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Title: Premature Burial and How it may be Prevented
Author: Tebb, William, Vollum, Col. Edward Perry
Language: English
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                           PREMATURE BURIAL,


                       HOW IT MAY BE PREVENTED.

                           PREMATURE BURIAL


                        HOW IT MAY BE PREVENTED



                        WILLIAM TEBB, F.R.G.S.

_Corresponding Member of the Royal Academy of Medical Sciences, Palermo;
      Author of “The Recrudescence of Leprosy and its Causation”_


                    COL. EDWARD PERRY VOLLUM, M.D.

    _Late Medical Inspector, U.S. Army; Corresponding Member of the
                     New York Academy of Sciences_

[Illustration: LOGO]

                     SWAN SONNENSCHEIN & CO., LIM.

“What if in the tomb I awake!”--_Romeo and Juliet._

“How comes it about that patients, given over as dead by their
physicians, sometimes recover, and that some have even returned to life
in the very time of their funerals?”--CELSUS.

“Such is the condition of humanity, and so uncertain is men’s judgment,
that they cannot determine even death itself.”--PLINY.


A DISTRESSING experience in the writer’s family many years ago brought
home to his mind the danger of premature burial, and led ultimately
to the careful study of a gruesome subject to which he has a strong
natural repugnance. His collaborator in the volume has himself passed
through a state of profound suspended animation from drowning, having
been laid out for dead--an experience which has induced him in like
manner to investigate the various death-counterfeits. The results of
the independent inquiries carried on by both of us in various parts
of Europe and America, and by one of us during a sojourn in India in
the early part of this year, are now laid before the reader, with such
practical suggestions as it is hoped may prepare the way for bringing
about certain needed reforms in our burial customs.

The danger, as I have attempted to show, is very real--to ourselves,
to those most dear to us, and to the community in general; and it
should be a subject of very anxious concern how this danger may
be minimised or altogether prevented. The duty of taking the most
effective precautions to this end is one that naturally falls to the
Legislature, especially under a Government professing to regard social
questions as of paramount importance. Fortunately, this is a non-party
and a non-contentious question, it imperils no interest, so that no
formal obstruction or unnecessary delay need be apprehended; and it
should be urged upon the Government to introduce and carry an effective
measure at the earliest opportunity, not only as a security against the
possibility of so terrible an evil, but to quiet the widespread and not
altogether unreasonable apprehension on this subject which is now so

It has been found convenient to retain throughout the body of the work
the use of the singular pronoun, but every part of the book receives
the cordial approval of both authors, and with this explanation we
accept its responsibility jointly.

We have to acknowledge our great indebtedness in preparing this volume
to many previous writers, including such as have investigated the
phenomena of suspended animation and the signs of death, and such
as, with a more practical intention, have dwelt upon the danger of
death-counterfeits being mistaken for the absolute extinction of life,
illustrating their counsels or warnings by numerous instances. Grouping
both classes of writers together, we may mention specially the names of
Winslow and Bruhier, Hufeland, Struve, Marcus Herz and Köppen, Kite,
Curry, and Anthony Fothergill; and, of more recent date, the names
of Bouchut, Londe, Lénormand, and Gaubert (on mortuaries), Russell
Fletcher, Franz Hartmann, and Sir Benjamin Ward Richardson.

A work to which we are particularly indebted for the literature of
the subject is that of the late Dr. Félix Gannal, “Mort Apparente
et Mort Réelle: moyens de les distinguer.” Paris, 1890. Dr. Gannal,
having qualified in medicine and pharmacy, occupied himself with the
business of embalming, which he inherited from his father. He employed
the considerable leisure which the practice of that art left to him in
compiling the above laborious work. He examined many books, pamphlets,
theses, and articles, from which he cited expressions of opinion on
the several points--in a lengthy form in his original edition (1868),
in a condensed form in the second edition. His Bibliography is by
far the most comprehensive that has been hitherto compiled. Our own
Bibliography had been put together from various sources before we made
use of Dr. Gannal’s. It includes several titles which he does not give;
while, on the other hand, it has been considerably extended beyond its
original limits by transcribing titles which we have found nowhere but
in his list. The Bibliography, it need hardly be said, is much more
extensive than our own reading; but it seemed useful to make it as
complete as possible, whether the books had been seen by us or not, so
as to show in chronological order how much interest had been aroused in
the subject from time to time--in one country more than another, or in
various countries together. The titles of articles in journals, which
belong for the most part to the more recent period, have been taken
from the Index Catalogue of the Surgeon-General’s Library, Washington,
a few references being added to articles which have otherwise come
under our notice.

  W. T.



  _Preface_                                                        _1_

  _Introduction_                                                   _9_


  _Trance_                                                        _21_


  _Catalepsy_                                                     _32_


  _Animal and So-called Human Hibernation_                        _40_


  _Premature Burial_                                              _51_


  _Narrow Escapes from Premature Burial_                          _64_


  _Formalities and their Fatal Consequences_                     _105_


  _Probable Cases of Premature Burial_                           _113_


  _Predisposing Causes and Conditions of Death-Counterfeits_     _120_


  _Premature Burial and Cremation in India. The Towers of
      Silence_                                                   _129_


  _The Danger of Hasty Burials_                                  _144_


  _The Fear of Premature Burial_                                 _153_


  _Sudden Death_                                                 _159_


  _The Signs of Death_                                           _180_


  _The Duration of Death-Counterfeits_                           _208_


  _The Treatment of the Dead_                                    _215_


  _Number of Cases of Premature Burial_                          _220_


  _Embalming and Dissections_                                    _229_


  _Death-Certification_                                          _238_


  _Suggestions for Prevention_                                   _257_


  _Cremation as a Preventive of Premature Burial_                _275_


  _Waiting Mortuaries_                                           _285_


  _Conclusion_                                                   _316_


  _Historical Cases of Restoration from Apparent Death_          _325_


  _Resuscitation of Still-Born and other Infants_                _341_


  _Recovery of the Drowned_                                      _347_


  _Miscellaneous Addenda_                                        _350_


  _The Jewish Practice of Early Burial_                          _353_


  _Summary of Ordinances, etc., Relating to the Inspection of
  Corpses and of Interments_                                     _360_

  _Bibliography_                                                 _363_

  _Index_                                                        _389_


A CONCURRENCE of peculiar circumstances, beginning in May, 1895, has
directed public attention in England to the subject of premature
burial, probably to a greater degree, so far as the author’s
recollection serves, than at any time during the past half-century.
Amongst these may be mentioned the publication of several recent cases
of premature burial in the English and American papers; the narrow
escape of a child found in Regent’s Park, London, laid out for dead at
the Marylebone Mortuary, and afterwards restored to life; the issue
in Boston, U.S., of Dr. Franz Hartmann’s instructive essay, entitled,
“Buried Alive: an Examination into the Occult Causes of Apparent Death,
Trance, and Catalepsy” (a considerable number of copies having been
sold in England), and the able leading articles and correspondence on
the subject in the _Spectator_, _Daily Chronicle_, _Morning Post_,
_Leeds Mercury_, _The Jewish World_, _Plymouth Mercury_, _Manchester
Courier_, _To-Day_, and many other daily and weekly journals.

It is curious, that while many books and pamphlets relating to
this important subject have been issued in France and Germany, no
adequate and comprehensive treatise has appeared from the English
press for more than sixty years past, nor writings in any form, with
the exception of a paper by Sir Benjamin Ward Richardson in No. 21
of the _Asclepiad_, published in 1889, on the “Absolute Signs of
Death,” sundry articles in the medical journals from time to time,
and a London edition of Dr. Hartmann’s volume in January, 1896. The
section upon “Real and Apparent Death” in the 1868 edition of the
late Professor Guy’s _Forensic Medicine_ begins with the words, “This
subject has never attracted much attention in England, and no medical
author of repute has treated it at any length”--a remark not less true
after the lapse of a generation. The following chapters have been
prepared with the view, not so much of supplying this omission, as of
guiding the public to the dangers of our present mode of treating the
apparent dead, in the hope that reforms and preventive measures may be
instituted without delay in order to put an end to such unnecessary
domestic tragedies.

In introducing the subject the author is aware that the great majority
of the medical profession in this country are either sceptical or
apathetic as to the alleged danger of living burial. Many do not
believe in the existence of death-trance or death-counterfeits, and the
majority of those who do believe in them declare that cases are very
rare, and that if consciousness is ever restored in the grave it can
only last a second or two, and that those who live in fear of such an
occurrence should provide for a _post-mortem_ or for the severance of
the jugular vein. Many persons, on the other hand, after much careful
inquiry, are of opinion that cases of premature burial are of frequent
occurrence; and that the great majority of the human race (outside of
a few places in Germany, where waiting mortuaries are established, or
where the police regulations, such as those described in this volume as
existing in Würtemburg, are efficiently and systematically carried out)
are liable to this catastrophe. Important as the subject is allowed to
be, and numerous as are the reported cases, no effective steps, either
public or private, appear to have been taken, outside of Germany and
Austria, to remedy the evil. At present a majority of the people appear
content to trust to the judgment of their relations and to the ordinary
certificates of death to safeguard them from so terrible a disaster.
That death-certificates and death-verifications are often of a most
perfunctory description, both as to the fact of death and the cause
of death, has been proved by overwhelming evidence before the recent
House of Commons Committee on Death-Certification. Such certificates,
when obtained, may be misleading and untrustworthy; while in many
cases burials take place without the doctor having either attended
the patient or examined the body. Nor, in spite of the appointment
of death-verificators by our neighbours across the Channel, is this
important precaution effectively carried out by them. M. Devergie
reports that in twenty-five thousand communes in France no verification
of death takes place, although the law requires it; and he demands
that no diploma shall be given without the candidate having proved
himself conversant with the signs of death. (_Medical Times_, London,
1874, vol. i., p. 25.) On personal inquiry from medical authorities in
France, during the present year (1896), we learn that this laxity still

It appears strange that, except when a man dies, all his concerns are
protected by custom and formalities, or guarded by laws, so as to
insure his interests being fairly carried out to completion. Thus we
see that heirship, marriage, business affairs of all kinds, whether of
a public or private nature, are amply guarded by such precautionary
and authoritative measures as will secure them. But one of the most
important of all human interests--that which relates to the termination
of life--is managed in such a careless and perfunctory way as to permit
of irreparable mistakes. To be sure there are laws in most of the
Continental States of Europe that are intended to regulate the care and
burial of the dead, but few of them make it certain that the apparently
dead shall not be mistaken for the really dead, and treated as such.
None of them allow more than seventy-two hours before burial (some
allow only thirty-six, others twenty-four, and others again much less,
according to the nature of the disease), unless the attending physician
petitions the authorities for reasonable delay--a rare occurrence.
And even if postponement is granted, it is doubtful if the inevitable
administrative formalities would leave opportunities for dubious cases
to receive timely and necessary attention, or for cases of trance,
catalepsy, coma, or the like, to be rescued from a living burial.

In the introduction to a Treatise entitled “The Uncertainty of the
Signs of Death, and the Danger of Precipitate Interments,” published in
1746, the author, Mr. M. Cooper, surgeon, says:--“Though death at some
time or other is the necessary and unavoidable portion of human nature,
yet it is not always certain that persons taken for dead are really and
irretrievably deprived of life, since it is evident from experience
that many apparently dead have afterwards proved themselves alive by
rising from their shrouds, their coffins, and even from their graves.
It is equally certain that some persons, too soon interred after their
supposed decease, have in their graves fallen victims to a death which
might otherwise have been prevented, but which they then find more
cruel than that procured by the rope or the rack.” The author quotes
Lancisi, first physician to Pope Clement XI., who, in his Treatise _De
subitaneis mortibus_, observes:--“Histories and relations are not the
only proofs which convince me that many persons supposed to be dead
have shown themselves alive, even when they were ready to be buried,
since I am induced to such a belief from what I myself have seen; for
I saw a person of distinction, now alive, recover sensation and motion
when the priest was performing the funeral service over him in church.”

After reporting and describing a large number of cases of premature
burial, or of narrow escapes from such terrible occurrences, in which
the victims of hasty diagnosis were prepared for burial, or revived
during the progress of the burial service, Mr. Cooper continues:--“Now,
if a multiplicity of instances evince that many have the good fortune
to escape being interred alive, it is justly to be suspected that
a far greater number have fallen victims to a fatal confinement in
their graves. But because human nature is such a slave to prejudice,
and so tied down by the fetters of custom, it is highly difficult, if
not absolutely impossible, to put people on their guard against such
terrible accidents, or to persuade those vested with authority to take
proper measures for preventing them.”

Nothing seems to have been done to remedy this serious evil; and
forty-two years later Mr. Chas. Kite, a well-known practitioner, called
attention to the subject in a volume, entitled “The Recovery of the
Apparently Dead,” London, 1788. This author, on p. 92, says:--“Many,
various, and even opposite appearances have been supposed to indicate
the total extinction of life. Formerly, a stoppage of the pulse and
respiration were thought to be unequivocal signs of death; particular
attention in examining the state of the heart and larger arteries, the
flame of a taper, a lock of wool, or a mirror applied to the mouth or
nostrils, were conceived sufficient to ascertain these points; _and
great has been the number of those who have fallen untimely victims
to this erroneous opinion_. Some have formed their prognostic from
the livid, black, and cadaverous countenance; others from the heavy,
dull, fixed, or flaccid state of the eyes; from the dilated pupil;
the foaming at the mouth and nostrils, the rigid and inflexible state
of the body, jaws, or extremities; the intense and universal cold,
etc. Some, conceiving any one of these symptoms as incompetent and
inadequate to the purpose, have required the presence of such of them
as were, in their opinion, the least liable to error; but whoever will
take the trouble of reading the Reports of the (Humane) Society with
attention, will meet with very many instances where all the appearances
separately, and even where several associated in the same case,
occurred, and yet the patient recovered; and it is therefore evident
that these signs will not afford certain and unexceptionable criteria
by which we may distinguish between life and death.”

Mr. Kite furnishes references to numerous cases of recovery where the
apparently dead exhibited black, livid, or cadaverous countenances;
eyes fixed or obscure; eyeballs diminished in size, immovable and
fixed in their sockets, the cornea without lustre; eyes shrivelled;
froth at the mouth; rigidity of the body, jaws, and extremities;
partial or universal cold.[1]

The crux of the whole question is the uncertainty of the signs which
announce the cessation of physical existence. Prizes have been offered,
and prizes have been awarded, but further experience has shown that the
signs and tests, sometimes singly and sometimes in combination, have
been untrustworthy, and that the only certain and unfailing sign of
death is decomposition.

Commenting upon actual cases of premature burial, the _Lancet_, March
17, 1866, p. 295, says:--“Truly there is something about the very
notion of such a fate calculated to make one shudder, and to send a
cold stream down one’s spine. By such a catastrophe is not meant the
sudden avalanche of earth, bricks, or stones upon the luckless miner or
excavator, or the crushing, suffocative death from tumbling ruins. No;
it is the cool, determined treatment of a living being as if he were
dead--the rolling him in his winding sheet, the screwing him down in
his coffin, the weeping at his funeral, and the final lowering of him
into the narrow grave, and piling upon his dark and box-like dungeon
loads of his mother earth. The last footfall departs from the solitary
church-yard, leaving the entranced sleeper behind in his hideous shell
soon to awaken to consciousness and to a benumbed half-suffocated
existence for a few minutes; or else, more horrible still, there he
lies beneath the ground conscious of what has been and still is,
until, by some fearful agonised struggle of the inner man at the weird
phantasmagoria which has passed across his mental vision, he awakes to
a bodily vivification as desperate in its torment for a brief period as
has been that of his physical activity. But it is soon past. There is
scarcely room to turn over in the wooden chamber; and what can avail a
few shrieks and struggles of a half-stifled, cramped-up man!”

To prevent such unspeakable horrors as are here pictured, the Egyptians
kept the bodies of the dead under careful supervision by the priests
until satisfied that life was extinct, previous to embalming them
by means of antiseptics, balsams, and odoriferous gums. The Greeks
were aware of the dangers of premature burial, and cut off fingers
before cremation to see whether life was extinct. In ancient Rome the
recurrence of cases of premature burial had impressed the nation with
the necessity for exercising the greatest caution in the treatment of
the supposed dead; hasty conclusions were looked upon as criminal, the
absence of breath or heat or a cadaverous appearance were regarded
as uncertain tests, and the supposed dead were put into warm baths
or washed with hot water, and other means of restoration adopted.
Neither in the greater part of Europe nor in the United States are
any such means resorted to now, except in the case of apparent death
by drowning, by asphyxia, or by hanging. Premature burials and narrow
escapes are of almost every-day occurrence, as the narratives in the
newspapers testify; and the complaint made by a surgeon, Mr. Cooper,
a hundred and fifty years ago, that the evil is perpetuated because
we are slaves to prejudice, and because those vested with authority
refuse to take measures for prevention, remains a serious blot upon our
advanced civilisation. The _Spectator_, September 14, 1895, commenting
upon this unsatisfactory state of affairs, observes:--“Burning,
drowning, even the most hideous mutilation under a railway train, is
as nothing compared with burial alive. Strangely enough this universal
horror seems to have produced no desire to guard against burial alive.
We all fear it, and yet practically no one takes any trouble to avoid
the risk of it happening in his own case, or in that of the rest of
mankind. It would be the simplest thing in the world to take away all
chance of burying alive; and yet the world remains indifferent, and
enjoys its horror undisturbed by the hope of remedy.”

The authors’ own reasonings, opinions, and conclusions are here
briefly presented; but as the majority of the public are more or less
influenced by authority, it has been thought advisable to furnish a
series of authenticated facts under the several headings to which they
belong, and to cite the judgments of eminent members of the medical
profession who have given special attention to the subject. The source
of difficulty has been an _embarras de richesse_, or how from a mass
of material, the extent of which will be seen by reference to the
Bibliography, to select typical cases without needless repetition.
The premature burials and narrow escapes from such disasters, which
are reported by distinguished physicians and reputable writers, may
be numbered literally by hundreds, and for every one reported it is
obvious from the nature of the case that many are never heard of.
Amongst the names of notable persons who have thought the subject
sufficiently practical for their attention may be mentioned those of
Empedocles, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Pliny, Celsus, Plutarch, and St.
Augustine in antiquity; of Fabricius, Lancisi, Winslow, Haller, Buffon,
Lavater, Moses Mendelssohn, Hufeland, and Alexander von Humboldt in
modern times.

The subject has several times engaged the attention of the French
Senate and Legislative Chamber, as well as the Legislative Assemblies
in the various States of Germany. In 1871, Dr. Alex. Wilder, Prof. of
Physiology and Psychological Science, read a paper before the members
of both houses of the New York State Legislature at the Capitol,
Albany; but we are not aware that the subject has ever been introduced
in any of the other State Legislatures, or in the British Parliament,
or in any of the Colonial Assemblies.

In an editorial note, as far back as November 27, 1858, the _Lancet_,
referring to a case of death-trance, remarked that such “examples are
sufficiently mysterious in their character to call for a more careful
investigation than it has hitherto been possible to accord to them.”
The facts disclosed in this treatise, the authors hope, may encourage
qualified scientific observers to study the subject of death-trance,
which, it must be admitted, has been strangely overlooked in England,
though it would not be easy to mention one which more deeply concerns
every individual born into the world.

In order to prevent unnecessary pain to the reader on a subject so
distressing in its nature, the more sensational and horrifying cases
of premature burial have been omitted. They can, however, be found
in abundance in the writings of Bruhier, Köppen, Kempner, Lénormand,
Bouchut, Russell Fletcher, and the Boston (U.S.) edition of Hartmann.
In England and in America it is the fashion amongst medical men to
maintain that the tests known to medical art are fully equal to the
prevention of live burial, that the cases quoted by the newspapers
are introduced for sensational purposes, and that most of them are
apocryphal. The perusal of the cases recorded in this volume, and a
careful consideration of the weight of cumulative evidence represented
by the very full bibliography, must satisfy the majority of reflective
readers that the facts are both authentic and numerous.

                           PREMATURE BURIAL,
                       HOW IT MAY BE PREVENTED.




OF all the various forms of suspended animation and apparent death,
trance and catalepsy are the least understood, and most likely to lead
the subject of them to a premature burial; the laws which control
them have perplexed pathologists in all ages, and appear to be as
insoluble as those which govern life itself. Dr. Le Clerc, in his
“History of Medicine,” records that “Heraclides, of Pontus, wrote a
book _concerning the causes of diseases_, and another _concerning
the disease in which the patient is without respiration_, in which
he affirmed that in this disorder the patient sometimes continued
thirty days without respiration, in such wise that he appeared dead,
notwithstanding that there was no corruption of the body.”[2]

Dr. Herbert Mayo, in “Letters on Truths Contained in Popular
Superstitions,” p. 34, says that “death-trance is the suspension
of the action of the heart, and of breathing, and of voluntary
motion--generally little sense of feeling and intelligence. With these
phenomena is joined loss of external warmth, so that the usual evidence
of life is gone. But there has occurred every shade of this condition
that can be imagined, between occasional slight manifestations of
suspension of one or other of the vital actions and their entire

Macnish, who also asserts that the function of the heart must go on,
and even of the respiration, however slightly, says--“No affection
to which the animal frame is subject is more remarkable than this
(catalepsy, or trance).... There is such an apparent extinction of
every faculty essential to life, that it is inconceivable how existence
should go on during the continuance of the fit.”--_Philos. of Sleep,
Glasgow, 1834, pp. 225-6._

In Quain’s “Dictionary of Medicine,” ii., p. 1063, Dr. Gowers
says:--“The state now designated hypnotism is really induced trance,
and trance has been accurately termed ‘spontaneous hypnotism’....

“The mental functions seem, in most cases, to be in complete abeyance.
No manifestations of consciousness can be observed, or elicited by the
most powerful cutaneous stimulation, and on recovery no recollection of
the state is preserved. But in some cases volition only is lost, and
the patient is aware of all that passes, although unable to give the
slightest evidence of consciousness....

“In the cases in which the depression of the vital functions reaches
an extreme degree, the patient appears dead to casual and sometimes to
careful observation. This condition has been termed ‘death-trance,’
and has furnished the theme for many sensational stories, but
the most ghastly incidents of fiction have been paralleled by
well-authenticated facts. [The last clause appears in the new edition
as follows:--“Persons have certainly been buried in this state, and
during the recent epidemic of influenza an Italian narrowly escaped
interment during the consequent trance.”]

“The duration of trance has varied from a few hours or days to several
weeks, months, or even a year.

“Occasionally it is attended by some vaso-motor disturbance. In a
well-authenticated case of death-trance the intense mental excitement
produced by the preparations for fastening the coffin lid occasioned a
sweat to break out over the body.”


Many notable men have at one time or another been subject to this
disorder. Speaking of Benjamin Disraeli, Mr. J. Fitzgerald Molloy, in
his “Life of the Gorgeous Lady Blessington,” vol. ii., pp. 37, 38, says
that in his “youth he was seized with fits of giddiness, during which
the world swung round him, he became abstracted, and once fell into a
trance from which he did not recover for a week.”


The _Lancet_ of December 22, 1883, pp. 1078-80, contains particulars
from the pen of W. T. Gairdner, M.D., LL.D., etc., Professor of
Medicine in the University of Glasgow, of a remarkable case of trance,
extending continuously over more than twenty-three weeks, which
attracted a considerable amount of notoriety at the time and led to
an extensive discussion. In his comments upon the case, the author
continues, in the issue of January 5, 1884, pp. 5, 6:--

“The case recorded in the _Lancet_ of December 22, 1883, p. 1078, has
been left up to this point without remarks, other than those obviously
suggested by the direct observation of the facts in comparison or
contrast with those of other cases coming more or less under the
designation above mentioned. But in perusing, even in the most cursory
manner, the multitudinous literature pertaining to the subjects of
‘trance,’ ‘ecstasy,’ ‘catalepsy,’ etc., not to speak of the popular
narratives which from a very remote antiquity have handed down the
tradition of preternatural sleep as an element in the fairy tales
of almost all languages, one is struck by the almost uncontrollable
disposition to regard such cases as altogether outside the limits of
true physiological science: as being, according to the expressive
Scotch phrase, ‘no canny’--or, in other words, miraculous--and as
involving questions connected with the unseen world, ‘the undiscovered
country from whose bourn no traveller returns.’ So much is this the
case, that, if in this nineteenth century the questions which presented
themselves to Hippocrates in the treatise, _περὶ ἱερῆς νούσου_
(‘Concerning the Sacred Disease’), had to be rediscussed, it would
certainly be in regard to some of the disorders mentioned above, and
not as to epilepsy in its well-recognised clinical types, that the
theory of a supernatural origin of the phenomena, whether favourably
entertained or not, would fall to be argued. The irreconcilable
differences of opinion in the Belgium Academy, as regards the quite
modern instance of Louise Lateau, are sufficient to show that all the
culture and the scientific instincts of the present age have not quite
inaugurated the ‘reign of law,’ nor established finally the position
that ‘miracles do not happen.’ On the other hand, the researches of
M. Charcot and others seem to be ever extending the domain of science
further into the region of the marvellous and the obscure, so that
even the most pronounced cases of ‘demoniac possession’ of the olden
time have become the commonplaces of hystero-epilepsy in the clinique
of the Salpétrière. The peculiar interest of the present case is that
it is altogether devoid of any of these adventitious, and more or less
romantic, incidents. The patient is the mother of a family, and has
lived a strictly domestic and (up to a short time before her seizure)
healthy and regular life. There are no peculiar moral and religious
problems to perplex the situation. There is no history of inveterate
hysteria, or of long continued rapt contemplation; nor has there been
the slightest evidence of any craving after notoriety, either before
the attack or since its termination. The moral atmosphere, in short,
surrounding the phenomena is altogether unfavourable to exaggeration
and imposture, for which, indeed, no reasonable motive can be assigned.
Nevertheless, under these very commonplace conditions, concurring
with some degree of melancholy or mental despondency after delivery,
but during a convalescence otherwise normal, Mrs. M’I---- presents
to our notice a condition of suspended consciousness and disordered
innervation in no degree less extreme than the ‘trances’ or cataleptic
attacks which have been recorded as the result of the most aggravated
hysteria, or as the miracles of religious ecstasy and profound mental
emotion. She becomes for the long period of over a hundred and sixty
days continuously an almost mindless automaton, connected with the
external world only through a few insignificant reflexes and through
the organic functions. She is absolutely passive as regards everything
that demands spontaneous movement, and betrays almost no sign of
sensation, general or special, when subjected to the severest tests
that can be applied short of physical injury.”


In further notes upon the case, in the _Lancet_ of January 12, 1884, p.
58, Professor Gairdner says:--

 “The only other case to which I desire to make allusion at present
 is one in which I am, fortunately, in a position to furnish a
 sequel to an incomplete narrative, not without resemblance to the
 one lately published in this journal. ‘A Case of Trance’ was the
 subject of a paragraph in the _British Medical Journal_ of May 31,
 1879, p. 827, from which it appeared that in the London Hospital a
 woman, twenty-seven years of age, was at the time under the care
 of Dr. Langdon Down, being of rather small stature and weak mental
 capacity, and affected for at least two years with organic disease of
 the heart. About three weeks before the date of the report she had
 become suddenly somnolent, with most of the peculiarities in her sleep
 which have been already alluded to. She was fed partly by nutrient
 enemata, and for some days by a tube passed through the nostrils into
 the stomach. The resemblance is noted between this case and that of
 ‘the famous Welsh fasting girl,’ then attracting much attention in
 newspapers and otherwise. There being no further reference to this
 case in the journal, I wrote to Dr. Langdon Down, who kindly furnished
 me with the following additional particulars, which will, no doubt,
 be read even now with interest:--‘My patient, who was in a state of
 trance, recovered somewhat suddenly after about four weeks, and left
 the hospital. The first indication of returning consciousness was
 observed when I was reading to my class at her bedside one of the
 numerous letters that I had received entreating me not to have her
 buried until something which the writers recommended had been done.
 The paragraph of the medical journal got into some Welsh paper, and
 then went the round of the provincial press, hence the number of
 letters I received. This special one was from an old gentleman of
 eighty-four years, who, when he was twenty-four, was thought to be
 dead, and whose friends had assembled to follow him to the grave, when
 he heard the undertaker say, “Would anyone like to see the corpse
 before I screw him down?” The undertaker at the same time moved the
 head a little and struck it against the coffin, on which he aroused
 and sat up. On reading this aloud a visible smile passed over the face
 of my patient, and she returned to obvious consciousness soon after.
 She has not come under observation since she left the hospital.’

“Although this case is probably only one among many, I mention it here
because the receipt of the letter just given led me to investigate more
particularly the state of the hearing in Mrs. M’I.’s case, and also to
try the experiment of reading aloud Dr. Down’s letter in her presence
and that of the class. I had often remarked to bystanders that,
although the subjects of these apparently unconscious states appeared
inaccessible to the ordinary tests of sensibility, it was on record
as regards some, even of those regarded as cases of ‘apparent death,’
that after recovery they affirm to have heard everything that passed,
although unable to lift hand or foot to save themselves from premature
burial. Neither the reading of the letter nor a violent shout into her
ear produced any visible effects.”


Thomas More Madden, M.D., F.R.C.S. (Edin.), in an article on “Death’s
Counterfeit,” in the _Medical Press and Circular_, vol. i., April 27,
1887, pp. 386-8, relates the following case “of so-called hysteric

 “A young lady, Miss R----, apparently in perfect health, went to her
 room after luncheon to make some change in her dress. A few minutes
 afterwards she was found lying on her bed in a profound sleep, from
 which she could not be awakened. When I first saw her, twenty-four
 hours later, she was sleeping tranquilly; the decubitus being dorsal,
 respiration scarcely perceptible, pulse seventy, and extremely small;
 her face was pallid, lips motionless, and the extremities very cold.
 At this moment, so death-like was her aspect, that a casual observer
 might have doubted the possibility of the vital spark still lingering
 in that apparently inanimate frame, on which no external stimulus
 seemed to produce any sensorial impression, with the exception
 that the pupils were normal and responded to light. Sinapisms were
 applied over the heart and to the legs, where they were left on until
 vesication was occasioned without causing any evidence of pain.
 Faradisation was also resorted to without effect. In this state she
 remained from the evening of December 31 until the afternoon of
 January 3, when the pulse became completely imperceptible; the surface
 of the body was icy cold, the respiratory movements apparently ceased,
 and her condition was to all outward appearance undistinguishable
 from death. Under the influence of repeated hypodermic injections of
 sulphuric ether and other remedies, however, she rallied somewhat,
 and her pulse and temperature improved. But she still slept on until
 the morning of the 9th, when she suddenly woke up, and, to the great
 astonishment of those about her, called for her clothes, which had
 been removed from their ordinary place, and wanted to come down to
 breakfast, without the least consciousness of what had occurred. Her
 recovery, I may add, was rapid and complete.

 “The next case of lethargy that came under my notice was that of a
 boy, who, after an attack of fever, fell into a state of complete
 lethargic coma, in which he lay insensible between life and death for
 forty-seven days, and ultimately recovered perfectly.

 “In a third instance of the same kind, in a lady under my care, the
 patient, after a lethargic sleep of twenty-seven days, recovered
 consciousness for a few hours, and then relapsed into her former
 comatose condition, in which she died.

 “The fourth case of lethargy which I have seen was, like the first,
 a case of trance, which lasted for seventy hours, during which the
 flickering vital spark was only preserved from extinction by the
 involuntary action of the spinal and nervous centres. In this instance
 the patient finally recovered.

 “The fifth and last instance of profound lethargy that has come within
 my own observation occurred last autumn in the Mater Misericordiæ
 Hospital in a young woman.... In that instance, despite all that
 medical skill could suggest or unremitting attention could do, it was
 found impossible to arouse the patient from the apparently hysterical
 lethargic sleep in which she ultimately sank and died.”

I have referred to the foregoing cases, occurring in one physician’s
experience, as disproving the general opinion that lethargy or trance
is so rarely met with as to be of little medical importance. For my own
part, I have no doubt that these conditions are of far more frequent
occurrence than is generally supposed. Moreover, I have had reason to
know that death is occasionally so exactly thus counterfeited that
there is good cause for fearing the probability of living interment in
some cases of hasty burial.


