When you're writing a novel a lot of text ends up in the garbage. bin. One brief extract that I consigned to the the bin involved Beth's despised red hair turning white from fright when she was entombed in Skull Creek Cave.
Overnight graying or whitening of hair has been reported for centuries and doctors are still arguing about whether it actually occurs. For instance, the hair of Thomas More is said to have become entirely white the evening before his execution in 1535. Henry of Navarre, later Henry IV of France, supposedly went suddenly white following his escape from the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre in 1572 and legend has it, that Marie Antoinette's hair turned white the night before she was beheaded.
The difficulty in believing these examples lies with the indisputable fact that hair is dead tissue. Doctors argue that for hair to change colour, it would need to grow out from the roots like dyed hair, a process that can take months.
Still, there have been many famous eye witness accounts of the phenomonen as Mr Hammarsten, old Hammer and Tongs, told his class of skeptic school boys in this discarded extract from: The Biocide Conspiracy.
Mo had heard that fear could turn hair white over night but he’d never believed it; not after his class had watched Nightmare on Elm St., not after, Hammer and Tongs had defended the hackneyed device dearly- loved by poets and playwright
‘Historically the most well-known victim was Marie Antoinette,’ declaimed the teacher, warming to his theme. ‘It was said her auburn hair turned a ghostly white the night before she lost her head to the guillotine. Then there was Shah Jahan … his hair turned white when his favourite wife died. Blank looks, even from the nerds in the front row.
‘He built the Taj Mahal! Surely you ignorant sods have heard of that,’ Mr. Hammarsten sounded exasperated but he plugged on relentlessly. ‘The phenomenon was first reported in the Talmud … the book of Jewish Law … way back in 83AD. The victim was a 17-year-old boy. His sudden white hair was said to have been as a consequence of strenuous studying.’ The teacher looked straight at Mo and his malicious eyes gleamed. ‘No reason for you to be concerned, Jones.’
Way back then Mo had been certain Mr. Hammarsten had been having them on; the eccentric old schoolmaster often said something controversial to get a discussion going. It was a great pity he'd never have the satisfaction of telling him he was right.
Authors note: if the condition does exist, it is mostly likely triggered by emotion, but like Mr.Hammarsten's students, I remain skeptical.