Four individuals were buried alive (And How They Got Out)
Many people feared being buried alive in the days before sophisticated medical equipment could definitively determine when someone had passed from this world to the next, so strict post-passing procedures were put in place to prevent it. Jan Bondeson examined some of the precautions taken to avoid being buried alive in Buried Alive:
The Terrifying History of Our Most Primal Fear, including coffins that had a bell or flag to alert onlookers of any movement below. Bondeson discovered a few instances of people who were buried while still breathing, despite the fact that many reported cases of burials of the living were exaggerated.
1. Who Makes Shoes
A German shoemaker who was 40 years old was buried in 1822, but there were early doubts about his demise.
The shoemaker’s family reported that he had passed away because he appeared to be dead, but no one could smell anything or notice any rigidity in the body. But the funeral proceeded as scheduled. The gravedigger heard a knocking from below as he was placing the final shovelfuls of dirt on the grave.
The gravedigger discovered the shoemaker moving inside his coffin after turning his process around and quickly removing the earth. He didn’t feel cold, and when a doctor opened a vein, blood gushed all over the shroud while his arms were drawn upward.
Resuscitation attempts were made over the course of three days, but none were successful. The shoemaker was once more pronounced dead and then interred for the final time.
2. Essie Dunbar
Essie Dunbar, a South Carolinian who was 30 at the time, reportedly had an epileptic seizure that killed her, or so everyone believed. Doctors pronounced Dunbar dead, put her body in a coffin, and planned her funeral for the following day so that her sister, who lived elsewhere, could still attend.
However, Dunbar’s sister didn’t get there quickly enough; when she did, she only noticed the final dirt clods scattered on top of the grave. Dunbar’s sister was upset about this because she wanted to see Essie one last time. She gave the order to take the body away. Essie stood up when the coffin lid was lifted and grinned at everyone in the room. She continued to live for 47 years.
3. Philomele Jonetre
A Frenchwoman named Philomèle Jonetre, age 24, caught cholera in 1867. She was believed to be dead shortly after that. The final sacraments were performed as usual, and Jonetre’s body was then entombed in a coffin. Her body was lowered six feet underground in just 16 hours.
In Jonetre’s case, as in the Shoemaker’s, a gravedigger heard her knocking against the lid of her coffin and immediately dug her out of the ground. Despite the fact that she was not breathing, a lit candle placed under her nose revealed distinct rhythmical sounds coming from her chest as well as some muscle contraction and eyelid twitching. Jonetre was officially declared dead the following day and interred a second time, so this didn’t last long.
4. Angelo Hays
The case of Frenchman Angelo Hays, 19, is described by Bondeson as “probably the most remarkable instance of alleged premature burial” in the 20th century. Hays crashed his motorcycle in 1937, and the force of the collision sent the young man flying headfirst into a brick wall.
His parents were not permitted to see Hays’ body because of how horribly disfigured his face was. The doctors pronounced Hays dead after finding no pulse, and he was buried three days later. However, two days after the funeral, his body was exhumed as a result of an investigation led by a nearby insurance provider.
To the surprise of everyone at the forensic institute, Hays was still warm. His body’s decreased need for oxygen kept him alive while he was in a deep coma. Hays underwent numerous operations and underwent some rehabilitation. He actually rose to fame in France, drawing visitors from far and wide to hear him speak.
In the 1970s, he went on tour with a security coffin he invented that was extremely upgraded, complete with thick upholstery, a food locker, a toilet, and even a library.