Referring to death-trance, Dr. Madden observes, _ib._, p.
388--“Death-trance, or that profound degree of lethargy which closely
counterfeits death, deserves greater attention than is generally paid
to it as a pathological condition, as well as a possible cause of
premature interment. For, unless we reject every statement, however
well authenticated, of those who have witnessed such cases, merely
because their experience does not tally with our preconceived opinions
and wishes, neither the frequent occurrence of death-trance nor the
fearful results of its non-recognition can be questioned.”

Mr. John Chippendale, F.R.C.S., writing to the _Lancet_, 1889, vol. i.,
p. 1173, on “Catalepsy.--Post-mortem Sweating,” says:--

 “I may mention that there is a record of a man who during an illness
 was seized with trance, though, as he lay in what Claudio calls ‘cold
 abstraction,’ he was aware of all that was passing. At last, as he was
 about to be covered in his coffin, his mental condition was such that
 he broke into a profuse sweat, which was fortunately perceived, and he
 recovered and was able to recount his experiences.”

It would appear from the following telegram through Reuter’s Agency
that trance is occasionally epidemic:--

 [From _Daily Telegraph_, March 17, 1890.]


  “Vienna, March 15, 1890.

 “Several cases of a new disease, which originally appeared in
 Mantua immediately after the subsidence of the recent influenza
 epidemic, and to which the people of that city gave the name of ‘La
 nonna’--_Anglice_, ‘Falling asleep’--have occurred in the Comitat of

 “Persons suffering from this complaint fall into a death-like trance,
 lasting about four days, out of which the patient wakes in a state of
 intense exhaustion. Recovery is very slow, but, so far, no fatal case
 has been reported.”

A correspondent writing to the _English Mechanic_ September 13, 1895,
says:--“I know one lady who has been three times prepared for burial,
and very narrowly escaped it on the first occasion.” The author
wrote to the writer for further details, and received a reply, dated
September 19, 1895, from which it appears that the lady had married
into a political family of considerable note, who would not care to
have her identity disclosed. My correspondent says:--“ I know that she
lay several days in a state not to be distinguished from death; that
she was in her coffin, and, I believe, showed signs of life just as the
coffin was about to be closed. On two subsequent occasions she passed
into similar trances; but though believed to be dead, and treated as
such, the previous experience prevented any idea of burial being
entertained” until clear evidence of dissolution should appear.

The _New York Weekly Witness_ of January 15, 1896, reports



 “Information was received at Milford, Pa., last Friday, that William
 Depue, a prominent citizen of Bushkill, Pike County, whose mind for
 seven years has been a blank, had suddenly returned to consciousness.

 “Seven years ago, while at work, Mr. Depue became ill. Doctors were
 summoned, but they could find no possible ailment. The sick man sank
 into a cataleptic sleep, from which medical science could not arouse

 “At no time during the long period did he recognise any one, and food
 was given him through a tube inserted in his mouth. He lost no flesh,
 and was apparently as healthy as any man. Although the best medical
 men in the country were called to his bedside, his case baffled them

 “Upon recovering his senses he set about his usual labours as if he
 had been asleep but the ordinary time. He remembers nothing that has
 taken place during his seven years’ trance.”

The following case appeared in the _Middlesbrough Daily Gazette_,
February 9, 1896, and in a number of English papers:--

 “The young Dutch maiden, Maria Cvetskens, who now lies asleep at
 Stevensworth, has beaten the record in the annals of somnolence. At
 the beginning of last month she had been asleep for nearly three
 hundred days. The doctors, who visit her in great numbers, are agreed
 that there is no deception in the case. Her parents are of excellent
 repute, and it has never occurred to them to make any financial profit
 out of the abnormal state of their daughter. As to the cause of the
 prolonged sleep, the doctors differ.”



CATALEPSY differs in some of its characteristics from trance, but the
one is often mistaken for the other. It is not so much a disease as a
symptom of certain nervous disorders, and to which women and children
are more particularly liable. Catalepsy can be produced artificially by
hypnotisation. Like trance, it has often been mistaken for death, and
its subjects buried alive.

Dr. Franz Hartmann differentiates the two disorders as follows:--“There
seems hardly any limit to the time during which a person may remain
in a trance; but catalepsy is due to some obstruction in the organic
mechanism of the body, on account of its exhausted nervous power.
In the last case the activity of life begins again as soon as the
impediment is removed, or the nervous energy has recuperated its

Dr. Gowers, in Quain’s “Dictionary of Medicine,” ed. 1894, vol. i.,
pp. 284-5, describes catalepsy as belonging to both sexes, at all ages
from six to sixty. It is a nervous affection, commonly associated
with distinct evidence of hysteria, but said sometimes to occur as
an early symptom of epilepsy. It is attended commonly with loss of
consciousness. The limbs remain in the position they occupied at the
onset, as if petrified. The whole or part of the muscles pass into
a state of rigidity. In profound conditions sensibility is lost to
touch, pain, and electricity; and no reflex movements can be induced
even by touching the conjunctiva, a state of mental trance being


_Cassell’s Family Physician_ (by Physicians and Surgeons of the
principal London Hospitals) describes this singular affection, as
follows:--“Catalepsy is one of the strangest diseases possible. It
is of rare occurrence, and some very sceptical people have even
gone so far as to deny its existence. That is all nonsense, for
catalepsy is just as much a reality as gout or bronchitis. A fit of
catalepsy--for it is a paroxysmal disease--consists essentially in
the sudden suspension of thought, feeling, and the power of moving.
The patient remains in any position in which she--we say she, for it
occurs mostly in women--happens to be at the moment of the seizure, and
will, moreover, retain any posture in which she may be placed during
the continuance of the fit. For example, you may stretch out the arms
to their full length, and there they remain stretched out without
showing the slightest tendency to drop. It does not matter how absurd
or inconvenient or apparently fatiguing the position may be, it is
maintained until altered by some one or until the fit is over. In these
attacks there are no convulsions, but, on the contrary, the patient
remains perfectly immobile. She is just like a waxen figure, or an
inanimate statue, or a frozen corpse.

“Cataleptic fits vary very much, not only in their frequency, but in
their duration. Sometimes they are very short indeed, lasting only a
few minutes. In one case, that of a lady, they would sometimes come on
when she was reading aloud. She would stop suddenly in the middle of a
sentence, and a peculiar stiffness of the whole body would seize her,
fixing the limbs immovably for several minutes. Then it would pass off,
and the reading would be continued at the very word at which it had
been interrupted, the patient being quite unconscious that anything had
happened. But sometimes fits such as these may last for days and days
together, and it seems not improbable that people may have been buried
in this state in mistake for death.”

The following case, contributed by Dr. Gooch, will further illustrate
this malady:--

 “A lady, who laboured habitually under melancholy, a few days after
 parturition was seized with catalepsy, and presented the following
 appearances:--She was lying in bed motionless and apparently
 senseless. It was thought the pupils of her eyes were dilated, and
 some apprehensions were entertained of effusion on the brain; but
 on examining them closely it was found they readily contracted when
 the light fell upon them. The only signs of life were warmth, and a
 pulse which was one hundred and twenty, and weak. In attempting to
 rouse her from this senseless state, the trunk of the body was lifted
 up and placed so far back as to form an obtuse angle with the lower
 extremities, and in this posture, with nothing to support her, she
 continued sitting for many minutes. One arm was now raised, and then
 the other, and in the posture they were placed they remained. It was
 a curious sight to see her sitting up staring lifelessly, her arms
 outstretched, yet without any visible signs of animation. She was
 very thin and pallid, and looked like a corpse that had been propped
 up and stiffened in that attitude. She was now taken out of bed and
 placed upright, and attempts were made to rouse her by calling loudly
 in her ears, but in vain; she stood up, indeed, but as inanimate as a
 statue. The slightest push put her off her balance, and she made no
 exertion to retain it, and would have fallen had she not been caught.
 She went into this state three times; the first lasted fourteen
 hours, the second twelve hours, and the third nine hours, with waking
 intervals of three days after the first fit, and of one day after
 the second; after this time the disease assumed the ordinary form of
 melancholia.--_The Science and Practice of Medicine, by Sir W. Aitken,
 p. 357._


Dr. John Jebb, F.R.S., cited in Reynolds’ “System of Medicine,” vol.
ii., pp. 99-102, has recorded the following graphic case:--

 “In the latter end of last year (_viz._, 1781), I was desired to
 visit a young lady who, for nine months, had been afflicted with that
 singular disorder termed a catalepsy. Although she was prepared for
 my visit, she was seized with the disorder as soon as my arrival was
 announced. She was employed in netting, and was passing the needle
 through the mesh, in which position she immediately became rigid,
 exhibiting, in a very pleasing form, a figure of death-like sleep,
 beyond the power of art to imitate or the imagination to conceive. Her
 forehead was serene, her features perfectly composed. The paleness
 of her colour, her breathing at a distance being also scarcely
 perceptible, operated in rendering the similitude to marble more exact
 and striking. The positions of her fingers, hands, and arms were
 altered with difficulty, but they preserved every form of flexure they
 acquired: nor were the muscles of the neck exempted from this law, her
 head maintaining every situation in which the hand could place it as
 firmly as her limbs,” etc.

Dr. King Chambers, after citing the above case in full, continues:--

 “The most common exciting cause of catalepsy seems to be strong mental
 emotion. When Covent Garden Theatre was last burnt down, the blaze
 flashed in at the uncurtained windows of St. Mary’s Hospital. One of
 my patients, a girl of twenty, recovering from low fever, was woke up
 by it, and exclaimed that the day of judgment was come. She remained
 in an excited state all night, and the next morning grew gradually
 stiff, like a corpse, whispering (before she became quite insensible)
 that she was dead. If her arm was raised, it remained extended in
 the position in which it was placed for several minutes, and then
 slowly subsided. The inelastic kind of way in which it retained its
 position for a time, and then gradually yielded to the force of
 gravity, reminded one more of a wax figure than of the marble to
 which Dr. Jebb compares it. A strange effect was produced by opening
 the eyelid of one eye; the other eye remained closed, and the raised
 lid after a time fell very slowly like the arm. A better superficial
 representation of death it is difficult to conceive.... In both these
 cases I convinced myself carefully that there was no deception.

 “Other cases are of much longer duration.... The death-like state
 may last for days. It may be mistaken for real death, and treated as

 “Any cases of apparent death that did occur (in former days) were
 burnt, or buried, or otherwise put out of the way, and were never more
 heard of. But after the establishment of Christianity, tenderness,
 sometimes excessive, for the remains of departed friends took the
 place of the hard, heathen selfishness. The dead were kept closer to
 the congregations of the living, as if to represent in material form
 the dogma of the Communion of Saints. This led to the discovery that
 some persons, indeed some persons of note (amongst others, Duns Scotus
 the theologian, at Cologne), had got out of their coffins, and died in
 a vain attempt to open the doors of their vaults.”


The author relates several other remarkable cases. Here is one:--

 “I lighted accidently on another case, communicated to the same
 scientific body (Acad. Royale des Sciences), by M. Imbert in 1713.
 It is that of the driver of the Rouen diligence, aged forty-five,
 who fell into a kind of soporific catalepsy on hearing of the sudden
 death of a man he had quarrelled with. It appears that ‘M. Burette,
 under whose care he was at La Charité, made use of the most powerful
 assistances of art--bleeding in the arms, the foot, the neck, emetics,
 purgatives, blisters, leeches,’ etc. At last somebody ‘threw him
 naked into cold water to surprise him.’ The effect surprised the
 doctors as much as the patient. It is related with evident wonder how
 that ‘he opened his eyes, looked steadfastly, but did not speak.’ His
 wife seems to have been a prudent woman, for a week afterwards she
 ‘carried him home, where he is at present: they gave him no medicine;
 he speaks sensibly enough, and mends every day.’”

The _Lancet_, 1870, vol. i., p. 1044, in its Paris correspondence

 “The following curious case is related as having occurred at Dunkirk,
 on April 14, and as ‘showing the utility of catalepsy.’ A young girl
 of seventeen years was seized with a violent attack of epilepsy, and
 fell, on the above date, into a canal. A boatman immediately jumped
 into the water to save her, and brought her to the shore after twenty
 minutes. The most singular circumstance connected with the accident is
 that, when the young girl was taken out of the water, she presented
 all the symptoms of catalepsy. Notwithstanding this long immersion,
 she was resuscitated, and nothing afterwards transpired to cause any

Mr. James Braid, M.R.C.S., in the _Medical Times_, 1850, vol. xxi.,
p. 402, narrates a case of a cataleptic woman in the Manchester Royal
Infirmary under the care of Dr. John Mitchell, and writes:--

 “Every variety of contrivance and torture was resorted to by various
 parties who saw her, for the purpose of testing the degree of her
 insensibility, and for determining whether she might not be an
 impostor, but without eliciting the slightest indication of activity
 of any of the senses; ... nevertheless she _heard and understood all
 that was said and proposed to be done, and suffered the most exquisite
 torture from various tests applied to her_!! A fact so important as
 this ought to be published in every journal throughout the civilised
 world; so that in future professional men might be thereby led to
 exercise greater discretion and mercy in their modes of applying tests
 to such patients.”

The _Somerset County Herald_ (Taunton) of October 12 1895, has the


 “The wedding nuptials of a sailor from H.M.S. _Alexandra_ and a young
 woman residing at Broadwey, who were recently married, have been
 interrupted in a most unusual manner by the newly-made bride falling
 into a trance. On the day following the wedding Mr. and Mrs. Mortimer,
 for such is the name of the newly-espoused pair, went for a drive, and
 on returning in the evening the bride, remarking that she did not feel
 very well, went upstairs, and before long was in a sound sleep, which
 continued throughout the night and far into the following day. The
 relatives of the bride, remembering symptoms which she had previously
 developed, then sent for Dr. Pridham, who at once pronounced that
 the unfortunate young woman had fallen into a trance. Dr. Colmer, of
 Weymouth, was likewise called; but nothing that these two medical
 gentlemen could do had the slightest effect in arousing their patient
 from the state of lethargy into which she had so suddenly and
 unexpectedly relapsed. In this condition she remained for a space of
 five days, when she gradually showed signs of returning animation,
 and in the course of a few hours regained consciousness, though she
 was then in a very exhausted condition. After her awakening the young
 woman developed inflammation of the legs, which was regarded as a
 very serious condition for her to be in. In an interview on Saturday,
 Dr. Pridham described the trance as being exceedingly death-like in
 character, and added that, in such trances as the one in question, in
 the past people have no doubt been actually buried.”

A report of this case appears in the _St. James’s Gazette_.

A less experienced practitioner would probably have made out a death
certificate, as in numerous similar cases.

After burial we hear no more of them; they may have been buried in
a death-like trance, but the medical certificate, no matter how
inconsiderately given, consigns them to perpetual silence beyond appeal
or escape. Family remonstrance is then unavailing, for, except in cases
of strong suspicion of poisoning, no Home Secretary or Coroner would
grant an order for exhumation.


The existence of trance, catalepsy, and other death counterfeits,
followed by hasty burial, has been alluded to by reputable writers from
time immemorial; and while the veracity of these writers has remained
unchallenged, and their narratives are confirmed by hundreds of cases
of modern experience, the effect on the public mind has been only of a
transitory character, and nothing has been done either in England or
America to safeguard the people from such dreadful mistakes.



THE following case of the jerboa, or jumping mouse, recorded last
century by Major-General Thomas Davies, F.R.S., in the “Transactions
of the Linnæan Society,”[3] will show how far a torpid mammal may be
removed from the opportunity of breathing, and how imperceptibly, to
the eyes of an observer, its torpid life passed into actual death:--

“With respect to the figure given of it in its dormant state (plate
viii., fig. 6), I have to observe that the specimen was found by some
workmen in digging the foundation for a summer house in a gentleman’s
garden, about two miles from Quebec, in the latter end of May, 1787.
It was discovered enclosed in a ball of clay, about the size of a
cricket ball, nearly an inch in thickness, perfectly smooth within, and
about twenty inches under ground. The man who first discovered it, not
knowing what it was, struck the ball with his spade, by which means it
was broken to pieces, or the ball also would have been presented to
me. The drawing will perfectly show how the animal is laid during its
dormant state [a tawny mouse, with long hind legs and long tail, coiled
up into a perfect ovoid, of which the two poles are the crown of the
head and the rump.] How long it had been under ground it is impossible
to say; but as I never could observe these animals in any parts of
the country after the beginning of September, I conceive that they
lay themselves up some time in that month, or beginning of October,
when the frost becomes sharp; nor did I ever see them again before the
last week of May, or beginning of June. From their being enveloped in
balls of clay, without any appearance of food, I conceive they sleep
during the winter, and remain for that time without sustenance. As
soon as I conveyed this specimen to my house, I deposited it, as it
was, in a small chip box, in some cotton, waiting with great anxiety
for its waking; but that not taking place at the season they generally
appear, I kept it until I found it began to smell: I then stuffed it,
and preserved it in its torpid position. I am led to believe its not
recovering from that state arose from the heat of my room during the
time it was in the box, a fire having been constantly burning in the
stove, and which in all probability was too great for respiration....”


Mr. Braid, after citing facts as to higher animals, proceeds:--“There
are other creatures which have not the power of migrating from climes
too intensely hot for the normal exercise of their physical functions,
and the lives of these animals are preserved through a state of torpor
superinduced by the want of sufficient moisture, their bodies being
dried up from excessive heat. This is the case with snails, which are
said to have been revived by a little cold water being thrown on them,
after having remained in a dry and torpid state for fifteen years. The
_vibrio tritici_ has also been restored, after perfect torpidity and
apparent death for five years and eight months, by merely soaking it
in water. Some small, microscopic animals have been apparently killed
and revived again a dozen times by drying and then applying moisture to
them. This is remarkably verified in the case of the wheel-animalcule.
And Spallanzani states that some animalcules have been recovered by
moisture after a torpor of twenty-seven years. According to Humboldt,
again, some large animals are thrown into a similar state from want
of moisture. Such he states to be the case with the alligator and
boa-constrictor during the dry season in the plains of Venezuela, and
with other animals elsewhere.”--_On Trance and Human Hibernation, p.

Dr. Moore Russell Fletcher, in his treatise on “Suspended Animation,”
pp. 7, 8, observes:--“Snakes and toads live for a long time without air
or food. The following experiment was made by a Mr. Tower, of Gardiner
(Maine). An adder, upwards of two feet in length, was got into a glass
jar, which was tightly sealed. He was kept there for sixteen months
without any apparent change, and when let out, looked as well as when
put in, and crawled away.

“The common pond trout, when thrown into snow, will soon freeze, remain
so for days, and when put into cold water to remove the frost become
lively as ever.

“When residing in New Brunswick, in 1842, we went to a lake to secure
some trout, which were frozen in the snow and kept for use. While there
we saw men with long wooden tongs catching frost fish from the salt
water at the entrance of a brook. The fish were thrown upon the ice in
great quantities. We had a barrel of them put up with snow and kept
frozen, and in a cool place. For six or seven weeks they were taken
out and used as wanted, and might be kept frozen for an indefinite
time, and be alive when thawed in cold water. The two pieces of a fish,
cut in two when frozen, would move and try to swim when thawed in cold


Dr. George Moore observes that “A state of the body is certainly
sometimes produced (in man) which is nearly analogous to the torpor of
the lower animals--_a condition utterly inexplicable to any principle
taught in the schools_. Who, for instance, can inform us how it happens
that certain fishes may be suddenly frozen in the Polar Sea, and so
remain during the long winter and yet be requickened into full activity
by returning summer?”--_Use of the Body in Relation to the Mind, p. 31._


Hufeland, in his “Uncertainty of Death,” 1824, p. 12, observes that
it is easier for mankind to fall into a state of trance than the
lower creatures, on account of their complicated anatomy. It is a
transitory state between life and death, into which anyone may pass and
return from. Trance was common among the Greeks and Romans, who, just
before cremation, had the custom of cutting off a finger-joint, most
probably to discover if there was any trace of life. Death does not
come suddenly; it is a gradual process from actual life into apparent
death, and from that to actual death. It is a mistake to take outward
appearances for inner death.

“It often happens a person is buried in a trance knowing all the
preparations for the interment, and this affects him so much that it
prolongs the trance by its depressing influence. How long can a man
exist in a state of trance? Is there no sign by which the remaining
spark of life may be recognised? Do no means exist to prevent awakening
in the grave? Nothing can be said as to its duration; but we do know
that differences in the cause and circumstances will cause a difference
in duration. The amount of strength of the person would have great
effect in this. Weak persons, broken down by excesses, would die sooner
than the strong. The nature of the disease would make a difference. Old
age is less liable to trance than the young. Long sickness destroys
the sources of life, and shortens the process of death. Sorrow and
trouble, and numerous diseases, seem to bring on death; yet ofttimes
the source of life in them exists to its full extent, and what seems
in them to be death may be only a fainting fit, or cramp, which
temporarily interrupts the action of life. Women are more liable to
trance than men: most cases have happened in them. Trance may exist in
the new-born; give them time, and many of them revive. The smell of the
earth is at times sufficient to wake up a case of trance. Six or seven
days, or longer, are often required to restore such cases.” (Extracted
from pp. 10-24.)


Mr. Chunder Sen, municipal secretary to the Maharajah of Jeypore,
introduced the author, during his visit to India, March 8, 1896, to
a venerable and learned fakir, who was seated on a couch Buddhist
fashion, the feet turned towards the stomach, in the attitude of
meditation, in a small but comfortable house near the entrance to
the beautiful public gardens of that city. The fakir possesses the
power of self-induced trance, which really amounts to a suspension of
life, being indistinguishable from death. In the month of December,
1895, he passed into and remained in this condition for twenty days.
On several occasions the experiment has been conducted under test
conditions. In 1889, Dr. Hem Chunder Sen, of Delhi, and his brother,
Mr. Chunder Sen, had the opportunity of examining the fakir while
passing into a state of hibernation, and found that the pulse beat
slower and slower until it ceased to beat at all. The stethoscope was
applied to the heart by the doctor, who failed to detect the slightest
motion. The fakir, covered with a white shroud, was placed in a small
subterraneous cell built of masonry, measuring about six feet by six
feet, of rotund structure. The door was closed and locked, and the
lock sealed with Dr. Sen’s private seal and with that of Mr. Dhanna
Tal, the magistrate of the city; the flap door leading to the vault
was also carefully fastened. At the expiration of thirty-three days
the cell was opened, and the fakir was found just where he was placed,
but with a death-like appearance, the limbs having become stiff as in
_rigor mortis_. He was brought from the vault, and the mouth was rubbed
with honey and milk, and the body and joints massaged with oil. In the
evening, manifestations of life were exhibited, and the fakir was fed
with a spoonful of milk. The next day he was given a little juice of
pulses known as _dal_, and in three days he was able to eat bread and
milk, his normal diet. These cases are well known both at Delhi and
at Jeypore, and the facts have never been disputed. The fakir is a
Sanscrit scholar, and is said to be endowed with much wisdom, and is
consulted by those who are interested in Hindu learning and religion.
He has never received money from visitors, and the mention of it
distresses him.

The _Medical Times_ of May 11, 1850, contains a communication from Mr.
Braid, who says he has “lost no opportunity of accumulating evidence
on this subject, and that while many alleged feats of this kind are
probably of a deceptive character, still there are others which admit
of no such explanation; and that it becomes the duty of scientific men
fairly to admit the difficulty.” He then refers to two documents by
eye-witnesses of these feats, and which, he says, “with the previous
evidence on the subject, must set the point at rest for ever, as to
the fact of the feats referred to being genuine phenomena, deception
being impossible.” In one of these instances, the fakir was buried in
the ground for six weeks, and was, consequently, deprived not only of
food and drink, but also of light and air; when he was disinterred,
his legs and arms were shrivelled and stiff, but his face was full;
no pulse could be discovered in the heart, temples, or arms. “About
three years since I spent some time with a General C----, a highly
respectable and intelligent man, who had been a long time in the Indian
service, and who was himself an eye-witness of one of these feats. A
fakir was buried several feet in the earth, under vigilant inspection,
and a watch was set, so that no one could communicate with him; and to
make the matter doubly sure, corn was sown upon the grave, and during
the time the man was buried, it vegetated and grew to the height of
several inches. He lay there forty-two days. The gentleman referred to
passed the place many times during his burial, saw the growing corn,
was also present at his disinterment, and when he questioned the man,
and intimated to him that he thought deception had been practised, the
fakir offered, for a sum of money, to be buried again, for the same
length of time, by the General himself, and in his own garden. This
challenge, of course, closed the argument.”


Cases of this kind might be multiplied on evidence which cannot be
doubted, and, in Mr. Braid’s book, entitled “Human Hibernation,” there
are cases fully stated. Sir Claude Wade, who was an eye-witness of
these feats when acting as political agent at the Court of Runjeet
Singh, at Lahore, and from whom Mr. Braid derived his information,
makes the following observations:--“I share entirely in the apparent
incredibility of the fact of a man being buried alive and surviving the
trial for various periods of duration; but however incompatible with
our knowledge of physiology, in the absence of any visible proof to the
contrary, I am bound to declare my belief in the facts which I have
represented, however impossible their existence may appear to others.”
Upon this Mr. Braid observes:--“Such then is the narrative of Sir C.
M. Wade, and when we consider the high character of the author as a
gentleman of honour, talents, and attainments of the highest order,
and the searching, painstaking efforts displayed by him throughout the
whole investigation, and his close proximity to the body of the fakir,
and opportunity of observing minutely every point for himself, as well
as the facilities, by his personal intercourse with Runjeet Singh and
the whole of his Court, of gaining the most accurate information on
every point, I conceive it is impossible to have had a more valuable
or conclusive document for determining the fact that no collusion or
deception existed.”

A case of this kind was exhibited at the Westminster Aquarium in the
autumn of 1895, which was carefully watched and tested by medical
experts, without detection of any appearance of fraud or simulation.
The hypnotised man, Walter Johnson, an ex-soldier, twenty-nine years of
age, was in a trance which lasted thirty days, during which time he was
absolutely unconscious, as shown by the various experiments to which he
was subjected.

A case of induced trance and experimental burial, not unlike that
of the Indian fakirs referred to, was reported in the London _Daily
Chronicle_, March 14, 1896. The experiment was carried out under test


 “After being entombed for six days in a hypnotic trance, Alfred
 Wootton was dug up and awakened at the Royal Aquarium (Westminster),
 on Saturday night in the presence of a crowd of interested spectators.
 Wootton was hypnotised on Monday by Professor Fricker, and consigned
 to his voluntary grave, nine feet deep, in view of the audience, who
 sealed the stout casket or coffin in which the subject was immured.
 Seven or eight feet of earth were then shovelled upon the body, a
 shaft being left open for the necessary respiration, and in order
 that the public might be able to see the man’s face during the week.
 The experiment was a novel one in this country, and was intended to
 illustrate the extraordinary effect produced by the Indian fakirs,
 and to demonstrate the connection between hypnotism and psychology,
 while also showing the value of the former art as a curative agent.
 Wootton is a man thirty-eight years of age; he is a lead-worker,
 and on Monday weighed 10st. 2-1/2 lbs. He had previously been in a
 trance for a week in Glasgow, under Professor Fricker’s experienced
 hands, so was not altogether new to the business; but he is the
 first to be ‘buried alive’ by way of amusement. To the uninitiated
 the whole thing was gruesome in the extreme, and this particular form
 of entertainment certainly cannot be commended. Before being covered
 in, Wootton’s nose and ears were stopped with wax, which was removed
 before he was revived on Saturday. The theory of the burial is to
 secure an equable temperature day and night--which is impossible when
 the subject is above ground in the ordinary way--and therefore to
 induce a deeper trance. Of course, too, the patient was out of reach
 of the operator, and no suspicion of continuous hypnotising could rest
 upon the professor. No nourishment could be supplied for the same
 reason, though the man’s lips were occasionally moistened by means of
 a damp sponge on the end of a rod, and no record of temperature or
 respiration could be kept. A good many people witnessed the digging
 up process, and the awakening took place in the concert room, whither
 the casket and its burden were conveyed. The professor was not long
 in arousing his subject, after electric and other tests had been
 applied to convince the audience that the man was perfectly insensible
 to pain and everything else. Indeed, a large needle was run through
 the flesh on the back of the hand without any effect whatever. The
 first thing on regaining consciousness that Wootton said was that he
 could not see, and then he asked for drink--milk, and subsequently
 a little brandy, being supplied. As soon as possible the patient
 was lifted out of his box, and with help was quickly able to walk
 about the platform. He complained of considerable stiffness of the
 limbs, and was undoubtedly weak, but otherwise seemed none the worse
 for his remarkable retirement from active life, and abstention from
 food for nearly a week. He was swathed in flannel, and soon found
 the heat of the room very oppressive, though at first he appeared to
 be particularly anxious to have his overcoat and his boots. It is
 anticipated that in a day or two at most Wootton will have regained
 his usual vigorous health.”


Dr. Hartmann in “Premature Burial,” page 23, relates an account of a
similar experiment with a fakir, differing from the above, however,
in so far as it was made by some English residents, who did not put
the coffin into the earth, but hung it up in the air, so as to protect
it from the danger of being eaten up by white ants. There seems to be
hardly any limitation in regard to the time during which such a body
may be preserved and become reanimated again, provided that it is well
protected, although modern ignorance may smile at this statement.

Those of our readers who wish to pursue this subject will find ample
material in “Observations on Trance or Human Hibernation,” 1850, by
James Braid, M.R.C.S.; Dr. Kuhn’s report of his investigations of the
Indian fakirs to the Anthropological Society of Munich, in 1895; the
researches of Dr. J. M. Honigberger, a German physician long resident
in India; and in the _India Journal of Medical and Physical Science_,
1836, vol. i., p. 389, etc.



AT the sitting of the Paris Academy of Medicine, on April 10, 1827, a
paper was read by M. Chantourelle, on the danger of hasty burial. This
led to a discussion, in which M. Desgenettes stated that he had been
told by Dr. Thouret, who presided at the destruction of the vaults of
Les Innocens, that many skeletons had been found in positions seeming
to show that they had turned in their coffins. Dr. Thouret was so much
impressed by the circumstance that he had a special clause inserted in
his will relating to his own burial.[4]

Similar revelations, according to Kempner, have followed the
examinations of grave-yards in Holland, and in New York and other parts
of the United States.

On July 2, 1896, the author visited the grave of Madam Blunden, in the
Cemetery, Basingstoke, Hants, who, according to the inscription (now
obliterated), was buried alive. The following narrative appears in “The
Uncertainty of the Signs of Death,” by Surgeon M. Cooper, London, 1746,
pp. 78, 79:--

“At Basingstoke, in Hampshire, not many years ago, a gentlewoman of
character and fortune was taken ill, and, to all appearance, died,
while her husband was on a journey to London. A messenger was forthwith
despatched to the gentleman, who returned immediately, and ordered
everything for her decent interment. Accordingly, on the third day
after her supposed decease, she was buried in Holy Ghost Chapel, at the
outside of the town, in a vault belonging to the family, over which
there is a school for poor children endowed by a charitable gentleman
in the reign of Edward VI. It happened the next day that the boys,
while they were at play, heard a noise in the vault, and one of them
ran and told his master, who, not crediting what he said, gave him a
box on the ear and sent him about his business; but, upon the other
boys coming with the same story, his curiosity was awakened, so that he
sent immediately for the sexton, and opened the vault and the lady’s
coffin, where they found her just expiring. All possible means were
used to recover her to life, but to no purpose, for she, in her agony,
had bit the nails off her fingers, and tore her face and head to that
degree, that, notwithstanding all the care that was taken of her, she
died in a few hours in inexpressible torment.”

