What can be worse than death? Being buried alive. It is believed that in olden times, burying people alive, after mistaking them as dead, was far more a common occurrence than people can assume. And because of this, it was also a very common fear and people would take extra measures to avoid such dreadful fate. In some places, people would even install bells near the fresh graves and a string would be attached to the coffins underneath so that passerby could be alarmed in case someone was buried alive.
The phenomenon, however, didn’t stop completely and there were always reports of premature burials and a lot more might have just gone unnoticed.
Here are 5 cases of well documented premature burials that would give you chills.
1. Essie Dunbar
When 32-years-old Essie Dunbar was declared dead in 1915 after an epileptic attack in North Carolina and the arrangements for her funeral were going on, little did people know that she was actually alive the whole time.
She was supposed to be buried the day itself when she died, but as her sister lived in a nearby town, the funeral was postponed till 11 am of the next day. But when still her sister didn’t turn up, the funeral party decided to bury her anyway. However, minutes after the coffin was lowered, her sister arrived and to let her see Essie one last time, the casket was brought up and opened. And as this was done, Essie sat up smiling, giving the shock of a lifetime to all the attendants. The three clergymen present there fell into the grave witnessing this and one even suffered a broken rib, while Essie’s sister and others ran away. Essie, trying to convince the party that she was indeed alive, ran after them, worsening the situation.
She survived 47 more years after that, though many continued to speculate over the years that she was a zombie.
2. Matthew Wall
The village of Braughing in Southern England celebrates October 2 each year as ‘Old Man’s Day’ in remembrance of Matthew Wall who died twice and the tradition has been continuing for over 400 years now.
It was the year 1571 when Matthew Wall, a simple farmer whose name would have been forgotten within a few decades if not for a bizarre incident, was declared dead while the preparation for his marriage was going on. He was put inside the coffin and was being carried to the church through a lane which was covered with leaves. But to everyone’s horror, one of the bearers of the coffin slipped on the leaves and dropped the coffin with a thud. The impact was such that it woke Matthew up, who apparently was actually in a coma and not dead, adding more trauma to the already horrified attendants.
He, nevertheless, went on to marry and had two sons before dying 24 years later in 1595. Before his death, he expressed in his will that on the day of his second death, the church bell should be rung each year and a marriage should be held. Oddly enough, he also mentioned that the lane where his coffin was dropped should be cleaned so that no one else slips on the leaves again.
3. Mrs. Blunden
Mrs. Blunden is perhaps the most unfortunate person on this list because she was buried alive not once, but twice.
In the year 1674 in Hempstead, England, when Mrs. Blunden was declared dead by her doctor after a brief illness, her husband was not in the village and would have returned only within a few days; but fearing that the corpse meanwhile would rot, the villagers decided to go ahead with her funeral.
During the funeral service in the church, one of the attendants saw that the casket moved a bit as if the dead had come to life, but he was convinced by others that it could be the weak stools on which the casket was placed. She was soon buried.
Next day, when a few children were playing near her grave, they heard noises coming out from it and ran to the villagers to tell what they had heard. After much speculation, nevertheless, the grave was exhumed and it was discovered that she was indeed alive when she was buried as there were scars in the coffin and self-inflicted wounds on her body. She was, however, believed to be dead by the time the coffin was dug up. They put her in the coffin again and buried her only to be dug up another time next day for the inspection by the coroner. This time, they discovered that there were new cuts and her clothes were torn. She was certainly dead this time.
4. Maggie Dickson
Scotland’s Maggie Dickson was married to a fisherman who deserted her soon and at the age of 21 years, she found employment in an inn where she subsequently got into a secret relationship with the son of the inn’s owner. This relationship eventually resulted in a pregnancy, which she had to keep hidden.
But when the child was born prematurely and died within a few days while still being hidden, she tried to get rid of the body by dumping it into a river. The body, on the same day, was recovered by a few men and a manhunt was carried out to find the mother and Maggie was in the end traced. She was tried and sentenced to death by the court on the charges of killing the baby.
On September 2, 1724, she was hanged. But as her body was being carried in a coffin, she woke up midway when the party paused for refreshment. She was even healthy enough to walk. Since she was already hanged one time, she was beyond further persecution. Some even claimed that God had forgiven her and gave her another chance. She was united soon with her husband and had more children with him.
5. Octavia Hatcher
When Kentucky residents James and his wife Octavia Hatcher lost their son Jacob in 1891, Octavia was devastated and fell into a depression and refused to leave her bed. Later, she fell critically ill and was declared dead on May 2 in the same year. She was buried immediately.
But when James and his family noticed that many people in their locality were falling into a coma and rising again due to a sleeping sickness caused by the bite of a particular insect, they feared that they might have buried Octavia when she was still alive.
They rushed to her grave and dug it open, only to find that their fear was indeed true. Octavia had woken up in the coffin and had tried to get out, bleeding her hands and tearing her clothes in the failed attempt. But they were late and Octavia was finally dead- of suffocation and desperation. James reburied her and erected a monument to her on her grave. The residents claim that they hear sounds of a weeping woman coming out from her grave till today.