cyanide tooth

Cyanide Tooth: How Does This Spy Movie Legend Works?

The cyanide tooth is internationally known as the secret pill hidden in false teeth. The mysterious world of espionage has plenty of examples of real-world emergency cyanide pills and a fake tooth with a hidden chamber.

We all know a little bit of these pills because James Bond and Captain America have had enemy prisoners foaming and stumbling at the mouth, taking their secrets to the grave and beyond.

The cyanide tooth is little more than a pop-culture legend, and, actually, the prevalence of emergency suicide measures in spies stories are generally excessive.

Myth or not, this phenomenon is such a popular pop-culture trope probably because of the use that movies, comics, and TV have given to it. However, there have been tons of people that actually hide cyanide capsules in their mouths.

According to Vince Houghton, a curator at the International Spy Museum in Washington D.C., a lot of Nazis chose that way to die during WWII.

Houghton referred to the May 1945 suicide of high-ranking Nazi Heinrich Himmler, who bit into a cyanide pill while in confinement. A list of his Nazi collaborators preferred the same way out at the end of the war.

Some Allied forces also carried deadly suicide pills in case they were caught behind enemy lines. The use of the cyanide tooth pill or their specter lasted through the Cold War.

Cyanide Tooth: The Fast-acting Poison

spies teeth

A cyanide tooth is a lethal, fast-acting poison that became almost synonymous with the idea of a suicide pill. The concept is widely known around the world and among pop-culture as well. 

In a 2013 Wired article, we learned that the cyanide tooth pill that appears in Skyfall, a Bond movie, science writer Deborah Blum explained it as a “famously fast-acting poison due to its ability to induce extreme chemical suffocation of cells and to disrupt enzymatic processes.” 

This pill is capable of killing someone in minutes. It makes sense that Deborah Blum pointed out because it keeps bearing a lethal mystique nowadays. 

This pill is a unique cloak-and-dagger trope that has a substantial basis in history (even if it wasn’t precisely like that in real life).

It might come as a surprise that those false teeth with hidden chambers also have a basis in real life.

Deborah tells that obviously, there are artificial teeth that have been used by spies and soldiers, but most of the time, it has been practiced to cover microdots, film, those types of things.

These teeth would often have been placed in on molars, somewhere in the back of people’s mouths where they would be hard to be detected.

This makes sense, too; if you are a spy or a soldier, you don’t want the enemy to discover your trick.

Houghton, the person from the Spy Museum, said that there is no real collection of someone that ever covered a cyanide tooth in a fake tooth.

There is no evidence we can see of someone using a hollow tooth now or in the past.

Cyanide Capsules In the Past

Hitler tooth

Most of these cyanide capsules are huge, and this makes the legend more apocryphal and anecdotal. In addition to the danger of accidentally swallowing a cyanide tooth or capsule, the pills in World War II were around the size of a pea; the meaning is, it would be too big to hide it inside a fake tooth safely. 

There are confirmed examples of capsules hidden in the ends of pens and temples of glasses, where they could be secretly chewed. 

In new research, French scientists studied remnants of Adolf Hitler’s teeth to confirm that he died in 1945. And also, that he died after using a cyanide pill and shooting himself in the head. 

In this investigation, published by the European Journal of Internal Medicine during 2018, attempts to end the conspiracy theories about Hitler’s death. 

This scientific investigation of the German dictator’s teeth and skull demonstrates that he died in 1945.

Philippe Charlier, author of this research, confirm to the AFP all this data after confirming that those teeth were of the German dictator. 

All this establishes that Adolf Hitler died in his bunker after the Russian invasion. So, the investigation validates that he didn’t escape to Argentina in a submarine; he is not in an unknown base in Antarctica either. 

In late April 1945, as Soviet forces assaulted Berlin, Adolf Hitler started plans for his suicide. His program involved testing SS-supplied cyanide capsules on his Alsatian, Blondi, and dictating a final testament. 

Two days earlier, Mussolini was executed after been captured by the Allies. Mussolini had been shot by a firing unit and then was hung by his feet in a public place in a suburban square in Milan, Italy. 

Rumors said that Hitler couldn’t cope with all this and decided to kill himself. He will never accept his defeat, so he preferred to die by his terms because a similar fate seemed inevitable. 

Late on April 30, the corpses of Hitler and Eva Braun (his new wife), were discovered in his bunker, with a bullet hole in Hitler’s head. 

Captain America: The First Avenger

captain america

During WWII, cyanide capsules we very common among spies. As such, after executing Abraham Erskine, HYDRA agent Heinz Kruger tried to escape using the Fieser Dorsch

Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) pursued him and successfully frustrating Kruger’s escape. However, before he could be questioned, Kruger swallowed a cyanide capsule hidden inside a fake tooth, dying quickly after threatening Captain Rogers about being the beginning of many HYDRA missions.

Cyanide pills appear in Captain America: The First Avenger, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Agent Carter T.V. series.

So, these pills, also known as the suicide pill, is a small capsule that contains a lethal substance designed to be swallowed deliberately to end one’s own life quickly.

So, Kruger causing his own death in the movie during WWII makes sense. These capsules we pretty common among spies and soldiers as we learn earlier in this blog.

Chester Phillips remarked in his interrogation of Arnim Zola that Zola was the only HYDRA agent that the strategic scientific reserve caught alive because he didn’t use a cyanide pill. 

“Cyanide. You get a painless death, and nobody gets the satisfaction of watching you hang.” ― Roger Dooley to Ernst Mueller.

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