The _Sunday Times_, London, December 30, 1838, contains the following:--

 “A frightful case of premature interment occurred not long since,
 at Tonneins, in the Lower Garonne. The victim, a man in the prime
 of life, had only a few shovelfuls of earth thrown into his grave,
 when an indistinct noise was heard to proceed from his coffin. The
 grave-digger, terrified beyond description, instantly fled to seek
 assistance, and some time elapsed before his return, when the crowd,
 which had by this time collected in considerable numbers round the
 grave, insisted on the coffin being opened. As soon as the first
 boards had been removed, it was ascertained, beyond a doubt, that the
 occupant had been interred alive. His countenance was frightfully
 contracted with the agony he had undergone; and, in his struggles, the
 unhappy man had forced his arms completely out of the winding sheet,
 in which they had been securely enveloped. A physician, who was on the
 spot, opened a vein, but no blood followed. The sufferer was beyond
 the reach of art.”


Mr. Oscar F. Shaw, Attorney-at-Law, 145 Broadway, New York, furnished
the author with particulars of the following case, of which he had
personal knowledge:--“In or about the year 1851, Virginia M’Donald,
who, up to that time had lived with her father on Catharine Street,
in the City of New York, apparently died, and was buried in Greenwood
Cemetery, Brooklyn, N.Y.

“After the burial her mother declared her belief that the daughter
was not dead when buried, and persistently asserted her belief. The
family tried in various ways to assure the mother of the death of her
daughter, and even resorted to ridicule for that purpose; but the
mother insisted so long and so strenuously that her daughter was buried
alive, that finally the family consented to having the body taken up,
when to their horror, they discovered the body lying on the side, the
hands badly bitten, and every indication of a premature burial.”

The _Lancet_, May 22, 1858, p. 519, has the following:--


 “A case of restoration to consciousness after burial is recorded by
 the Austrian journals in the person of a rich manufacturer, named
 Oppelt, at Rudenberg. He was buried fifteen years ago, and lately,
 on opening the vault, the lid of the coffin was found forced open,
 and his skeleton in a sitting posture in a corner of the vault. A
 Government Commission has reported on the matter.”

From the _Lancet_, August 20, 1864, p. 219.


 “Amongst the papers left by the great Meyerbeer, were some which
 showed that he had a profound dread of premature interment. He
 directed, it is stated, that his body should be left for ten days
 undisturbed, with the face uncovered, and watched night and day. Bells
 were to be fastened to his feet. And at the end of the second day
 veins were to be opened in the arm and leg. This is the gossip of the
 capital in which he died. The first impression is that such a fear is
 morbid. No doubt fewer precautions would suffice, but now and again
 cases occur which seem to warrant such a feeling, and to show that
 want of caution may lead to premature interment in cases unknown. An
 instance is mentioned by the _Ost. Deutscher Post_ of Vienna. A few
 days since, runs the story, in the establishment of the Brothers of
 Charity in that capital, the bell of the dead-room was heard to ring
 violently, and on one of the attendants proceeding to the place to
 ascertain the cause, he was surprised at seeing one of the supposed
 dead men pulling the bell-rope. He was removed immediately to another
 room, and hopes are entertained of his recovery.”

From the _Times_, July 7, 1867, p. 12, col. 3.

 “The _Journal de Pontarlier_ relates a case of premature interment.
 During the funeral, three days back, of a young woman at Montflorin,
 who had apparently died in an epileptic fit, the grave-digger, after
 having thrown a spadeful of earth on the coffin, thought he heard a
 moaning from the tomb. The body was consequently exhumed, and a vein
 having been opened, yielded blood almost warm and liquid. Hopes were
 for a moment entertained that the young woman would recover from her
 lethargy, but she never did so entirely, and the next day life was
 found to be extinct.”

From the _Lancet_, October 19, 1867, p. 504.



 “The _Journal de Morlaix_ mentions that a young woman at Bohaste,
 France, who was supposed to have died from cholera a few days back,
 was buried on the following afternoon. The sexton, when about to
 fill in the grave, fancied that he heard a noise in the coffin, and
 sent for the medical officer, who, on removing the lid and examining
 the body, gave it as his opinion that the woman had been alive when

The official journal of the French Senate, January 30, 1869, records
that the attention of the Senate was called to this case by means
of a petition signed by seven residents in Paris, and the facts are
confirmed by L. Roger, _Officier de Santé_.

From the _Times_, May 6, 1874, p. 11, foot of col. 4.


 “The _Messager du Midi_ relates the following dreadful story:--A young
 married woman residing at Salon (Bouches du Rhône) died shortly after
 her confinement in August last. The medical man, who was hastily
 summoned when her illness assumed a dangerous form, certified her
 death, and recommended immediate burial in consequence of the intense
 heat then prevailing, and six hours afterwards the body was interred.
 A few days since, the husband having resolved to re-marry, the mother
 of his late wife desired to have her daughter’s remains removed to her
 native town, Marseilles. When the vault was opened a horrible sight
 presented itself. The corpse lay in the middle of the vault, with
 dishevelled hair and the linen torn to pieces. It evidently had been
 gnawed in her agony by the unfortunate victim. The shock which the
 dreadful spectacle caused to the mother has been so great that fears
 are entertained for her reason, if not for her life.”

The _British Medical Journal_, December 8, 1877, p. 819, inserts the


 “A correspondent at Naples states that the Appeal Court has had before
 it a case not likely to inspire confidence in the minds of those who
 look forward with horror to the possibility of being buried alive. It
 appeared from the evidence that some time ago a woman was interred
 with all the usual formalities, it being believed that she was dead,
 while she was only in a trance. Some days afterwards, the grave in
 which she had been placed being opened for the reception of another
 body, it was found that the clothes which covered the unfortunate
 woman were torn to pieces, and that she had even broken her limbs in
 attempting to extricate herself from the living tomb. The Court, after
 hearing the case, sentenced the doctor who had signed the certificate
 of decease, and the mayor who had authorised the interment, each to
 three months’ imprisonment for involuntary manslaughter.”

From the _Daily Telegraph_, January 18, 1889.

 “A gendarme was buried alive the other day in a village near Grenoble.
 The man had become intoxicated on potato brandy, and fell into a
 profound sleep. After twenty hours passed in slumber, his friends
 considered him to be dead, particularly as his body assumed the
 usual rigidity of a corpse. When the sexton, however, was lowering
 the remains of the ill-fated gendarme into the grave, he heard moans
 and knocks proceeding from the interior of the ‘four-boards.’ He
 immediately bored holes in the sides of the coffin, to let in air, and
 then knocked off the lid. The gendarme had, however, ceased to live,
 having horribly mutilated his head in his frantic but futile efforts
 to burst his coffin open.”



The _Undertakers’ and Funeral Directors’ Journal_, July 22, 1889,
relates the following cases:--

 “A New York undertaker recently told the following story, the
 circumstances of which are still remembered by old residents of the
 city:--‘About forty years ago a lady living on Division Street, New
 York City, fell dead, apparently, while in the act of dancing at a
 ball. It was a fashionable affair, and being able to afford it, she
 wore costly jewellery. Her husband, a flour merchant, who loved her
 devotedly, resolved that she should be interred in her ball dress,
 diamonds, pearls, and all; also that there should be no autopsy. As
 the weather was very inclement when the funeral reached the cemetery,
 the body was placed in the receiving vault for burial next day. The
 undertaker was not a poor man, but he was avaricious, and he made up
 his mind to possess the jewellery. He went in the night, and took
 the lady’s watch from the folds of her dress. He next began to draw
 a diamond ring from her finger, and in doing so had to use violence
 enough to tear the skin. Then the lady moved and groaned, and the
 thief, terrified and conscience-stricken, fled from the cemetery, and
 has never been since heard from, that I know of. The lady, after the
 first emotions of horror at her unheard-of position had passed over,
 gathered her nerves together and stepped out of the vault, which
 the thief had left open. How she came home I cannot tell; but this
 I know--she lived and had children, two at least of whom are alive

 “Another New York undertaker told this story. The New York papers
 thirty-five years ago were full of its ghastly details. ‘The daughter
 of a Court Street baker died. It was in winter, and the father,
 knowing that a married sister of his dead child, who lived in St.
 Louis, would like to see her face before laid in the grave for ever,
 had the body placed in the vault, waiting her arrival. The sister
 came, the vault was opened, the lid of the coffin taken off, when,
 to the unutterable horror of the friends assembled, they found the
 grave-clothes torn in shreds, and the fingers of both hands eaten off.
 The girl had been buried alive.’

 “Until about forty years ago a noted family of Virginia preserved a
 curious custom, which had been religiously observed for more than a
 century. Over a hundred years ago a member of the family died, and,
 upon being exhumed, was found to have been buried alive. From that
 time until about 1850, every member of the family, man, woman, or
 child, who died, was stabbed in the heart with a knife in the hands of
 the head of the house. The reason for the cessation of this custom was
 that in 1850 or thereabouts a beautiful young girl was supposed to be
 dead, the knife was plunged into her bosom, when she gave vent to a
 fearful scream and died. She had merely been in a trance. The incident
 broke her father’s heart, and in a fit of remorse he killed himself
 not long afterwards.

 “There are many families in the United States who, when any of their
 number dies, insist that an artery be opened to determine whether life
 has fled or not.”

The following remarkable case of waking in the grave is reported from

 “A lady residing at Derbisch, near Kolin, in Bohemia, where she owned
 considerable property, was buried last week, after a brief illness,
 in the family vault at the local cemetery. Four days afterwards her
 granddaughter was interred in the same place, but as the stone slab
 covering the aperture was removed, the bystanders were horrified to
 see that the lid of the coffin below had been raised, and that the arm
 of the corpse was protruding. It was ascertained eventually that the
 unfortunate lady, who was supposed to have died of heart disease, had
 been buried alive. She had evidently recovered consciousness for a few
 minutes, and had found strength enough to burst open her coffin. The
 authorities are bent on taking measures of the utmost severity against
 those responsible.”--_Undertakers’ Journal, August 22, 1889._

The _Undertakers’ and Funeral Directors’ Journal_, July 22, 1890.

 “A horrible story comes from Majola, Mantua. The body of a woman,
 named Lavrinia Merli, a peasant, who was supposed to have died from
 hysterics, was placed in a vault on Thursday, July 3. On Saturday
 evening it was found that the woman had regained consciousness, torn
 her grave-clothes in her struggles, had turned completely over in the
 coffin, and had given birth to a seven-months’-old child. Both mother
 and child were dead when the coffin was opened for the last time
 previous to interment.”

 “A shocking occurrence is reported from Cesa, a little village
 near Naples. A woman living at that place was recently seized with
 sudden illness. A doctor who was called certified that the woman was
 dead, and the body was consequently placed in a coffin, which was
 deposited in the watch-house of the local cemetery. Next day an old
 woman passing close to the cemetery thought she heard smothered cries
 proceeding from the watch-house. The family was informed, but when the
 lid of the coffin was forced off a shocking spectacle presented itself
 to the gaze of the horrified villagers. The wretched woman had turned
 on her side, and the position of her arm showed that she had made a
 desperate effort to raise the lid. The eldest son, who was among the
 persons who broke open the coffin, received such a shock that he died
 three days later.”--_Undertakers’ Journal, September 22, 1893._

The _Progressive Thinker_, of November 14, 1891, relates that:--

 “Farmer George Hefdecker, who lived at Erie, Pa., died very suddenly
 two weeks ago, of what is supposed to have been heart failure. The
 body was buried temporarily four days later in a neighbour’s lot in
 the Erie cemetery pending the purchase of one by his family. The
 transfer was made in a few days, and when the casket was opened at
 the request of his family, a horrifying spectacle was presented. The
 body had turned round, and the face and interior of the casket bore
 the traces of a terrible struggle with death in its most awful shape.
 The distorted and blood-covered features bore evidence of the agony
 endured. The clothing about the head and neck had been torn into
 shreds, as was likewise the lining of the coffin. Bloody marks of
 finger nails on the face, throat, and neck, told of the awful despair
 of the doomed man, who tore his own flesh in his terrible anguish.
 Several fingers had been entirely bitten off, and the hands torn with
 the teeth until they scarcely resembled those of a human being.”

From the London _Echo_, October 6, 1894.


 “A story of a horrible nature comes from St. Petersburg in connection
 with the interment at Tioobayn, near that city, of a peasant girl
 named Antonova. She had presumably died, and in due course the funeral
 took place. After the service at the cemetery, the grave-diggers were
 startled by sounds of moaning proceeding from the coffin. Instead,
 however, of instantly breaking it open, they rushed off to find a
 doctor, and when he and some officials arrived and broke open the
 shell, the unhappy inmate was already the corpse she had been supposed
 to be a day earlier. It was evident, however, that no efforts could
 have saved life at the last moment. The body was half-turned in the
 coffin, the left hand, having escaped its bandages, being under the

The following case, cabled by Dalziel, appears in the London _Star_,
August 19, 1895:--


  “Grenoble, August 17.

 “On Monday last a man was found in a dying condition by the side of
 a brook near the village of Le Pin. Everything possible was done
 for him, but he relapsed into unconsciousness, and became to all
 appearances dead. The funeral was arranged, and, there being no
 suspicion of foul play, the body was interred on the following day.
 The coffin had been lowered to the bottom of the grave, and the
 sexton had begun to cover it with earth, when he heard muffled sounds
 proceeding from it. The earth was hastily removed and the coffin
 opened, when it was discovered that the unfortunate occupant was
 alive. He was taken to a neighbouring house, but rapidly sank into
 a comatose condition, and died without uttering a word. The second
 burial took place yesterday.”

While in India, in the early part of this year (1896), Dr. Roger S.
Chew, of Calcutta, who, having been laid out for dead, and narrowly
escaped living sepulture, has had the best reasons for studying the
subject, gave me particulars of the following cases:--

 “Frank Lascelles, aged thirty-two years, was seated at breakfast with
 a number of us young fellows, and was in the middle of a burst of
 hearty laughter, when his head fell forward on his plate and he was
 ‘dead.’ As there was a distinct history of cardiac disease in his
 family, while he himself had frequently been treated for valvular
 disease of the heart, he was alleged to have ‘died’ of cardiac
 failure, and was duly interred in the Coonor Cemetery. Some six months
 later, permission was obtained to remove his remains to St. John’s
 Church-yard in Ootacamund. The coffin was exhumed, and, as a ‘matter
 of form,’ the lid removed to identify the resident, when, to the
 horror of the lookers-on, it was noticed that, though mummification
 had taken place, there had been a fearful struggle underground, for
 the body, instead of being on its back as it was when first coffined,
 was _lying on its face_, with its arms and legs drawn up as close
 as the confined space would permit. His trousers (a perfectly new
 pair) were burst at the left knee, while his shirt-front was torn to
 ribands and bloodstained, and the wood of that portion of the coffin
 immediately below his mouth was stained a deep reddish-brown-black
 (_blood_). Old Dr. Donaldson, whom we were all very fond of, tried to
 explain matters by saying that the jolting of the coffin on its way
 to the cemetery had overturned the body, and that the blood stains on
 the shirt and wood were the natural result of blood flowing (_i.e._
 oozing) out of the mouth of the corpse as it lay face downwards.
 A nice theory, but scarcely a probable one, as all the jolting in
 creation could not possibly turn a corpse over in an Indian coffin,
 which is so built that there is scarcely two inches spare space over
 any portion of the contained body, and unless the supposed corpse
 regained consciousness and exerted _considerable_ force, it could not
 possibly turn round in its _narrow_ casket.


 “Mary Norah Best, aged seventeen years, an adopted daughter of Mrs.
 C. A. Moore, _née_ Chew, ‘died’ of cholera, and was entombed in the
 Chew’s vault in the old French cemetery, at Calcutta. The certifying
 surgeon was a man who would have benefited by her death, and had twice
 (though ineffectually) attempted to put an end to her adopted mother,
 who fled from India to England after the second attempt on her life,
 but, unfortunately, left the girl behind. When Mary ‘died’ she was
 put into a _pine_ coffin, the lid of which was _nailed_, not screwed,
 down. In 1881, ten years or so later, the vault was unsealed to admit
 the body of Mrs. Moore’s brother, J. A. A. Chew. On entering the
 vault, the undertaker’s assistant and I found the lid of Mary’s coffin
 on the floor, while the position of the skeleton (half in, half out of
 the coffin, and an ugly gash across the right parietal bone) _plainly_
 showed that after being entombed Mary awoke from her trance, struggled
 violently till she wrenched the lid off her coffin, when she either
 fainted away with the strain of the effort in bursting open her
 casket, and while falling forward over the edge of her coffin struck
 her head against the masonry shelf, and died almost immediately;
 or, worse still,--as surmised by some of her clothing which was
 found hanging over the edge of the coffin, and the position of her
 right hand, the fingers of which were bent and close to where her
 throat would have been had the flesh not rotted away,--she recovered
 consciousness, fought for life, forced her coffin open, and, sitting
 up in the pitchy darkness of the vault, went mad with fright, tore her
 clothes off, tried to throttle herself, and banged her head against
 the masonry shelf until she fell forward senseless and dead.”

Dr. Chew says:--“Though a layman, still it would be hard to find
a more indefatigable sanitarian than my late commanding officer,
Lieutenant-Colonel R. C. Sterndale, of the Presidency Volunteer Rifle
Battalion, and for many years vice-chairman of the municipality of the
suburbs of Calcutta. In order to prove his theory that a great deal of
danger existed in the rainy season from subsoil water rising up into
the graves, saturating the bodies, and then poisoning the neighbouring
tanks and wells, he caused a trench, ten feet long, six deep, and four
wide, to be dug across an old Mahomedan grave-yard. Soundings and
measurements having been taken of the subsoil water, he had a tarpaulin
stretched over the trench, and daily measured the ‘fall’ of the
water-level. He had a drawing made of the section of that grave-yard
in which the action of the nitre-laden water seemed to mummify some
of the bodies. Amongst the rest was a somewhat mummified male corpse
which, instead of being on his back, was lying on his abdomen; the left
arm supported the chin, but had a piece of it missing; the right hand
clutched the left elbow, and the general position of the body was as
if, consciousness having returned, the alleged corpse sat up, found
the weight of the earth too heavy to work through, and then, dying of
suffocation, fell forward in the position in which it was found and

Dr. Chew adds:--“I have heard and read of several other instances, but,
as they have not come within my personal observation, I do not mention
or refer to them.”



ALMOST every intelligent and observant person you converse with,
if the subject is introduced, has either known or heard of narrow
escapes of premature burial within his or her own circle of friends
or acquaintances; and it is no exaggeration to say that such cases
are numbered by thousands. It is to be hoped that the number of
timely discoveries vastly exceed those actually interred in a state
of suspended animation; but as no investigation of grave-yards or
cemeteries (which effectually conceal their own tragedies) has ever
taken place in England until the remains are reduced to dust, and
rarely in other countries, one cannot be sure that this optimistic view
is correct. The following cases of narrow escape appear to rest upon
trustworthy evidence.

An apparent suspension of life, following a serious illness, is usually
considered a satisfactory proof of the reality of the expected death;
but these conditions cannot always be relied upon. Cases are on record
where the objects of such simulacra of death appear, if let alone, to
gather the essence of renewed vitality, and return to consciousness.
The _Undertakers’ and Funeral Directors’ Journal_ of May, 1888, has a
case in point.


 “Mrs. Lockhart, of Birkhill, who died in 1825, used to relate to
 her grandchildren the following anecdote of her ancestor, Sir
 William Lindsay, of Covington, towards the close of the seventeenth
 century:--‘Sir William was a humorist, and noted, moreover, for
 preserving the picturesque appendage of a beard at a period when the
 fashion had long passed away. He had been extremely ill, and life
 was at last supposed to be extinct, though, as it afterwards turned
 out, he was merely in a “dead faint” or trance. The female relatives
 were assembled for the “chesting”--the act of putting a corpse into a
 coffin, with the entertainment given on such melancholy occasions--in
 a lighted chamber in the old tower of Covington, where the “bearded
 knight” lay stretched upon his bier. But when the servants were
 about to enter to assist at the ceremonies, Isabella Somerville, Sir
 William’s great-granddaughter, and Mrs. Lockhart’s grandmother, then
 a child, creeping close to her mother, whispered into her ear, “The
 beard is wagging! the beard is wagging!” Mrs. Somerville, upon this,
 looked to the bier, and observing indications of life in the ancient
 knight, made the company retire, and Sir William soon came out of his
 faint. Hot bottles were applied and cordials administered, and in
 the course of the evening he was able to converse with his family.
 They explained that they had believed him to be actually dead, and
 that arrangements had even been made for his funeral. In answer to
 the question, “Have the folks been warned?” (_i.e._, invited to the
 funeral) he was told that they had--that the funeral day had been
 fixed, an ox slain, and other preparations made for entertaining the
 company. Sir William then said, “All is as it should be; keep it a
 dead secret that I am in life, and let the folks come.” His wishes
 were complied with, and the company assembled for the burial at the
 appointed time. After some delay, occasioned by the non-arrival of
 the clergyman, as was supposed, and which afforded an opportunity of
 discussing the merits of the deceased, the door suddenly opened, when,
 to their surprise and terror, in stepped the knight himself, pale in
 countenance and dressed in black, leaning on the arm of the minister
 of the parish of Covington. Having quieted their alarm and explained
 matters, he called upon the clergyman to conduct an act of devotion,
 which included thanksgiving for his recovery and escape from being
 buried alive. This done, the dinner succeeded. A jolly evening, after
 the manner of the time, was passed, Sir William himself presiding over
 the carousals.’”

Dr. J. B. Vigné, in his “Memoire sur les Inhumations Précipitées,”
Paris, 1839, narrates the following:-- “Mr. B., an inhabitant of
Poitiers, fell suddenly into a state resembling death; every means
for bringing him back to life were used without interruption; from
continued dragging, his two little fingers were dislocated, and the
soles of his feet were burnt; but, all these having produced no
sensation in him, he was thought decidedly dead. As they were on the
point of placing him in his coffin, some one recommended that he should
be bled in both arms and feet at the same time, which was immediately
done, and with such success that, to the astonishment of all, he
recovered from his apparent state of death. When he had entirely
recovered his senses, he declared that he had heard every word that had
been said, and that his only fear was that he would be buried alive.”


Hufeland (one of the greatest authorities on the subject in Germany),
in his essay upon the uncertainty of the signs of death, tells of a
case of the wife of Professor Camerer, of Tübingen, who was hysterical,
and had a fright in the sixth month of her pregnancy, which brought
on convulsions (eclampsia), which continued for four hours, when she
seemed to die completely. Two celebrated physicians, besides three
others of less note, regarded the case as ended in death, as all the
recognised signs of death were present. However, attempts to revive
her were at once resorted to, and were continued for five hours, when
all the medical attendants, except one, gave the case up, and left.
The physician who remained pulled off a blister-plaster that had
been put on one of the feet, when the lady gave feeble signs of life
by twitchings about the mouth. The doctor then renewed his efforts
to revive her, by various stimulating means, and by burning, and by
pricking the spine; but all in vain, for after her slight evidences of
revival, she seemed to die unmistakably. She lay in a state of apparent
death for six days, but there was a small space over the heart where a
little warmth could be detected by the hand, and on this account the
burial was put off. On the seventh day she opened her eyes, and slowly
revived, but was completely unconscious of all that had happened. She
then gave birth to a dead child, and soon thereafter recovered her
health completely.

       *       *       *       *       *


From the _Lancet_, November 27, 1858, p. 561.


 “It seems to be always desirable to obtain a contemporary record
 of all unusual phenomena. It is so more especially where they are
 of a somewhat indefinite character, and scarcely susceptible of
 exaggeration. We know of none which are more so than the cases of
 ‘trance.’ These examples are both sufficiently unusual to deserve a
 passing record, and sufficiently mysterious in their character to call
 for a more careful investigation than it has hitherto been possible to
 accord to them. We transcribe the facts of a recent instance, as they
 are circumstantially detailed, and, no doubt, some of the surgeons of
 Coventry will be able to afford their testimony as to the degree of
 correspondence of this narrative with their observations. “The girl,
 whose name is Amelia Hinks, is twelve or thirteen years of age, and
 resides with her parents in Bridge Street, Nuneaton. She had lately
 appeared to be sinking under the influence of some ill-explained
 disorder, and about three weeks since, as her friends imagined, she
 died. The body was removed to another room. It was rigid and icy cold.
 It was washed and laid out with all due funeral train. The limbs were
 decently placed, the eyelids closed and penny-pieces laid over them.
 The coffin was ordered. For more than forty-eight hours the supposed
 corpse lay beneath the winding-sheet, when it happened that her
 grandfather, coming from Leamington to assist in the last mournful
 ceremonies, went to see the corpse. The old man removed a penny-piece,
 and he thought that the corpse winked! There was a convulsive movement
 of the lid. This greatly disturbed his composure; for, though he had
 heard that she died with her eyes open, he was unprepared for this
 palpebral signal of her good understanding with death. A surgeon is
 said to have been summoned, who at first treated the matter as a
 delusion, but subsequently ascertained stethoscopically that there
 was still slight cardiac pulsation. The body was then removed to a
 warm room, and gradually the returning signs of animation became
 unequivocal. When speech was restored, the girl described many things
 which had taken place since her supposed death. She knew who had
 closed her eyes and placed the coppers thereon. She also heard the
 order given for her coffin, and could repeat the various remarks made
 over her as she lay in her death-clothes. She refused food, though in
 a state of extreme debility. She has since shown symptoms of mania,
 and is now said to have relapsed into a semi-cataleptic condition. The
 parents are ‘creditable people,’ and there is no apparent ruse in this
 unusually romantic history, which is causing considerable excitement
 in Nuneaton and its neighbourhood.”

       *       *       *       *       *

From the _Lancet_, December 18, 1858, p. 642.


  “(To the Editor of the _Lancet_.)

 “Sir,--An article, ‘The Dead Alive,’ in your impression of the 27th
 ultimo, demands of me a veritable statement of the case alluded to.
 The subject of the inquiry is still living, and for some time past has
 afforded me scope for observation.


 “I have only been waiting for a termination of the case, either in
 convalescence or death, to enable me to give to the profession,
 through your valuable columns, a full and truthful history of this
 rare and curious case, replete with interest. The exaggerated
 statement which has gone the round of the press has produced such
 great curiosity in this immediate neighbourhood that I have been
 applied to by many parties, professional and non-professional, to be
 permitted to see the case, the parents of the patient having refused
 admittance to all strangers.

 “The case having extended over a long period, and fearing a detailed
 account might occupy too much of your valuable space, I have condensed
 the matter as much as possible; but should the profession consider
 the case worthy of a more enlarged history, I will gladly, at some
 future period, meet their wishes, as far as my rough notes, aided by
 my memory, will supply it.

 “In August, 1858, I was requested to visit Miss Amelia Hincks, aged
 twelve years and nine months, daughter of a harness-maker, and
 residing with her parents in Bridge Street, Nuneaton. She was supposed
 to be suffering from pulmonary consumption.... On October 18, about
 half-past three a.m., she apparently died. She is said to have groaned
 heavily, waved her hands (which was a promised sign for her mother
 to know that the hour of her departure was come), turned her head
 a little to the light, dropped her jaw, and _died_. In about half
 an hour after her supposed departure she was washed, and attired in
 clean linen, the jaw was tied by a white handkerchief, penny-pieces
 laid over her eyes, her hands, semi-clenched, placed by her side,
 and her feet tied together by a piece of tape. She was then carried
 into another room, laid on a sofa, and covered over with a sheet. She
 appeared stiff and cold, two large books were placed on her feet, and
 I have no doubt she was considered to be a sweet corpse.

 “About nine a.m., the grandfather of the supposed dead went into the
 death-chamber to give a last kiss to his grandchild, when he fancied
 he saw a convulsive movement of the eyelid, he having raised one of
 the coins. He communicated this fact to the parents and mourning
 friends, but they ridiculed the old man’s statement, and said the
 movement of the eyelids was owing to the nerves working after death.
 Their theory, however, did not satisfy the experienced man of eighty
 years, and he could not reconcile himself to her death. As soon as
 I reached home, after having been out in the country all night, I
 was requested to see the child, to satisfy the old man that she was
 really dead. About half-past ten a.m. I called; and immediately
 on my entrance into the chamber I perceived a tremulous condition
 of the eyelids, such as we frequently see in hysterical patients.
 The penny-pieces had been removed by the grandfather. I placed a
 stethoscope over the region of the heart, and found that organ
 performing its functions perfectly and with tolerable force. I then
 felt for a radial pulse, which was easily detected, beating feebly,
 about seventy-five per minute. The legs and arms were stiff and cold,
 and the capillary circulation was so congested as at first sight to
 resemble incipient decomposition. I carefully watched the chest, which
 heaved quietly but almost imperceptibly; and immediately unbandaged
 the maiden, and informed her mourning parents that she was not dead.
 Imagine their consternation! The passing-bell had rung, the shutters
 were closed, the undertaker was on his way to measure her for her
 coffin, and other necessary preparations were being made for her
 interment. [The writer then proceeds to give interesting details as to
 the treatment of the case, and the means taken to promote recovery.]


 “Bridge Street, Nuneaton, December 14, 1858.”

From the _Lancet_, March 5, 1859, p. 254.


 “Another case of trance is reported, in addition to those which we
 have lately recorded. A widow named Aufray, about sixty years of age,
 of St. Agnan de Cenuières (Eure), long seriously ill, became suddenly
 worse, grew cold and motionless, and, as it was thought, dead. She
 was laid out, the coffin ordered, and the church bell tolled. She
 recovered consciousness just before the funeral was to take place.”



The _Medical Times_, London, 1866, vol. i., p. 258, under the heading
“Buried Alive” remarks as follows:--“The abundance of other topics
hinders us at present from saying more than a few words on the
conditions under which there may be real danger of burial before life
is quite extinct. Now, we will only reproduce the cases reported by
Cardinal Archbishop Donnet, in the French Senate, in a discussion
on a petition that the time between death and burial should be
lengthened. We will add one instance, which we have heard on the best
authority:--About thirty years ago, a young woman of eighteen, daughter
of Madame Laligand, living in the Rue des Tonnelliers, at Beaune,
in Burgundy, was supposed to have died. The ordinary measures were
taken for interment. The body was put in a coffin, and taken to the
church; the funeral service was said, and the _cortége_ set out for
the cemetery; but on the road between the church and the cemetery the
supposed dead recovered power of motion and speech, was removed from
the coffin, put to bed, recovered, married, and lived eighteen years
afterwards. She said she retained her consciousness during the whole
of her supposed death, and had counted the nails that were driven
into her coffin. Statements such as these, and such as those made by
the Archbishop, will surely be subjected to the ordeal of a French
scientific commission, and we may suspend our judgment for the present.
To return to his Eminence. He said he had the very best reasons for
believing that the victims of hasty interments were more numerous than
people supposed. He considered the rules and regulations prescribed by
the law very judicious; but, unfortunately, they were, particularly in
the country, not always executed as they should be, nor was sufficient
importance attached to them. In the village he was stationed in as
an assistant-curate in the first period of his sacerdotal life, he
saved two persons from being buried alive. The first an aged man, who
lived twelve hours after the hour prescribed for his interment by the
municipal officer; the second was a man who was quite restored to life.
In both cases a trance more prolonged than usual was taken for actual
death. The other instances, says the _Times’_ correspondent, I give in
the words of the Archbishop:--

 “‘The next case that occurred to me was at Bordeaux. A young lady, who
 bore one of the most distinguished names in the Department, had passed
 through what was supposed the last agony, and, as apparently all was
 over, the father and mother were torn away from the heartrending
 spectacle. As God willed it, I happened to pass the door of the house
 at the moment, when it occurred to me to call and inquire how the
 young lady was going on. When I entered the room, the nurse, finding
 the body breathless, was in the act of covering the face, and, indeed,
 there was every appearance that life had departed. Somehow or other,
 it did not seem to me so certain as to the bystanders. I lady not to
 give up all hope--that I was come to cure her, and that I was about
 to pray by her side. “You do not see me,” I said, “but you hear what
 I am saying.” My presentiments were not unfounded. The word of hope I
 uttered reached her ear and effected a marvellous change, or, rather,
 called back the life that was departing. The young girl survived; she
 is now a wife, and mother of children, and this day is the happiness
 of two most respectable families.’

