Have you ever had a nightmare about being buried alive? Well, if you have, you wouldn't be alone. It is a very tangible fear that is shared by the vast majority of people. It combines claustrophobia with the knowledge that death is imminent, with no possible escape.
We are not exactly sure how many people have been buried alive throughout history because it's a little hard to go back and check if you made a mistake, but there are several historical records of people who have woken up in their coffins as they were about to be interred.
Let's take a look at six historically verified instances where someone was almost buried alive, only to wake up in their coffin before it could happen.
1. Unnamed girl from South Carolina
When a young girl who was visiting Edisto Island, South Carolina appeared to have died from diphtheria sometime around 1850, she was quickly buried in a local family's mausoleum to prevent the disease from spreading. It seemed like the right thing to do, until that family tried to bury one of their sons who had died during the civil war. When they opened the mausoleum, they found the young girls skeleton behind the door. She had woken up in her coffin and had tried to escape the stone structure, before dying.
2. Matthew Wall
The village of Braughing, Hertfordshire can thank Matthew Wall for their annual October 2 celebration of "Old Man's Day." Just before his wedding in 1571, Wall was presumed to have died. He was being carried to the church, in his coffin, when one of the men carrying the casket slipped on a pile of wet leaves, which made the casket fall to the stones. The impact woke Wall from his coma, and scared the crap out of everyone there.
When he actually died an old man, Wall requested in his will that the church bell be wrung for a funeral and a wedding on October 2 every year, a request that has been honored ever since. He also asked that the street be swept clean of leaves as well.
3. Eleanor Markham
For two weeks before she was legally declared dead, Eleanor Markham had been complaining of heart problems. She was eventually pronounced dead in July 1894. She was composed in her coffin two days later, but as the coffin was being carried out for transport, she suddenly woke up. When they opened the coffin, the doctor who had declared her dead was there to help calm her down. She went on to state that she was "awake" the whole time, and had heard everything said while she was being prepared for internment.
4. Unnamed French police officer
A French policeman was almost buried alive in 1889. The story is that he passed out from drinking too much potato brandy. A full day after falling asleep, his friends noticed that he was exhibiting signs of having died. For some reason, the officer was declared to be deceased, but wound up waking from his trance-like coma while he was being lowered into the ground. The casket was quickly opened, but it was all for nothing. During his confusion, the officer had hit his head on the inside of the coffin, accidentally killing himself, again.
5. Maggie Dickson
This is likely the strangest example on this list. In 1721, Maggie Dickson was hanged for concealing her pregnancy. After separating from her husband, she had a secret affair with the son of the inn's owner, where she was working, which led her to be pregnant. She had the baby in secret, but the child died quickly after. Maggie dumped the body in the river, but it was found and traced directly back to her. After she was hanged, she woke up in her coffin on the way to the graveyard.
The townspeople took this as "the will of God," and decided that she had earned a second chance at life. She got back with her husband and went on to live a long and normal life, except for the fact that she survived her execution.
6. Octavia Hatcher
After losing her only son, Octavia retreated in upon herself, refusing to leave her bed. She eventually fell into a coma-like state and was declared dead. After her funeral, other people in the town who had been in similar comatose states started waking up, and it was attributed to a "sleeping sickness" onset from a bug bite. Octavia's husband began to suspect that he had buried his wife alive. They dug her coffin up to find out that she had woken up in her coffin and had tried to escape, tearing the inner lining of the box to shreds. Her husband then buried her again, but erected a monument at her grave.
How is this even possible?