Buried Alive? You’ll Be Fine With a Safety Coffin!
Being buried alive is the stuff of many a gothic horror tale. During the 18th and 19th centuries newspapers were full of horrific tales of coffins being opened to discover scratches on the inside of the lids. Taphophobia is the fear of being buried alive. Not just the usual fear of something, but real a phobia. U.S. President George Washington was so concerned about premature burial that he insisted he should be left out of the ground for two days just in case he came back to life.
Whether or not someone suffers from taphophobia, the idea of being buried alive isn’t top of everyones bucket list. So it wasn’t long before enterprising inventors started to come up with ways to help the not quite dead to raise the alarm from their final resting place. Enter the safety coffin!
Many different designs of safety coffin have been tried out over the centuries. A popular version was a simple glass panel in the coffin lid so that people could peep in and see how Uncle Gerald was getting on. Obviously this was only an option in a mausoleum though as there’s not much point in a glass panel under six feet of soil. Unless you simply want to watch worms going past.
Bells on top of graves which could be rung by means of a rope inside the coffin were a fairly common method of raising the alarm. Even more impressive versions could raise a flag on top of the grave or even set off fireworks. Another option was a speaking tube so the undead could attract the attention of anyone walking past by simply bellowing at them. Hopefully this would result in rescue rather than a heart attack in the unfortunate passer-by.
Very often in mausoleums escape hatches would be fitted, along with ladders so that anyone unlucky enough to be buried alive could make their own way out. Feeding tubes could even be fitted, although ironically the one thing that most designs forgot about was the need for air, lack of which would get you long before the need for a snack.
The first known safety coffin was for a German-Prussian General called Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel. One of the few to actually think about an air tube, his coffin was also fitted with a window to allow in light and the coffin lid was locked rather than nailed down. Cunningly, Duke Ferdinand had a key to the coffin on his person, along with another one which opened the door to the mausoleum. He didn’t need to use them.
With the increasing use of cremation rather than burial and improvements in medical diagnosis of death safety coffins eventually fell out of use, although bells can often be seen on top of graves to this day. You can even take a look at some the designs over on Google Patents! Anyway, don’t have nightmares or get taphophobia over it. Just make sure you get buried with a fully charged mobile phone so you can make a call from beyond the grave.