You know when you wake up in the middle of the night and you FIND YOU’RE IN A COFFIN?! No? Good, because that would be awful. But strangely enough, people have experienced this. There is even a fear associated with it called taphephobia– the fear of being buried alive.
Some of the earliest cases of someone being buried alive dates back to the fourteenth century. Coffins were exhumed for a multitude of reasons and sometimes they were also opened. It was upon opening the coffins that witnesses would find signs that the person inside may have been alive at the time of burial. One of the more infamous cases involves John Duns Scotus, an influential philosopher in the 1300’s. Scotus’ tomb was opened some time after he had supposedly passed and allegedly his body was discovered outside of his coffin with his hands torn and bloody.
A more recent case is that of a man simply called “Jenkins” who was buried in North Carolina. On February 1st 1885, the New York Times reported that the victim’s body was found faced down in the coffin with most of his hair torn out, as well as interior scratch marks on the sides and top of the coffin. The family of “Jenkins” was understandably shaken by this finding and called it “criminal carelessness” on the behalf of the doctors and mortician.
Since this was such a large fear among so many, and there were more than enough cases of vivisepulture (live burials) recorded; a security measure was devised in the form of the “safety coffin.” A safety coffin had a pipe installed that would provide air to the occupant and could also be rotated or pulled upon to signal the occupant was alive to any passerby. Other devices, such as a bell, would be placed by the headstone and an attached chord would lead down into the coffin. If the person was alive they would simply pull the chord, causing the bell to ring and thus be rescued. This is also where the term “saved by the bell” originated.
Waking up inside a coffin is not something that is very likely to happen to you, but it is still an intrinsic fear among most. But there’s always cremation.
So there’s nothing else to say but….I wake up in the morning and the alarm gives off a warning I don’t think I’ll ever make it on time. By the time I’ve got my books and I give myself a look I’m at the corner just in time to see the bus fly by. It’s alright ‘cause I’m saved by the bell.