During the days of the cholera epidemic of the 18th and 19th centuries, the fear of being buried alive was widespread. Even before that time, earlier literature and history also recorded live burial, both intentional and unintentional. It is surprising to know that premature burial is still a thing these days. In the past few centuries, there have been multiple cases of premature burial. Humans have been buried alive by mistake, assuming that they have died, or even intentionally in the form of execution and brutal murder.
Story of the disfigured corpse
Bondeson has written an account of 19 years old French boy who was pronounced dead after getting into a motorcycle accident. In 1937, Angelo Hays wrecked his motorbike and hit his head into a brick wall. Doctors found no pulse and declared him dead. Due to the horrible accident, his face was disfigured, and his parents were not allowed to have a last look. He was buried three days later after being in the morgue.
Two days after the burial, the local insurance company decided to exhume the body to find more clues about his death due to insurance claims. When they opened the grave, they were surprised because his body was still warm and fresh. After further investigation, it was found out that Angelo has fallen into a deep coma due to head injury. And he stayed alive because his body needed a minimal amount of oxygen to stay alive. After several surgeries and rehabilitation efforts, he got out of the coma and recovered completely. Angelo became a French celebrity, and people visited him from far to talk to a man who knows about the afterlife.
Bone-chilling story of Essie Dunbar
In 1915 in South Carolina, Essie Dunbar suffered an epileptic seizure, and it seemed that she has died. Dr. D.K. Briggs of Blackville checked her symptoms. The doctor tested the vital, finding no signs of life, declared her dead. She was scheduled to be buried the next morning upon the arrival of her sister. They waited for Essie’s sister to arrive, but she was late, so they decided to bury her. Essie’s sister came a few minutes later, but they had already buried her wooden coffin. Her grieved sister demanded to see her one last time and persuaded the ministers to dig up the coffin. When they dug up the coffin and removed the nails, they fell back into the grave due to shock and fear, while one of them broke his ribs. The mourners also fled the scene, yelling. All this happened because Essie was alive and well in the coffin, smiling at her sister. Essie lived for another 47 years after that incident, but people of town always looked at her like she was a ghost. Interestingly, Essie Dunbar even outlived her doctor, who had pronounced her dead.
The half-dead German shoemaker
In 1822 in Germany, a 40-year-old shoemaker was reported dead by his family. During the whole burial process, the victim did not show any signs of death except being motionless. Neither his body released any corpse smell, nor it became stiff. The whole burial ceremony usually continued until the end. After the burial just finished, a loud thud and knocking were heard from the grave. The gravedigger immediately dug up the tomb and found the shoemaker motionless, but his arms were stretched upwards as if he were trying to get out of the coffin. The doctor was called for examination, and he made an incision on the victim’s body. Blood came out rushing, and he declared the man is neither alive nor dead. Multiple attempts were made to revive him, but he did not wake up. After three days, he was finally buried again.
The fate of the nameless shoemaker
In 1867, a French woman named Philomele Jonetre was pronounced dead after she contracted Cholera. She was buried 16 hours after being pronounced dead. During the burial, the gravedigger heard a loud noise from the coffin. Her coffin was promptly taken out and opened. She had a weak pulse and some muscle contraction as well as eyelid movement. A candle was placed under her nose to check her breathing, but it appeared that she was not breathing. After making sure again that she was dead, she was buried the following day again.
The Greek patient
In 2014, a 49 years old Greek woman was mistakenly buried alive. She had been battling cancer and was pronounced dead by the doctors. After the burial, her family reported that they heard her screaming from inside the grave. Further investigations were made after the family’s claims, and it was revealed that she died of a heart attack inside the coffin. The cancer medicine given to her by doctors made her look dead while she was alive.
The struggling corpse
Another such case was published on February 21, 1885, by the New York Times. It is a very disturbing case of Jenkins from Buncombe County. When his coffin was later reopened for some reason, there was a shocking discovery. His body was curled inside the coffin, and his hair was pulled out. There were visible marks and scratches inside the coffin that indicated a struggle to get out of the coffin. After the report, the victim’s family was emotionally shattered beyond measure due to authorities’ negligence.
Case of John Duns Scotus
There is another case of premature burial from the 14th century. In 1308, the philosopher John Duns Scotus was buried after death. According to some people, when his tomb was reopened later, his body was found outside the coffin with his hands bloody and injured after an attempt to escape. The only explanation is that he was buried alive. But this story is now believed to be a myth.
Special safety Coffins to avoid premature burial
Premature burial is one of the most severe and horrid forms of death. The agony and pain caused by the fear, lack of oxygen, dehydration, and starvation are unimaginable. The fear of premature burial has led to the invention of special coffins, which allow the buried person to communicate with the outside world. The first-ever recorded safety coffin was built during the 18th century for Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick. There are multiple ways to facilitate the buried person if he is alive. The most common is a cord attached to a bell that the buried can pull to alarm the people outside, if he/she revives after the burial. This idea was most recently shown in the 2018 horror film The Nun.