“The Archbishop mentioned another instance of a similar revival in a
town in Hungary during the cholera of 1831, which he heard that day
from one of his colleagues of the Senate, as they were mounting the
staircase. But the last related is so interesting, and made such a
sensation, that it deserves to be repeated in his own words:--


 “‘In the summer of 1826, on a close summer day, in a church which was
 exceedingly crowded, a young priest, who was in the act of preaching,
 was suddenly seized with giddiness in the pulpit. The words he was
 uttering became indistinct; he soon lost the power of speech, and
 sank down on the floor. He was taken out of the church and carried
 home. All was thought to be over. Some hours after, the funeral bell
 was tolled, and the usual preparations made for the interment. His
 eyesight was gone: but if he could see nothing, like the young lady I
 have alluded to he could hear, and I need not say that what reached
 his ears was not calculated to reassure him. The doctor came, examined
 him, and pronounced him dead; and after the usual inquiries as to
 his age and the place of his birth, etc., gave permission for his
 interment next morning. The venerable bishop, in whose cathedral the
 young priest was preaching when he was seized with the fit, came to
 his bedside to recite the “De Profundis.” The body was measured for
 the coffin. Night came on, and you will easily feel how inexpressible
 was the anguish of the living being in such a situation. At last,
 amid the voices murmuring around him, he distinguished that of one
 whom he had known from infancy. That voice produced a marvellous
 effect and superhuman effort. Of what followed I need say no more
 than that the seemingly dead man stood next day in the same pulpit.
 That young priest, gentlemen, is the same man who is now speaking
 before you, and who, more than forty years after that event, implores
 those in authority, not merely to watch vigilantly over the careful
 execution of the legal prescriptions with regard to interments, but
 to enact fresh ones in order to prevent the recurrence of irreparable

To this report of the _Medical Times_ it may be added that the
petition of M. de Carnot furnished statistics showing the frequency of
these terrible disasters, and suggested various preventive measures,
including the establishment of mortuaries, a longer interval between
death and burial, and the application of scientific methods of
restoration where decomposition is not manifest. The reality of the
terrible dangers, as pointed out by Cardinal Donnet, was confirmed by
Senators Tourangin and Viscount de Baral, in the recital of other cases
of premature interment.

When the subject was revived in the Senate on January 29, 1869--on
which occasion five petitions were presented, urging important reforms,
and detailing other cases of premature interment,--Cardinal Donnet
again took part in the debate, and urged that no burial should be
permitted without the signature of a doctor or officer of health, as
well as the written authorisation of the Mayor, so that the fact of
death might always be verified. The Cardinal then furnished particulars
of another recent case of premature interment in l’Est, and recalled
the fact that one of their honourable colleagues of the Senate, M. le
Comte de la Rue, had had a narrow escape from live sepulture.

The several petitions were forwarded to the Minister of the Interior,
but nothing was done to remedy the evil.

From the _Lancet_, June 2, 1866, p. 611.


“In the course of the address delivered by Dr. Brewer to the Guardians
of St. George’s at St. James’s Hall, he adverted to the ‘laying-out’
case at St. Pancras.... Dr. Brewer ... dwelt upon the question of
suspended animation in a passage which really deserves to be quoted....


 “‘I have been more than once under a condition of apparently suspended
 respiration, and with circumstances less comfortable than those
 related of this babe; and yet, active as is my brain, and sensitive
 as is my body, I remember as well as though it were but yesterday
 that, on being restored to consciousness, no feeling of discomfort
 of any kind attended my experience on either occasion. It is under
 the truth to say I have known a score of cases of those who have been
 supposed dead being reanimated. It is not many months ago a friend of
 mine, a rector of a suburban parish, was pronounced by his medical
 attendant to be dead. His bed was arranged, and the room left in its
 silence. His daughter had re-entered and sat at the foot, and the
 solemn toll of his own church bell was vibrating through the chamber,
 when a hand drew aside the closed curtain, and a voice came from the
 occupant of the bed--“Elizabeth, my dear, what is that bell tolling
 for?” The daughter’s response was, perhaps, an unfortunate one: “_For
 you, papa._” Schwartz, the first eminent Indian missionary, was roused
 from his supposed death by hearing his favourite hymn sung over him
 previous to the last rites being performed, and his resuscitation made
 known by his joining in the verse.’”

Dr. B. W. Richardson quotes a case in the _Lancet_, 1888, vol.
ii., p. 1179, of a man who, in 1869, was rendered cataleptic by a
lightning-stroke, and who narrowly escaped living burial.

Dr. Moore Russell Fletcher in his work on “Suspended Animation,” p. 26,

 “In June, 1869, a girl in Cleveland, Ohio, was taken ill, and after a
 short sickness died, and was laid out for burial; but as her mother
 insisted that she was not dead, efforts were made for some time to
 restore her to life, but in vain. Her mother, however, refused to let
 her be buried; and on the fifth day after that set for the funeral
 the slamming of a door aroused her, so that she recovered. She stated
 that, during most of the eight days which she lay there, she was
 conscious and heard what was said, although wholly unable to make the
 least motion.”

Dr. M. S. Tanner in a letter to the _New York Times_, January 18, 1880,
mentions two cases where persons awakened from trance at the moment of
sepulture described in turn what their feelings had been. Said one:--

 “Have you ever felt the paralysing influence of a horrible nightmare?
 If you have had such experience, then you are prepared to conceive of
 the mental agonies I endured when I realised that my friends believed
 me dead, and were making preparations for my burial. The hours and
 days of mental struggle spent in the vain endeavour to break loose
 from the vice-like grasp of this worse than horrible nightmare was a
 hell of torment such as no tongue can describe or pen portray.”


The other instance mentioned by Dr. Tanner is that of Dr. Johnson of
St. Charles, Illinois, who in the hearing of Dr. Tanner, and in the
presence of a large audience in Harrison’s Hall, Minneapolis, stated
that when a young man he was prostrated with a fever. He swooned away,
apparently dead. His attending physician said he was dead. His father
was faithless and unbelieving, and refused to bury him. He lay in this
condition, apparently dead, fourteen days. The attending physician
brought other physicians to examine the apparently lifeless form, and
all stated unqualifiedly, “He is dead.” Some fourteen physicians, among
them many eminent professors, examined the body, and there was no
ambiguity in the expression of their conclusion that the boy was dead.
But the father still turned a deaf ear to all entreaties to prepare
the body for the grave. Public feeling was at last aroused. The health
officer and other city officers, acting in their official capacity, and
by the advice of physicians, peremptorily demanded that the body be
interred without delay. On the fourteenth day the father yielded under
protest; preparations were made for the funeral, when the emotions of
the still living subject, who was conscious of all transpiring around
him, were so intense as to be the means of his deliverance. He awoke
from his trance.

From the _Lancet_, June 7, 1884, p. 1058.


 “(To the Editor of the _Lancet_.)

 “Sir,--Without venturing to express an opinion on the case mentioned
 by the Rev. D. Williams[5] in the _Lancet_ of the 24th inst., I
 would beg to say that I have no doubt in my own mind but that people
 are sometimes ‘buried alive.’ An instance has come to my knowledge
 where this catastrophe was only avoided by a mere accident. A lady,
 about forty-five years of age, the wife of a clergyman in a northern
 county, was taken ill, and after some time, as was supposed, died.
 The funeral was delayed, and so was the closing of the coffin, in
 consequence of the absence of a son of the lady from home. When the
 boy arrived, the kissing, wailing, and commotion roused the supposed
 dead woman, and brought her to consciousness in her coffin. This
 lady would most probably have been buried alive were it not that the
 obsequies were delayed on account of the circumstance mentioned.

 “Now, may not cases more or less similar to this sometimes occur, with
 the catastrophe of ‘buried alive’ added to them? But no such case
 could happen if it were made compulsory that the interment of a body
 should not be allowed to take place until after decomposition had set
 in, as attested by a medical man.

  “I am, Sir, yours truly,

  “WM. O’NEILL, M.D.

 “Lincoln, May 26, 1884.”

It is not always safe to conclude that persons enfeebled by age, or
exhausted by long and severe illness, and pronounced dead by the
attendant doctor, are really so. _The Undertakers’ Journal_, August 23,
1886, has the following:--

 “It appears that George O. Daniels, of Clinton, Kentucky, had been ill
 for several months, and at length, to all appearance, died. The body
 was put in a coffin, where it remained for twenty hours, awaiting the
 arrival of relatives to attend the funeral. At midnight the watchers
 who surrounded the coffin were startled by a deep groan emanating from
 it, and all but one, a German of the name of Wabbeking, rushed from
 the room. Wabbeking remained, and as the groans continued he raised
 the coffin-lid and saw that Daniels was alive. Seizing the body he
 placed it upright. A few spasmodic gasps, a shudder, and the corpse
 spoke. The relatives returned to find the man sitting in a chair, and
 conversing with reasonable strength. Mr. Daniels claims to have been
 perfectly conscious of everything which passed around him, but says he
 was unable to move a muscle. He heard the sobs of his relatives when
 he was pronounced dead by the doctors, and noticed the preparations
 for the funeral. He is about eighty years of age.”

The same journal for July 23, 1888, reports the following under the
head of



 “The following details are given by the Cincinnati correspondent of
 the _New York Herald_ from Memphis, Tennessee:--Mrs. Dicie Webb keeps
 a grocery store on Beale Street, and is well known to hundreds. Two
 years ago John Webb, a son of Mrs. Webb, married Sarah Kelly, a pretty
 girl, to whom the mother-in-law became greatly attached. Before one
 year of their married life had passed, Mrs. Webb, jun., was stricken
 with consumption, and on several occasions came near dying. About a
 month ago the young woman became very anxious to visit her parents in
 Henderson County, and she was taken there. At first she appeared much
 improved, and hopes were felt that her life might be preserved through
 the summer, but two weeks ago last Tuesday a telegram announced her
 death, and the husband hurried to her parents’ home. Three days later
 he returned with the corpse. The mother-in-law pleaded so hard for a
 sight of the dead woman, that finally, despite the belief that the
 body was badly decomposed, it was decided to open the coffin. While
 looking at the placid face Mrs. Webb was terrified at beholding the
 eyelids of the dead woman slowly opening. The eyes did not have the
 stony stare of death, nor the intelligent gleam of life. Mrs. Webb
 was unable to utter a sound. She could not move, but stood gazing at
 the gruesome sight. Her horror was increased when the supposed corpse
 slowly sat upright and, in an almost inaudible voice, said, ‘Oh,
 where am I?’ At this the weeping woman screamed. Friends who rushed
 into the room were almost paralysed at the sight, and fled shrieking.
 But one bolder than the others returned and spoke to the woman, who
 asked to be laid on the bed. Hastily she was taken from the coffin
 and cared for. In the course of the day the resurrected woman fully
 regained her mental powers. The day following she related a wonderful
 story. She said she was cognisant of all that occurred, and did not
 lose consciousness until she was put aboard the train for Memphis.
 Soon after being placed in her mother-in-law’s house she came to her
 senses and knew all that was passing. While her mother-in-law was
 looking at her she made a supreme effort to speak. Mrs. Webb lived a
 number of days, when she again apparently died. The doctors pronounced
 her dead, and she was once more placed in the coffin. While the
 mother-in-law was taking her final farewell she heard a voice whisper,
 ‘Mother, don’t cry.’ Looking into the girl’s face, she saw the same
 look that she had noticed before. She called for help, and several
 women responded. Some one cried, ‘Shake her; she’s not dead.’ In the
 excitement of the moment, the women, it is thought, shook the life out
 of the poor consumptive, and last Saturday she was buried. The family
 and friends have endeavoured to keep the matter quiet.”

The _Daily Telegraph_, January 26, 1889, reports:--


 “A Rochester correspondent telegraphs that a woman named Girvin,
 living at Burham, near Rochester, has just had a narrow escape of
 being buried alive. She fell into a kind of trance, which was mistaken
 for death. The coffin was ordered, and the usual preparations made for
 a funeral. But while a number of the relatives were gathered at the
 bedside bewailing their bereavement, the supposed corpse startled them
 by suddenly rising up in bed and asking what was the matter. The woman
 is making good progress towards convalescence.”

And on July 6, 1889, the same journal says:--


 “Our St. Leonards correspondent telegraphs:--About a week ago the wife
 of a well-known tradesman in St. Leonards fell ill, and on Monday
 night last the doctor gave his opinion that she could not live through
 the next day. On Tuesday morning at ten o’clock the doctor pronounced
 his patient dead, the nurse who was in attendance confirming the
 opinion. The intimation of death naturally created great distress
 among the friends of the woman, who was laid out in grave-clothes,
 washed, and prepared for burial, and, being a Roman Catholic, a
 crucifix was placed in her hand as she lay on her bier. When it was
 announced that the woman was dying, a priest was sent for; but he
 could not attend, as he was out of the town at the time.

 “About a quarter to ten on Tuesday night the nurse entered the room
 without a light for the purpose of getting something which she knew
 where to find. Whilst in the darkened chamber she was startled to
 hear a slight cry proceeding from the bed where the body lay, and
 she rushed from the room in a terrible fright. The widower, hearing
 the scream of fright, rushed into the chamber with a light, and was
 astounded to find that his wife had raised herself up in the bed on
 her elbow. She faintly uttered the words, ‘Where am I?’ and again
 relapsed into a heavy sleep. The opportunity was seized of changing
 the shroud for proper habiliments, and in about an hour and a half
 she woke again perfectly conscious. Next morning she was told of what
 had occurred, but was quite ignorant of everything that had passed,
 thinking she had only had a long sleep. She is now doing well, and it
 is hoped she will soon be restored to health and strength. The doctor
 describes the case as the most remarkable he has ever met with in his

Dr. Frederick A. Floyer, of Mortimer, Berks, published the
following-case in the _Tocsin_, November 1, 1889, vol. i., p. 84, under
the head of “Premature Burial”:--

“A narrow escape of this was recently communicated direct to the
writer, and as it has some extremely important bearings on the value
of what are usually considered to be evidences of death, we give it as
told by the survivor, who is still alive in the form of a cheery and
intelligent old lady in the fullest possession of her faculties and

“Herself the wife of a medical officer attached to the--th Regiment,
she was stationed at---- Island, where at the age of twenty-eight she
was safely confined. Shortly after this she was walking out with an
attendant when she was taken suddenly ill with a painful spasm of the
heart--what appears to have been an attack of angina pectoris--and was
conveyed in-doors and propped up with pillows, suffering great pain,
and although medical attendance was summoned, nothing was of avail,
and she died--at least in the opinion of those around her, who paid
the proper attention to what they regarded as a corpse. It was the
custom there to bury at sundown any one who died during the day. We
understand that in warm countries it is difficult to close the eyelids
properly, and so this lady, lying motionless and rigid, contemplated
with perfectly clear perception, but with an utter indifference, the
bringing in of the coffin and the necessary preparations for her
interment; she remembers her children coming to take a last look at
her, and then being taken down stairs.

“She would never have lived to tell the story but for an accident,
which happened in this way. Her nurse, who was much attached to her,
was stroking her face and the muscles of her jaw, and presently
declared she heard a sound of breathing. Medical assistance was
summoned, and the mirror test applied, but the surface was undimmed.
Then, to make sure, they opened a vein in each arm, but no blood
flowed. No limb responded to stimulus, and they declared that the nurse
was mistaken, and that the body was dead beyond doubt.

“But the nurse persisted in her belief and in her attentions, and did
succeed in establishing a sign of life. Then mustard applications to
her feet and to the back of her neck, and burnt feathers applied to her
nostrils, which she remembered burning her nose, completed her return
to consciousness.”

       *       *       *       *       *

From the _Pall Mall Gazette_, May 11, 1891.



 “A Penn Station telegram to Dalziel says:--A singular case of
 simulation of death from fright occurred here on Saturday. Mrs.
 Sarseville, the wife of a farmer in this county, was in the cow-house
 attending to the dairy work when she saw a nest of squirming snakes
 through a hole in the plank floor. She fell to the ground apparently
 lifeless with fright. Help was summoned, and she was carried into the
 house. Before the physician arrived Mrs. Sarseville had begun to turn
 black, and he pronounced her dead, giving a certificate, in which he
 assigned apoplexy as the cause. During the night Mrs. Sarseville’s
 daughter sat beside the coffin of her mother, lamenting her death.
 Just before daybreak she was startled to see the body move. She was
 more shocked when her mother opened her eyes and sat bolt upright in
 her coffin. The supposed corpse was no less startled than the girl
 to find herself dressed in grave-clothes and lying in a coffin. Help
 was summoned, and the lady helped out of her narrow bed and into
 her ordinary clothes. She took breakfast with the family yesterday
 morning, and seemed none the worse for her ghastly experience.”

From the _British Medical Journal_, March 12, 1892, p. 577.


 “The _Temps_ publishes a case of premature burial prevented by the
 daughter of the supposed dead man, who, on kissing her father,
 perceived that his body was not cold. The funeral _cortége_ was
 on the point of starting. Suitable measures restored the man to
 consciousness, and he opened his eyes and uttered one or two words.
 His condition is serious, but he is alive. This incident occurred at
 Vagueray, near Lyons.”

From the _Echo_, London, May 13, 1893.


  “Limoges, May 13.

 “A woman has just had a narrow escape of being buried alive here. She
 was subject to epileptic fits, and during one of these a few days ago
 was pronounced to be dead. The arrangements for interment were made in
 due course, and as the coffin was being borne into the church some of
 the mourners said they heard a knocking inside. The party listened,
 and distinct taps were heard. No time was lost in wrenching off the
 lid of the coffin. It was then found that the woman was alive and
 conscious, although terribly frightened at the awful ordeal through
 which she had passed. A doctor was quickly in attendance, and under
 his direction the supposed corpse was removed from the coffin and
 placed on a litter for conveyance home again.”

The _Undertakers’ Journal_, July 22, 1893, says:--

 “Charles Walker was supposed to have died suddenly at St. Louis a
 few days ago, and a burial certificate was obtained in due course
 from the coroner’s office. The body was lying in the coffin, and the
 relatives took a farewell look at the features, and withdrew as the
 undertaker’s assistants advanced to screw down the lid. One of the
 undertaker’s men noticed, however, that the position of the body in
 the coffin seemed to have undergone some slight change, and called
 attention to the fact. Suddenly, without any warning, the ‘corpse’ sat
 up in the coffin and gazed round the room. A physician was summoned,
 restoratives were applied, and in half an hour the supposed corpse was
 in a warm bed, sipping weak brandy and water, taking a lively interest
 in the surroundings. Heart-failure had produced a species of syncope
 resembling death that deceived even experts.”

From the _Undertakers’ Journal_, August 22, 1893.


 “A marvellous case of suspended animation is described from the
 British colony of Lagos, where an old woman named Oseni came to
 life when she was at the cemetery about to be buried. The mourners
 had assembled at the cemetery, and, in accordance with the Mahomedan
 rule, the body was lifted from the coffin to be buried, when several
 distinct coughs were given by the supposed corpse. She was at once
 released from the clothes which bound her, and the old woman, to the
 surprise and amazement of those present, sat upright and opened her
 eyes. Some gruel was then procured, of which she partook with evident

From the _Daily Telegraph_, London, December 12, 1893.



  “Berlin, December 11.

 “From Militsch, in Silesia, an extraordinary case of trance is
 reported. It seems that, owing to the grave not being in readiness,
 some delay occurred in the burial of a lady, the wife of a major in
 the army, who to all appearance had died. On the fourth day after
 the lady’s supposed death the maid was placing fresh flowers round
 the coffin, when she was much startled at seeing the body move, and
 finally assume an erect position. The lady had evidently been in a
 state of coma during the past four days, and narrowly escaped being
 buried alive.”

The _Banner of Light_, Boston, July 28, 1894, quotes the following case
of apparent sudden death from the _Boston Post_:--


 “Sprakers, a village not far from Rondout, N.Y., was treated to a
 sensation Tuesday, July 10, by the supposed resurrection from the dead
 of Miss Eleanor Markham, a young woman of respectability, who to all
 appearance had died on Sunday, July 8.

 “Miss Markham about a fortnight ago complained of heart trouble, and
 was treated by Dr. Howard. She grew weaker gradually, and on Sunday
 morning apparently breathed her last, to the great grief of her
 relatives, by whom she was much beloved. The doctor pronounced her
 dead, and furnished the usual burial certificate.

 “Undertaker Jones took charge of the funeral arrangements. On account
 of the warm weather it was decided that the interment should take
 place Tuesday, and in the morning Miss Markham was put in the coffin.

 “After her relatives had taken the last look on what they supposed was
 their beloved dead, the lid of the coffin was fastened on, and the
 undertaker and his assistant took it to the hearse waiting outside.
 As they approached the hearse a noise was heard, and the coffin was
 put down and opened in short order. Behold! there was poor Eleanor
 Markham lying on her back, her face white and contorted, and her eyes

 “‘My God!’ she cried, in broken accents. ‘Where am I? You are burying
 me alive.’ ‘Hush! child,’ said Dr. Howard, who happened to be present.
 ‘You are all right. It is a mistake easily rectified.’

 “The girl was then taken into the house and placed on the bed,
 when she fainted. While the doctor was administering stimulating
 restoratives the trappings of woe were removed, and the hearse drove
 away with more cheerful rapidity than a hearse was ever driven before.

       *       *       *       *       *

 “‘I was conscious all the time you were making preparations to bury
 me,’ she said, ‘and the horror of my situation is altogether beyond
 description. I could hear everything that was going on, even a whisper
 outside the door, and although I exerted all my will-power, and made
 a supreme physical effort to cry out, I was powerless.... At first I
 fancied the bearers would not hear me, but when I felt one end of the
 coffin falling suddenly, I knew that I had been heard.’

 “Miss Markham is on a fair way to recovery, and what is strange is
 that the flutterings of the heart that brought on her illness are

From the _Echo_, January 18, 1895.


 “An extraordinary affair is reported from Heap Bridge, Heywood.
 Yesterday a woman was supposed to have died, and she was washed, laid
 out, and measured for her coffin, a piece of linen being placed over
 her mouth. Eight hours later, however, as two women were engaged in
 the room, the supposed corpse blew the linen away, and raised herself
 up in bed. The two women were terribly frightened, and in their hasty
 retreat both tumbled downstairs, and are now suffering from slight
 injuries, as well as shock. Some time elapsed before any one else
 could be induced to enter the house, but eventually several persons
 went in together, and found the woman still sitting up in bed. She
 was exceedingly weak. Later, however, she succumbed, and the doctor
 expressed the opinion that her death was accelerated by shock. During
 the night the woman conversed with her son, who had carried her
 upstairs for dead, and told him of the awful sensation she felt whilst
 unable to speak during the washing and laying out of her body.”

The following letter appeared in the London _Daily Chronicle_ of
September 24, 1895:--



 “Sir,--To your interesting correspondence on ‘Buried Alive,’ I would
 add the following, which I had directly from the mouth of one who but
 for the faithfulness of her husband would probably have been added to
 the number. I knew her quite well. She was the daughter of a physician
 in my native town, and her husband was a professor of music, and I
 will tell the incident as nearly as I can remember in her own words.
 She said:--‘I had in my early married life a dread of there being any
 mistake made about my death, and begged my husband that, should he
 survive me, he would watch my body himself, which he promised he would
 do. Some time after this, I was overtaken by a most terrible attack
 of fever, succeeded by entire exhaustion, and I, as my attendants
 believed, died, and was accordingly laid out for burial. My good
 husband was true to his promise, and he, with my sister, watched the
 corpse, and in the night they perceived some indication of returning
 life, and of course means were used for restoration.’

 “I cannot be quite sure how many years she lived after, but she had
 brought up at the time I speak of a family of four sons and one
 daughter, and she lived to a good old age.--Yours truly,


 “September 18.”

Speaking on the subject of premature burial the other day, a well-known
London publisher told the author that he personally knew a lady, the
daughter of a British Consul, who had been taken for dead on two
separate occasions. On the first occasion the lady had been placed in
her coffin, and the lid screwed down ready for interment. A friend who
had known the supposed deceased called to condole with the family,
and said:--“I should like to have a last look at dear L---- if you
will only permit me.” The lid was accordingly removed, and the visitor
detected, as it seemed to her, signs of life in her friend; she was
taken out of her coffin, put in a warm bath, and recovered. Some years
later the same lady fell into a cataleptic state after a fever, and
was taken for dead. Preparations had been made for the funeral in
both instances, but delayed beyond the usual time for interment. She
returned to consciousness, and is now living.

Dr. Moore Russell Fletcher in “Suspended Animation and the Danger of
Burying Alive,” p. 62, writes:--

“‘Seven hours in a coffin added ten years to my life,’ was the remark
of Martin Strong, of Twelfth Street, Philadelphia, some time after
quitting the coffin in which his family had placed him for burial,
after Dr. Cummings had given a certificate of his death. Frank Stoop,
of Clarinda, Iowa, was laid out for burial not long since, a physician
having certified to his death; but fortunately he awoke from his state
of coma in time to save his life.”



Dr. R. G. S. Chew, of Calcutta, writing to the author, says:--“In
1873 I was a student in the Bishop’s High School, Poonah (Bombay
Presidency), where I used to be generally at the head of my class,
and when competing for the Science Prizes I was fully determined to
take the first prize or none. The Reverend---- Watson, Rector of St.
Mary’s Church and Chaplain to our school, knew my disposition, and
cautioned me against being too sanguine, lest disappointment might
tell very keenly. The disappointment came, and with it much nervous
excitability. Shortly after this (Christmas, 1873) my favourite sister
was seized with convulsions that carried her off. From the moment of
her decease to nearly a month after her interment I entirely lost the
power of speech. On the day of the funeral I was parched with thirst,
but could not drink, as the water seemed to choke me. My eyes were
burning and my head felt like bursting, but I could neither sob nor
cry. I felt quite dazed, and followed the procession to the cemetery,
where I stood motionless by the open grave; but as soon as they lowered
the little coffin into its resting-place I threw myself headlong into
the grave and fainted away. Some one pulled me out and carried me
home, where I lay in a sort of stupor for nine days, during which Dr.
Donaldson attended me most patiently, and I regained consciousness,
but was too weak to even sit up in bed. On the 16th January, 1874, I
felt a peculiar sensation as of something filling up my throat--no
swelling, no pain nor anything that pointed to throat affection--and
this getting worse and worse, in spite of everything, I _died_, as was
supposed, on the 18th of January, 1874, and was laid out for burial,
as the most careful examination failed to show the slightest traces of
life. I had been in this state for twenty hours, and in another three
hours would have been closed up for ever, when my eldest sister, who
was leaning over the head of my coffin crying over me, declared she
saw my lips move. The friends who had come to take their last look at
me tried to persuade her it was only fancy, but, as she persisted,
Dr. Donaldson was sent for to convince her that I was really dead.
For some unexplained reason he had me taken out of the coffin and
examined very carefully from head to foot. Noticing a peculiar, soft
fluctuating swelling at the base of my neck, just where the clavicles
meet the sternum, he went to his brougham, came back with his case of
instruments, and, before any one could stop him or ask what he was
going to do, laid open the tumour and plunged in a tracheotomy tube,
when a quantity of pus escaped, and, releasing the pressure on the
carotids and thyroid, was followed by a rush of blood and some movement
on my part that startled the doctor. Restoratives were used, and I was
slowly nursed back to life; but the tracheotomy tube (I _still_ carry
the scar) was not finally removed till September, 1875.”


(_Communicated to the author by Dr. Chew._)


“A sowar--_i.e._, native trooper--of the 7th regiment of cavalry, in
1878, carrying despatches at Nowshera, was thrown from his horse,
and, falling with his head against a sharp stone in the road, rolled
on to his back, in which position he was found some six or seven
hours after, and conveyed to the morgue of the European Depôt Hospital
pending removal to the ‘lines’ of his own corps. There was very
little hæmorrhage, and the stone was still wedged in between the
temporo-parietal suture. Cardiac sounds and respiratory murmurs could
not be detected. The limbs were perfectly rigid, and there was a good
deal of cadaveric ecchymosis to be distinctly seen. Nothing would have
convinced any one that the sowar was still alive, and Surgeons-Major
Hunter, Gibson, and Briggs, Apothecary S. Pollock, Assistant-Surgeon
J. Lewis and myself _verily_ believed he was stone-dead. As ‘cause of
death’ is what the army is exceedingly particular about, Surgeon-Major
Hunter removed the impacted stone and lifted out portions of the
fractured bone (prior to holding a proper _post-mortem_), when to the
surprise of all of us ‘the corpse’ deliberately closed its eyes (which
were staring open when the body was first brought in), and there was
a slight serous hæmorrhage. On noticing this, the sowar’s head was
trephined--no chloroform or other anæsthetic being used--some more
fragments of bone and a large blood-clot that pressed on the brain were
removed, and as the sowar repeatedly flinched under this operation,
a stimulant was poured down his throat, and he was removed to his
regimental hospital, from which he was discharged ‘well’ some six
months and a half later. After this he did good service in the Afghan
and Egyptian campaigns.”


“The cases of collapse and apparent death during epidemics of cholera
are very numerous, as will be seen by reference to medical literature.
We have now before us particulars of cases from the _Calcutta Journal
of Medicine_ for 1869, vol. ii., p. 383, where Dr. Charles Londe, of
Paris, observes that patients pronounced dead of cholera have been
repeatedly seen to move. See also, for Italy, _Lancet_, 1884, vol. ii.,
p. 655.

“A correspondent, signing himself T.E.N., in _To-Day_, October 12,
1895, says:--‘When acting as special correspondent to the _Evening
Herald_ in Hamburg during the cholera plague, I met a gentleman who
had been passed for dead and placed in the mortuary to await burial.
When the porters entered some hours later to remove the hundred or so
bodies, they found this gentleman sitting up in great pain, and very
much frightened. He was placed in a ward and recovered. About the same
time a little girl came to life actually at the graveside. She had been
brought in one of several four-horse vans that conveyed bodies for
interment in the Ohlsdorff grave-yard. Fortunately for her, she had
not been placed in a coffin, the exigencies of the time rendering it
impossible to provide caskets for the dead. When the disease began to
die out, the people found time to ask--“Can it be possible that life
remains in any of the bodies buried?” That the doctors in the latter
days cut the ulnar arteries of all subjects before passing them for
dead is full of significance.’”


The three following cases were communicated to the author, during
his sojourn in Calcutta, by Dr. Chew, in the early part of this year

“In March, 1877, Assistant-Surgeons H. A. Borthwick, S. Blake, H. B.
Rogers, and myself received orders to proceed from Rawal Pindi by
bullock-train to Peshawur to join the various regiments we were to
be posted to for duty. We had just passed a place called Rati when
Borthwick showed strong symptoms of cholera, from which he suffered
all that night. The nearest hospital was twenty-five miles behind us,
and though we had neither medicines nor sick-room comforts with us, we
had no alternative but to journey onwards, because the train-drivers
(Indians) refused to turn back, and if we did return to Rawal Pindi we
would have been court-martialled for disobeying lawful commands and
coming back without orders to do so. Travelling by bullock-train is
very slow work, and far from a comfortable mode of transit; however,
we were obliged to make the best of it, and early next morning
Borthwick was cold, stiff, and seemingly dead. Here was a fine state
of affairs--the nearest cantonment, which we had no expectation of
reaching (_i.e._, Nowshera) before nine p.m., was thirty-six miles
off, and by the time we arrived at it, it would have been too late to
approach the authorities, while Peshawur, our destination, was another
twenty-nine miles further off. Dispose of the body we dared not, and we
had no choice but to continue our route. All that day there was not a
movement or other sign to show that life was not extinct, and affairs
seemed no better by five p.m. next day, when we reached Peshawur. The
apparent corpse was lifted out of the bullock-train and carried into
the hospital dispensary (where a strong fire was blazing) preparatory
to papers being signed and arrangements made for its final disposal.
Whether it was the heat of the fire before which he was placed, or
whether the vibriones had produced an antitoxin, I am not prepared to
argue; but _we do know_ that Borthwick recovered consciousness while
lying on the bed in that dispensary, and that he whom we mourned as
dead returned to life. He served in the same military stations with me
in the North-West Frontier till 1880, when he accompanied me to the
Calcutta Medical College, where we parted company in February, 1882,
I bound for Egypt and he for frontier duty. At first we corresponded
regularly, but since 1885 we lost touch of each other.”


