Buried Alive: Premature Burial (Fears; Incidents; Precautions)

drjbrennan

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#1
FT 146 had an article about premature buriel and mentioned that in the 1800s the Germans invented mortuaries where bodies were left on slabs, watched over by attendants who waited for any signs of reanimation until decomposition set in. This all to evade the dread prospect of being buried alive.
The article describes these as large grand structures but unfortunately no pictures. Does anyone know of any drawings or photos on the WWW?
Are any still in existance?
 
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Anonymous

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#2
There are a few pictures of German Waiting Mortuaries in Jan Bondson's book 'Buried Alive' and a whole lot more death gubbins. If you are interested in the morbid, I can recommend 'How we die' by Sherwin B Newland and 'The fireside book of death' by an author whose name eludes me. Sorry, but I am away from my collection at the moment, but I have many more I could give you.
 

intaglio

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#3
Just seen this one, Lard, You have a collection of books on death?
 

carole

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#4
H'mm, I've just minutely examined Lard's avatar and can see why, Intaglio! (Only joking, Lard!):p

It's typical of the Germans, to have such an efficient idea! Mind you, being buried alive must be a terrible thing. Imagine, coming to in the suffocating pitch blackness and screaming for help, but no one hears you. You claw at the lid of the coffin to get out, but you can see nothing. You can feel the drops of blood from your torn fingernails, the claustrophobia, the absolute panic, then, after what feels like an eternity, the suffocation closes in and you feel no more . . .

Carole:eek!!!!: :eek!!!!:
 

intaglio

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#5
I don't worry about premature interrment more waking up just after they've injected the embalming fluid :monster:
 
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Anonymous

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#6
No way am I being buried alive, if I somehow woke up with flames burning my toes then at least death would be quick! Can you imagine waking up six foot under and having the worms eat you slowly!
 

FelixAntonius

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#7
Mark Twain wrote a great short story of a man who worked as a watchman at a waiting mortury, in Munich. Gives a good discription of the workings of the same.

The story's called: " A Thumbprint & What Came of It" and features in His book: "Life on the Mississippi".

It's a great detective/horror story well worth a read!!!!!
 

The late Pete Younger

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#8
James Herbert covers this subject to horrifying effect in one of his books, but I cant for the life of me remember the title, anyone know the one I'm on about?:eek:
 
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Anonymous

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#12
Just wondering... has anyone here ever read Wisconsin Death Trip? Or is that book a purely local thing? I have never seen anything like it. It seems to be composed of articles from Wisconsin news papers from the eighteen hundreds. It cured me of ever wishing for "the good old days". There were too many ways to die that are not fatal now; too many portraits of children in their coffins. I suspect those were the only pictures their parents ever had. There were too many fathers or mothers who couldn't take life any longer and wiped out their whole families. And hired men who were blamed sometimes. The record of those things makes some book!

I don't envy my great grandmother at all. Clean air does not make up for raising children and seeing them die one after the other of things she could nothing about!
 

escargot

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#13
I've read about and seen photos from the Wisconsin Death Trip, it's fantastic!
I saw 'The Others' last week (Nicole Kidman movie) and it featured just such death photos.

Years ago on holiday in Torquay, S. English coast, I visited an exhibition of 'death photographs' which were mainly of babies and children. They were taken on the funeral day and were heartbreaking to see, and yes, they were usually the only photos their families would have of them.

Seemed mad to me until I met a family near my home who only had their stillborn son's birth certificate to display on the wall....
 

intaglio

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#14
escargot said:
... Seemed mad to me until I met a family near my home who only had their stillborn son's birth certificate to display on the wall....
To often, I think, contempory folk hide away from death. We regard previous centuries fascination with it as morbid (no pun intended) because now that word is derogatory. We cannot define life and so cannot explain death.
 

escargot

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#15
As a sociologist, I was taught that there are 2 great taboos- sex and death.
Each society, one theory goes, can only handle one at a time. So the Victorians couldn't handle public discussion of sex, but death was fine.
And where are we now??

