05/05/2014 02:24 pm ET Updated May 05, 2014

Could That Shocking 'Game Of Thrones' Death Happen In Real Life?

Get ready for a little lesson in science, "Game of Thrones" fans.

Last night's episode saw the crowning of a new king after Joffrey's untimely (but well-deserved) death via a poisoned goblet during his wedding festivities. We've all moved on, some of us more quickly than others -- we're looking at you, Margery Tyrell -- but that disturbing death scene stays with us. In George R.R. Martin's "How To Kill Off Characters" handbook, Joffrey's proverbial kicking of the bucket ranks as one of the most horrific ways to croak. And now we know, it could happen in real life.

Death by poison is a running theme in Martin's books. Slipped into Joffrey's drink was a concoction fittingly named "the strangler." Extracted from the leaves of a plant using lime, the strangler caused its victims to suffocate to death and it wasn't pretty. Violent fits of coughing, inability to breath, spasms, vomiting, hemorrhaging from eye sockets and splotchy skin all wreaked havoc before Joffrey (and the rest of us) realized the end was near. While we were still reeling from the king's cringe-worthy exit, a few scientists decided to do a little investigating to see if his gruesome fictional death could happen in real life.

Short answer: Why yes. Yes it can.

In the books, "the strangler" acts by causing its victims' neck muscles to clench so tightly that they asphyxiate. In the real world, three plants -- belladonna (known as "night shade"), hemlock and the strychnine tree -- cause similar reactions when ingested. While the first two only act as muscle relaxants, strychnine does induce muscle spasms, causing painful convulsions and death from asphyxiation if not treated.

Even for a creep like Joffrey, this sounds like a pretty bad way to go.



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