A man and his wife, completely devoted to each other, have sworn to be teetotal all their lives. One of their vows at the wedding was in fact that if either of them ever drank alcohol they would take their own lives (pretty silly in my opinion).

Despite this vow the man is a brewer - though he never drinks his own brew. The man had recently written his will giving everything he owns to his nephew.

His nephew knows this and comes round their house to celebrate New Year.

They both go down into the cellar so the nephew can inspect the latest brew. The man's wife who is washing up sees the nephew come up for some 'apple juice'.

Shortly after he goes back down, she hears her husband scream. She rushes down and sees this:

Her husband is lying dead on the floor next to an open barrel of beer. He has blood on his shirt and a big stone lying on his stomach. His hair is wet (An investigation shows his hair is covered in beer) and he is holding a half-empty cup of alcoholic cider. The floor around the barrel is wet.

The nephew claims a rock fell from the ceiling and killed him. But there was no rock missing from the ceiling

You are called in to investigate.

What happened and how did the man die (There's a clue in the title)

  • $\begingroup$ why is apple juice in quotes? Is that the wife's perspective, or the narrator, or the nephew? $\endgroup$ – Dr Xorile Jan 20 '16 at 21:50
  • $\begingroup$ @DrXorile the nephew says its apple juice but the wife doesn't check $\endgroup$ – Beastly Gerbil Jan 20 '16 at 21:51
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    $\begingroup$ Is there, in fact, a rock missing from the ceiling? $\endgroup$ – Dr Xorile Jan 20 '16 at 21:53
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    $\begingroup$ The wife did it. It's always the spouse. $\endgroup$ – Ian MacDonald Jan 20 '16 at 21:54
  • $\begingroup$ Is there alcohol in the cider? $\endgroup$ – user1618143 Jan 20 '16 at 22:02

Could it be that :

The nephew took a big rock, which was lying on top of the beer barrel to keep it closed, to knock out his uncle. That would explain the blood on his shirt from a supposed head wound. Unfortunately for the nephew, this was not enough to kill him, so the nephew put his uncle's head in the barrel and drowned him, explaining the wet hair and wet ground. Now, to make it look like a suicide he put his own cider cup in his uncle's hand, whom he knew would have to kill himself if he ever drank alcohol. Thus, he inherited the money.

  • $\begingroup$ Exactly what I had in mind! $\endgroup$ – Beastly Gerbil Jan 21 '16 at 16:04
  • $\begingroup$ +1, but why would he make it look like suicide and then make the ridiculous claim that a rock fell from the roof? $\endgroup$ – jhabbott Jan 21 '16 at 16:06
  • $\begingroup$ Otherwise its murder @jhabbott and he wouldn't get his uncle's money $\endgroup$ – Beastly Gerbil Jan 21 '16 at 16:51
  • $\begingroup$ It doesn't add up... <spoiler> first he puts the cider glass (to make it look like suicide) then he claims it was an accident and a stone 'fell' from the roof. Well if he wanted it to look like suicide why would he claim it was an accident in an stupidly implausible way? </spoiler> $\endgroup$ – jhabbott Jan 21 '16 at 16:55
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe he was scared or he didn't expect the rock to fall on the man's chest and he couldn't move it before the man's wife came in so had to think quickly @jhabbott $\endgroup$ – Beastly Gerbil Jan 21 '16 at 17:03

Okay, here's what happened.

A rock fell from the ceiling and killed the man.

But how, exactly?

The man did not properly vent this one barrel. Over time, the carbon dioxide built up enough that there was an enormous amount of pressure placed on the cap of the barrel. This pressure became too much, exploding with a violent gush of liquid gold, causing the man to scream. The barrel cap was thrown against the ceiling with such force that a large rock was dislodged directly above the man, promptly falling on his head and killing him.

This explains the scream, the open barrel, the pooled beer, the beer in the man's hair, and the circumstances of his death. The apple cider was delivered to him by his nephew and was unrelated.


I specifically skipped the obvious answer of "the nephew gave the man alcohol and so he killed himself or the nephew killed him and made it look like he killed himself" because I find it uninteresting. But perhaps that's the right answer?

