perusal of garage sales; it was his belief that the best bargains were often to be had after a grisly and premature death. He once bought an outboard motor that, we were told, had bisected its former owner, careless and young; when we took it out on the water, it thus did double-duty as a plaything and an admonition against play. Every tragedy leads to a discount.


Sudsy Shocker

May 11, 2006

A radio in the bathtub is a time tested plot device in most fiction genres. A bathtub is involved, so why shouldn’t soap operas join in the fun? The universality of the concept lends credence to the plausibility of the situation, no matter how outlandish the plot.


To get Shawn, Jan made a deal with Nicole to help each other: Jan would get rid of Victor for Nicole if Nicole helped her get Shawn for herself. So Jan threw a radio into the bathtub with Victor to electrocute him (the indignity of the great Victor Kiriakis being offed by this little twerp!).


Here’s another staple item from an electrical contractor site. A radio in the bathrooom is never too far away from the throughts of the electrical minded. But at least here they make the distinction between radios that are plugged in and radios that are not (or don’t need to be).

bathroom electricity

As far as electricity is concerned, the bathroom is possibly the most dangerous room in the house. Water is a very efficient conductor of electrical current which makes the combination of water and electricity potentially lethal.

There are special requirements for electrical installations in bathrooms, so it is essential to check whether your bathroom meets them. The consequences of an electric shock are potentially far more severe in a room containing a bath or shower as wet skin reduces the body’s resistance.Socket-outlets

• No socket-outlets, other than specially-designed outlets such as those for shavers, are permitted in bathrooms.

• Shaver units are not splash-proof, so although they are allowed in bathrooms, they must be positioned well away from the bath or shower. Avoid splashing them.

• Portable appliances such as hairdryers and plugged in radios must never be brought into a bathroom, even if they are plugged in outside the room. (Fixed hairdryers, with the hot air delivered through a flexible plastic pipe are permitted.) (link now defunct)


A Tub Full of Laughs

May 5, 2006

Radio in the bathtub is a phrase that is often used to provoke amusement, in everything from low-camp movies to everyday conversation.

But is the thought of electrocution of a human being really funny? Why would we laugh?

There seems to be at least two reasons for dark humor:

  • To commiserate with others on an undesirable situation (misery loves company)
  • To put as much distance between us and the undesirable situation (it can’t happen to me)

Perhaps it’s the second possibility above that makes people find a radio in the bathtub to be amusing.

It could never happen to me: I have GFI on the outlets in my bathroom. I don’t have a radio (hairdryer / Roomba) in my bathroom. I don’t touch anything outside the tub when I’m taking a bath. My spouse loves me and would never do such a thing. I’m always careful. My plumbing and wiring are in good repair. I’m just not that stupid.

By laughing we declare that it can’t happen to us. The possibility is so miniscule we laugh at it … and it seems that much smaller, that much further away.

But what’s scary about the idea is that it is possible. It really could happen to us.

Every time we sit down for a warm soothing bath, tilt our head back, close our eyes, and relax: 

a split-second lapse in judgement, a pipe leaking on that hidden faulty wiring the last owner installed, a trusted partner with other arrangements in mind, a never-met cousin and a long-lost uncle who left the entire inheritance to you…

We’re always just a split-second away from the end. In a flash, it’s all over…

OK, relax. It is possible it could happen to you, it’s just not likely.

Have fun, but don’t laugh too hard.

And make sure the GFI works and there are no extensions cords too handy, OK?


Sponge Bath

May 4, 2006

More fun in the tub, and yet another reminder that with modern technology, having a radio in the bathtub doesn’t necessarily mean tears!

sponge bob sqarepants radio

Electric Bath

May 3, 2006

In devising their name, an Australian band draws on the mystique of combining electricity and water in the bathtub. No radios needed as an intermediary in this case. Rejuvenation, indeed!

In a future post we’ll take another side trip and look at real electric baths in more detail and examine how they were used and what safety precautions were taken.

From the Lane Of Delights in Mel-Ben, The Electric Bath are an electro cybadelic buzz. Trance, experimental, noise and power bursts of cybarok, are mixed with primal energy deep from the heart of the underground.

The Electric Bath, how did you come up with the name?
The Electric Bath was a medical devise used in ancient Melbourne (1890’s). It was used to recharge patients. We discovered pictures of it (pic left) in some Sacred Relic files. Some believe this is proof of robots existing in prehistoric times, as the bath would of killed mortals.

False Answer

May 2, 2006

What better way to reinforce the existence of a phrase in the culture than to use it as a wrong answer on a multiple choice question? It draws upon the latent memories of the possibility of such  events, lending credence to the answer, while adding to the reader's memory yet another story involving a radio in the bathtub.

And what better website to do it than a psychology website?

numbers and brain

3. The first reports that one can cause muscle movements by electrically stimulating the cerebral cortex came in the

  • 1870's in research on dogs.
  • 1920's in an experiment by John Watson on "little Albert".
  • 1940's, when a biopsychologist accidentally dropped a radio in the bathtub while his wife was taking a bath.
  • 1950's, when neurosurgeons used electrical current to treat cases of severe epilepsy.