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.


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:


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.

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?


Shocking Rationalizations

April 28, 2006

Does a situation like a radio in the bathtub causing electrocution occur infrequently enough that people need to think about it and rationalize it to evaulate exactly what level of danger it represents? Does it really happen infrequently enough that it hovers on the divide between myth and reality?

Radio near bathtub

Perhaps the commonest incidents involving water and electric power are those involving a AC radio or hair-dryer that falls in an occupied bathtub.  Occupant is in bathtub, where he is firmly connected to the neutral wire of the power line through the ground provided by the plumbing.


Swimming with the Shocks

April 17, 2006

The Red Cross has a pamplet about mixing electricity and swimming pools.

OK, so that’s a big bathtub…

Where would I find electricity around pools, hot tubs, and spas?

  • underwater lights
  • electric pool equipment – pumps, filters, vacuum, etc.
  • extension and power cords
  • electrical outlets or switches
  • radios, stereos, TVs and other electrical products
  • overhead power lines

Radios in the bathtubs are even the subject of debate in the august halls of legislative branches of governments. Witness this oratory from the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia… 

It's the criminal, not the guns that should be outlawed
I have a constituent from Burns Lake, and I'd like to read just a part of the letter he sent to the government of Canada. He says:

           "I have decided that I would like to register everything in my possession that could kill someone. It would take a good portion of the six months to compile a list to register. Included in my list of registrable weapons [ Page 7337 ] of a potentially lethal nature are my hands; my teeth; my dog; although they are tiny, all kitchen utensils that are pointed; scissors; hunting knives; pocket knives; all wood and metal objects with a weight in excess of two pounds.
           "I never thought about it before, but if someone dropped my electric radio in the bathtub while I was in it, it could become a lethal weapon and should therefore be registered. Electricity itself is dangerous, giving rise to the question of universal registration of kilowatts, extension cords."

The list goes on. It's a great letter.  [1115] In support of my motion, what we have to do, as government, is target individuals — individuals, not objects. So I encourage all members of this chamber to support my motion, to ask the federal government to scrap the gun registry and put that money back into policing and the court system to deal with what I consider to be a more than adequate existing policy.

Shock and Awe Art

April 12, 2006

Art can be viewed as a tool we use to stimulate our emotions, to give us new ideas and perspectives, or simply to remind us of things we thought we had forgotten.

skull and crossbones

It’s hard to explain, but I’m creating a photomanipulation and I’m going to use Flash to create an electrocution effect. Only thing is that there aren’t any real videos demonstrating the effects of throwing a radio into a bathtub to use as a reference to create the effect in flash. Like would the lights flicker, would the socket explode out of the wall, would the lightbulb in the bathroom burst? things like that which I would like to know to make this manip better and more real, instead of just having just a strobe effect.