Anyone want to hear about my friend's baby's funeral???
If not, look away now........

-Her husband is a keen banger racer so the coffin was carried on the seat of his banger and transported on a lowloader to the crematorium.
The garage lent the lowloader free. The garage owner lost a 14 year old son to cancer this year so was glad to show compassion to my friend.

A little showy for most tastes perhaps, but who knows how we'd feel in those dreadful circumstances?
 
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Anonymous

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#16
Marel said:
Just wondering... has anyone here ever read Wisconsin Death Trip? Or is that book a purely local thing? I have never seen anything like it. It seems to be composed of articles from Wisconsin news papers from the eighteen hundreds.
I saw a newspaper article on this book, sounded fascinating but at the time was only available in expensive hardback .........One for my Christmas list I think!:D
 

FelixAntonius

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#17
There was a film, (on I think C4, about a year ago), based on "Winsconsin Death Trip", it had a lot of the pictures, with some dramatization of some of the newspaper reports.
 

Yithian

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#18
Dragging this thread back on-topic. The British were hardly immune to fears of premature burial (Blame Poe for one). I'll look for details later but i recall mention of a device marketed that enabled the interred to activate a lever from within his coffin which triggered a small flag affixed to the gravestone so anyone spotting it would be alerted to the 'dead' man's plight. Wonder how many were actually sold and used?

Digging up old threads...;)
 

TheQuixote

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#19
Doesn't the phrase 'Saved by the bell' derive from the same subject?
If a person was buried prematurely and they found themselves 6ft under they could pull a wire from their coffin and then the bell would alert whoever was paid to keep watch over the graveyard.

Misdiagnosis of comatose or catatonic people lead to paranoia and people paying for this 'bell' service just in case they were buried by mistake, because when graves were exhumed many moons ago they observed a large majority had scratch marks on the underneath of the lid.

There is a semi-famous British 'ghost' story which I read years ago that described one wealthy woman's fear of being buried alive; the bell did save her life, but when she finally shuffled off the mortal coil, there were constant reports of the bell attatched to her grave being rung- even though she was definitely dead :eek!!!!:
 

Atch_

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#20
I always thought 'saved by the bell' was a boxing allusion.
 

escargot

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#22
The Great Train Robbery This fillum features a coffin fitted with a 'death-bell' device such as we've discussed.
It is part of a ruse to get a character into a train guard's van which is carrying gold.

(The coffin is accompnied by a grieving 'sister' of the dead man who, when the 'death bell' begins to ring, demands that the coffin is opened as her brother is surely alive. When the lid is raised there is a terrible stench of decay and a horrible-looking corpse so the box is quickly shut again. The 'corpse' is a heavily made-up Donald Sutherland and the stench comes from a dead cat he is carrying. Once stowed safely on the train he emerges from the coffin and commences stealing the gold.:D Genius.)
 

oll_lewis

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#23
Hundreds... buried alive !!!

There is a UL, that I heard retold a number of times, that a large graveyard or cematry (useuly based in London or Liverpool) was badly bombed dureing the blitz. Amongst the resulting mess were found hundreds of bodies, not fully decomposed with hands held up as if they had been clawing at their coffins to get out.

It seams obvious that the numbers of people burried alive has been somewhat exagerated in the retelling, yet I'm wondering if the story had a very small grain of truth in it. The Victorians in london had a fear of being buried alive, resultind in inventions like handels a person could pull from within the grave to indicate their want to get out by way of a signel or a bell attached to a headstone... Were their any graveyards bombed in London or Liverpool in the war that this tale originated from (AFAIK there are no tales like this about st Lukes in liverpool, which was bombed).
 

escargot

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#24
I saw a Discovery Channel prog about this subject a while ago. (Probably several times!)

There are innocent reasons why corpses might appear to be clawing their way out, for example if the coffin has filled with water and the corpse has floated into a sinister position.

