The Suicide Shower

This is a Suicide Shower.

This is a Suicide Shower.

If you’ve never heard of a Suicide Shower, you’ve likely never traveled in Central America. Most homes and hotels in this part of the world don’t have hot water heaters. That’s fine for places like Nicaragua, where it’s almost always ungodly hot, and a cold water shower is usually a great way to start the day. But here in Guatemala, there are some mountainous regions where it actually gets pretty cold. Enter the Suicide Shower:

Basically a Suicide Shower is a larger shower head that heats the cold water inside the head with an electric heating coil. You turn on the water, the water fills the head, completes the circuit, and you get hot (usually lukewarm) water.

That’s all fine and good, until you consider the fact that there is 120 volts of electricity running to your shower head in a country where there are almost no standard rules or regulations for electricians. This means that usually, the shower heads, electronics and all, are installed with reckless abandon by amateurs. Expect lots of electrical tape, bare ground wires attached to nothing, breaker boxes in the shower, and above all, expect a shock. Touch the head, get a shock. Every time.

Furthermore, you have to adjust the water just right to get it hot. If you have the tap all the way open, there’s too much water coming through and it doesn’t get hot. Turn it too low, and it doesn’t complete the circuit and start the heater. The lights in the bathroom dim slightly when the heater kicks on, so I watch the bulb while I adjust the nob. You have to find the sweet spot. It’s amazing how easy it is to become accustomed to this kinds of things.

A couple weeks ago, I was showering and thinking to myself how nice and hot the water was – much better than the lukewarm water I was used to. I didn’t think too much of it until I turned off the water, and the heater kept going. I could hear it growling inside the shower head. The water left in the head began to boil, hissing and bubbling inside the shower head. Something was seriously wrong. Normally, as soon as you shut off the water, the heater shuts off as water drains out of the head, but this time, it wasn’t stopping.

Steam started squealing from the seals, like a kettle boiling on full blast. Up until this point, I’d been standing there naked, dripping wet, and confused as to what was going on. But I figured this thing might actually explode, so I grabbed my towel and got the hell out of the shower. I opened the door and stood in the hall watching as the steam ran out, and the heater continued to heat. I could see it, glowing red, raging inside the plastic shower head. Black smoke started streaming from the holes in the plastic, and the heater raged on, squealing a more and more high pitched death knell.

My first instinct was to cut the breaker, which was just in the hallway, but by the time I had that thought, the possessed shower head had reached its terrifying crescendo. There was a pop, probably the heating element finally breaking, and then there was silence.  And I was still standing there, dripping wet, heart pounding, and utterly confused.

I told my landlady what had happened, and she said, “Oh, that happens sometimes, we’ll get you a new one.”

Anyway – That’s what we call a Suicide Shower. Because you have to know that every time you decide to take a shower, it could be your last.

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!
  • Thehairychef

    ha…yeah they’re everywhere in Colombia. We have burn marks up our wall where the wiring melted!!

  • Charli & Ben

    We ended up trying to wash in the sink during our travels in Central America. It’s such a terrifying experience, usually I like taking my time in the shower but with those things it’s in and out in 2 seconds flat!

  • Angela

    Oh no, I don’t think I would ever get under one of those! Especially now I know the risk of it burning up!

  • Rod Freeman

    Awesome post … that’s real traveller stuff :)

  • ViajeroMogli

    Thats awesome, just liked it at my Facebook Page

    See ya man!!!

  • Pryderi


  • Alvaro

    agree! very pussy! ahahahaha

  • Jayrod

    To the two idiots who called this person a pus–, I just wanta let u know I am a certified electrician who is also certified in heating & air conditioning and plumbing, I have been electrocuted twice on the job in my life b/c of coming to repair a job that someone who had no clue what they were doing and weren’t certified at all but said they were, once I was knocked completely unconscious for roughly 5 to 6 minutes b/c of an idiot who hooked the ground and the hot up reversed so it allowed me to open the disconnect box and if it was hooked up right I couldn’t have opened it, but since the idiot did it backwards I could open it and that told me all power was dead so when I pulled the fuses out to test them I was hit with 488 volts all at once which blowed me backwards over 5 feet and knocked me out for a lil over 5 minutes, the second time another idiot who wasn’t certified didn’t hook up the stove wire on a double wide trailer when it was set up and I was under the house doing a.c. work running refrigeration lines and made it to the middle of the house b4 touching any metal of the home and when I rolled over on my back I got pinned between the frame and a metal anchor which the idiot left the 230 volt stove wire laying against and I actually had blue sparks flying out my mouth from some permanent retainers I have, by the time the electricity was cut off and I got to the nearest hospital, I lost all felling in half my body for a full day and my body swoll to over half its normal size, I finally regained felling the next day after the swelling went down but almost died both times due to other idiots lack of knowledge and stupidity b/c they said they knew what they were doing when they didn’t have the slightest clue of anything to do with electricity but said they did just to make a dollar and not have any regard for the fact of anyone else’s life, they almost killed my parents second son and took away my daughters daddy, so b4 u call someone a pus–, u might want to have a lil more knowledge of what really goes on, on a day to day bases in the life of a real electrician and the people who have to live in the homes of where the people have came and worked stating their an electrician when they truly don’t know a dam- thing about electricity, u moron !!!