“Sergeant J. Clements Twining, of H.M.’s 109th regiment of British
infantry, located at Dinapoor in 1876, was brought in an unconscious
state to the hospital, supposed to be suffering from _coup de soleil_.
Everything that could be done was ineffectually tried to rouse him from
coma, and he was removed to the dead-house to wait _post-mortem_ next
morning. At two a.m. the sentry on the dead-house came rushing down
to the dispensary (about four hundred and fifty yards off) declaring
that he had seen and heard a ghost in the dead-house, to which myself
and the compounder and dresser on duty at once proceeded, to find that
Clements Twining, who was now partially conscious, was lying on the
dead-house flags groaning most piteously--he had rolled off the table
on to the floor. He returned to health, and in 1877 accompanied his
regiment to England, where I met him at Woolwich in 1883, and he asked
me to corroborate his story of ‘returning to life’ to certain of his
acquaintances who had refused to believe him.”



“When the East Norfolk regiment was out cholera-dodging in 1878,
Colour-Sergeant T. Hall and Corporal W. Bellomy were sent into
cantonments for burial as cholera corpses in the Nowshera Cemetery.
There was some delay in the interment owing to a difficulty in
obtaining the wood necessary for their coffins, so both bodies
were placed in the dead-house, which was generously sprinkled with
disinfectants to ward off the risk of contagion. First Hall and then
Bellomy regained consciousness, and were duly returned to duty. The
following year Bellomy was ‘invalided’ to England, where I understand
he now enjoys the best of health.”

“Shortly after the Afghan war of 1878, Surgeon-Major T. Barnwell and
I were told off to take a large number of time-expired men, invalids,
and wounded, to Deolali on their way to England. Some of the wounded
were in a very critical state, necessitating great care; one man
in particular, Trooper Holmes of the 10th Hussars, who had an ugly
bullet-wound running along his left thigh and under the groin. Our only
means of transport for these poor fellows was the ‘palki’ or doolie
carried by four bearers at a curious swinging pace. When we got to
Nowshera, Holmes seemed on a fair way to recovery, but the swinging
of the doolie seemed too much for him, and he grew weaker day by day
till we got to Hassan Abdool, when we could not rouse him to take
some nourishment before starting on the march, and to all appearance
he seemed perfectly dead; but, as there was neither the time nor
convenience to hold a _post-mortem_, we carried the body on to ‘John
Nicholson,’ where, the same difficulties being in the way, and no
facilities for burial, we were obliged to put the _post-mortem_ off for
another day, and convey the corpse to Rawal Pindi rest camp, where we
laid him on the floor of the mortuary tent and covered him over with a
tarpaulin. This was his salvation, as next morning (_i.e._, the third
day succeeding his ‘death’), when we raised the tarpaulin to hold the
_post-mortem_, some hundreds of field mice (these tracts are _noted_
for them) rushed out, and we noticed that Holmes was breathing, though
very slowly--five or six respirations to the minute--and there were a
few teeth marks where the mice had attacked his calves. To prevent a
relapse by the jolting on further marches, we handed him over to the
station hospital staff, who pulled him round, and then forwarded him to
the headquarters of his regiment at Meerut.”

A lady, distinguished alike for her literary gifts as well as for her
philanthropy, sends me the following:--

“I am much obliged to you for sending me ‘Perils.’ It is a terrible
subject, and one that has haunted me all my life, insomuch that I have
never made a will without inserting a clause requiring my throat to be
cut before I am put underground. Of course one can have no reliance
on doctors whatever, and I have myself known a case in which a very
eminent one insisted on a coffin being screwed down because the corpse
looked so life-like and full of colour that the friends could not help
indulging in hopes.


“My great grandmother, after whom I am called, a famous heiress, was
a notable case of narrow escape. As a girl she passed into a state of
apparent death, and a great funeral was ordered for her. Among the
guests came a young girl friend, who insisted that she was not dead,
and raised such a stir that the funeral was postponed, and time was
allowed to pass till the marvel became that there were no signs of
change. I could never ascertain how long this comatose state lasted
before she recovered; but she _did_ recover, so thoroughly that after
her marriage with Richard Trench, of Garbuly, she became the mother
of twenty-two children. Obviously this was no case of a feeble,
hysterical, cataleptic subject. I will enclose photograph taken from a
miniature of her in a ring in my possession.

“There was another case, well known in Ireland in my youth, of a
Colonel Howard, who had a fine place (I think it was called Castle
Howard) in Wicklow. He was supposed to be dead, and a lead coffin
was actually made with his name and date of death on it; after which
Colonel Howard came to life, and had the plate of the coffin fixed over
his kitchen chimney as a warning to his servants not to bury people in
a hurry.”

Dr. Colin S. Valentine, LL.D., Principal of the Medical Missionary
Training College, Agra, N.W.P., told the author during his visit to
Agra, February, 1896, that Captain Young, an officer in the regiment of
which he (Dr. Valentine) was at that time army surgeon, who had been
dreadfully mauled while tiger-hunting in Madras, was laid out for dead,
and all the arrangements were made for his funeral at six o’clock that
evening, when consciousness returned, and he lived for twenty years

In a lecture on “Signs of Death and Disposal of the Dead,” delivered by
Dr. A. Stephenson at Nottingham, January 9, 1896, the lecturer said “he
once attended a girl living in that locality who was in a trance. All
the preparations were made for her funeral, and the grave ordered. She
remained in a trance three days, and her mother was annoyed because he
would not sign her death-certificate. On the third day she slowly rose
and recovered. The girl would have been buried unless he had had a very
great fear of her being buried alive.”[6]

From the London _Echo_, March 3, 1896.


 “A letter from Constantinople, in the _Politische Korrespondenz_,
 gives a remarkable case of an apparent death which would have ended
 in a premature burial but for the high ecclesiastical position of the
 person concerned. On the 3rd of this month, Nicephorus Glycas, the
 Greek-Orthodox Metropolitan of Lesbos, an old man in his eightieth
 year, after several days of confinement to his bed, was reported by
 the physician to be dead. The supposed dead bishop, in accordance
 with the rules of the Orthodox Church, was immediately clothed in
 his episcopal vestments, and placed upon the Metropolitan’s throne
 in the great church of Methymni, where the body was exposed to the
 devout faithful during the day, and watched by relays of priests day
 and night. Crowds streamed into the church to take a last look at
 their venerable chief pastor. On the second night of “the exposition
 of the corpse,” the Metropolitan suddenly started up from his seat
 and stared round him with amazement and horror at all the panoply
 of death amidst which he had been seated. The priests were not less
 horrified when the ‘dead’ bishop demanded what they were doing with
 him? The old man had simply fallen into a death-like lethargy, which
 the incompetent doctors had hastily concluded to be death. He is now
 as hale and hearty as can well be expected from an octogenarian. But
 here it is that the moral comes in. If Nicephorus Glycas had been a
 layman he would most certainly have been buried alive. Fortunately for
 him the Canon Law of the Orthodox Church does not allow a bishop to be
 buried earlier than the third day after his death; whereas a layman,
 according to the ancient Eastern custom, is generally buried about
 twelve hours after death has been certified. The excitement which has
 been aroused by the prelate’s startling resurrection may tend to set
 men thinking more seriously about the frequent probability of the
 cruel horror of the interment of living persons.”

The above-mentioned facts have been authenticated for the author by Dr.
Franz Hartmann, of Hallein, Austria.


Many physicians who dispute the frequency of premature burials admit
that the liability to such catastrophes is considerable during
epidemics of small-pox, where extreme exhaustion, amounting to a
suspension of life, is distinguishable from actual death only by
patient and prolonged observation.

From the _Lancet_, June 21, 1884, p. 1150:--


 “Sir,--I send you privately names and addresses by means of which you
 can test, if you please, the accuracy of the following statements,
 which I forward for insertion in your journal:--


 “Some years since, a young man who had been attacked by small-pox
 was declared by the medical man to be dead, and was laid out for
 burial. The nurse, however, on paying a visit to the supposed corpse,
 thinking there was something uncorpse-like about its appearance, put
 a wine-glass over the mouth, and returning in a quarter of an hour,
 found it dimmed with breath. He was resuscitated, and, so far as I
 am aware, is still living. He would now be about forty-five. He is a

 “A mother and her baby were ill of small-pox, and seemed likely to
 die. The grandmother, however, made the nurse promise that if death
 appeared to ensue, and even if the medical man pronounced either or
 both to be dead, she would put additional blankets on the one or
 both, and leave them so till her (the grandmother’s) return, which
 would not be till the next day. They both appeared to die, and were
 declared dead by the doctor; but the nurse did as she had promised,
 and the next day when the grandmother returned, they were both alive,
 and were both living not very long since.

 “Some twenty years ago, I was told that about forty years previously
 a young man, in a parish where I was acquainted, was put in a coffin
 as a person dead of small-pox; but when the bell was tolling for his
 funeral, and he was about to be ‘screwed down,’ he got up and vacated
 the coffin, and lived several years afterwards.

 “In a town where I was brought up, a woman was nearly buried alive
 through having gone into a trance on being frightened by a young lady
 who had put on a white sheet and pretended to be a ‘ghost.’ For years
 she was liable to long spells of insensibility, from which nothing
 could rouse her.

 “The haste with which small-pox corpses are disposed of nowadays is to
 be deprecated. They are usually buried within twelve hours of their
 supposed death, and the cases I first mentioned show with what very
 probable results. The only sure proof of death is decomposition, and
 a law ought to be passed forbidding burial until signs of it have
 appeared. Not very long since I was in a church-yard where a drain
 was being made round the church, and was not a little struck by the
 horrified look of a labourer who came to the vicar and stated that
 they had come on a skull face downward, which, he said, put it beyond
 doubt that the person it had belonged to had turned in his coffin
 after burial.--I am, Sir, yours faithfully,

  “B. A.

 “June 18, 1884.”

The _Undertakers’ Journal_, May 22, 1895, has the following:--


 “The Reverend Harry Jones, in his reminiscences, and as a London
 clergyman, declares his conviction that in times of panic from fatal
 epidemics it is not unlikely that some people are buried alive.
 Mr. Jones recalls a case within his knowledge of a young woman
 pronounced to be dead from cholera, and actually laid out for the
 usual collecting cart to call from the undertakers, when a neighbour
 happened to come in and lament over her. The story continues thus:
 ‘And is poor Sarah really dead?’ she cried. ‘Well,’ said her mother,
 ‘she is, and she will soon be fetched away; but if you can do anything
 you may do it.’ Acting on this permission the practical neighbour set
 about rubbing Sarah profusely with mustard. Sarah sat up, stung into
 renovated life, and so far recovered as to marry; ‘and I myself,’ says
 Mr. Jones, ‘christened four or five of her children in the course of
 the next few years.’ In another case, within Mr. Jones’ parochial
 experiences in London, a man employed as potman lay _in extremis_. A
 doctor was called in, who said ‘Turn him on his face, and I will put
 a thick strip of flannel soaked in spirits of wine down his spine. We
 will see what that will do.’ A sister brought a store of flannel, the
 doctor soaked it in spirit, and prepared to apply it as he proposed.
 First, however, he placed the soaking mass in a heap (almost as big as
 a small hassock) in the middle of his back. Meanwhile the sister leant
 forward with a candle and accidently set the hassock on fire. ‘This,’
 adds the anecdotist, ‘woke the potman up;’ and not very long ago the
 doctor told me he had seen him in a street near the Oxford Circus.”

From the _Daily Chronicle_, September 19, 1895.

 “Sir,--I infer from the following facts that numbers of persons are
 buried alive after being supposed to have succumbed to small-pox.

 “Some years ago, at St. Paul’s, Belchamp, near Clare, a young man who
 had been down with the small-pox was pronounced to be dead, and was
 put into a coffin, which, fortunately, was left unclosed until after
 the bell began to toll for his funeral, when he rose and stepped out.
 He lived for many years after. In the same neighbourhood no less
 than three other similar cases occurred, saving that the undertakers
 were not so far forward in their work. Each of these would have been
 buried alive but for the facts that in one case the nurse, having
 suspicions, put a wine-glass over the mouth of the person (who had
 been already ‘laid out’), and on returning in a quarter of an hour
 found it dimmed with breath; and that in the other case the mother
 of a mother, who with her baby was declared by the doctor to be dead,
 had blankets heaped on them, and after a while had the satisfaction of
 seeing them revive. Two of these three persons are, I believe, still
 living, and would be just past middle-age. I enclose their names for
 your private perusal, that you may verify my statements if desired.
 The first-mentioned case happened about seventy years ago, but I heard
 of it from residents in the neighbourhood about forty years after it

 “Nowadays as soon as a small-pox patient is supposed to be dead, he
 or she is enclosed in a coffin and hurried off to the church-yard or
 cemetery the ensuing night--at least this is the practice in country
 places. I have no doubt that many have been buried alive.--Yours


 “September 18.”

Brigade-Surgeon W. Curran cites from the _Revue des Deux Mondes_,
April, 1873, in his Eighth Paper, entitled “Buried Alive,” as follows:--


“On the 15th of October, 1842, a farmer who lived in the suburbs of
Neufchâtel (Lower Seine) went to sleep in his hay-loft in the midst of
some newly mown hay. As he did not get up at the usual hour the next
morning, his wife went to call him, and found him dead. When the time
for his funeral arrived, some twenty-four or thirty hours subsequently,
those who were charged with the burial put the body on a bier, and
having placed this on the ladder that communicated between the ground
and the loft, they allowed it to slide down. All of a sudden one of
the rungs of this ladder gave way, and the bier, falling through, was
dashed violently on the pavement below. The shock, which might have
been fatal to a live person, proved to be the ‘saving clause’ of our
supposed dead one; and fortunately, too, the attendants had not, as
so commonly happens in such contingencies, absconded; on the contrary,
responding without delay to the requirements of the situation, they
quickly realised the gravity of the crisis, and, unbinding the shrouds
of the farmer, they soon restored him to consciousness and life. He was
able, we are further told, to resume his ordinary duties in a few days

The _Undertakers’ and Funeral Directors’ Journal_, January 22, 1889,

“Mr. J. W. Smith, of 158 River Avenue, Alleghany” has just had, for
instance, a remarkably narrow escape of prematurely putting his family
in mourning, and one which will, we may be sure, be a very disagreeable
recollection for him during the rest of his existence. After a visit to
the Pittsburg Opera House one night, Mr. Smith was found lying ‘stiff
and cold’ behind the stove in the dining-room, and apparently dead. A
superficial examination by Dr. M’Cready confirmed the worst fears of
Mrs. Smith, but subsequently the doctor sought carefully for any little
spark of life which might lurk unseen, and, very fortunately for Mr.
Smith, found it. But, beyond that, nothing could be accomplished; no
effort to restore animation produced the slightest effect. Two other
physicians were then summoned; but neither attempts at bleeding, the
use of ‘mustard baths,’ nor the application of electricity, could
rouse Mr. Smith after his visit to the opera. For three weeks he lay
insensible, and when he regained consciousness a fever followed. This
event, and some others of a similar character which are occasionally
heard of, show that the examination of persons apparently dead should
always be undertaken by an efficient person, and by no means in a
perfunctory manner.”

The late Madame Blavatsky was subject to death-like trances, and Dr.
Franz Hartmann informs me that she would have been buried alive if
Colonel Olcott had not telegraphed to let her have time to awaken.



WHENEVER grave-yards have been removed, owing to the rapid expansion
of towns, in America, or examined elsewhere, unmistakable evidences of
premature burial have been disclosed, as will be seen in this volume;
bodies have been found turned upon their faces, the limbs contorted,
with hair dishevelled, the clothing torn, the flesh mutilated, and
coffins broken by the inmates in their mad endeavour to escape after
returning consciousness, to terminate life only in unspeakable mental
and physical agonies. It may be said that every grave-yard has its
traditions, but the facts are carefully concealed lest they should
reach the ears of the relatives, or incriminate the doctors who had
with such confidence certified to actual deaths which were only
apparent. It is not, however, the custom to remove grave-yards in
Europe until all possibility of such discoveries has disappeared.
To reopen a grave is to break the seal of domestic grief. There
is a widespread belief that where a coffin, with a duly certified
corpse,--dead or alive,--has been screwed up, it must not be opened
without an authorisation from a magistrate, mayor, or other official,
and many people have been suffocated in their coffins while waiting
for this formality. Common sense, under the circumstances, seems to be
often paralysed.

In England it has been decided, Reg. _v._ Sharpe (1 Dearsley and Bell,
160), to be a misdemeanour to disinter a body without lawful authority,
even where the motive of the offender was pious and laudable; and a
too rigorous interpretation of this and similar enactments in other
countries has led to the suffocation of many unfortunate victims of a
mistaken medical diagnosis, whose lives, by prompt interposition, might
have been saved.

Köppen, in his work, entitled “Information Relative to Persons who have
been Buried Alive,” Halle, 1799, dedicated to His Majesty the King of
Prussia, Frederick William III., quotes the following amongst a large
number of cases of premature burial:--“In D----, the Baroness F----
died of small-pox. She was kept in her house three days, and then put
in the family vault. After a time, a noise of knocking was heard in the
vault, and the voice of the Baroness was also heard. The authorities
were informed; and instead of opening the door with an axe, as could
have been done, the key was sent for, which took three or four hours
before the messenger returned with it. On opening the vault it was
found that the lady was lying on her side, with evidences of having
suffered terrible agony.”


Struve, in his essay on “Suspended Animation,” 1803, p. 71, relates
the following:--“A beggar arrived late at night, and almost frozen
to death, at a German village, and, observing a school-house open,
resolved to sleep there. The next morning, the school-boys found the
poor man sitting motionless in the room, and hastened, affrighted,
to inform the schoolmaster of what they had seen. The villagers,
supposing the beggar to be dead, interred him in the evening. During
the night, the watchman heard a knocking in the grave, accompanied by
lamentations. He gave information to the bailiff of the village, who
declined to listen to his tale. Soon afterwards the watchman returned
to the grave, and again heard a hollow noise, interrupted by sighs.
He once more hastened to the magistrate, earnestly soliciting him to
cause the grave to be opened; but the latter, being irresolute, delayed
this measure till the next morning, when he applied to the sheriff, who
lived at a distance from the village, in order to obtain the necessary
directions. He was, however, obliged to wait some time before an
interview took place. The more judicious sheriff severely censured the
magistrate for not having opened the grave on the information from the
watchman, and desired him to return and cause it to be opened without
delay. On his arrival, the grave was immediately opened; but, just
Heaven! what a sight! The poor, wretched man, after having recovered in
the grave, had expired for want of air. In his anguish and desperation
he had torn the flesh from his arms. All the spectators were struck
with horror at this dreadful scene.”

The _Undertakers’ Journal_, November 22, 1880, relates the following:--

 “An extraordinary story is reported from Tredegar, South Wales. A
 man was buried at Cefn Golan Cemetery, and it is alleged that some
 of those who took part in carrying the body to the burial-ground
 heard knocking inside the coffin. No notice was taken of the affair
 at the time, but it has now come up again, and the rumour has caused
 a painful sensation throughout the district. It is stated that
 application has been made to the Home Secretary for permission to
 exhume the body.”

Dr. Franz Hartmann, in his “Premature Burial,” pp. 10 and 44, relates
the two following cases:--“In the year 1856 a man died in an Hungarian
village. It is customary there to dig the graves in rows. As the
grave-digger was making the new grave he heard sounds as of knocking
proceeding from a grave where a man had been buried a few days
previously. Terrified, he went to the priest, and with the priest to
the police. At last permission was granted to open the grave; but by
that time its occupant had died in reality. The fact that he had been
buried alive was made evident by the condition of the body, and by the
wounds which the man had inflicted upon himself by biting his shoulders
and arms.

“In a small town in Prussia, an undertaker, living within the limits
of the cemetery, heard during the night cries proceeding from within a
grave in which a person had been buried on the previous day. Not daring
to interfere without permission, he went to the police and reported the
matter. When, after a great deal of delay, the required formalities
were fulfilled and permission granted to open the grave, it was found
that the man had been buried alive, but that he was now dead. His
body, which had been cold at the time of the funeral, was now warm and
bleeding from many wounds, where he had skinned his hands and head in
his struggles to free himself before suffocation made an end to his

A medical correspondent communicates to the author particulars of the
following case, which occurred at Salzburg, Austria:--“Some children
were playing in the Luzergasse Cemetery, and their attention was
attracted by knocking sounds in a newly-made grave. They informed the
grave-digger of it, and he secured permission to open the grave from
whence the sounds seemed to come. A man had been buried there at two
p.m. that day. The formalities of the permission to open the grave
delayed it till seven p.m., when, on opening the coffin, the body
was found to be bent completely over forwards, and was frightfully
distorted and bleeding from places on the hands and arms, which seemed
to have been gnawed by the man’s own teeth. The medical experts who
were called in to examine the case declared that the man had been
buried alive.”

From the _Undertakers’ and Funeral Directors’ Journal_, January 22,


 “Another shocking case of premature burial is reported; the distressing
 incident took place at Saumur, in France. A young man suddenly died, at
 least to all appearance, and his burial was ordered to take place as
 soon as possible. The _croquemorts_, or undertaker’s men, who carried
 the coffin to the grave, thought they heard a noise like knocking under
 its lid, yet, being afraid of creating a panic among the people who
 attended the funeral, they went on with their burden. The coffin was
 duly placed in the grave, but, as the earth was being thrown upon it,
 unmistakable sounds of knocking were heard by everybody. The mayor,
 however, had to be sent for before the coffin could be opened, and
 some delay occurred in the arrival of that official. When the lid was
 removed, the horrible discovery was made that the unfortunate inmate
 had only just died from asphyxia. The conviction is spreading that the
 terrible French law requiring speedy interment ought to be modified
 without delay.”

Mr. William Harbutt, School of Art, Bath, writes to me, November 27,
1895:--“The copies of the pamphlet ‘The Perils of Premature Burial,’
by Professor Alex. Wilder, you kindly sent me are in circulation.
Almost every one to whom I mention the subject knows some instances.
One, a case at Radstock, twelve miles from Bath, where the bearers at
the funeral heard noises inside the coffin, but were afraid to open it
without the authority from a magistrate. When it was opened next day
the appearance of the body showed that he had been coffined alive, and
had had a terrible struggle to escape.”

From the _Star_, London, May 13, 1895.


  “Paris, May 11.

 “A woman who was believed to have died the day before was being buried
 at Doussard, when the grave-digger, who was engaged in filling up the
 grave, distinctly heard knocking coming from the coffin. He called
 a man who was working near, and he came and listened, and heard the
 knocking also. It was then about nine o’clock in the morning. The
 knocking continued, and they listened for about half an hour, when it
 occurred to one of them that they ought to do something, so they went
 to inform the local authorities. The curé of the village was the first
 to arrive on the scene; but as no one had any authority to exhume the
 body the coffin was not taken up. All that was done was to bore some
 holes in the lid with a drill in such a way as to admit of air. By
 mid-day all the necessary formalities had been gone through, and it
 was decided at last to open the coffin. This was done; but whether
 the unfortunate woman was still alive at this time is doubtful. Some
 of those present affirm that she was. They state that they saw a
 little colour come into her cheeks, and the eyes open and shut. One
 thing is certain--viz.: that when at half-past six in the evening it
 was finally decided to consult a doctor, the practitioner summoned
 declared that death had taken place not more than five or six hours
 before. It was thought that had the coffin been opened directly the
 sounds were heard the woman’s life might have been saved, and she
 would have been spared hours of indescribable torture and suffering.”

The Paris edition of the _New York Herald_, May 14, 1895, says:--

 “The case of the woman buried alive at Annecy, in the Haute-Savoie,
 the other day, has almost found a pendant at Limoges. A woman,
 belonging to the village of Laterie, died, to all appearance at least,
 a few days ago. After the body had been placed in a coffin, it was
 transported to the village church. On the way the bearers heard sounds
 proceeding from it, and at once sent for the mayor, who ordered it to
 be opened. The woman was found to be suffering from _eclampsia_, which
 had been mistaken for death by her relatives.”

The following case is instructive in that the victim was exhumed
without an order from the Home Secretary, or waiting for any
formalities, and was restored to life:--


  [From the _Spectator_, October 19, 1895.]


 “Sir,--_Apropos_ of your article and the correspondence about being
 buried alive, in the _Spectator_ of September 28, the enclosed may
 interest you. It is an extract which I have copied to-day out of a
 letter to a neighbour of mine from his brother in Ireland, dated
 October 6, 1895:--‘About three weeks ago, our kitchen-maid asked leave
 to go away for two or three days to see her mother, who was dying.
 She came back again on a Friday or Saturday, saying her mother was
 dead and buried. On Wednesday she got a letter saying her mother had
 been dug up, and was alive and getting all right. So she went up to
 see her, and sure enough there she was “right enough,” as G---- says,
 having got out of her trance, and knowing nothing about being in her
 grave from Saturday till Tuesday. The only thing she missed was her
 _rings_; she could not make out where they had got to. Her daughter,
 it seems, told the doctor on her way back here that it struck her that
 her mother had never got stiff after death, and she could not help
 thinking it was very odd; and it made her very uncomfortable. He
 never said a word: and the kitchen-maid heard nothing until she got
 the letter saying her mother was back again and alive. Luckily, she
 did not “come to” until she had been taken out of her coffin. It was
 a “rum go” altogether. They say exactly the same thing happened to a
 sister of hers who is now alive and well.’--I am, Sir, etc.,




THERE is a great and natural reluctance on the part of medical
practitioners to admit that they have made mistakes in
death-certification, particularly in any one of the various forms
of death counterfeits, or suspended animation. It should be noted
that amongst the lectures delivered on special occasions, such as
the opening of the medical schools, the subjects of trance and the
danger of premature burial are conspicuous for their absence; allusion
to these subjects is of rare occurrence, nor does the study of this
abstruse branch of medicine, so far as can be ascertained, form part
of any medical curriculum. In the bibliography at the end of this
volume, extensive as it is, I can hardly refer to a single instance.
Dr. Franz Hartmann, whose work on “Buried Alive” has passed through two
English and one German edition, informs me that the same reticence is
observable in the medical schools of Germany. Many medical men do not
believe in death-trance. They declare that they have never seen such a
case, and in their judgment when a sick patient ceases to breathe, when
volition is suspended, and the stethoscope reveals no signs of cardiac
action, the death is real, and the case beyond recovery. The evidence
disclosed in this volume is the result of inquiry in many countries.

From the _Medical Times_, London, 1860, vol. i., p. 65.

 “A lady entering upon the ninth month of pregnancy died of pneumonia.
 All the other phenomena of death ensued, except that the colour of the
 face was unusually life-like. On the fifteenth day from that of death
 there was not the least cadaveric odour from the corpse, nor had its
 appearance much altered, and it was only on the sixteenth day that the
 lips darkened. The temperature of the atmosphere had undergone many
 changes during the time mentioned, but although there had been frost
 for a short period, the weather was in general damp and cold.”


This lady might not have been dead. The burial laws should have been
such as to make it certain that she was dead before interment, by
the appearance of general decomposition. The examination of facts
collected by well-known physicians at home leads to the conclusion that
cases of narrow escapes from premature burial are by no means of rare
occurrence. And it must be obvious to the least reflective reader that
in countries where burial follows quickly upon supposed death (as in
Turkey and France, some parts of Ireland, and throughout India), or
where there is no compulsory examination of the dead (as in the United
States or the United Kingdom), and amongst people like the Jews (since
the Jewish Law enjoins speedy interment), and especially in cases of
sudden death (where attempts at resuscitation are rare), the number of
premature burials may be considerable.

In the United States, while there is no law, as in France, enforcing
burial within a prescribed number of days, it is the custom of civil
authorities, under regulations made by the Boards of Health, to compel
interments if delayed by reason of doubt as to actual death beyond a
few days.

Particulars of the following case were sent me by a physician, January
17, 1894:--


 “Mrs. John Emmons, of North Judson, Ind., was taken suddenly ill and
 apparently died, a week ago. Her husband desired to keep the body for
 a few days, to make sure of death. It seems that her mother went into
 a trance for four days, rallied, and lived five years; also that her
 grandfather on her mother’s side, after having been pronounced dead
 for six days, awoke, and lived for twenty-three years. Mrs. Emmons’s
 body was kept until Saturday, when, on the demand of the physician and
 numerous residents, it was interred. During the time between Monday
 and Saturday the body did not become rigid. Mortification did not set
 in, and she was laid to rest without waiting for that, the surest of
 all tests, to take place. Many are of the opinion that the woman has
 been buried alive.”

There are many cases like the above on record, in which, although there
is no absolute proof of premature burial, there is strong presumptive
evidence of it. The following from _Truth_ (London) of May 23, 1895, is
an example, and the writer has heard of many others:--

 “The other day I gave a story showing the difficulty of obtaining a
 _post-mortem_ examination after a doctor has once certified the cause
 of death. One of my readers caps it with a gruesome narrative, of
 which this is the outline: A man lately died in London. The coffin
 had to be removed by rail, and was to be closed on the fourth day
 after the death. My informant, taking a last look at the deceased,
 was struck by the complete absence of all the ordinary signs of death
 at such a period. In particular, he states that there was no rigidity
 in any part of the body, and there was a perceptible tinge of colour
 in the forehead. He went over to the doctor who had attended the
 deceased, described all the signs that he had observed, and begged the
 doctor to come and look at the body before the coffin was closed. The
 doctor absolutely refused, saying that he had given his certificate,
 and had no doubt as to the man’s death. The friend then suggested that
 he might himself open a vein and see if blood flowed, to which the
 doctor replied that, if he did so without the authority of the widow,
 he would be indictable for felony. Whereupon, says my informant, who
 was only a friend of the family, ‘I had to retire baffled, and let
 matters take their course.’ Why on earth he did not take the widow
 into his confidence, or risk an indictment for felony by opening a
 vein on his own account, or even summon another doctor, he does not
 say. I trust that, should any friend of mine see my coffin about to
 be screwed down under similar circumstances, and find equal cause to
 doubt whether I am dead, he will summon up courage to stick a pin
 into me, and chance the consequences. This, however, has nothing to
 do with the doctor’s responsibilities. It would seem that the medico
 in this case was either so confident in his own opinion as to decline
 even to walk across the road to investigate the extraordinary symptoms
 described to him, or else that he preferred the chance of the man
 being buried alive to the chance of having to admit he had made a
 mistake. Which alternative is the worst I do not know.”

The _Gaulois_ (Paris) of May 16, 1894, contains the following:--


 “The funeral of the Comtesse de Jarnac, whose death was reported to
 have taken place on Saturday, was fixed for to-morrow, but it will
 probably be postponed. None of the usual signs of dissolution have
 appeared; the face still retains its colour, and _rigor mortis_ has
 not yet set in. Some hope is even entertained that the Comtesse may be
 simply in a state of catalepsy, and that the embolus, to which death
 was attributed, may have lodged in the lungs, not in the heart, in
 which case it may merely have caused a stoppage of the circulation
 (_sic_). The body had not been placed in the coffin up to a late hour
 last night.”



One of the authors was present on May 14, 1894, with a company of
ladies and gentlemen gathered at a country mansion in the Austrian
Tyrol for afternoon tea, when the conversation turned upon the subject
of premature burial. Among other cases related, the host described
that of one of his servants, a woman, who went to bed with toothache,
a long scarf being wrapped around her face and neck. As she did not
appear the following morning, our host entered her room, and found her,
as he supposed, strangled to death by the scarf tightly wound about
her neck. A doctor was summoned, when he found that the woman was warm
and limp, her face soft and coloured as in life; yet, as there was
no respiration or perceptible wrist-pulse, nor beating of the heart,
he regarded her as dead, and thought it would be proper to bury her.
The host had doubts, however, about the case, and, having decided to
observe it further, he had the woman removed to an outhouse, where she
remained three days longer without any change in her appearance or
condition in any way. But, as there was considerable impatience felt
at the delay of the burial by the people on the estate, the host sent
for two doctors to make a final examination of the woman, and decide
as to the existence of life or death. The doctors found that no change
had taken place--there was softness of the skin, colour in the face,
limpness of the muscles, and an unmistakable warmth of the body; but,
as there was an absence of apparent respiration and beating of the
heart, they decided that the woman was dead, and urged her burial,
which was done. They attributed the high temperature to the process
of decomposition which they assumed was going on, though there was no
odour of putrefaction noticed by anyone.

