It starts from the idea of being in a confined place such as a grave by mistake. It’s a fear of premature death.
Six Feet Deep
For as long as I can remember, I have had a deep fear of being buried alive. More specifically, I was worried that the people around me would find me in the form of suspended animation. Resulting in not being able to tell that I was really alive, and they would think I was dead and bury me.
And then I would come to in a dark coffin with little oxygen and not being able to move. I would terrorize myself with this thought while trying to go to sleep at night. Why would I do that? Well, I have always been fascinated by the macabre, even when it scares the hell out of me.
That phobia is called Taphophobia, and it is actually a widespread fear. Especially among people with anxiety and depression. No one seems to know why that is, though.
Some notable figures in history had this fear, George Washington, Frederic Chopin, and Hans Christian Anderson, to name a few. Now I do not have an account of suspended animation, but I do have a history of anxiety and depression that dates back over thirty years.
In 1905 William Telb did a study collecting versions of premature burial. He found two-hundred and nineteen cases of near-live burial, one-hundred and forty-nine of actual live burial, ten cases of live dissections, and two cases of waking during embalming.
Thankfully with the advances of modern medicine, this is less and less likely to happen. Although, rarely, it does. There have been odd stories here and there of people waking up in a morgue. And if you made it to the embalming alive, you wouldn’t be when you left!
Ring The Bell
Versions of “safety coffins” were made and patented in the 18th and 19th centuries.
They had bells attached to a string that would lead out of the coffin, and when or if the “dead” person woke up, they would ring the bell until they were rescued. Some had glass lids, so the deceased could always be watched.
And some had breathing tubes in them to provide oxygen in case someone woke up. Some of these are still manufactured and available today. I, for one, would not want to be in a cemetery when a bell started ringing!
Slim But Not Zero
The terror that is felt at the thought of being buried alive has enticed many writers, most notably Edgar Allen Poe, he has two accounts of such a thing. One is The Cask of Amontillado, where a man walls another man into an enclosure. He is never to be heard from again.
And “The Fall of the House of Usher,” which, quite honestly, is one of my favorite stories. A brother and sister are the last in a line of wealthy, inbred, and ill folk. The sister has periods of suspended animation. Only for her to wake in the bottom of the house when she was all set for burial.
The odds of being buried alive in this day and age are very slim, but as I like to say, anything is possible!