Research Notes and Fun Facts

JSB’s post yesterday reminded me of all my notes in my phone, many of which I’ll never use. So, I thought I’d share them with you. Perhaps they’ll spark some ideas for the WIP.

Some are random thoughts, others are research tidbits I’d learned during the day that I didn’t want to forget, with a few fun facts mixed in.


Mystery/thriller writers, this one’s for you!

  • Ankle monitors aren’t monitored in real time by law enforcement. In many cases, they’re only a GPS tracker. Some devices don’t even have geographical restrictions. The GPS track is stored by private companies, not law enforcement or prisons. Parolees have even committed murder while wearing them!

Need a creative way for your detective to find a clue? Check out this nifty tidbit I discovered.

  • Privately owned garbage trucks and tow trucks come equipped with license plate readers. The recordings are loaded into a private database, and police can ask for permission to access those databases without a search warrant.

For fiction bathed in reality, how might you use this next one?

Brainwaves: We have three brainwaves in our lifetime, depending on age. Scientists can study each brainwave independently through an EEG.

Did your contemporary killer leave behind a shoe impression? No problem…

SoleMate FPX is a new and improved system that combines a comprehensive footwear evidence management tool with an extensive footwear reference database for the rapid identification of shoe prints.

Using combinations of shapes, patterns, text, and logos to describe the visible characteristics found on a shoeprint left at a crime scene, it’s possible to identify matching items of footwear in a matter of minutes via the intuitive FPX search interface.

Fun Facts

Mystery/thriller/suspense writers, do what you will with the following fun facts.


  • Zinc Phosphide = rat poison.
  • To mummify a corpse, bury in kitty litter. Or, for a more thorough job, dismember the corpse and bury the body parts in kitty litter.
  • Necrophilia is also a diagnosis.

Ahem. Moving on…

  • The heart beats 2.5 billion times per lifetime.
  • Mistletoe kills the tree it hangs on! Expect an article about this during the holiday season. 😉
  • One million seconds equals eleven days.
  • A corpse can often have bowel movements for days.
  • A decapitated head can have consciousness for 15-20 seconds after death. In my phone there’s a checkmark after this fun fact because I used it in Silent Mayhem.

Calling all nature lovers!

  • Plants can recognize their siblings, and they’re given preferential treatment.Biologists discovered that plants exhibit competitiveness among strangers of the same species but are more accommodating toward siblings. Researchers found root allocation increased when groups of strangers shared a pot, not when groups of siblings shared a pot.

    In other words, plants compete with strangers by allocating more of their roots below ground. This helps them as they fight for access to water and soil nutrients.

  • Plants are just as capable of deception as animals.

Many plants release scents or volatile chemicals when they are stressed, attracting insects and other animals that can help them escape a dangerous situation. Ready to get your mind blown?

  • The smell of freshly cut grass is actually a plant distress call.

Crazy, right? Now you know why I jotted it down. 😉 

  • Trees are the longest living organisms on earth. One of the many reasons they live so long is called “negligible senescence.” Meaning, rather than declining in health and productivity with age, some trees actually get healthier and more productive.
  • There’s a plant that’s able to simultaneously produce tomatoes and potatoes, called the “ketchup and fries” plant (unverified, so check this fact before you use it).

Historical fiction writers, these next few are for you!

  • Some prehistoric societies de-fleshed the bone from their dearly departed.

During the medieval period, bodies that needed transportation over long distances for burial were also de-fleshed, by dismembering the body and boiling the pieces. The bones were then transported. The soft tissues they buried close to the place of death.

  • Throughout early modern times, up until at least the mid 19th century, it was a common belief that the touch of a murderer—executed by hanging—could cure all kinds of illnesses, ranging from cancer and goiters to skin conditions. Afflicted persons would attend executions hoping to receive the “death stroke” of the executed prisoner.

Need a realistic way to misdirect readers away from your antagonist?

  • A heart murmur can often cause a person to fail a lie detector test. Doesn’t matter if they’re 100% truthful. The heart murmur will read as deception.

If you’re wondering why I’d share notes from my phone, I’ll leave you with this proverb.

Nothing in nature lives for itself.

Rivers don’t drink their own water.

Trees don’t eat their own fruit.

The Sun doesn’t shine for itself.

Flowers don’t spread fragrance for themselves.

Living for others is the rule of nature.

Did I jumpstart your creative juices? Any favorites?


Happy Release Day, book baby!

Three unconventional eco-warriors are on a mission to save polar bears from the nation’s largest animal trafficking organization—one dead poacher at a time.

Now available in ebook and paperback.


This entry was posted in #writerslife, #WritingCommunity and tagged , , , , by Sue Coletta. Bookmark the permalink.

About Sue Coletta

Sue Coletta is an award-winning crime writer and an active member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. Feedspot and named her Murder Blog as “Best 100 Crime Blogs on the Net.” She also blogs at the Kill Zone (Writer's Digest "101 Best Websites for Writers") and Writers Helping Writers. Sue lives with her husband in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire. Her backlist includes psychological thrillers, the Mayhem Series (books 1-3) and Grafton County Series, and true crime/narrative nonfiction. Now, she exclusively writes eco-thrillers, Mayhem Series (books 4-7 and continuing). Sue's appeared on the Emmy award-winning true crime series, Storm of Suspicion, and three episodes of A Time to Kill on Investigation Discovery. Learn more about Sue and her books at

28 thoughts on “Research Notes and Fun Facts

  1. Sue! Good luck with TRACKING MAYHEM!

    Your factoid I enjoyed the most concerned a decapitated head maintaining consciousness for 15 to 20 seconds from the point of separation. I read an account several years ago to the effect that the head of someone guillotined during the French Revolution snarled when an attendant rudely moved it aside with his foot while making room for the next customer. Then, of course, there is my sister, whose head still talks more than fifty years after being detached from common sense! Just kidding of course.

