CHOCANOIA

by The Chocolate Dictionary

Also known as the Anti-Milk Tray Approach, and best defined as occasions when chocolates are given with malevolent intent, chocanoia is the complete reversal of the affection and generosity with which chocolates are normally given. Mercifully chocanoia is most commonly found in the pages of fiction than in real life, with crime writer Anthony Berkeley being one of the first to use it in his classic 1929 whodunnit  The Poisoned Chocolates Case.

One of the first known cases of chocolate poisoning in fiction. (image from: http://www.tower.com)

Roald Dahl used choconoia as a plot device in  My Uncle Oswald, in which the eponymous uncle pursues a business venture involving Prestat truffles injected with a powerful aphrodisiac. Agatha Christie was so fond of the theme she used it three times. In The Chocolate Box, for instance, an elderly mother murders her son, a bigoted French politician, by poisoning one of his favourite Belgian chocolates. In Peril at End House, someone tries to frame Poirot by making it look like he laced a box of chocolates with cocaine. And in Three Act Tragedy an elderly resident of a sanatorium dies from eating poisoned liqueurs, in an attempt to prevent her divulging what she knew.

Agatha Christie’s ‘The Chocolate Box’. image from: http://www.ovguide.com)

A real-life case of chocanoia involved a jealous Brigadier General from Edinburgh named Tredegar (actually a pseudonym, his real name was John Millar). In 1941 the man tried to poison a certain Georgina Ferguson with a box of Terry’s Devon Milk, the contents of which had been laced with potassium permanganate. After being caught and then convicted of attempted murder he was sentenced to three years penal servitude. Thankfully, Terry’s reputation was unaffected.

In the 1950’s, an MI6 team lead by Frank Quinn – the real-life inspiration for Fleming’s famous boffin Q – experimented with lacing chocolates with a shellfish toxin in a plot to assassinate Egypt’s President Nasser. The deadly chocs were duly prepared but, fortunately for Nasser, the project was shelved and the unusually flavoured crèmes were never used. But could the know-how have been passed to Israeli counter-terrorism agents along they way? In a documented case from the 1970’s, Mossad agents assassinated an elusive enemy hiding in Lebanon by poisoning the pralines he liked so much… all because he had once hijacked an airliner. The method must have had considerable appeal in counter-terrorism circles for, ten years later, in a plot to assassinate the Palestinian commander Abu Jihad in Tunis, two Israeli agents, one disguised as a woman, approached his house before one of them opened fire with a gun concealed in a box of chocolates.

The case that became the most vivid example of chocanoia, because of the huge scandal it caused at the time, was the story of Christiana Edmunds, the Victorian poisoner from Brighton. In an attempt to get rid of her love rival, the wife of a local doctor with whom she was having an affair, Christiana laced a box of milk chocolates with strychnine, before delivering them to her unsuspecting victim. The doctor’s wife duly ate the chocolates and fell violently ill soon after. Fortunately she survived the terrible ordeal, but this didn’t stop Christiana, the so-called Chocolate Cream Killer, going on to adulterate many more chocolates before being finally apprehended.

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