Ginger Beer Trick

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A mercifully undescribed method of persuasion which is referenced in Night Watch. Well, mercifully undescribed and left to the imagination in the book, we're going to discuss it at length now...

Everybody anywhere in the world is familiar with carbonated soft drinks. (Soda to Americans, fizzy pop or fizzy drinks to Brits, depending on class and background). These all have the common characteristic of containing carbon dioxide in a sugar solution, which is violently released if the bottle is shaken and which can build up a gas pressure so heavy as to blow the cap off or even explode the bottle. Just about everybody has seen or done this at one time or another.

And we've probably all had the unpleasant experience of pouring a glass, lifting it to the mouth and drinking too quickly, so that a sudden surge of froth and gas goes up the nose. This is an irritant on the sensitive mucus membranes of the sinuses to the point of being painful.

And there are simple household chemicals which, if added to a carbonated drink, make the release of dissolved gas even more swift, violent, explosive, and potentially agonising.

It takes no great leap of the imagination to consider the awful possibilities inherent in the juxtaposition of a violently shaken bottle and a smiling, grinning, sadist who has you in his power and is holding the bottle while two of his mates hold you. If you're lucky, you might only get it up the nose... other sensitive mucous membranes are available in a range of handy-to-insert sizes.

The technique has been described as the Holy Grail of torture: it causes excruciating pain whilst, in most circumstances, leaving no long-term physical damage that may later on be used in evidence against the torturer (no suspicious burns or bruises to be photographed for instance.)

John Keel comes up with a variant of the trick in Night Watch which involves no actual physical torture. Just the psychological sort... but Carcer also knows the Trick. And uses it.


Police and internal security forces accused of using (or alleged to have used in the past) the Ginger Beer trick, or local variants, on Roundworld, include:

  • Brazil
  • Turkey
  • Chile
  • Argentina
  • Mexico
  • the Philippines
  • Russia (in Chechnya)
  • The Israeli Defence Forces
  • the old South African Police Force (during apartheid)
  • the Royal Ulster Constabulary/British Army Intelligence (Northern Ireland, pre-ceasefire)

(ref. Amnesty International)