The probabilities are that this woman was buried alive. And in the
present state of medical education on the subject of apparent death and
the causes that bring it about, many physicians would have come to a
like conclusion; and, as physicians know but little about it, they are
not on their guard concerning its dangers.

A number of cases of apparent death that have survived--where there was
strangulation from a scarf, as in this case--have been reported. The
explanation in such cases is, that the pressure of the scarf around the
neck keeps the venous blood from flowing down from the brain through
the jugular veins, and the brain, in consequence, becomes saturated
with carbonic acid gas from the detained venous blood, and a death-like
stupor caused by carbonic acid poisoning ensues. Artificial respiration
would, it is believed, restore such persons to consciousness.


A leading West End undertaker, whose letter is before me, writes
under date of June 26, 1896, as follows:--“In my experience I have
had but one case come under my personal observation where I had real
uncertainty as to death being actually present, and that was an
instance of the kind in which this calamity is only likely, in my
opinion, to occur. A girl who had been to work in Borwick’s factory
apparently fainted and died, and within a few days the friends buried
her. When we came to close the coffin, there was no evidence of death,
and we did not close it without having a doctor sent for, and receiving
his assurance that she was dead. When reading the fatal cases which
have come to light upon this subject, I must confess to looking back
upon that instance with much fear, and it is but a poor consolation to
me that the responsibility was not mine, but the medical man’s.”

The foregoing cases are recorded because they are types of a class
that nearly every physician, undertaker, clergyman, or other observer
has met with or heard of, and the probabilities, having regard to the
existing confusion and uncertainty of opinion on the signs of death,
are on the side of apparent rather than real death. On the other hand,
a medical correspondent informs the author that he is sceptical as to
the reported cases of narrow escapes, as on more than one occasion his
efforts to verify the facts have proved abortive. It must be admitted
that there are difficulties in the way of such inquiries. If the
subject of trance, or narrow escape from burial, is a lady, publicity
injures her prospects of marriage, and, if a young man, his reputation
for business stability is endangered or prejudiced, so that this
reticence on the part of relatives is hardly surprising. Such persons
do not like their gruesome and unpleasant experiences to be talked



THOSE who are most subject to the various forms of death-counterfeit
are persons whose vocations exhaust the nervous force faster than
the natural powers of recuperation, and who resort to narcotics and
stimulants to counteract the consequent physical depression. Dr. Alex.
Wilder, in his “Perils of Premature Burial,” London, E. W. Allen,
p. 19, says:--“We exhaust our energies by overwork, by excitement,
too much fatigue of the brain, the use of tobacco, and sedatives or
anæsthetics, and by habits and practices which hasten the Three Sisters
in spinning the fatal thread. Apoplexy, palsy, epilepsy, are likely to
prostrate any of us at any moment, and catalepsy, perhaps, is not very
far from any of us.” Equally, if not even more likely, to be overtaken
by these simulacra of death are the poor--the ill-fed, ill-conditioned,
and overworked classes.

With regard to the causation of catalepsy, Dr. W. R. Gowers, in Quain’s
“Dictionary of Medicine,” p. 216, says:--“Nervous exhaustion is the
common predisponent; and emotional disturbance, especially religious
excitement, or sudden alarm, and blows on the head and back, are
frequent immediate causes. It occasionally occurs in the course of
mental affections, and especially melancholia, and as an early symptom
of epilepsy.”


Dr. James Curry, F.A.S., in his “Observations on Apparent Death,” pp.
81, 82, referring to those conditions and diseases which predispose
to death-counterfeits, to which women are more liable than men,
says:--“The faintings which most require assistance, and to which,
therefore, I wish particularly to direct the attention of my readers
and the public, are those that take place from loss of blood, violent
and long-continued fits of coughing, excessive vomiting or purging,
great fatigue or want of food, and likewise after convulsions, and in
the advanced stage of low fevers. It is but seldom, however, that any
attempt at recovery is made in such cases; and several reasons may be
assigned for this, particularly the great resemblance that fainting
fits of any duration bear to _actual death_, and the firm belief of the
bystanders that the circumstances which preceded were sufficient to
destroy life entirely.”

The author continues, pp. 106, 107:--“Nervous and highly hysterical
females, who are subject to fainting fits, are the most frequent
subjects of this kind of apparent death; in which the person seems in
a state very nearly resembling that of hibernating animals, such as
the dormouse, bat, toad, frog, etc., which annually become insensible,
motionless, and apparently dead, on the setting in of the winter’s
cold, but spontaneously revive on the returning warmth of spring. Here,
by some peculiar and yet unknown circumstance, the vital principle has
its action suspended, but neither its existence destroyed, nor its
organs injured, so as absolutely to prevent recovery, if not too long


Dr. Franz Hartmann reports a case which occurred within half a mile of
his residence near Hallein, Austria:--“At Oberalm, near Hallein, there
died the widow of a Dr. Ettenberger, a lawyer. It was known that she
had previously been affected with fits of catalepsy, and therefore all
possible means were taken for the purpose of restoring her to life.
All, however, were in vain, and her death appeared to be certain. On
the third day, just before the hour appointed for the funeral, the
family physician, Dr. Leber, bethought himself of trying some fresh
experiments on the corpse, when the woman revived. She had been fully
conscious all the time, and aware of all the preparations that were
made for her funeral, although unable to make it known to others that
she was still alive.”

Dr. Hartmann says:--“In 1866, in Kronstadt, a young and strong man,
Orrendo by name, had a fit and died. He was put into a coffin and
deposited in the family vault in a church. Fourteen years afterwards,
in 1880, the same vault was opened again for the purpose of admitting
another corpse. A horrible sight met those who entered. Orrendo’s
coffin was empty, and his skeleton lying upon the floor. But the rest
of the coffins were also broken open and emptied of their contents. It
seemed to show that the man after awakening had burst his coffin open,
and, becoming insane, had smashed the others, after which he had been
starved to death.”--_Premature Burial_, _p._ 7.

Bouchut, in “Signes de la Mort,” p. 40, relates that “A lawyer at
Vesoul was subject to fits of fainting, but kept the matter secret,
so that the knowledge of it might not spread and interfere with his
prospects of marriage; he only spoke confidentially of it to one of
his friends. The marriage took place, and he lived for some time in
good health, then suddenly fell into one of his fits, and his wife
and the doctors, believing him dead, had him placed in a coffin, and
got everything ready for the funeral. His friend was absent, but
fortunately returned just in time to prevent the burial. The lawyer
recovered, and lived for sixteen years after this event.”



M. Charles Londe, in “La Mort Apparente,” p. 16, says:--“Intense cold,
coincident with privations and fatigue, will produce all the phenomena
of apparent death--phenomena susceptible of prolongation during several
days without producing actual death, and consequently exposing the
individual who could be restored to life to living burial;” and he
further maintains it as an indisputable fact that every day people are
thus interred alive.

Struve, in his essay on “Suspended Animation,” p. 140, says:--“In no
case whatever is the danger of committing homicide greater than in the
treatment of persons who have suffered by severe cold. Their death-like
state may deceive our judgment, not only because such persons continue
longest apparently dead, but because the want of susceptibility of
irritation is in many cases not distinguishable from real death. A man
benumbed with cold burnt his feet, and had continued insensible to
pain, nor did he feel this sensation till he warmed them at a fire.
In this case it is evident that the susceptibility of irritation was
destroyed, while vital power remained.”


This is a malady that has been enormously rife all over the world
during the past few years, and has baffled the efforts of physicians
and sanitarians to arrest its progress: it is sometimes accompanied by
conditions which can hardly be distinguished from catalepsy.

The _Lancet_, May 31, 1890, page 1215, gives the following:--


 “The neurotic sequelæ of influenza seem engaging more attention abroad
 than at home, probably from their symptoms being more pronounced than
 on this side the Channel. ‘Nonna,’ as it is called, if something more
 than the somnolence succeeding the exhaustion of influenza, has been
 thought in Upper Italy to have much in common with catalepsy--one
 case, indeed, amounting to the ‘apparent death’ of Pacini. This is
 reported from Como. The patient, Pasquale Ossola by name, had to
 all appearance died, and a certificate to that effect, after due
 consultation, was drawn up and signed. Already it wanted but an hour
 or so to the interment, when the ‘corpse’ began to move spontaneously
 and to exhibit signs of returning life. The relatives of the supposed
 dead man at once called in assistance, and though animation and
 consciousness, even to recognition, were restored, the resuscitation
 was not maintained, and the patient died. Fortunately, the funeral had
 been arranged on the traditional lines, and the faint chance of return
 to life was not extinguished by cremation.”



Referring to the supposed death of a girl, Sarola, aged eleven years,
to whom chloroform had been administered in September, 1894, under
peculiar circumstances, and the body hurried off to cremation, Dr.
Roger S. Chew, of Calcutta, writes:--“That bottle of medicine was
charged with having caused the death of little Sarola, who, I firmly
believe, was _burned alive_ while in a cataleptic condition induced by
the hysterical convulsions, and rendered profound by the administration
of the chloroform. Surgeon Lieutenant-Colonel Edward Lawrie agrees
with me that at least ninety per cent. of the chloroform deaths are
preventable if proper measures are adopted to resuscitate the body,
and it is quite possible for a chloroform narcotic to be launched
into eternity on the funeral pyre or in the suffocating earth. What
a mournful vista Sarola’s case opens up, and who can say how many
hundreds have been similarly disposed of!”--_Communicated to the

Sir Benjamin Ward Richardson, in “The Absolute Signs and Proofs of
Death,” in the _Asclepiad_, first quarter, 1889, p. 9, says:--“In
the first experiments made in this country with chloral, after the
discovery of its effects by Liebriech, we learned that such a deep
narcotism could be induced by this narcotic that it might be impossible
to say whether an animal under its influence were alive or dead.” And
referring to cataleptic trance due to shock, he observes, p. 11, “True
traumatic catalepsy is equally remarkable, and equally embarrassing.
It has been witnessed in the most destructive form after shock by
lightning, and it may also have been met with after severe blows and
contusions of the head.”


Dr. Chew, referring to another of the predisposing causes of apparent
death, and the danger of premature burial in India, says:--“In the
cholera season there is a risk of a soldier being buried alive, as
the custom is to get rid of the body as soon as possible, and it is
very seldom indeed that a _post-mortem_ is held on a cholera corpse.
If the case be one of _true_ cholera, decomposition sets in before
the breath has entirely left the body, and, immediately life is
extinct, putrefaction rushes forward so rapidly as to render a mistake
impossible; but in choleraic diarrhœa or the lighter forms of cholera
it is possible that coma resultant on extreme collapse may suspend
animation so as to simulate real death _without_ actual cessation of
vital energy, and lead to live sepulture, except where, by some such
lucky accident as the burial ground being a long journey off, the
funeral is delayed sufficiently to give a chance of recovery. And this
same accident may prove a salvation in syncope or coma from shock or
protracted illness.

“With the civil population, save in very exceptional cases, there is
very little chance of recovery from apparent death, as the time between
alleged decease and sepulture is very short indeed; and unless there
are unmistakable signs of trance, syncope, or coma, the victim must die
_after he_ (or she) _has been buried alive_.”



Living burials take place because the general public are ignorant of
the fact that there are many (some thirty) diseases, and some states
of the body that cannot be called diseases, as well as a number of
incidents and accidents, which produce all the appearances of death so
closely as to deceive any one.

Excessive joy or excessive grief will often paralyse the nervous
system, including the action of the heart and the respiratory
functions, and occasion the appearance of sudden death as well as
shocks, blows upon the head, fright, strokes of lightning, violent
displays of temper; also certain drugs now in common medical use, such
as Indian hemp, atropia, digitalis, tobacco, morphia, and veratrum.
According to Dr. Léonce Lénormand, in “Des Inhumations Précipitées,”
pp. 85-104, the following diseases and conditions not infrequently
produce the like symptoms, viz., apoplexy, asphyxia, catalepsy,
epilepsy, nervous exhaustion, ecstasy, hæmorrhage, hysteria, lethargy,
syncope, tetanus, etc.

Dr. Herbert Mayo in his “Letters on Truths contained in Popular
Superstitions,” p. 34, remarks “that death-trance belongs to diseases
of the nervous system, but in any form of disease, when the body is
brought to a certain state of debility, death-trance may supervene.”

Dr. Hartmann observes: “The cases in which persons apparently dead have
been restored to health by appropriate means are innumerable, and such
accounts may be added to without end, as they are of daily occurrence,
while it is also self-evident that, if they had not thus been saved,
premature burial and death in the coffin would have taken place. But it
also often happens that cases of apparent death recover spontaneously,
and even after all possible means taken for the restoration of life
have failed. This is specially the case in catalepsy, due to nervous
exhaustion, which requires no other remedy than sufficient rest for the
recuperation of the life-power, which no kind of medicine can supply.”



THE following are some of the facts and experiences which were brought
to the author’s notice during a visit to India in the early part of


On February 9, 1896, I visited the Burning Ghat on the banks of the
Ganges, Calcutta, where twenty bodies are reduced to ashes by fire
daily. The corpse of an aged Hindu woman had just been brought in on
my arrival, death, we were told, having occurred but an hour before.
The deputy registrar asked the nearest relative a few questions as to
the age, caste, next of kin, cause of death, which were duly recorded
in a book kept for that purpose, and, the charges having been paid,
the body, which was as supple as in life (and, except for want of
volition, bore no visible marks of death), was placed upon the logs,
which were alternately crossed over each other, other logs being placed
on the top of the body, with straw underneath. The family being poor in
this case, no expensive spiced oils, ghee, or sandal wood were used.
The pyre having been sprinkled with water from the sacred river, the
nearest male relative took a wisp of lighted straw and ran seven times
round it, shouting “Ram, Ram, sach hai” (the god Ram is true and great
indeed). He then applied the torch, which in a few seconds reached the
body, while a Hindu priest recited verses from the Vedas. The process
of burning occupied about four hours. Two other bodies, one an adult,
and the other a child, were nearly burnt to ashes during my visit.
It appears that in India, when the body is motionless, and assumes a
death-like appearance, as in trance or catalepsy, no attempt is ever
made at resuscitation, no matter how suddenly or unexpectedly the
supposed death may occur, nor is there any proper method of examination
for the purpose of death certification. Amongst the Hindus death is not
considered an evil, but is the gate leading to a better and happier
world. Many Hindus when ill are carried by their friends to the banks
of the sacred Ganges, where they meet death with much hope, and without

At the General Hospital, Colombo, I was told by Dr. Van Lagenberg
that there was absolutely no protection against premature burials for
persons subject to trance, as, although according to the law medical
certification was obligatory, medical examination was not; the doctor
taking the word of the friends as to the fact of death, and certifying
accordingly. Early burial (about six hours after death) was the rule.
The Mother Superior to the staff of nurses mentioned the case of the
venerable Father Vestarani, an aged Catholic priest of Colombo, who was
subject to attacks of epilepsy: these were followed by apparent death,
and he had several narrow escapes from premature burial. This case was
also known to my friend, Mr. Peter de Abrew, of Colombo, and others.
The house surgeon, Dr. H. M. Fernando, said that amongst the Moslems
burial followed apparent death very quickly, sometimes in an hour.

From Mr. Vira Raghava Chri, of Madras, manager of the _Hindu_, I
learned that the Brahmins always burn the dead soon after death occurs.
The relatives, if they reside within easy reach, are sent for. The body
is washed in cold water, and after two or three hours the religious
service begins, which is performed by the priests, and consists of
citations from the Vedas having reference to the departure of the soul
from the body, and to the lessons the solemn event teaches. These
ceremonies generally last for two or three hours, after which the body
is taken to be burned. In answer to my inquiries as to what would
happen if within that time no sign of decomposition was exhibited, Mr.
Chri informed me that under no circumstances would they wait for more
than six hours before the body was taken to be burned. He had heard of
cases of persons declared to be dead coming to life while being carried
to the funeral pyre, when they were restored to and welcomed by their
friends. Cases were also known of the corpse sitting up amidst the
flames, and being beaten down by those in charge of the funeral. They
were believed to be the victims of premature cremation. He thought,
however, that such cases were rare amongst his co-religionists.


Mr. Mohan Chunder Roy, M.B., of Benares, said that it was a very
difficult matter, even for a medical practitioner, to distinguish the
living from the dead, and, where there were no signs of putrefaction,
it was his custom to advise the relatives to wait before burial, or
before sending the body to the burning ghat, which they were very
reluctant to do. When apparent revivals to consciousness occurred on
the pyre, the superstitious people believed that it was due to the
presence of evil spirits, and the attempt to escape is frustrated by
cremators in charge of the burning ghat. This barbarous custom has been
repeatedly affirmed to me by intelligent natives as a matter of common

One reason why Hindus are hurried to the cremation ground so quickly,
and without waiting to see whether the case is one of trance or
suspended animation, is that the relatives are not allowed either to
eat or drink while the body remains in the house. If a person touches
any article in the house of mourning, that article must be washed and
purified. After the cremation all the relatives purify themselves by
bathing before they are allowed to eat or drink.

Mr. Durga Prasad, editor of the _Harbinger_, Lahore, writes, February
29, 1896:--“I recollect, when about twelve years old, my grandmother,
who was held in great esteem for her piety and experience, told me that
she was once declared to be dead, and was therefore carried to our
crematorium, or burning-place; but when about to be burnt she came back
to life.”

Mr. Joseph, assistant secretary at the Public Library and Museum,
Colombo, told the author that his father, owing to weakness of the
heart, was subject to frequent attacks of trance-like insensibility.
They passed away by simple treatment in a few hours, but were sometimes
quite alarming. He was afraid, owing to the superstitious fear of death
among the ignorant classes in Ceylon, and the terror which keeping a
corpse, or a person in a state of catalepsy, where volition had ceased,
excited, that many were buried or burned alive, as it was the custom,
particularly amongst the Mahomedans, to carry the body away a few hours
after death. Signs of decomposition quickly appeared in a tropical
climate, but this unequivocal mode of verifying death was not often
waited for by Moslems.



Sri Sumangala, the venerable High Priest of the Buddhists of Ceylon,
and Principal of the College for Buddhist Priests, at an interview the
author had with him in January, 1895, stated that among the Sinhalese
the chances of burial or cremation of the apparently dead are not
frequent. Their customs are such that a corpse is seldom or never
removed for burial or cremation before the expiry of twenty-four hours
after death is said to have taken place. During that time climatic
influence renders signs of decomposition and putrefaction apparent.

Only one case came under the observation of the venerable theologian,
which was that of a person bitten by a cobra. The man apparently
succumbed, but a native specialist, having arrived at the cemetery
just before the burial, examined the case, and said that life was _not
extinct_, and saved the man from a premature grave.

The following is from the _British Medical Journal_, April 26, 1884, p.


 “The _Times of India_, for March 21, has the following story:--On last
 Friday morning the family of a Goanese, named Manuel, aged seventy
 years, who had been for the last four months suffering from dysentery,
 thinking that he was dead, made preparations for his funeral. He was
 placed in a coffin and taken from his house, at Worlee, to a chapel
 at Lower Mahim, preparatory to burial. The priest, on putting his hand
 on the man’s chest, found his heart still beating. He was thereupon
 removed to the Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy Hospital, where he remained in an
 unconscious state up to a late hour on last Friday night, when he

In a communication to the author from Mr. Nasarvariji F. Billimoria,
dated March 14, 1896, the writer says that, where cases of premature
burning have occurred in India, the relatives are unwilling to have
the facts published, and shrink from making them known. Moreover, when
members of a family once declared dead have been rejected by their
friends in the land of shadows, and have returned to this life, they
are believed to bring misfortune with them, and discredit is attached
to the families in consequence. Mr. Billimoria says the following cases
can be relied upon as authentic:--

 “In the year 18--, in the town of B----, a Marwari was taken as dead
 and carried to the cremation ground. Unfortunately, at that time a
 superstition was prevalent among all classes of Indians that, if a
 dead one is brought back to his or her house, a plague would break
 out in the town. When, therefore, the Marwari survived, instead
 of bringing him back to the house, or even allowing him to roam
 elsewhere, he was killed, it is said, by a hatchet, which they were
 in the habit of carrying with them to break the fuel for the funeral
 pyre. This had happened in the old Gaekwari days when Governments did
 not interfere in the superstitious customs of the people.”

Fortunately, however, those days are gone, and with them the old
superstitions. Some time ago a fisherwoman, after taking a liberal
dose of alcoholic drink and opium, was found (apparently) dead by her
relatives--low-caste Hindus. No time is lost among the Hindus, high or
low caste, to remove the body to the cremation ground after a man is
found dead.

 “A bamboo bier was being prepared to carry the fisherwoman to the
 _Samashân_ (cremation ground), upon which the body was laid as usual,
 and the relatives were to lift it to their shoulders: when, lo! the
 woman turned herself on the bier on her side, and, thanks to the good
 sense of the fishermen, she is still enjoying her life while I am


 “A young daughter of a Bania was sick for a long time, and was found
 apparently dead by her relatives, and carried to the _Samashân_. These
 grounds are generally situated at a river side. When the bier was
 prepared for certain ceremonies, the girl showed signs of revival,
 and, one by one, the relatives would go near the bier, bend down,
 stare at the face, and retire aghast. Information had reached the town
 that the girl had survived; but the body, nevertheless, was cremated,
 and never brought back to the house. It is believed that in this case,
 although the girl had revived for a little time, she had died soon
 afterwards, as she had been ill for a long time previously. Granting
 that it was a case in which the dying became actively conscious a few
 minutes before real death, it is certain that great and indecent haste
 was practised by the relatives in pressing on the cremation, as is the
 usual mode in India.”

The _Bombay Guardian_, January 11, 1896, under the head of “The Week’s
News,” announced that--

 “A Brahmin went to Poona to attend the National Congress. He was laid
 up with fever, became dangerously ill, and fell into a trance. His
 friends, thinking him dead, made the necessary arrangements for the
 funeral. They took the supposed dead man to the river to be burned,
 but, just as the funeral procession arrived near the Shane temple, his
 head and hands were seen moving. The cloth having been removed from
 his face, he opened his eyes and tried to speak. He was taken home.”

This case was reported also in the _Times of India_.

The subject of hasty and premature burials in India might with much
profit be introduced at the National Congress. The author believes
that thousands of people are annually buried and burned in a state of
suspended animation--particularly in places where cholera, small-pox,
and other devastating plagues prevail. It is usual, both amongst
the Parsees and the Hindus, to begin preparations for the religious
ceremonies when the case is considered hopeless.

Dr. Roger S. Chew, of Calcutta, who for some years occupied the
position of army surgeon in India, writes to me:--“Though there is
every risk of live interment with those classes who bury their dead,
this is a risk (save in cases of epidemic or battlefield) the British
soldier never runs in India, where the military law requires that a
_post-mortem_ examination, not earlier than twelve hours after decease,
must be held on every soldier who dies from any cause except a highly
contagious or infectious disease.” In the present unsatisfactory state
of the law might not this safeguard be generally adopted?


On Sunday, March 15, 1896, my daughter and I were accompanied to the
Towers of Silence, situated on the highest part of Malabar Hill,
Bombay, by Mr. Phiroze C. Sethna, a highly accomplished Parsee
merchant, to whom we were indebted for many acts of kindness during our
sojourn in the city. The position is one of rare beauty, commanding
as it does charming panoramic views of Bombay and the surrounding
neighbourhood, while immediately below are extensive cocoa and other
tropical plantations. At the entrance to the towers is a notice-board
in English, stating that none but Parsees are admitted. We passed under
the porch into the sacred enclosure, and found ourselves in the midst
of a lovely garden planted with choice shrubs and trees, and were each
presented by the gardener with bouquets of freshly-cut flowers.


The towers are five in number, the smallest having been erected in
1669, all modelled after the same pattern, and are about twenty-five
feet high. Inside is a circular platform about three hundred feet in
circumference paved with large slabs, and divided into rows of shallow
open receptacles in which the bodies are placed. There are three
sections--for males, females, and children. We noticed a number of
vultures sitting on the adjacent trees, and were informed that, when a
funeral is on its way, large numbers congregate upon the coping of the
tower, ready to seize the body and devour it the moment it is deposited
by the corpse-bearers on the slabs, after the conclusion of the funeral
ceremonies. In an hour or less the corpse is completely stripped of its
flesh, when the bones are thrown into a well. From a sanitary point of
view, the plan is preferable to burying or to cremation, which last,
as it is carried out in India, is a slow and tedious process. Vultures
have never been known to attack children, or even babies left by their
mothers tied for safety to a branch of a tree, and will not, it is
said, attack a person only apparently dead, as in a trance or coma.

Another custom amongst the Parsees in the treatment of their dead is
to bring a dog to the corpse before it is removed from the house, and
another dog on its arrival at the Tower of Silence. This ceremony is
known as the Sagdeed. In a pamphlet on the “Funeral Ceremonies of the
Parsees,” by Ervad Jivanji Jamshedje Mody, B.A., a learned priest of
the Parsee cult, with whom the author had the pleasure of an interview,
the explanation is that, according to the ancient belief, the spotted
dog can discriminate between the really and the apparently dead. Dr.
Franz Hartmann and other writers appear also to be of the opinion,
which the author considers highly probable, that a dog knows whether
his master is really dead or only in a trance; but that a strange dog
would be able to discriminate and act as a sentinel to prevent a living
person being mistaken for a dead one, is highly improbable.

Having heard of several cases of persons taken to the Towers of Silence
who recovered consciousness after being laid within the enclosure, I
asked Mr. Jivanji Mody what would happen in such a case, and what means
of escape there would be? Mr. Mody replied that within the tower there
is a chain hanging from the coping to the floor, by which a person
could draw himself up to the top of the structure, and he would then be
seen and rescued. In a neatly-constructed model of these towers at the
museum, Victoria Gardens, Bombay, no chain is visible. The subject of
apparent death, or suspended animation, and how to prevent premature
burial, premature cremation, and premature exposure in the Towers of
Silence, is beginning to excite interest in some parts of India. Mr.
Ardeshar Nowroji, Fort Bombay, student of Zoroastrian literature, is to
read a paper on the subject before the Debating Society at Elphinstone
College. Mr. Soabjee Dhunjeebhoy Wadia is also studying literature
bearing on the same topic.

Mr. Dadabhoy Nusserwanje, a Bombay Parsee and merchant, residing
at Colombo, Ceylon, informed the author, January 28, 1896, that he
knew of two cases where his co-religionists had been declared dead,
and the bodies prepared for burial (the preparation including the
long religious service as prescribed by their formulas), who were
only in a trance. This was proved by their having come back to life
when placed in the Towers of Silence in Bombay. It appears that any
persons officially and religiously given over for dead were formerly
not allowed to be restored to their relatives, or to the society to
which they belonged, as they were supposed to carry with them, from
their dead associates, liability to plagues or ill luck, and they are
consequently obliged to migrate to distant parts of the country. My
informant said that this superstition was so deeply rooted in the minds
of the Parsee people that he did not think a reform was possible.

Cases of persons in a trance, mistaken for dead, are by no means
uncommon, as would appear from the following communication from Mr.
Nasarvariji F. Billimoria, a Parsee of Bombay, addressed to Dr. Franz
Hartmann, and not previously published:-

 “Several cases of revival of the apparently dead among the Parsees,”
 writes Mr. Billimoria, “have come to my notice.

 “A Parsee, whom I shall call M---- B----, was given up as dead. The
 body was laid on the ground, and the usual ceremonies were being
 performed, when, to the surprise of the people surrounding the body,
 he rose and described some spiritual experience. He died long after
 this event took place, at a good old age, at Bilimora, a town about
 eighty miles north of Bombay.

 “S----, a girl of about ten years, was also taken as dead in the same
 town, and, after laying her body on the ground, prayers were being
 recited by the priests. She rose and said that she had been to some
 other land, where she saw an old lady who ordered her to go away, as
 she was not required there just then. She died at a good old age a few
 months ago.

 “A woman in the garb of a Hindu beggar was some time ago in the habit
 of interviewing Parsee ladies at odd times, viz., at about three or
 four o’clock in the morning, at the same place, and asking several
 questions pertaining to religion. It was afterwards found that she was
 K---- (widow of a Parsee priest), who had apparently died a short time
 before, and, after revival, had emerged from the Tower of Silence,
 and, a superstition being prevalent among the people that none should
 be taken back among us who return from the dead, she dared not unite
 with the Parsees, and hence led a wanderer’s life.

 “In Bombay, too, I have heard of some cases of the revival of the
 apparently dead among the Parsees, the principal of them being a
 lady of a wealthy family, and a Parsee who afterwards carried on his
 profession as a physician. The physician was living as a Christian on
 account of the prejudice among the Parsees before referred to. He was
 called “Mûtchala Dâktar,” _i.e._, doctor with big moustache.

 “Similar cases had also occurred in Surat, where two Parsee women had
 returned from the Towers of Silence, one of whom lived afterwards as a
 Sanyasini. What became of the other I cannot say.”

“The funeral ceremonies among the Parsees provide that, after the signs
of death are manifest, the body be washed with warm water, and laid on
a clean sheet; two persons hold the hands of the dead person, joining
themselves by a _paivand_ of tape. The priests recite certain prayers,
after which the body is laid on ground set apart for the purpose in
the house. Here it lies for several hours, during which time priests
recite alternately certain prayers, while a fire is kept alive with
fragrant combustibles near the body. The Nasasâlârs, or corpse-bearers,
arrive at the appointed time, when the fire is taken away, and other
manthrâ or prayers, which occupy an hour or so, are recited by two
priests conjointly, gazing first on the iron bier, and then on the face
of the body. A procession is then formed, and the body is carried by
the Nasasâlârs only, the others walking in pairs, joining themselves
by holding a handkerchief in their hands, several yards distant from
the body. The Towers of Silence are removed from the habitations of
mankind, sometimes, miles distant, where, after the arrival of the
funeral procession, the last obeisance is performed, and the body
is carried into the tower, which is called _Dukhmâh_, the mourners,
except the Nasasâlârs, remaining outside. The procession returns after
further prayers. The towers are entirely open from above to allow ample
sunlight, and to allow the carrion-birds access to the dead.

“From the foregoing it would appear that, with regard to the disposal
of the dead, the Parsee system offers advantages, in respect of the
revival of the supposed dead persons, over the European system of
burial. After real or supposed death, a fire is kept burning near the
body, the heat of which would indirectly assist in resuscitating those
in a state of suspended animation.

“If a man dies in the afternoon, his body is not carried to the towers
till next day, and in that case the fire is kept alive the whole night
near the body, two priests alternately reciting manthrâs. Some time is
thus allowed to intervene between the supposed death and the disposal
of the body in the Towers of Silence. There, too, the body is not laid
without Zoroastrian ceremony. But in the system of disposal itself
we see another protection, in that the carrion-birds do not touch the
body unless they instinctively find evidence of putrefaction. It is a
fact that in not a few cases persons have escaped from the dismal and
terrible fate of being laid alive in the Towers of Silence. The system
of disposal in the tower may appear to non-Zoroastrians repulsive; but
neither the system of cremation nor burial will give us back those
whom they have once devoured. That the Parsees do not allow those who
have returned from the Towers of Silence to intermingle among them is
another question. This too, however, has attracted the attention of
this small community; and I hear that there is a standing order issued
from the trustees of the Parsee Panchayet at Bombay to the Nasasâlârs
(the corpse-bearers) to the effect that they would be rewarded if they
would give information or bring back any body which had been revived
after it had been carried to the Towers of Silence.”

