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The Death Cap in Popular Culture

 

 

Poetry

 

Amanita Phalloides

A salad with diced amanita
Will kill with the sped of a cheetah.
Though it's mushrooms you've bought,
Added toadstools are thought
By a killer to make things much sweeter.

by Isaac Asimov
Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine
(Detectiverse), May 1984

 

From those poisonous ones keep away:
Amanita phalloides, they say,
Is a cupful of death,
Lethally taking your breath,
If, while mushrooming, led far astray.

by PGS
Omnificent English Dictionary In Limerick Form
http://www.oedilf.com/

 

Don't eat amanitas - you'll quiver.
You'll fall to your knees, and you'll shiver.
Poison mushrooms, that's why,
And you'll probably die.
If you don't, then you'll need a new liver.

by Meg Beagle
Omnificent English Dictionary In Limerick Form
http://www.oedilf.com/

 

In the leaf mold on forested hills,
Amanitas grow, fungi with gills
Which have spores coloured white;
Some may cause mortal fright:
They contain an ingredient that kills.

by PGS and Carol June Hooker
Omnificent English Dictionary In Limerick Form
http://www.oedilf.com/

 

 

Fiction

 

Scott, R. T. M. (Reginald Thomas Maitland), b. 1882.
Ann's Crime; Still Another Adventure Of "Secret Service Smith
New York, Dutton [c1926]
pgs 232-233

"No doctor could save you, Neville," continued Smith. "You are lying on old Meg's death pillow which, in her jealousy, she must have placed there for me."

"Death pillow?" questioned Neville, struggling into a sitting position.

"Exactly," returned Smith. "I don't know what she puts into the pillow but a laboratory test will give us the information later - after you are dead."

Suddenly Neville drew a knife from his pocket and slashed savagely at the pillow upon which he had been lying. Through a rent he thrust a hand and brought forth, from among the feathers, a large cheese-cloth bag from which a fine powder exuded. He tore the bag open and upon the counterpane there fell fragments of dried fungus. Smith watched him quietly from the foot of the bed as he held a large fragment in his shaking hand and regarded it.

It must be said of Constantine Neville that he acknowledged defeat when it came to him. There was no hysteria, no pleading for impossible mercy, not even one malediction. He dropped the piece of fungus from his shaking hand with a gesture that was dramatically final.

"I have studied fungi," he stated as calmly as his wretched condition would permit. "It is the Death Cup or Destroying Angel, the Poison Amanita - Amanita phalloides. The poisonous principle is phallin, one of the tox-albumins, the poisons found in rattlesnakes and the poisons which produce death in cholera and diphtheria." He coughed for a moment. "I have been breathing the impalpable spores of the Death Cup. They have attacked my blood through the cells of my lungs. There is no known antidote. No doubt the thing grew near the Weatherby place in the country where the old woman found it."

He fell back on the bed among the remnants of the thing that was killing him...

 

Ruth Rendell's short story Shreds and Slivers (1994) chronicles a man who has lost his job and whose wife has left him. He begins to study fungi because he sees some growing in the yard and he is desperate to fill his time. On the same day that he sees his wife in the supermarket he finds an Amanita phalloides in his yard, growing under the Sessile oak.

He picks these Amanita and slices thin strips off the cap. The next morning he heads back to the market, peels back the cling wrap on a container of mixed mushrooms, and slips the deadly pieces into 10 containers. The next time he goes back and doctors 15 cartons, all in the hopes that his wife, a mushroom lover, will buy one and die in horrible agony.

 

Anne Parrish (1888-1957)
The Perennial Bachelor
New York : Harper & brothers, 1925.
pages 140-147

Most of the mushrooms were too old, after all, black and wormy. She got enough big brown-lined umbrellas for a nice little dish, but she couldn't find any of the silky white ones with the pink linings like the basketful Margaret and the girls brought her last week.

Then, by the edge of the wood, she saw the most beautiful one, all by itself, and further on, another. More beautiful than any of Margaret's, all silvery, inside and out. She found five before she was through. They gleamed against the shadows of the wood, beautiful, lonely, and white - angels of death.

And then she thought, why not stop and ask Margaret to lunch? Because she loved mushrooms, and here they were, and there was Cobina to cook them

"Really, Priscilla, she's a treasure!"

"Willie says so, too," said Aunt Priscilla, beaming. "No, the mushrooms are all for you - they cook down so, don't they? No, really, I never want anything else when I have corn-fritters, and Cobina says she wouldn't be paid to eat them. Toads she calls them - did you ever? Short for toadstools, I guess. Now take them all or I'll feel bad, I gathered them especially for you.

Beautiful, lonely, and white, the Angel of Death. Whiter than fire, whiter than snow, the great wings curve above Margaret, their shadow covers her. ...She paused to eat a peach, looking thoughtful and thinking of nothing. Then across the lawn and into the house. And with her went the Angel of Death.... She went up to her room and took off her dress. Just a little lie down before supper. The great wings drooped above her, closer, closer. "Go to sleep little child. I will be here when you wake"...

Three days, three nights. That screaming, thin as a knife, that shaking, that hurling back and forth in the deep white bed. Nothing could counteract the poison of that dish Aunt Priscilla had offered her so lovingly.

 

Atkinson, Kate
Human Croquet
Great Britain: Doubleday, 1997.
pgs 316-317

Audrey is all tucked up in bed now, like a small child, with blankets and hot water bottles and aspirin and Mrs Baxter's in the kitchen making Daddy's tea. His favorite - mushroom soup. She makes Daddy's soup with a lot of care, slicing the onions into moons and stirring them round and round in the frothing yellow butter. The fraga=rance of onions and butter filling the kitchen, drifting out of the lilac outside the window, its purple heads still hanging wet and heavy from a shower of rain.

When the new-moon onions are soft and yellow Mrs Baxter adds the mushrooms, little cultivated buttons that she wiped and chopped in quarters. When they're all nicely coated in butter she adds the big flat horse-field mushrooms that grow in the corner of the Lady Oak field, like huge gilled plates, their dark brown the colour of earth. She stirs the fleshy slices around until they begin to wilt a little and then she adds the olive-coloured fungi that also grow in the field but are not as common - a treat for Daddy, for this is Mrs Baxter's special recipe for mushroom soup.

As she stirs and stirs Mrs Baxter thinks about Audrey upstairs in her child's bed and thinks of Daddy creeping into that bed. Then she puts some water in the pan, not too much, and salts it with tears and sprinkles in pepper. Then she puts the lid on and leaves it to simmer.

 

 

Music

 

Die Toten Hosen (literally, "the dead trousers")
Amanita Phalloides
from the album Auswärtsspiel (2002)

 

 

English Translation

With heart -, cycle and swallowing difficulties,
Difficulty in breathing and vomiting and whitish-yellow tongue lining,
with depression and impotence, physical passivity
and sudden urethra fire:

Therapy!
Therapy!

With rheumatoid pains of the joints, paralyses in the Lymph system,
when burning and stinging in heart:

Therapy!
Therapy!

3x7 drop on the day Amanita of phalloides -
and gladly more, if one can stand it -
Amanita of phalloides

With groundless sexual excitation, stick cold and ejection,
with chronic paresthesia,
with sores and lesions, salivation and hoarseness
and general misery feeling

3x7 drop on the day Amanita of phalloides -
and gladly more, if one can stand it -
Amanita of phalloides

With always recurring worm infestation
and Schleimbildung in the brain,
spastic condition of the throat musculature
and of the eye muscle core

3x7 drop on the day Amanita of phalloides -
and gladly more, if one can stand it -
Amanita of phalloides

Therapy!
Therapy!
Therapy!

 

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