Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

When the Dead Wake Up

Some of my childhood nightmares involved zombies rising from the dead at night searching for brains. We’ve all heard the folklore of people being buried alive, of graves being dug up with claw marks on the inside of the coffin. We’ve heard of Irish wakes permeating the rest of culture, and about how they sat with the body to be sure of the death of it. When I was researching death, I did some fact checking to see just how common a thing burying someone alive was, and discovered the details of a dozen documented cases in history.
In the late 1500s, Matthew Wall of Braughing, England was being taken to his grave when one of the pall bearers tripped and the coffin fell. Matthew was revived by the blow and celebrated his ‘resurrection’ every year until his actual death in 1595.
In 1587, Stowe’s Annals tells of a man who was hung for a felony on February 20th. His body was supposed to be taken to Chirugeons Hall after his death, to be used for anatomy lessons. When they opened his chest, they found he was still alive, kept so by the cold temperatures. He lived for three more days before dying from the complications of his chest being opened.
In the 1600s, Marjorie Elphinstone was buried in Ardtannies, Scotland. When grave robbers tried to relieve her corpse of its jewelry during the night, she startled them by groaning. They fled in terror as she got up and walked home, where she later outlived her husband by six years.
On February 14, 1650, Anne Greene was hung for a felony charge, after which her body was sent to the anatomy hall to be used for dissection. She woke up before they could cut her open and lived for many more years.
In 1674, Marjorie Halcrow Erskine of Chirnside, Scotland was buried in a shallow grave by a sexton who intended on returning later to dig her up and steal her jewelry. She woke when he tried to cut off her finger in order to remove the ring. She lived to give birth to, and raise, two children.
A rapist-murderer named William Duell was hung at Tyburn in November 1740. His body was also taken for dissection but was found to have a faint pulse. He was breathing shallow. He was in great pain but was sitting and drinking wine two hours later. He was sent back to prison and, when he got out, was later exiled for life.
In the middle of the 1700s, Professor Junkur of Halle University received a bag with a hanged criminal for his use in dissection. During the night the professor woke to find the naked man shivering in his doorway, the body bag in his hand. The professor helped him escape and many years later, chanced to encounter him on the street. The man had become a wealthy merchant with a wife and two children.
It is written in records from the early to mid 1800s, that surgeons working on an anatomy body in Germany, had reason to consider whether or not the body brought to them was still alive. One surgeon suggested that they should not take measures to save the life of a murderer who would then be alive to kill again, and the others concurred. They chose to proceed with the dissection.
A young girl visited Edisto Island, South Carolina in 1850 and died of diphtheria. She was interred in the family’s mausoleum for fear that the disease would spread. When they opened the mausoleum to bury a son during the Civil War, approximately thirteen years later, they found a small skeleton on the floor behind the door.
From a British Medical Journal in 1877, a case was brought to court against a doctor who signed a statement declaring a woman had died. Days after her formal burial, the family tomb was re-opened to admit a new body and the initial woman’s body was found, clothing torn and limbs broken, now dead for real, where she had tried to break her way out of the tomb. The doctor was sentenced to three months involuntary manslaughter.
T.M. Montgomery, overseeing the exhumation of bodies at Fort Randall Cemetery in 1896, stated that “nearly 2% of the bodies exhumed were no doubt victims of suspended animation” due to the number of claw marks discovered on the inside of the burial boxes.
Count Karnice-Karnicki, Belgian Chamberlain to the Czar and Doctor of the Law Faculty of the University of Louvain in 1897, was horrified at the screams of a young girl, believed dead, who awoke as the earth was being dumped onto her coffin. Due to this experience, he patented a coffin that had a 3.5 inch hermetically-sealed tube extending to a box up on the surface. At any movement of the chest, a spring-loaded ball would push the tube up, lifting the box lid to allow air and light into the coffin. A flag would rise from the box and a bell would sound for a half-hour. After dusk a lamp would burn. It was not the only “life saving” coffin that was patented during this time period. Others in this time period made a lot of money preying on people’s fears of being buried alive.
Over the centuries, there have been 219 documented cases of narrow escape from premature burial. There have been 149 cases of actual premature burial, 10 cases where a body was dissected before death naturally occurred, and 2 cases where the body was embalmed before (and caused subsequent) death. Most of these cases likely occurred because the advent of medical science had not yet caught up with obscure responses to illness and injury.

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