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Haunted Location: Basingstoke, England (but other places as well…)

Buried Alive!

Welcome back to another Weird Wednesday, where we explore everything from spooky, to odd, to premature burial!


Since the 14th century there have been multiple accounts of people being buried alive.


Before the advancement of modern medicine, it wasn’t always clear cut for a physician, let alone the average person, to determine whether someone was completely dead or not. These days, a person can be hooked up to heart monitors and monitored using other tech equipment, but before that, people and doctors relied on arguably less effective methods.


One common method used in the past to determine whether someone was dead or alive, was the use of a mirror. The mirror was placed in front of a person’s nose and mouth and if the mirror steamed up, chances are they were still breathing. This method as you can imagine, turned out not to be entirely foolproof.


In 1874, in an English town called Basingstoke, a woman by the name of Alice Blunden was buried alive, not once, but twice. One night, while her husband was away, she indulged in enough poppy water to render herself unconscious. Poppy water was a common drink at the time, which contained opioids, and was often used as a sedative.


Upon his arrival, the doctor used the mirror technique and upon seeing no steam he declared her dead. Word was sent to her husband, and he asked for her burial to be held off until he returned but her family wanted to have her buried more quickly.


Two days after her burial, a group of young children were playing in the cemetery, and they heard a muffled voice coming from her grave. When they got closer to the ground, they heard what they said were groans and cries. They ran and told the headmaster but initially he accused them of lying and disciplined them. The next day, however, he went and investigated just to be sure and low and behold, he heard muffled groans and sounds coming from Alice’s grave. By the time her coffin was exhumed she was so near death again that her family decided not to take her anywhere but to leave her there in the coffin, to die naturally. They hired a guard to sit at the graveside in case she awoke again but the man decided to leave during the night to get drunk at the pub instead.


The next morning when they opened the coffin to check on her, it was evident that she had awoken again, and tore at her face and clothes in a desperate attempt to get out but had died sometime later in the night. So, officially dead for the second time, she was reburied and that was that.


No one was even held accountable because during the investigation, the doctor assured the law that the mirror method was a recognized technique and had never failed before.


In the 19th century especially, the fear of being buried alive became a bit of a mass fear in certain places.


Edgar Allan Poe published a short story called Premature Burial in 1884. A story where the narrator suffers from a syndrome that causes him to randomly and temporarily fall into a rigid trance like state. He is so terrified of being accidentally declared dead and being accidentally buried alive that he builds a tomb filled with equipment to let him call for help if he wakes up to find he’s been buried alive. He makes his friends all promise not to be hasty in burying him but in the end, despite all his efforts, his greatest fear, none the less, comes to fruition.


There have been other cases where evidence has shown that a person was not entirely dead before their burial. There was one case where a casket needed to be moved to a new site and once unearthed, they found the body inside with its knees curled up to the chin, the clothes were torn, and one arm was up over its head, its face frozen in what appeared to be a tortured grimace.


Another account of a man named Jenkins who was taken by a bad fever. When pronounced dead he was buried but it was remarked at the time that his body was limber and there were no signs of the usual rigidity of the dead. Even at his wake, it was remarked again that his body seemed too limber to be dead. There was much discussion about whether he had been buried alive but, in the end, he was left buried. A month or so later his coffin was exhumed, and they opened it to check whether his body was in a state that could be moved inside a wooden casket or if they should transfer him into a metal one for transport. Inside they found his body face down, all the hair ripped out of his head, and scratches on the sides and lid of the coffin. Evidentially, whoever questioned his state of death, had been right to do so!


People became so afraid that for a time, anti-premature burial contraptions were invented!


One contraption had a wheel and breathing tube system. The hands of the deceased would be placed on the wheel so if they woke up, they would turn the wheel to activate a breathing tube to bring fresh hair into the coffin, there was also an indication of movement so someone above ground could tell if the person inside was signaling.  


Another such contraption consisted of an air tube, a ladder, and a string and bell system so if someone were to wake underground finding themselves prematurely buried and couldn’t escape via the ladder, they could pull on the string and eventually someone would come along and dig them up. Though there are no reported cases of this invention being a success, there are stories of bells going off in graveyards and people coming to the rescue only to find out it must have been the wind, or a rodent, or other creature, passing through the earth, and that the person was very much still dead.


As modern medicine progressed and the mass hysteria died down, people gave up on the need for such precautions. And although you would hope that with the advancement of medicine, we don’t have to worry about things such as being accidentally buried alive, I have found an uncomfortably more recent case.


In 2018 Rosangela Almeida dos Santos was pronounced dead from septic shock at a hospital in Brazil at the age of 37. 11 days after her burial, people in the surrounding neighbourhood reported hearing screaming and banging coming from her grave. Sadly, by the time the coffin was exhumed, and the family arrived, she was dead. For real this time.


There is footage captured on cameras showing the people digging up the grave and opening the coffin. Someone says to call an ambulance, and another says the body still feels warm. The body had been turned around and the cotton that was in her ears and nose had been removed. There were scratches on her forehead and hands, and scratch marks on the lid and sides of the coffin from where she had evidentially tried to claw her way out. The nails that were put in to keep the casket closed had even been semi pushed out before the men digging her back up had even attempted to open it.


I don’t know about you, but the idea of waking up inside a coffin and discovering you’ve been buried alive is up there on my list of major fears. Like a big no thank you.


So, if you chose to visit a graveyard, as always, please remember the rules:






And if you happen to hear screaming and banging coming from a tomb, be sure to alert the proper authorities before you start digging.


See you next week for more Weird Wednesday discoveries!










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