    Thanks, Sue, and have a great day on the mountaintop!

    • Hahaha. Executioners could be so rude! I found a story about Langalier, a prisoner who faced the guillotine. After decapitation, the doctor on site noticed Langalier’s disembodied head didn’t seem quite right. When the doctor called his name, the prisoner’s eyes focused on him! For twenty full seconds, he and the disembodied head communicated, the doc speaking, Langalier responding via facial expressions.

      We’re having severe storms all week. Hope you’re having a better day, SJ!

  2. Thanks for these, and a fun way to start the day. Up here, bags of kitty litter are a staple for adding weight and traction to the back of a pickup truck, handy on snowy/icy roads in the winter. I can see a cop pulling someone over and asking some interesting questions.

  3. Reads like Ripley’s Believe it or Not, Sue, which is still being produced.

    I remember a teacher in junior high talking about the severed head and the guillotine, as Joe mentioned above. That haunted me. I think it’s time to see the camp classic The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962) again.

    • Haha! All I could think while scrolling through my notes was, Imagine if a homicide detective ever got ahold of my phone? Straight to jail, do not pass Go. 😉

      Do it, Jim! I bet you’d find writing lessons for us in The Brain That Wouldn’t Die!

  4. Congratulations, Sue, on the release of Tracking Mayhem!

    That decapitated head is going to be giving everyone nightmares for awhile. I had not heard that fact before, but it makes sense. The twelve cranial nerves connect directly from the brain to their site without requiring the spinal cord.

    Here’s a list of the cranial nerves and what they control:
    1. Olfactory nerve: Sense of smell.
    2. Optic nerve: Ability to see.
    3. Oculomotor nerve: Ability to move and blink your eyes.
    4. Trochlear nerve: Ability to move your eyes up and down or back and forth.
    5. Trigeminal nerve: Sensations in your face and cheeks, taste and jaw movements.
    6. Abducens nerve: Ability to move your eyes.
    7. Facial nerve: Facial expressions and sense of taste.
    8. Auditory/vestibular nerve: Sense of hearing and balance.
    9. Glossopharyngeal nerve: Ability to taste and swallow.
    10. Vagus nerve: Digestion and heart rate.
    11. Accessory nerve (or spinal accessory nerve): Shoulder and neck muscle movement.
    12. Hypoglossal nerve: Ability to move your tongue.

    That bodiless head might be able to do quite a few creepy things.

    Have a great day!

  5. The City of St. Louis has had some embarrassing home confinement/ankle monitor “issues”.

    A home invasion specialist was arrested in a home with his monitor on. He could be away from his home during the day to look for work. His MO? Walking in unlocked houses in the middle of the day.

    Lyda Krewson, former Mayor entered politics after her husband was killed in a car jacking, by someone wearing an ankle monitor.

  6. Private DNA companies like 23 and me can be requested to check their databases by law enforcement. Some will check on a request, some want a subpoena. More than a few people have been arrested because a family member used 23 and me. Once you send a sample, the data belongs to the company, not to you.

    • Precisely, Alan. Hence why I would NEVER do any ancestry site. Not that I’ve committed a crime, but I don’t want my DNA easily accessible to anyone.

      • St. Louis had a serial rapist (doesn’t every city 🙁 ). The police had a suspect and brought him in. Told him he was wanted for a string of robberies but a DNA swab would clear him. He agreed to the DNA test.

        There were no robberies. He did match a bunch of rapes.

  7. Gee, Sue, for a Monday morning post, this was a jolt! 🙂

    I like this one: The smell of freshly cut grass is actually a plant distress call.

    Great…now every time I go outside after the man is done with our acre and a half of grass, I’ll hear the grass crying. Maybe we can sell the lawnmower.

    Happy Monday!

    • Sorry, Deb! I can’t get past the grass, either. Now you feel my pain! Every time my husband mows, I think of each blade crying for help. Gut-wrenching.

      • But, this more than makes up for it…I love this:

        Nothing in nature lives for itself.

        Rivers don’t drink their own water.

        Trees don’t eat their own fruit.

        The Sun doesn’t shine for itself.

        Flowers don’t spread fragrance for themselves.

        Living for others is the rule of nature.

  8. Love these, Sue! I’m copying this post to the special “Coletta Research” folder that’s full of your golden tidbits.

    Thanks to Steve, also, for the cranial nerve breakdown.

    I used an ankle monitor in Stalking Midas and it didn’t stop the character from getting into additional mischief.

  9. A true bonanza of fun facts to start off Monday right, Sue! Wow. I’m very impressed with your research prowess. All of these are fascinating. The plants ones may have changed my Empowered series, which features a hero who possesses the ability to sense what plants felt and communicate with them, albeit in a superhero like context. Her plant powers progressed with the series to the point where plants became almost an extension of her will. Knowing that plants can deceive as well as animals would certainly have put a different spin on things.

    Fascinating and creepy facts about when your head roams free. But still, yikes.

    Hope you have a fantastic week, my friend! I’ve been getting in a lot of Moon viewing this “lunation” and tweeted a photo of the five day old Moon I took.

  10. Thank you Sue for sharing those delightful tidbits. I love pieces of interesting information and these were definitely fun.

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