Monday, October 3, 2011

Premature Burial

Inspired by an October project of yesteryear, and once more feeling a strong cold wind at my back (thanks in large part to the still-wet-ink release of Richmond Macabre, a horror anthology to which I had the honor of contributing), I will endeavor to devote a small portion of each day this month to a specific fear or phobia. Entries will be relatively short (but definitely not sweet) and will be largely compromised of signposts or rabbit holes to certain stories, sites, and images that dwell on the dark side of the web.

First up is an oldie but goodie: Premature Burial.

I'll admit to not suffering much from taphophobia myself, as I have left express instructions to be cremated (resuscitating in a crematorium oven would not be fun, but at least it would be short lived) and while I have a healthy distrust of the medical profession, I am fairly confident even the most incompetent of today's doctors will be able to determine whether or not I have actually expired.

Or at least I was, until I read a story just this morning about a woman in Brazil who woke up a few days ago in a morgue fridge. It could be worse, I guess. You could wake up at your own funeral and die of fright/heart attack.

Interesting historical note: The fear of premature burial was so widespread in the 19th century (thanks to a not insignificant number of widely publicized cases) that it led not only to the formation of the Society for the Prevention of People Being Buried Alive, but also the invention (and healthy sales) of the "Safety Coffin." At least 22 different patents exist for these dread-safe boxes, which incorporated various design features that allowed for breathing and communication, the simplest of which was a bell attached to a rope that was left in the hand of the deceased. Though there are no documented cases of anyone actually being saved by a safety coffin, it's a safe bet some entrepreneur is exporting several thousand modern variations to Brazil and Russia at this very moment...

Should you find yourself wishing to more deeply explore this particular fear, there are no shortage of books, stories, and films to indulge you. For stories, turn to the tale that helped start the Safety Coffin craze: Poe's "Premature Burial". For film, I recommend you spend 95 min. in a pine box with Ryan Reynolds by watching Buried, an under appreciated recent release.

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