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    $\begingroup$ A very similar thing once happened to me. $\endgroup$ – Dr Xorile Jan 20 '16 at 22:15
  • $\begingroup$ Yes and the hint in the title is likely referring to a "stellar suicide", somewhat of a pun on how stars explode... cellar, stellar. That or a supernova killed him... $\endgroup$ – Daedric Jan 21 '16 at 13:53
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry good answer but the title and cider are relevant $\endgroup$ – Beastly Gerbil Jan 21 '16 at 15:20
  • $\begingroup$ I'll edit to make it clearer $\endgroup$ – Beastly Gerbil Jan 21 '16 at 15:21
  • $\begingroup$ This should be the right answer! $\endgroup$ – Wa Kai Jan 22 '16 at 9:03

Even though an answer has been accepted, I'll leave my best interpretation of the events, which did in fact end with a


A thought:

I had thought of a drowning, like Thrax's answer proposes, but see an issue with that timeline. Since the wife rushes down after the scream (which, in Thrax's answer, is from the blow from the rock), there would be very little time to drown the uncle and then pose him with the rock and cup before the wife sees what's happening.

So here's how I see it:

The uncle and the nephew are in the cellar, inspecting the brew, as the OP states. The nephew leaves and returns to find the uncle having just opened a barrel, using a rock to unjam the lid. They both peer into the brew when the nephew dunks his uncle's head into it, holding it under the beer in an attempt to drown him and claim his possessions. The uncle fights, and gathers his strength for one push, which succeeds in freeing him from the nephew and lets him continue breathing. However, when the uncle braced himself for that death-staving push, he inhaled some of the beer. He coughed and sputtered and tried to catch his breath.


Realizing that he'd inadvertantly drank beer, and had really only chosen death by his own hand over his nephew's, he let out a bellowing scream. His nephew had done him in, either way, so he lifted the rock over his head, brought it crashing down, and fell into a heap with the rock on his chest. Just as his wife found him moments later.

Therefore, it was indeed

a cellar suicide.

  • $\begingroup$ Nice! I think there can be a lot of correct answers to this question $\endgroup$ – Beastly Gerbil Jan 21 '16 at 16:53
  • $\begingroup$ Congrats on getting 1'000 rep $\endgroup$ – Beastly Gerbil Jan 21 '16 at 16:54
  • $\begingroup$ @JoeBeastlyGerbil Thanks! It's been a fun road so far, and you're well on your way yourself if you keep up the questions like this. I want to say it has... atmosphere, which is awesome. And there are certainly a few possibilities with this puzzle, but I'll hold my tongue on saying "a lot", just in case the TOO BROAD goblins are out there listening us. $\endgroup$ – raisinghellyer Jan 21 '16 at 16:57
  • $\begingroup$ :) I love puzzles $\endgroup$ – Beastly Gerbil Jan 21 '16 at 17:00
  • $\begingroup$ @raisinghellyer Don't worry about those people, they have a fundamental misunderstanding of how humans willfully engage with riddles and puzzles. $\endgroup$ – question_asker Jan 21 '16 at 17:03

If this was QI, this answer would no doubt get the buzzer, but...

The man finished his apple juice and the nephew went to get some more for him. The man didn't realise and picked up the nephew's cider and took a swig. When the nephew returned with the apple juice, the man realised his mistake and screamed then killed himself with a large rock he kept on hand, you know, for emergencies and other eventualities. The nephew ran to stop him and knocked over some beer in the process. Remarkably he managed to keep hold of the cider glass. The nephew lied for any one of multiple plausible reasons (he was religious and didn't like the idea of suicide, he wanted to protect his uncle's honor, he wanted to protect his aunt's feelings, he felt guilty about leaving his cider there while going to get more apple juice for his dear old uncle).


It was just like above except the nephew did it on purpose and swapped the cider/apple juice to inherit all the goodies. The beer barrel was knocked over in the man's anger before he offed himself.


Here is my answer:

The nephew drowned the father in beer and then put a half-empty cup in his hand.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Please explain how you reached this answer and why it is right. $\endgroup$ – A J Mar 27 '18 at 11:18

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