The Taphephobia is the fear of being buried alive and, during the 1800, it was a very common phobia to the point that in London some Hospitals for the Dead had been set up. The safety coffins offered the possibility to free yourself in case, as it had happened to a few people believed to be dead from cholera, they would have woken up inside a coffin. The technologies adopted were different; the six coffins that follow were the main types which were sold in those years.

1 – Open the coffin and get out

This patent form the 1868 was one of the first linked to the coffins in the US. The idea was that the corpse would have been buried yet not covered up with soil, leaving to the person the chance to wake up, lift up the lid and climb up the stairs to reach the ground level. The dead was not covered up until there was certainty that its condition was definitive. If the awakening did not occur within a week time, the gravedigger would proceed with filling in the hole.

2 – The bell

This type of burial was created in 1885 and expected the chance to both report its own “non-death” as well as staying alive thanks to a flow of air. From above a lamp was lowered in order to check if the body was actually still alive, however they could send off a signal through a bell.

3 – The whistle

The invention of the 1894 had included in its system a whistle on top of the coffin linked to the inside of it, through which the dead could communicate its physical condition. Obviously there was also a straw for bringing air in so that the person could breathe.

4 – Break the glass

The dead was buried in this coffin,  patented in 1899, which had a glass linked to a complex mechanism tied to the head. In case the corpse was not dead, the glass would break up and let the air in, hoping that someone nearby would have noticed the noise.

5 – Air of the living, stink of the dead

The coffin of the 1899 had two purposes: if the corpse was still alive it was letting air in and the flame remained lit; if the person was dead though, the mechanism would burn the air inside the space in order to “purify” the air going out. The reason to this was to cope with the people suffering from taphephobia as well as those afraid to stink too much when gone.

6 – The Morse code coffin

Once in the new century and hit the 1900, the advanced technology had spread all the way to the funeral services too. In this specific type of coffin, in case you were buried alive, there was an oxygen tank popping up and a message was sent through a system of wires all the way up to the surface. Later on they added up a transmitter of Morse code so that the person inside the coffin was allowed, in case undead, to communicate his condition.

despite the taphephobia was a widespread fear, there is no official statistic of the people buried alive

All picture are in the public domain

Matteo Rubboli

I am a publisher specialised in the digital distribution of culture and founder of the portal Vanilla Magazine. I don't wear a tie or branded clothes, I keep my hair short so I don't have to comb it. That's not my fault but just the way I've been drawn as...

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