The Parsee custom of using the dog is suggestive. There are numerous
cases on record where a dog, following his master to the grave as one
of the mourners, has refused to leave the grave; and these have been
quoted as a proof of the undying love of the master’s canine friend.
May it not be that dogs are gifted, as believed by the Parsees,
with another sense denied to most men--the faculty of discerning
between real and apparent death? A medical correspondent relates the

 “In Austria, in 1870, a man seemed to be dead, and was placed in a
 coffin. After the usual three days of watching over the supposed
 corpse, the funeral was commenced; and when the coffin was being
 carried out of the house, it was noticed that the dog which belonged
 to the supposed defunct became very cross, and manifested great
 eagerness toward the coffin, and could not be driven away. Finally,
 as the coffin was about to be placed in the hearse, the dog attacked
 the bearers so furiously that they dropped it on the ground; and in
 the shock the lid was broken off, and the man inside awoke from his
 lethargic condition, and soon recovered his full consciousness. He was
 alive and well at last news of him. Dogs might possibly be of use in
 deciding doubtful cases, where their master was concerned.”

Also the following:--


 “The postmaster of a village in Moravia ‘died’ in a fit of epilepsy,
 and was buried three days afterwards in due form. He had a little pet
 dog which showed great affection towards him, and after the burial
 the dog remained upon the man’s grave and howled dismally, and would
 not be driven away. Several times the dog was taken home forcibly,
 but whenever it could escape it immediately returned. This lasted for
 a week, and became the talk of the village. About a year afterwards
 that part of the grave-yard had to be removed owing to an enlargement
 in building the church, and consequently the grave of the postmaster
 was opened, and the body was found in such a state and position as
 to leave no doubt that he had been buried alive, had returned to
 consciousness, and had died in the grave. The physician who had signed
 the certificate of death went insane on that account, soon after the
 discovery was made.”--_Premature Burial, p. 109, London ed._



EARLY burials are advocated and defended by certain writers on sanitary
grounds; and there is, no doubt, something to be said for them,
provided the body shows unmistakable signs of dissolution; but to
impose a general rule upon Englishmen by Parliament, or upon Americans
by State Legislature, as has been urged, would add to the existing evil
of perfunctory and mistaken diagnosis of death, and greatly increase
the number of premature interments. The Romans kept the bodies of
the dead a week before burial, lest through haste they should inter
them while life remained. Servius, in his commentary on Virgil, tells
us--“That on the eighth day they burned the body, and on the ninth put
its ashes in the grave.” Plato enjoined the bodies of the dead to be
kept until the third day, _in order_ (as he says) _to be satisfied of
the reality of the death_. Quintilian explains why the Romans delayed
burials as follows:--“For what purpose do ye imagine that long-delayed
interments were invented? Or on what account is it that the mournful
pomp of funeral solemnities is always interrupted by sorrowful groans
and piercing cries? Why, for no other reason, but because we have seen
persons return to life after they were about to be laid in the grave
as dead.” “For this reason,” adds Lancisi, in “De Subita. Mort.,” lib.
i., cap. 15, “the Legislature has wisely and prudently prohibited
the immediate, or the too speedy, interment of all dead persons, and
especially of such as have the misfortune to be cut off by a sudden


Terilli, a celebrated physician of Venice, in a treatise of the
“Causes of Sudden Death,” sect. vi., cap. 2, says:--“Since the body
is sometimes so deprived of every vital function, and the principle
of life reduced so low, that it cannot be distinguished from death,
the laws both of natural comparison and revealed religion oblige us to
wait a sufficient time for life manifesting itself by the usual signs,
peradventure it should not be, as yet, totally extinguished; and if
we should act a contrary part, we may possibly become murderers, by
confining to the gloomy regions of the dead those who are actually

Mr. Cooper, surgeon, in his treatise on “The Uncertainty of the
Signs of Death,” pp. 70, 71, had in his possession the following
certificate, written and signed by Mr. Blau, a native of Auvergne, a
man of untainted veracity:--“I hereto subscribe, and declare, that
fifty-five years ago, happening to reside at Toulouse for the sake
of my studies, and going to St. Stephen’s Church to hear a sermon, I
saw a corpse brought thither for the sake of interment. The ceremony,
however, was delayed till the sermon should be over; but the supposed
dead person, being laid in a chapel and attended by all the mourners,
about the middle of the sermon discovered manifest signs of life,
for which reason he was quickly conveyed back to his own house. From
a consideration of circumstances, it is sufficiently obvious that,
without the intervention of the sermon, the man had been interred

Between 1780 and 1800 many pamphlets on the subject appeared in Germany
and France. Opposite sides were taken, some advocating delay until
putrefaction, others urging immediate burial.

In 1788, Marcus Hertz wrote strongly against the prevailing precipitate
burials among the Jews. He asked “what motive could justify hasty
burials;” and continued:--“The writings of learned men and doctors, of
both early times and recent date, describe the dangers of precipitate
burial; there is not a town in the world that has not its stories of
revivals in the grave.”

In 1791, Rev. J. W. C. Wolff, in Germany, published numerous narratives
of narrow escapes from the grave.

In 1792, Rev. Johann Moritz Schwager stated that he had preached
for twenty years against precipitate burials, and that he had been
requested to do so by a number of corporate bodies who had evidence of
the danger of hasty interments.

About 1800 great excitement prevailed in Germany on account of some
narrow escapes from living burial that happened in high quarters,
many books and pamphlets having been issued, and sermons preached
by the clergy on the subject. The key-note of all of these was the
fallaciousness of the appearances of death, and that none was reliable
but decomposition.

About this period Dr. Herachborg, of Königsberg, Prussia, wrote that,
for forty years, as a doctor, he had always been disgusted with the
practice of hasty burials; and, to show the ignorance of the times,
he mentions the case of a woman he kept under observation in bed for
three days, when her relations took her out and placed her on the
floor, insisting that she was dead. He resisted her burial, and had
her covered with blankets; so that by being kept warm she recovered
completely. He insisted that no sign of death could be relied upon.


From the _British Medical Journal_, April 12, 1862, p. 390. “The
_Gaz. Méd. d’Orient_ tells us that people in Constantinople are, in
all probability, not unfrequently buried alive, in consequence of the
precipitancy with which their burial is performed. If the person dies
during the night, he has some chance of escaping premature sepulture;
but if he dies during the day, he is sure to be in his tomb in two
hours after he has drawn his last breath. Facts of daily occurrence in
this country, we are told, prove that persons who were thought to have
died during the night have recovered before morning, and thus, thanks
to the intervention of night, have been saved from being interred
alive. Other facts of not unfrequent occurrence show that persons have
recovered while on their road to the grave. In other rarer cases,
again, the cries of the revivified half-buried ones have been heard by
the passers-by, and thus saved from a horrible conclusion.”

In all countries it is the custom amongst the Jews to bury their dead,
and apparently dead, quickly, without taking the slightest steps for
restoration, and many are the catastrophes recorded.

“The Report of the Royal Humane Society” of 1802 states:--“At the
funeral of a Jewess, one of the bearers thought he heard repeatedly
some motion in the coffin, and informed his friends. Medical assistance
being obtained, she returned to her home in a few hours completely

From the _British Medical Journal_, March 8, 1879, p. 356.


“A Jew, aged seventy, who had been ailing for some time, apparently
died recently in Lemberg, on a Friday night, after severe convulsions.
The deceased having been legally certified, the body was put on a
bier, preparatory to the funeral, which had to be deferred, the next
day being the Jewish Sabbath. Two pious brethren who had, according to
their custom, been spending the night in prayer, watching the dead,
were suddenly, on the morning of the Saturday, disturbed from their
devotions by strange sounds proceeding from the bier, and, to their
dismay, saw the dead man slowly rising, and preparing to descend from
it, using at the same time very strong language. Both brethren fled
very precipitately; and one of them has since died from the effects
of the fright. It is hoped by the _Wiener Medicinische Zeitung_ that
this case will make the local government watch the Jewish funerals more
carefully, as it is known that the Jews often bury their dead very

The _Undertakers’ Journal_, January 22, 1887, says:--“The dangers that
may arise from premature interment are illustrated by a sensational
incident which recently occurred at Trencsin, in Hungary. The wife of
the Rabbi of the Jewish Congregation apparently died suddenly without
having been previously ill. The night before the funeral the female
watcher, sitting in an adjoining room, heard a noise in the chamber of
death, and, when, stricken with horror, she ventured to open the door,
she found that the seemingly dead woman had risen from her bier, and
had thrown off the shroud by which she was covered. By a fortunate
accident the interment had been postponed in consequence of the
intervening Sabbath, otherwise a horrible fate would have overtaken the
Rabbi’s wife.”


The _Lancet_, August 23, 1884, vol. ii., p. 329, comments thus:--


“It is not so much undue haste as inexcusable carelessness that must be
blamed for the premature burying of persons who are not really dead.
Such heedlessness as alone can lead to the commission of this crime is
not a shade less black than manslaughter. We speak strongly, because
this is a matter in regard to which measures ought to be at once taken
to render the horrible act impossible, and to dismiss all fear from the
public mind. If it be a fact, as would seem to be indisputable, that
during the last few weeks there have been cases--we will not attempt
to say how many or how few--of burying alive, a scandal and a horror,
wholly unpardonable in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, have
to be faced; and the sooner the full truth is known and rules of safety
established the better. Let it be once for all decided that measures
shall be taken to ascertain the fact of death before burial. Why not
revert to the old practice, and _always_ open a vein in the arm after
death, or pass a current of electricity through the body before the
coffin is finally screwed down? It may be held that these unpleasant
resorts are unnecessary. We do not think they are. In any case enough
is known of the possibilities of ‘suspended animation’ to render it
unsafe to bury until the evidences of an actual extinction of life are
unmistakable; and, as it is impossible to wait until decomposition sets
in in all cases of death from infectious diseases, it would be prudent
to adopt what must certainly be the least of evils.”

If, as the _Lancet_ maintains, it is not possible to wait until the
only absolute sign of death is manifest, then, in a large majority
of cases, there is no safety, and those who die fatally mutilated by
horrible accidents may be considered fortunate. The difficulty, we
admit, is of a serious nature, particularly for the poor, and can only
be overcome by the erection of mortuaries, as discussed in another
chapter. The expedient of applying the electric current, suggested by
the _Lancet_, has been proved useless in cases of death-trance, where
the patients are impervious to the most violent modes of cutaneous

The _Jewish World_, September 13, 1895, observes:--“Cases of trance
and of the burial of persons who only seemed to be dead, and of narrow
escapes of others from the most terrible of all imaginable fates, are
not so uncommon as most people suppose; and while Jews adhere to the
practice of interring their dead within a few hours after the supposed
demise, there will always be a risk of such horrible catastrophes
happening, even more frequently among us than among the general
community. Here is, then, really a matter in which some reform is
needed, and that without a day’s delay.


“To say nothing of the merely human aspect of this important question,
to bury until decomposition has actually set in might possibly be
shown to be a violation of Jewish Law. It is now commonly admitted
that even expert medical men cannot be absolutely certain of death
until some signs of decomposition have shown themselves. Now, so
strict is the Jewish Law as regards the risk of destroying life, that
it is prohibited to even move or touch a man or woman who is on the
point of death, lest we hasten, by a moment, their dissolution. It is,
therefore, no less than a violation of the Jewish laws against murder
to preserve a custom that involves even the minutest scintilla of risk
of premature burial. It is high time that this question was seriously
taken up by the Jewish clergy and laity.”[8]

In the province of Quebec no interment is permitted within twenty-four
hours, and the Jews reconcile themselves to this delay, which, however,
is far too brief to ensure safety.

It will be said that the danger referred to is not so imminent in the
United Kingdom as in France, Spain, Portugal, or even in the United
States, owing to the existence of a more temperate climate, and the
longer period allowed for burial. This may be so and yet the danger
be considerable. It must be remembered that in the rural districts
nothing in the shape of examination to establish the fact of death is
practised; while in certain parts of Cornwall, throughout the greater
part of agricultural Ireland, amongst the Jews in all cities and towns,
as well as those who in all places are certified as dead of cholera,
small-pox, and other infectious and epidemic diseases, burial often
follows certified death quite as quickly as in the Continental States
before mentioned. In all the public resorts on the Continent the
hotel-keepers, through an insensate fear of death and the injury which
the possession of “a corpse,” dead or alive, may do to their business,
have them coffined and disposed of, particularly in the night, within
a few hours of their supposed death. Dr. D. de Lignières, in “Pour ne
pas être Enterré Vivant,” Paris, 1893, says he has known of burials
under such circumstances six hours after death. This author says that
these scandalous homicidal acts are of every-day occurrence, and that
the rapacious landlords have no difficulty in obtaining certificates of
death from the accommodating _mort verificateurs_. Every one who visits
the _hôtels des villes d’eaux, des stations balnéaires_, may verify
(he says) the truth of this statement for himself. In short, these are
willing disciples of the “Latest Decalogue”:--

  “Thou shalt not kill; but need’st not strive
  Officiously to keep alive.”



MANY of those who are most familiar with the phenomena of life and
death, including celebrated physicians, men of science, and clergymen,
knowing that all the ordinary signs of death (referred to in another
chapter) have, in practice, sometimes proved delusive, have been a prey
to the suspicion that a fatal mistake is possible in their own case.
They have, therefore, left precise instructions in their wills for
various preventives which experience has shown to be necessary, and in
some instances a combination of these, so as to make doubly sure that
they shall not be subjected, like thousands of human beings, to the
unspeakable horrors of being buried alive.

Mr. Horace Welby, in his volume entitled “Mysteries of Life, Death,
and Futurity,” 1861, under the head of “Premature Interment,” p.
114, says:--“How prevalent is the fear of being buried alive may be
gathered from the number of instances in which men have requested that,
before the last offices are done for them, such wounds or mutilations
should be inflicted upon their bodies as would effectually prevent
the possibility of an awakening in the tomb. Dr. Dibdin relates that
Francis Douce, the antiquary, requested, in his will, that Sir Anthony
Carlisle, the surgeon, should sever his head from his body, or take out
his heart, to prevent the return of vitality; and his co-residuary
legatee, Mr. Kerrick, has also requested the same operation to be
performed in the presence of his son.”

Bishop Berkeley, Daniel O’Connell, and the late Lord Lytton entertained
similar apprehensions. Wilkie Collins had a like fear, for he always
left on his dressing-table a letter in which he solemnly enjoined
his people that, if he were found dead in the morning, he should at
once be carefully examined by a doctor. Hans Christian Andersen had a
similar dread, and carried in his pocket a note to the effect that,
when the time came, his friends were to make sure that he was really
dead before burial. Harriet Martineau left her doctor ten pounds to see
that her head was amputated before burial. The dread of being buried
alive dictated a clause in the will of the distinguished actress, the
late Miss Ada Cavendish, for the severance of the jugular vein; and
prompted the late Mr. Edmund Yates to leave similar instructions, with
the provision that a fee of twenty guineas should be paid for the
operation, which was carried out. Mr. John Rose, of New York, who died
in November, 1895, made known his earnest desire that his coffin should
not be closed, but laid in the family vault at Roseton, and guarded day
and night by two caretakers, who were instructed to watch for signs of

The late Lady Burton, widow of Sir Richard Burton, provided that her
heart was to be pierced with a needle, and her body to be submitted to
a _post-mortem_ examination, and afterwards embalmed (not stuffed) by
competent experts. Lady Burton, it is said, had been subject to fits of
trance on more than one occasion, and was terribly afraid that such an
attack might be diagnosed as death.

Those who are most apprehensive of apparent death being mistaken for
real death are the clergy and other ministers of religion, and funeral
directors--in other words, those who know most about it.

Let anyone introduce the subject when in company, on a suitable
occasion, and we shall hear of startling cases sufficient to shake
credulity, and to compel us to realise the danger to ourselves, as
well as to all other members of the community, under our present loose
customs. If this dread of premature burial is not universal, as some
writers and authorities aver, it is certainly widely extended; and
the evidence set before our readers will show that it is by no means
without foundation.


The _Lancet_, March 17, 1866, says:--“There are many apparently
trustworthy stories afloat, both in this country and on the Continent,
which favour the belief that premature interment not only does
sometimes take place, but is really of not so unfrequent occurrence as
might be supposed. Some few believe it to be not an unlikely event, and
break out into a cold perspiration at the thought of the possibility
of the misfortune happening to themselves. Others have actually made
provision in their wills that means should be taken, by cutting off a
finger, or making a pectoral incision, etc., to excite sensibility,
in case any should remain after their supposed death; whilst a French
countess, in order to escape so terrible a fate, left a legacy to her
medical attendant as a fee for his severance of the carotid artery in
her body before it was committed to the tomb.”

The Rev. John Kingston, chaplain R.N., writing to the (London) _Morning
Post_, September 18, 1895, says--“The danger of being buried alive
appears to be a very real one; and I can testify, from my experience as
a clergyman, that a great many persons are haunted by the dread of that
unspeakably horrible fate.” The writer further expresses a hope that
the ventilation of the subject will be followed by practical results.

While speaking on the subject of premature burials, in a lecture
delivered at Everett Hall, Brooklyn, New York, June, 1883, Mr. J. D.
Beugless, the then President of the New York Cremation Society, said
that an undertaker in that city (Brooklyn) recently made provision in
his will, and exacted a promise from his wife of great caution, that
his body should be cremated, being induced thereto by the fear of being
buried alive. “Live burials,” he says, “are far more frequent than most
people think.” It is reported that another undertaker of Brooklyn some
time since deposited a body in a receiving vault temporarily: when he
went some days later to remove it for burial, what was his horror, upon
opening the niche in which the coffin had been placed, to find the body
crouching at the door, stark in death, the hair dishevelled, the flesh
of the arms lacerated and torn, and the face having the most appalling
expression of horror and despair ever witnessed by mortal eyes!

An undertaker, writing to the _Plymouth Morning News_, October 2, 1895,
mentions that he reluctantly buried a young person, who lay in the
coffin for seven clear days without sign of decomposition, and only
consented to close the coffin then, on the assurance that the same
conditions attended all the deaths which had previously occurred in the
family. Dr. Hartmann and other authorities have found that such cases
are probably the subjects of catalepsy, a malady which sometimes runs
in families and affects every member. The undertaker adds that, in
future, he should decline to close the coffin of the apparently dead
until signs of decomposition set in, “thus preventing the possibility
of our worst fears being realised.” If undertakers generally would
adopt these wise and necessary precautions, living sepulture would
come to an end. Under the existing imperfect system of medical
examination--and, as we have shown, both in England and in the United
States, where there is usually no examination at all--there is often
a reckless haste in interments. No thoughtful persons can contemplate
the burial of a million and a half human beings annually in these two
countries without mistrust and misgivings.

Many well-to-do people in civilised countries provide in their wills
for the prevention of premature interment, by leaving instructions for
surgical operations after their decease, _post-mortems_, embalmment,
or cremation. It may happen, however, that wills are mislaid, lost,
or withheld by the testators, or are not opened and read until after
the funeral, when the instructions in this regard, however strictly
enjoined, are rendered abortive. Legacies should be given conditionally
on the observance of certain duties, and only payable on proofs to
the executors that they have been carried out. A large majority of
people do not, however, leave testamentary instructions, for the
simple reason that they have nothing to bequeath. And the majority
have an equal claim with the minority to be safeguarded by the State
against such terrible misfortunes. Syncope, sometimes mistaken for
death, is a condition to which both men and women, who are compelled
by their poverty in all large cities to endure exhausting labours in
ill-ventilated work-rooms, and their often ill-nourished children in
board schools in England and in the public schools in America, are
peculiarly liable.



THE idea commonly entertained is that with animal bodies there are
only two possible conditions--either life or death; that the presence
of one of these conditions implies the absence of the other; that when
the body has assumed the appearance of death, as during the sudden
suspension of all the functional activities, it must be dead. This
last is far from being true; for all the appearances of death are
fallacious, especially those that accompany so-called sudden death.
All such cases should be challenged as of doubtful character, and held
so till recovery or putrefaction of the tissues proves the presence of
life or of death. This subject is too often treated by medical writers
with indifference. Technically, it is regarded as a failure of the
brain, or lungs, or heart, to perform their functions; popularly, we
say that “the thread of life is snapped asunder;” or it is “the going
out of life,” like the sudden extinguishing of a candle. The author’s
experience, however, at the sick bedside, and in the death-chamber,
has taught him that life leaves the body in a gradual manner, and that
death approaches, and takes the place of life, in one part or organ
after another, thus creeping through the tissues, and sometimes defying
all tests to prove its presence, leaving putrefaction to be its only
sign. There can be no such thing as veritable sudden death, unless the
body is crushed into a shapeless mass, like an insect under foot.

The late Dr. Farr, of the Registrar-General’s Department, London,
says:--“No definition of the sense in which _sudden death_ is
practically understood by coroners has been given.” Dr. Granville says:
“The writers on medical jurisprudence do not state with any strictness
what they mean by sudden death, whether it be death in ten minutes,
ten hours, or ten days.”[9] And he asks in the same vein, “Does sudden
death mean death in three minutes, three hours, or three days?”[10]
Still further he remarks regarding the customary definitions, “They
lead one to infer that a certain mysterious principle, called LIFE,
has been instantaneously withdrawn from a healthy and well-constituted
individual, who was at the very moment, as heretofore, exercising his
proper animal functions with a regularity that promised to endure for a
long continuance of years.... No such phenomena occur in Nature, unless
through violence or from accident. Under Nature’s laws there is no such
thing as sudden death.... In every case where death has abruptly cut
short the thread of life, there has been a preparation, more or less
antecedent to the occurrence, which must inevitably have led to it....
The victim may seem to have been struck down, as if by lightning. But
in reality the event was only the natural termination of an inward
state of things which insidiously and unexpectedly was preparing the


Dr. Tidy, in “Legal Medicine,” p. 29, says:--“As a rule, the action
required to bring about complete molecular death--_i.e._, the
suspension of vital activity in every part--is progressive. In a
given case, therefore, we are unable to state any definite time as
the period of its occurrence. The popular idea of death is that the
entire body dies at once. Somatic death is an impossibility.” Thus,
it is clear that the process of death, or the departure of life, may
require days or weeks for its completion; and it may even be delayed
to a time when putrefaction has set in quite generally, as when the
hair and nails grow after the body has been buried some weeks, as has
been credibly reported. Writers upon so-called sudden death recite a
number of diseases and conditions which quickly destroy the machinery
that carries on the vital functions, thus rendering resuscitation quite
impossible. Tidy[12] names some twelve of such causes: prominent among
them are diseases of the heart, rupture of the heart, clots in the
blood vessels, aneurisms, effusions of blood in the brain, bursting of
visceral abscesses, ulcers of the stomach, extra-uterine pregnancy,
rupture of the uterus or bladder, large draughts of cold water taken
when the body is heated, cholera, alcoholic poisoning, mental emotions,
etc. But he remarks upon these causes--“Because a person dies suddenly,
there being no evidence of violence or poison, the action adopted by
many coroners in not requiring a _post-mortem_ examination leaves
the most important witness--the dead body itself--unheard, and the
inquest so far valueless.” Which may mean that, without the risk of an
autopsy, it is impossible in such cases to determine whether they are
beyond resuscitation or not, unless putrefaction settles the question.
Unfortunately there is nothing in the external appearance of those
cases of so-called sudden death in which the vital machinery may be
totally wrecked, to distinguish them from those of apparent death,
in which all the organism is in a state of perfect integrity, and in
which resuscitation is possible, provided the vital principle has not
entirely left the body. Consequently, the only safe rule to observe
in all cases in which death has not followed poisoning, or injuries
which kill outright, or some known disease of sufficient duration and
severity to bring on dissolution, is to wait for unmistakable evidences
of decomposition before autopsy, embalming, cremation, or burial is

In former times precipitate interments of persons who died suddenly
were specially guarded against.

Nothing is more common, on opening a newspaper, than to see one or more
announcements of sudden death. These occurrences are so frequent that
the great London dailies, except when an inquest is held, or when the
deceased is a person of note, omit to record them. The narratives are
much alike: the person, described to be in his usual health, is seized
with faintness in the midst of his daily-avocation, and he falls down
apparently dead; or he retires for the night, and is found dead in his
bed. In many instances _post-mortems_ are made, and an inquest held;
but in other cases the opinion of the attendant doctor, that the death
is due to heart-disease, syncope, asphyxia, coma, apoplexy, or “natural
causes,” is deemed sufficient. The friends who are called in to look at
the body will remark, “how natural and how life-like,” “how flexible
the limbs,” “how placid the face;” and, without the faintest attempt
at resuscitation, arrangements are made for an early burial.


Dr. Alexander Wilder, Professor of Physiology and Psychology, in
a letter to the author, says:--“There are a variety of causes for
sudden death. The use of tobacco is one. Another is overtaxed nervous
system. Men of business keep on the strain till they drop from sheer
exhaustion. At the base of the brain is a little nerve-ganglion, the
medulla oblongata, which, once impaired, sends death everywhere.
Overtaxing the strength by study and mental stress will do this. The
solar ganglion below the diaphragm is the real vital focus of the body.
It is first to begin, last to die. A blow on it often kills. An emotion
will paralyse it. Even undue excess at a meal, or the use of overmuch
alcohol, may produce the effect.

“Tobacco impairs the action of the heart. An overfull stomach
paralyses the ganglionic store, and breathing is likely to stop. It is
dangerous in such cases to lie on the back. All these deaths are by
heart-failure.” It is syncope where the heart fails first; asphyxia
where the lungs are first to cease; coma when the brain is first
at fault. “Natural causes” and “heart-failure” usually mean, like
“congestion,” that the doctor’s ideas are vague.

Dr. Wilder continues:--“I would choose such a death if I could be sure
it was death. _But most of those things which I have enumerated may
cause a death which is only apparent._”

The following briefly extracted cases from English papers are typical
of thousands of others, and can be duplicated, with slight variation
in terms, throughout the United States. The absolute proof of the
reality of such deaths is not found in hasty diagnosis or in medical
certificates, but in the presence of putrefaction:--


 “Mr. P. G---- died suddenly yesterday. Apparently in his ordinary
 health, he had been busily occupied during the morning; went upstairs,
 and was found lying on his face on the floor. Dr. Jeffery was called,
 and pronounced life extinct, and expressed the opinion that death
 arose from syncope.”--_Western Morning News, September 14, 1895._


 “An inquiry was held as to the circumstances attending the death of W.
 P----, which took place suddenly the previous evening. The deceased
 was forty-three years of age, and invariably enjoyed good health,
 except that he complained of headache at times. The jury returned a
 verdict of death from natural causes.”--_Windsor Express, September
 21, 1895._


 “T. B---- was seized with sudden illness after retiring to rest, and
 expired before medical aid could be obtained. Deceased had been in his
 accustomed health, had been at work all day, and had eaten a hearty
 supper before retiring to rest. The Coroner was communicated with;
 but, as death was certified to be due to heart-disease, no inquest was
 necessary.”--_Middlesex County Times, October 2, 1895._


 “The deceased, L. E----, aged twenty, retired on Sunday evening in her
 usual state of good health. In the morning she was found insensible,
 and, when the doctor arrived, shortly afterwards, he found life to
 be extinct. Evidence was given to show that she had previously been
 perfectly bright, cheerful, and well. Verdict of the jury, that
 ‘Deceased died from failure of the action of the heart in the natural
 way.’”--_Harrogate Advertiser, October 12, 1895._



 “Mr. H----, who had been remarkably cheerful during the day, was just
 in the act of lighting his pipe to enjoy a smoke, when his head fell
 back, and he died in a moment. The family doctor certified to the
 cause of death.”--_Lancaster Guardian, October 12, 1895._


 “Mr. R. B. Tobins, the County Coroner, held an inquiry at the
 Guildhall, Plymouth, concerning the sudden death of P. E----.
 The deceased was sixty years of age, and was speaking to William
 Parkinson, when he began to cough, and passed away suddenly. Witness
 never knew deceased to be ill. Dr. Williams made a superficial
 examination of the body, and attributed death to heart-disease.
 Verdict: ‘Natural causes.’”--_The Western Mercury, Plymouth, October
 22, 1895._


 “Lieutenant S. C. G---- fell down and expired suddenly while walking
 near Kneller Hall, yesterday afternoon. Deceased was forty-four years
 of age, and had been in his usual health.”--_Daily News, November 1,


 “Mr. J. W. W---- died very suddenly. He was forty-five years of age;
 in his usual health and spirits on Monday; slept well; got up at five;
 told Mrs. W. W---- he was giddy; felt ill; went to bed; and died in
 her arms in a few minutes.”--_Western Press Bristol, November 1, 1893._


 “Mrs. E. T---- was found dead in her bedroom. She appeared ‘all right’
 when she retired to rest on Monday evening.”--_Bristol Times and
 Mirror, November 7, 1895._


 “The East Lancashire Coroner has received notice of the death of Ann,
 the wife of T. B----. She retired to bed apparently all right on
 Friday night. At two a.m. on Saturday the husband, who was awakened
 by the crying of the baby, went to his wife’s bedroom and found her
 dead, she having apparently died in her sleep.”--_Lancashire Express,
 Blackburn, November 11, 1895._


 “A painful shock was caused at Lowestoft last evening by the sudden
 death of Mr. T. R.----, who was forty-seven years of age, and
 apparently in his usual health. He drove out to pay a visit, but death
 took place a few minutes after his arrival.”--_Morning Advertiser,
 November 19, 1895._


 “Mr. D. L---- was found dead in bed on Sunday morning at half-past
 eight. The deceased, who was fifty-four years of age, was apparently
 in the best of health on Saturday, and had come on a visit to his
 daughter. The verdict at the inquest was: ‘Death from natural
 causes.’”--_Western Mail, Cardiff, November 19, 1895._


 “On Tuesday morning, between nine and ten o’clock, A. S----,
 thirty-six, was in her bedroom apparently in her usual health, when
 she suddenly fell back against a chair and expired.”--_Portsmouth
 Mail, November 28, 1893._


 “Yesterday the district Coroner was notified of the death of T. C.
 F----, aged thirty-nine, a butcher. F---- was cutting some meat on
 the block when he suddenly fell backwards dead. He had always enjoyed
 excellent health.”--_Sun., November 29, 1895._


 “Mr. W. P----, a carpenter, died suddenly yesterday morning. He was
 engaged at a light task at his bench, apparently in his usual health,
 when about ten o’clock he was seen to fall backwards. The doctor on
 arriving could only pronounce life extinct.”--_Sussex Daily News,
 December 4, 1895._


 “W. D. D---- died suddenly yesterday morning. Deceased appeared to be
 in his usual health when he retired on Monday. About half-past six in
 the morning he was supplied with a cup of tea, and an hour later was
 found dead in bed. Dr. R---- was called in, and said death was due to
 natural causes.”--_Dundee Advertiser, December 4, 1895._


 “A shock was occasioned the passengers as they were proceeding to
 town this morning by the sudden death of the conductor in charge.
 The deceased, J. D----, whose age is twenty-nine, had always been
 a steady, faithful servant, an army reserve man, and _suffered
 from no ailment, and certainly not from one likely to cause sudden
 death_.”--_Daily Argus, Birmingham, December 5, 1895._


 “On Tuesday, E. W----, aged thirty-six, retired to bed to all
 appearances in his usual health. His wife tried to awaken him about
 a quarter past seven on the following morning, but found that her
 husband was dead.”--_Wolverhampton Evening News, December 6, 1895._


 “Last night Mr. A. B. Stouth held an inquest concerning the death of
 T. S----. The deceased, who was described _as a very healthy man_,
 went to the colliery shortly after six o’clock; he conversed freely
 with the workmen, and when in the act of taking off his coat he fell
 down and died. The verdict, without _post-mortem_ was returned: ‘Died
 from natural causes.’”--_Birmingham Daily Gazette, December 10, 1895._


 “The Rev. T. S. C----, of Salop, died very suddenly at his residence.
 He attended to his usual duties in the morning, apparently in the
 full enjoyment of health, and in the afternoon conducted a funeral.
 Immediately upon his return he was taken ill, and died a few minutes
 afterwards.”--_Daily Argus, Birmingham, December 16, 1895._


 “A painfully sudden death occurred at Hounslow. A. H----, aged
 nineteen, clerk, started from home to attend his duties at the office,
 apparently in robust health. At about eight o’clock, whilst sitting
 between two companions at a table, he suddenly fell forward and
 expired.”--_Hounslow Chronicle, December 21, 1895._


 “A painful sensation was created at Leicester yesterday by the
 discovery that Mr. R. M----, a leading Wesleyan, had been found dead
 in his bed. He was apparently in excellent health when he retired,
 after a light supper.”--_Middlesborough Daily Gazette, December 30,


 “Major Taylor held an inquest on C. N. W---- yesterday. The deceased
 was described as a fine healthy boy. On Sunday forenoon he was placed
 on his grandmother’s knee to nurse, when he fell back and expired. A
 verdict of death from natural causes was returned.”--_Evening Press,
 York, January 1, 1896._


 “Yesterday, Mr. Reilly, Coroner, held an inquest on H. A. C----. It
 appeared that the servant, in passing his room, heard him moaning.
 Medical aid was procured, but he died in a few minutes. Deceased was
 in the enjoyment of robust health previously. Verdict: ‘Death from
 natural causes.’”--_Irish Times, Dublin, January 3, 1896._


 “Mr. H. W---- was suddenly taken ill between five and six yesterday
 evening, apparently suffering from an apoplectic fit, and expired in
 a few minutes. Mr. W---- was a gentleman enjoying most robust health,
 and earlier in the afternoon was chatting genially with several of
 his friends. An inquest will probably not be necessary.”--_Darlington
 North Star, January 17, 1896._


 “The City Coroner held an inquiry on Saturday at the Stanley Arms
 relative to the death of Alice M. A----, aged twenty-eight, who died
 suddenly. On Friday she seemed in good health and spirits. From an
 internal examination of the body Dr. Miller was of opinion that she
 died of syncope or failure of the heart’s action. Verdict: ‘Death
 from natural causes; to wit, heart-disease.’”--_Eastern Daily Press,
 Norwich, January 20, 1896._


Amongst other sudden deaths more recently reported are:--R. F----,
of Torquay, described as “a man of exceptional physique, who had
every appearance of possessing a very robust constitution.”--F.
P. C---- “looked more than usually robust of late, had never been
known to complain of his head, and appeared in the best of health
and spirits.”--W. W----“had always appeared to enjoy good health,
with the exception of a cough.”--O. P----, “beyond failing appetite,
had given no indication of ill health.”--W. M----“was in his usual
health, and went to bed all right.”--Mrs. T. B---- “was in the best
of health, and was attending to her household duties.”--L. T----, “a
powerfully-built fisherman, and most unlikely to come to such a sudden
termination of life.”--M. J. M----, at East Garston. “A _post-mortem_
was made by Dr. K. and his assistant, but they were unable to find any
evidence as to the cause of death. Verdict: ‘Natural causes.’”--The
sudden death, while playing the pianoforte, of a girl, aged twelve,
“who had never had a day’s illness in her life.”--S. G----“was quite
well, and in excellent spirits.”--T. B. B---- was “a robust man, and
had not been ailing.”--G. R---- was “in excellent health and spirits,
and attended to his duties as usual.”--A little girl, M. B----, who
appeared to be in her usual health, died very suddenly while sleeping
in a cot by the side of her parents. Verdict at the inquest: “Death
from natural causes.”--A. S----, aged twenty-three, a strong young
fellow, who went to rest before eleven o’clock. About one o’clock the
following morning he was seized with pain, became unconscious, from
which he succumbed.--R. J. C----, labourer, “a fine, robust-looking
man,” suddenly expired before medical aid could be procured. Verdict
at inquest: “Died suddenly from natural causes.”--Mrs. R----, “who
was quite well when her daughter left the room, was found dead on her
return a few minutes later.”--T. H----, blacksmith, “went to bed in his
usual health and spirits” in company with a comrade, who on attempting
to wake him in the morning found life extinct.

