Creepy Fact #9: Buried Alive

Sometimes creepiest tales and urban legends really happened to real people, proving once and for all that nothing is more terrifying than everyday life.

The famous urban legend goes that a person is committed to his or her eternal resting place, even though they aren’t quite ready to take that final rest. Scratch marks are later found on the coffin lid along with other desperate signs of escape.

Apparently, this not only happened, but back in the day it happened with alarming regularity. In the late 19th century, William Tebb tried to compile all the instances of premature burial from medical sources of the day. He managed to collect 219 cases of near-premature burial, 149 cases of actual premature burial and a dozen cases where dissection or embalming had begun on a not-yet-deceased body. The general fear of premature burial led to the invention of many safety devices which could be incorporated into coffins, most consisted of some type of device for communication to the outside world such as a cord attached to a bell that the interred person could ring should he revive after the burial.

Unfortunately safety coffins aren’t in “vogue” anymore, so if you’re at the cemetery and hear a voice from the underground it might be a good idea to inform someone with a shovel… quickly.

Little note: Folk-etymology has suggested that the phrases “saved by the bell”, “dead ringer” and “graveyard shift” come from the use of safety coffins in the Victorian Era. (source)

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