I believe that there was some serious if discreet research done after the last war into whether or not numerous US servicemen had been buried alive, as was rumoured, and the results were negative.
Of course, if it was all done secretly, how do we know it happened, and why were the reassuring results 'leaked'? Fishy.
 
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Anonymous

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#25
Vampire myths have been attributed to live burials too. Some time ago I came across an estimate that as many as 1/3 of all burials in Eastern Europe during the Middle Ages were live but I don't believe it. More convincing is the view that poor understanding of the process of decay led people who had actually been buried dead to be identified as either buried alive or undead on exhumation. I read a very good book about this several years ago but sadly can't remember the title or author :(

But it seems logical that there would have been more live burials in the past, because medicine would have been less developed.
 

Mighty_Emperor

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#26
I stumbled across while I was looking for the thread on being declared dead prematurely:

http://www.forteantimes.com/forum/showthread.php?s=&threadid=12499

There is also a good discussion on German waiting mortuaries here:

http://www.forteantimes.com/forum/showthread.php?s=&threadid=1157

Lack of decomposition, moving around in the coffin, etc. are all easily explained by natural process (lack of oxygen or waterlogging for the former and bloating decomposition for the latter). I was under the impression that the clawing on the inside of the coffin was due to rats or some such process. What I find interesting is that snopes discusses this kind of thing:

http://www.snopes.com/horrors/gruesome/buried.htm

and declares it true whereas some stories of being buried alive are probably myths and/or misunderstanding of various processes after burial.

Some of the best work on this has been done by Paul Barber:

Vampires, Burial, and Death: Folklore and Reality (1990)
Paul Barber
Yale University Press, 1988

PB:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0300048599/
HB:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0300041268/

Staking Claims: The Vampires of Folklore and Fiction
Paul Barber (1996)
Skeptical Inquirer 20 (2).
http://www.csicop.org/si/9603/staking.html

I don't have it but Jan Bondeson's "Buried Alive" sounds like a good sensible approach to this (I've read some that seem purely dsigned to scare the life out of people - no pun intended ;) ):

Buried Alive: The Terrifying History of Our Most Primal Fear
by Jan Bondeson (2002):
http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/039332222X/
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/039332222X/

Soooooooooooooooo long story short even if this is 'true' (or based on actual events) it is almost definitely based on misunderstandings or an assumption that what happens when you put a body in the ground is just a straightforward transition to worm food.

Emps
 

giantrobot1

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#27
Remeber kids, always remove the head to avoid later problems with zombies and/or vampires. It's only sensible...
 
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Anonymous

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#28
This may veer the whole thread off course but i remember reading a book a few years back about burials and exhumations. A couple of forensic sceientists were interviewed and they both agreed that while seeing an exhumed body in a coffin that was not air tight was stomach-churning enough, seeing a body that had been kept in an air tight container was even more horrifying. Obviously i don't want pictures but I'm intrigued as to the parsaites they mentioned that thrived on airless situations and wrecked such havoc.
 

oll_lewis

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#30
Well you see, 'air-tight' dose not meen 'air-less' the coffins useully contain more than enougth air for the little bacteria to do their work on digesting the body. If it is a paticully good airtight coffin it will be waterproof and odds on made out of material srong enougth to keep the stuff inside mini beast free for a long time.

As a result of this the flesh of the corpse is turned by the bacteria into a gooey, pulpy, putrifying mass with lots of liquid sloshing around the bottom half of the coffin, disgusting but if you want to keep yourself all in the same place for later use such as a resurection on some sort of judement day it could give you a head start over 'Boney' in the next door grave (thats the rasionelle for many who chose airtight coffins).

In a regular wooden coffin or cardbord box, or whichever you get your mortal remains plonked into, all the liquid and gunk seeaps away though the soil and a lot of the mushey stuff gets eatern by insects as the bacteria make it availible so after about 5-7 years all thats left under normal cercomstances are the bones, so no nasty sights and smells when Quincy opens up your grave to find out if your ne'er-d'-well nephew bumped you off for the inherritance.
 
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