The above are given simply as typical examples of a class of cases of
which thousands might be cited, but it has not been thought necessary
to weary the reader with the details of further instances.

While it is not suggested that the foregoing are cases of premature
burial, yet it is absolutely certain that they belong to the category
of persons of whom a considerable percentage are liable to such
misadventures unless precautions very different from those in vogue are
taken to prevent them. All medical practitioners allow that a man may
be half drowned or half dead, and that cases of suspended animation
occur where the most experienced physician is unable to detect the
faintest indication of breathing or cardiac movement. They are,
however, quite sceptical as to absolute suspensions of life where all
the ordinary methods to test its existence fail; and, owing to this
scepticism, and the readiness to give certificates of death in cases of
alleged sudden death, have unwittingly promoted premature burials, as
will appear by the facts quoted in these pages.


Mr. M. Cooper, in the “Uncertainty of the Signs of Death,” p. 49,
cites from a letter by one William Fabri, a surgeon, the opinion that
we “... have just reason to condemn the too precipitate interment of
persons overpowered by lethargies, apoplexies, or suffocation of the
matrix; for I know there have been some, supposed to be irretrievably
cut off by these disorders, who, resuming strength and returning to
life, have raised the boards of their own coffins, because in such
disorders the soul only retires, as it were, to her most secret and
concealed residence, in order to make the body afterwards sensible
that she had not entirely forsaken it.” These wise counsels were
written two hundred and sixty-eight years ago, since which time
thousands of our fellow-creatures have, it is feared, been the victims
of premature interment, and yet the danger then pointed out remains.
The _Undertakers’ and Funeral Directors’ Journal_, the conductors of
which are laudably anxious to keep their profession from the odium
of burying people alive, referring to sudden deaths and this danger,
says, in its issue of January 24, 1894, under the head of “A Burning
Question”:--“Sufferers from such chronic ailments as are reputed to
end suddenly are in constant danger from the present state of the
law, if they are in the hands of people interested in their death.”
And continues: “Even where a medical certificate is obtained, such
general laxity has entered into proceedings that but little protection
is thereby afforded to the public. While the medical man is bound
to state what he believes to be the cause of death, he is under no
obligation to make sure either that the patient is dead at all, or
that, if dead, he died from a particular disease for which he was
attending him.”


The _Medical Times and Gazette_, 1859, vol. xviii., p. 256, has the


 “We find in an account taken from the ‘Boston Medical and Surgical
 Journal’ some observations on the heart of a hanged criminal,
 which are remarkable in a moral point of view, as well as in their
 scientific aspect. The man died, it appears, as the phrase is, without
 a struggle; and, therefore, probably in the first instance, he fell
 into a syncope. The lungs and brain were found normal. Seven minutes
 after suspension, the heart’s sounds were distinctly heard, its
 pulsations being one hundred a minute; two minutes later they were
 ninety-eight; and in three minutes sixty, and very feeble. In two
 minutes more the sounds became inaudible. The man was suspended at ten
 o’clock, and his body was cut down twenty-five minutes afterwards.
 There was then neither sound nor impulse. At 10.40 the cord was
 relaxed, and then the face became gradually pale; the spinal cord was
 uninjured.... At 11.30 a regular movement of pulsation was observed in
 the right subclavian vein; and on applying the ear to the chest, there
 was heard a regular, distinct, and single beat, accompanied with a
 slight impulse. Hereupon Drs.. Clark, Ellis, and Shaw open the thorax,
 and expose the heart, which still continues to beat! The right auricle
 contracted and dilated with energy and regularity. At twelve o’clock
 the pulsations were forty in a minute; at 1.45 five per minute. They
 ceased at 2.45; but irritability did not entirely disappear until
 3.18, more than five hours after suspension. ‘This fact,’ says M.
 Séquard, ‘demonstrates that in a man, unfortunately, even when syncope
 exists for some minutes at the commencement of strangulation, the
 ventricles of the heart cease to beat almost as quickly as they do
 in strangulation without syncope.’ With regard to the moral aspects
 of this case, the same gentleman remarks:--‘People will probably be
 surprised that the body of this man should have been opened while the
 beating of the heart was still audible. We will not ask here if the
 doctors committed or not a blamable action; we will only say that
 we know them personally, and that, if they have in part merited the
 violent reproaches addressed to them, they are, nevertheless, _hommes
 de cœur_, who, in an excess of scientific zeal, did not notice that
 the body upon which they experimented was not, perhaps, at the time a
 dead body.’”


The deaths attributed to syncope in the Registrar-General’s reports for
England and Wales during the last six years are:--

            MALES.      FEMALES.
  1888        817           896
  1889        939           922
  1890      1,237         1,250
  1891      1,355         1,301
  1892        941           943
  1893        848           770


Syncope, however, is not a disease, though often certified as such,
but is merely a symptom of certain maladies, or a manifestation of
suspended animation from unascertained cause. In Hoblyn’s “Dictionary
of Medical Terms,” p. 632, syncope is described as--“Fainting or swoon;
a sudden suspension of the heart’s action, accompanied by cessation
of the functions of the organs of respiration, internal and external
sensation, and voluntary motion.” There appears, therefore, every
probability that, with careless or ignorant medical practitioners,
syncope is not seldom mistaken for trance, and a certificate of death
may be given where there is merely a suspension and not a termination
of life; and this probability is reduced to a certainty when we
learn the number of premature burials and narrow escapes reported by
Winslow, Bruhier, Köppen, E. Bouchut, Lénormand, F. Kempner, Moore
Russell Fletcher, Gannal, Gaubert, Hartmann, and other recognised
authorities. Dr. James Curry, Senior Physician to Guy’s Hospital, and
Lecturer on the Theory and Practice of Medicine, in the introduction
to his “Observations on Apparent Death,” London, 1815, 2 ed., p. 1,
says--“The time is still within the recollection of many now living
when it was almost universally believed that _life_ quitted the body in
a very few minutes after the person had ceased to breathe. Remarkable
examples to the contrary were, indeed, upon record; but these, besides
being extremely rare, were generally cases wherein the _suspension_,
as well as the _recovery of life_, had occurred _spontaneously_; they
were, therefore, beheld with astonishment, as particular instances of
Divine Interposition.” It is believed that the majority of the members
of the medical profession still entertain the idea that a human being
is dead when breathing can no longer be detected, as in the cases of
reported sudden deaths; and, except in those which occur from drowning,
or suffocation through noxious gases, attempts are very rarely made
to promote restoration, and, unless they return to life spontaneously
while above ground, there are good reasons to fear that an appreciable
number do so under ground. The prevailing belief in the existence of
sudden deaths is one of the chief causes of the terrible mistakes
that lead to live burials. If this delusive idea were removed, those
concerned, such as physicians, undertakers, relatives, and friends,
would treat a person who unexpectedly took on the appearance of death
as one needing careful attention by physician and nurse to bring him
round to health again, as is usually done in cases of fainting. If
trance were understood, doctors would be on the lookout for it; but,
as it is not understood, it is called death, and we bury our mistakes
under ground.

Dr. Hilton Fagge, while doubting whether there is any foundation for
the strong fear which many persons entertain of being buried alive
after supposed death, allows that there is danger in cases of sudden
death. In his “Principles and Practice of Medicine,” Dr. Fagge says:
“The cases really requiring caution are some very few instances of
persons found in the streets, or losing consciousness unexpectedly and
in unusual circumstances.”[13]

Dr. Léonce Lénormand, in “Des Inhumations Précipitées,” p. 86, says
that medical archives record details of a great number of apoplectic
cases revived after one, two, and three days’ apparent death; and
observes that the most celebrated physicians, both ancient and modern,
agree in recommending delay in the burial of persons who succumb to
this affliction.

Dr. Franz Hartmann, in his “Premature Burial,” p. 11, quotes the


 “In the Bukovina, a young woman, in the vicinity of Radautz, died of
 spasms of the heart. They waited five days for the funeral, because no
 signs of putrefaction appeared. The clergyman then refused any longer
 delay, and the final arrangements for interment were made. Just as
 they were about to put the coffin into the grave, the sister of the
 deceased woman, who lived at another place, arrived, and begged to be
 permitted to see the dead body. Owing to her entreaties the coffin was
 opened, and as the woman saw the unaltered features of her sister,
 she asserted her belief that the supposed dead was still living.
 She procured a red-hot poker, and, in spite of the remonstrances
 of those present, she touched with it the soles of the feet of the
 corpse. There was a spasmodic jerk, and the woman recovered. The
 most remarkable thing was that the supposed dead woman had not been
 unconscious for a moment, but was able to describe afterwards all the
 details of what had taken place around her, from the moment when she
 was supposed to die up to the time of her recovery; but she had looked
 upon all that like an unconscious spectator, and not experienced any
 sensation, nor was she able to give any sign of life.”

In “Les Signes de la Mort,” by Dr. E. Bouchut, p. 51, Dr. J. Schmid is
cited for the case of a girl, seven years of age, who, while playing
with her companions, fell suddenly down (as if struck by lightning),
and died. There was paleness, absence of pulse, insensibility to
all stimulus. Nevertheless, owing to the requests of the distressed
parents, the apparently hopeless attempts at resuscitation were
continued. After three quarters of an hour the girl gave a sigh and


The _Medical Record_, New York, 1883, vol. xxiii., p. 236, contains
a paper on “Revivification” (in cases of sudden apparent death from
heart-disease, and in the still-born), by S. Waterman, M.D., New York
Case 1, February, 1880.--Mr. B----, aged 84, suffered from valvular
disease of the heart, and likewise from Bright’s disease. “One morning,
while I was sitting at his bedside and in friendly conversation with
him, he being to all appearance in a very happy mood of mind, he
suddenly fell back, his eyes became fixed and glassy, a deadly pallor
crept over his countenance, respiration and the heart’s action ceased
simultaneously, and death seemed to have carried him off suddenly and
unexpectedly. It was this suddenness of the event that impelled me to
make efforts at revivification. Two nephews of Mrs. B----, who were
fortunately in the house, were brought under requisition, and, under
my direction, systematic artificial movements were carried on for
nearly thirty minutes, when one deep inspiratory effort was made by
the patient himself. Thus encouraged, we redoubled our efforts for ten
minutes more; other inspiratory efforts followed in quicker succession;
the heart began to respond. Hardly audible at first, it acquired force
and momentum; it could now be felt at the wrist; the deadly pallor
passed away, the eyes lost their glassy, fixed aspect, sighs and groans
could be heard, twitchings of the muscles of the arm and fingers
could be distinctly felt, and the appearances of death made way for
reanimated conditions. He lay unconscious for more than ten hours,
respiration being hurried, and breathing stertorous, the heart’s action
wild and irregular. During the night he was delirious and restless;
toward morning all untoward symptoms subsided, and a quiet sleep
followed the extreme restlessness.... He died six weeks afterwards,
under symptoms of uræmic toxication. During these six weeks he had
several other attacks--one very prolonged and almost fatal--in which
artificial respiration was resorted to with the same success.”

The editor of the _Manchester Criterion_, December 11, 1895,
says:--“Many cases of sudden death have been entombed who were really
alive, so far as the union of the body and soul is concerned. Sudden
disappearance of life is very common, due to excessive weakness or a
partial cessation of the heart’s action; and doctors should be very
chary in giving death-certificates until it has been ascertained
that decomposition has ensued. Many object to this delay, and on the
approach of an indication of death, or apparent death, often hurry the
body to the grave. We know of a young lady, for whom the shroud was
bought, and the crape fastened on the door, who was restored to life.”


Professor Alexander Wilder, M.D., in “Perils of Premature Burial,” p.
16, says:--“In this country (America), however, the peril of interment
before death has actually taken place is very great. For years past
it has been a very common occurrence for persons in supposed good
health to fall down suddenly, with every appearance of having died. We
do not regard sudden death with terror, as it is so often painless,
and exempts the individual from the anxiety and other unpleasant
experiences which so often accompany a lingering dissolution. But
there is a terrible liability of being prostrated by catalepsy, the
counterpart of death, under such circumstances that those who have the
body in charge will not hesitate about a prompt interment.”


“The difficulty of distinguishing a person apparently dead from one
who is _really_ so has, in all countries where bodies are interred
precipitately, rendered it necessary for the law to assist humanity.
Of several regulations made on this subject, a few of the most recent
may suffice--such as those of Arras in 1772; of Mantua in 1774; of
the Grand Duke of Tuscany in 1775; of the Senechaussée of Sivrai in
Poitou in 1777; and of the Parliament of Metz in the same year....
These edicts forbid the precipitate interment of persons who die
suddenly. Magistrates of health are to be informed, that physicians
may examine the body; that they may use every endeavour to recall
life, if possible, or to discover the cause of death.”--_Encyclopædia
Britannica, quoted by John Snart in Apparent Death, 1824, pp. 81-82._



THE absence of respiration is the most ordinary sign of death, but at
the same time perhaps the one most likely to deceive. To ascertain
whether breathing be entirely suspended, it is a practice to hold a
looking-glass to the face.

                “Lend me a looking-glass;
  If that her breath will mist or stain the stone,
  Why, then, she lives.”--_King Lear_, Act v., Sc. 3.

The common belief is that, if the operations of the heart or lungs be
arrested for ever so brief a period, they will never be resumed, and
upon a hasty diagnosis and perhaps a trifling experiment the person
is declared dead. It would appear presumptuous to attempt to doubt or
deny a theory so widely accepted by both the lay and medical world, but
numerous well-attested facts show that the action of the vital organs,
with life itself, may occasionally be actually suspended, as proved by
the most rigorous tests known to science, and that various forms of
suspended animation taking on the appearance of actual death are of
not unfrequent occurrence. Scepticism, prejudice, and apathy on this
subject have led to thousands of persons being consigned to the grave
to return to consciousness in that hopeless and dreadful prison.


One of the most distinguished physicians in London informed the author
that, being called in to decide a case of apparent or real death, he
had applied the stethoscope and failed to detect the faintest pulsation
in the heart, and yet the woman recovered. The danger of premature
burial he believed to be very real and by no means an imaginary one,
and his opinions were well known in the profession.


Sir Benjamin Ward Richardson, in his paper on “The Absolute Signs and
Proofs of Death,” in the _Asclepiad_, No. 21 (1889), vol. vi., p. 6,

“About the existence of respiratory movements there is always some
cause for doubt, even amongst skilled observers; for so slight a
movement of respiration is sufficient to carry on life, at what I have
in another paper designated ‘life at low tension,’ the most practised
eye is apt to be deceived.”

“The cessation of the indications of respiratory function, although
useful in a general sense, is not by any means reliable. It is quite
certain that in poisoning by chloral, and in catalepsy, there may be
life when no external movement of the chest is appreciable.”--_Ibidem,
pp. 13, 14._


“Equal doubt attends the absence of the arterial pulsations and heart
sounds. It is quite certain that the pulses of the body, as well as the
movements and sounds of the heart, may be undetectable at a time when
the body is not only not dead but actually recoverable.”--_Ibidem, p.

In a review of several works on the “Signs of Death” in _The British
and Foreign Medical and Chirurgical Review_, vol. XV. [1855], p. 74,
W. B. Kesteven writes that Bouchut’s test of the cessation of the
action of the heart for one or two minutes is not to be relied upon
as a certain sign of death. “M. Josat has recorded several instances
wherein newly-born children have been most carefully examined during
several minutes without the detection of the slightest cardial sound or
movement, and yet these have rallied and lived. M. Depaul has collected
ten similar instances. M. Brachet has recorded[14] an instance of a
man in whom neither sound nor movement of the heart could be heard for
eight minutes, and who, nevertheless, survived. Another adult case
is mentioned by Dr. Josat as having been witnessed by M. Girbal, of
Montpellier.... Sir B. Brodie and others have described children born
without hearts. The circulation is maintained at one period of human
life without the aid of the heart. It is, besides, quite consistent
with the facts observed in hysterical and other conditions of the
nervous system, that the action of the heart, like that of other
muscles, should be so extremely feeble as not to be cognisable by any
sound or impulse, and yet it may have sufficient movement slowly to
move the blood through the system, whose every function and endowment
is suspended and all but annihilated. In cases of catalepsy, and of
authentic instances of apparent death, the respiratory muscles have not
been seen to move, yet inspiration and expiration--however slowly and
imperceptibly--must have taken place.”



Dr. Roger S. Chew, of Calcutta, whose personal experiences of apparent
death are elsewhere recorded in this volume, says:--

“Numerous expedients have been suggested as means of ascertaining
whether a body is really dead or whether the animation is temporarily
suspended; but, though these suggestions may collectively yield a
correct diagnosis, still they are valueless when separately considered,
and cannot compare with the ‘putrefaction test.’”

In the “Principles and Practice of Medicine” of the late Dr. Hilton
Fagge, edited by Dr. Pye-Smith, vol. i., p. 19, of the second edition,
is the following:--

“In most cases there is no difficulty in determining the exact moment
at which death occurs. But sometimes it cannot be fixed with certainty,
and there are some altogether exceptional instances (though I have
never myself met with one) in which for hours, or even for days, it
remains uncertain whether life is extinct or merely suspended. _I
believe that the only sign of death which is both certain to manifest
itself in the course of a few days, and also absolutely conclusive and
infallible, is the occurrence of putrefaction_, which is generally
first indicated by discoloration of the surface of the abdomen. And in
any case admitting of doubt, the coffin should not be closed until this
has shown itself.” (Italics ours.)

The _Medical Examiner_, Philadelphia, vol. vi., p. 610, says:--

“A recent French reviewer in the _Gazette Médicale_ closes a survey
of the differences between real and apparent death, by the following
remarks:--‘Experience,’ says he, ‘has shown the insufficiency of
each of these signs, with one exception--_putrefaction_. The absence
of respiration and circulation, the absence of contractility and
sensibility, general loss of heat, the hippocratic face, the cold
sweat spreading over the body, cadaveric discoloration, relaxation of
the sphincters, loss of elasticity, the flattening of the soft parts
on which the body rests, the softness and flaccidity of the eyes, the
opacity of the fingers, cadaveric rigidity, the expulsion of alimentary
substances from the mouth;--all these signs combined or isolated may
present themselves in an individual suffering only from apparent

Prof. D. Ferrier, in an article on “Signs of Death” in Quain’s
“Dictionary of Medicine,” pp. 327, 328, says:--

“It is not always easy to determine when the spark of life has become
finally extinguished. From fear of being buried alive, which prevails
more abroad than in this country, some infallible criterion of death,
capable of being applied by unskilled persons, has been considered
a desideratum, and valuable prizes have been offered for such a
discovery. The conditions most resembling actual death are syncope,
asphyxia, and trance, particularly the last. We cannot, however,
say that any infallible criterion applicable by the vulgar has been

The writer then proceeds to describe the various symptoms usually
considered to denote death. The chief of these is putrefaction, but he
observes that putrefaction may occur locally during life, and general
septic changes may occur to some extent before death.

Dr. Gannal, in “Signes de la Mort,” p. 31, says:--

“I share the opinion of the majority of authors who have written on
this subject, and I consider _putrefaction_ as the only certain sign of
death.” The author then shows that all other signs are uncertain, and
adds “that it is possible, by taking certain measures, to wait until
putrefaction is well manifest, without injuring the public health.” If
the attending medical practitioner could always be relied upon to look
for any such combination of signs as above suggested, there would be
much less danger of premature burial than at present almost everywhere
prevails; but personal investigation obliges the author deliberately to
declare that these are looked for only in a comparatively few instances.



With reference to _rigor mortis_, one of the signs many physicians
regard as infallible as putrefaction, and to which the _British Medical
Journal_ attaches much importance, I cite the following:--

Dr. Samuel Barker Pratt says that _rigor mortis_, which is regarded as
an absolute proof of death, is in itself a life-action, caused by a
gradual withdrawal of the nerve-forces from the body, and is distinctly
akin to, and the same in effect as, the tightening of a muscle, and
other similar physiological actions in the living body.

Dr. Roger S. Chew observes:--

“_Rigor mortis_ is a condition that seldom or never supervenes in the
hot weather in India, and is often a feature of catalepsy.

“Ecchymoses, or _post-mortem_ stains, are sometimes of value, but very
frequently they do not appear, even though there are strong evidences
of putrefaction having set in, and in some cases this cadaveric
lividity, as it is termed, may be the result of violence received
before animation was suspended, and, the vital spark not having been
extinguished though the body was apparently dead, echymosis had
asserted itself as a process of life, and not death.”

Ebenezer Milner, M.D.Edinb., L.R.C.S.E., observes in a paper on
“Catalepsy or Trance” in the _Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal_,
1850, vol. lxxiv., p. 330:--

“Patients labouring under an intense and prolonged paroxysm of
catalepsy have been supposed to be dead, and have been interred alive.


“There are numerous cases of this kind on record, and many more where
individuals, after being laid in their coffins, have fortunately
recovered from the attack before the period of interment. In such
cases respiration is insensible, and the heart’s action is almost in
abeyance; the surface of the body is nearly cold, and presents the
pallor of death; and the articulations are stiff. Although it is no
doubt a difficult task to distinguish this state of trance from the
state of death, yet a careful examination of the body, and time, would
lead to a correct diagnosis. The limbs after death are first lax, then
stiff, and ultimately lax again. The stiffness of the limbs, known
as the cadaveric rigidity, or _rigor mortis_, lasts for a longer or
shorter time, according to circumstances; the sooner it supervenes, the
shorter is its duration, and conversely. Now the stiffness of the limbs
accompanying this intense form of trance supervenes at once, and lasts
as long as the paroxysm continues. This is consequently a valuable
diagnostic sign.”

It may be observed that only in rare and very exceptional cases is time
allowed for careful and accurate diagnosis.


Anthony Fothergill, in “A New Inquiry,” 1795, p. 92:--

“Nor can even the cadaverous countenance be, separately considered,
an infallible test of life’s total extinction. Nay, even putrefaction
itself, though allowed to be the most unequivocal sign of death, might
chance to deceive us in that syncope which sometimes supervenes on the
last stage of the confluent small-pox, sea-scurvy, or other highly
putrid diseases.”


A. de Labordette, Chirurgien de l’Hôpital de Lisieux, states in a
letter to the Secretary of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution:--

“I have collected manifold observations relating to persons drowned or
asphyxiated, in whose case contraction of the jaws was remarked, and
who were subsequently restored to life,” Dr. Brown-Séquard concurred in
this, and declared further that such contraction is rather a sign of
life than of death.--_Lancet, 1870, vol. i., p. 436._


for the discovery of which a prize was given by the French Academy
of Medicine, is regarded by Sir B. Ward Richardson as of secondary
importance. It has certainly failed in many instances.

The following communication on


by Edwin Haward, M.D.Edin., F.R.C.S.Eng., appears in the _Lancet_ of
June 10, 1893, p. 1404:--


“A case has come lately under my observation in which the value of
the diaphanous test of death has been illustrated at its just worth,
and, as the matter is one of supreme practical moment, I think it may
be considered deserving a brief notice in the pages of the _Lancet_.
Readers of the _Lancet_ need scarcely be informed that the diaphanous
test consists in taking a hand of a supposed dead person, placing
it before a strong artificial light, with the fingers extended and
just touching each other, and then looking through the narrow spaces
between the fingers to see if there be there a scarlet line of light.
The theory is that if there be such a line of scarlet colour there is
some circulation still in progress, and therefore evidence of vital
action, whilst if there be no illumination, then the circulation has
ceased and death has occurred. The French Academy of Medicine was so
impressed with the value of this test that it awarded, I believe, to
the discoverer of it a considerable prize. The illustration I am about
to give indicates, however, that this test must be received with the
utmost caution. The facts run as follows:--I was called in January last
to visit a lady seventy-three years of age, suffering from chronic
bronchitis. She had often suffered at intervals from similar attacks
during a period of twenty-five years. The present attack was very
severe, and as she was obviously in a state of senile decrepitude her
symptoms naturally gave rise to considerable anxiety. Nevertheless, she
rallied and improved so much that after a few days my attendance was
no longer required. I heard nothing more of this lady until February
6--a period of three weeks--when I was summoned early in the morning
to see her immediately. The messenger told me that she had retired
to bed in the usual way, and had apparently died in the night, but
that she looked so life-like there was great doubt whether death had
actually taken place. Within half an hour I was by her bedside; there
was no sign of breathing, of pulse, or of heart-beat, and the hands,
slightly flexed, were rather rigid, but the countenance looked like
that of a living person, the eyes being open and life-like. I believed
her to be dead, and that the rigidity of the upper limbs indicated
commencing _rigor mortis_; but this curious fact was related to me by
a near relative, that once before she had passed into a death-like
state, with similar symptoms, even to the rigidity of the arms and
hands, from which state she had recovered, and after which she had
always experienced the direst apprehension of being buried alive. Her
anxiety, it will be easily conceived, was readily communicated to her
relatives, who urged me to leave nothing undone for determining whether
life was or was not extinct. Under the circumstances I suggested
that Dr. (now Sir) Benjamin Ward Richardson, who has made the proofs
of death a special study, should be summoned. He soon arrived, and
submitted the body to all the tests in the following order:--1. Heart
sounds and motion entirely absent, together with all pulse movement.
2. Respiratory sounds and movements entirely absent. 3. Temperature
of the body taken from the mouth the same as that in the surrounding
air in the room, 62° F. 4. A bright needle plunged into the body of
the biceps muscle (Cloquet’s needle test) and left there shows on
withdrawal no sign of oxidation. 5. Intermittent shocks of electricity
at different tensions passed by needles into various muscles and
groups of muscles gave no indication whatever of irritability. 6. The
fillet-test applied to the veins of the arm (Richardson’s test) causes
no filling of veins on the distal side of the fillet. 7. The opening
of a vein to ascertain whether the blood has undergone coagulation
shows that the blood was still fluid. 8. The subcutaneous injection of
ammonia (Monteverdi’s test) causes the dirty brown stain indicative
of dissolution. 9. On making careful movements of the joints of the
extremities, of the lower jaw, and of the occipito-frontals, _rigor
mortis_ is found in several parts. Thus of these nine tests eight
distinctly declared that death was absolute; the exception, the
fluidity of the blood, being a phenomenon quite compatible with blood
preternaturally fluid and at a low temperature, even though death had
occurred. 10. There now remained the diaphanous test, which we carried
out by the aid of a powerful reflector lamp, yielding an excellent and
penetrating light. To our surprise the scarlet line of light between
the fingers was as distinct as it was in our own hands subjected to the
same experiment. The mass of evidence was of course distinctly to the
effect that death was complete; but, to make assurance doubly sure, we
had the temperature of the room raised and the body carefully watched
until signs of decomposition had set in. I made a visit myself on a
succeeding day to assure myself of this fact.


“The results of these experimental tests were satisfactory, as
following and corroborating each other in eight out of the ten
different lines of procedure; but the point of my paper is to show the
utter inadequacy of the diaphanous test, upon which some are inclined
entirely to rely. Sir Benjamin Richardson has reported an instance in
which the test applied to the hand of a lady who had simply fainted
gave no evidence of the red line; she therefore, on that test alone,
might have been declared dead. In my case the reverse was presented;
the body was dead, whilst the red line supposed to indicate life was
perfectly visible. Hence the test might possibly lead to a double
error, and ought never of itself to be relied upon.

“It is a question worthy of consideration whether the colouration
observed was due to the fluid state of the blood after death; it is not
unreasonable to suppose so but I prefer merely to offer the suggestion
without further comment.”

Dr. Gannal, in his “Signes de la Mort,” p. 54, says:--

“The loss of transparency of the fingers is an uncertain sign, because
with certain subjects it takes place some time before death; next,
because it does not always occur in the corpse; and finally, because
it exists under certain circumstances in sick persons--in intermittent
fever, for example, when the skin loses colour, the hands get cold, and
the nails blue, as happens at the onset of the fits.”

Orfila, “Médicine Légale,” vol. i., p. 478, 4th edit., observes:--

“This sign can be of no use, because it is easy to prove that the
fingers of corpses placed between the eye and the flame of a candle are
transparent, even when this experiment is made one or two days after

Sir Benjamin Ward Richardson read a paper before the Medical Society
of London on “The Absolute Signs and Proofs of Death,” published (in
1889) in No. 21 of the _Asclepiad_. The circumstance which originated
his investigation was a case of the revival of an apparently dead
child immediately before the funeral. Dr. Richardson has seen persons
apparently dead, and presenting all the signs of death, but who were
really living. Amongst these he cites the following:--

“A medical man found dead, as it was presumed, from an excessive dose
of chloral. To all common observation this gentleman was dead. There
was no sign of respiration; it was very difficult for an ear so long
trained as my own to detect the sounds of the heart; there was no pulse
at the wrist, and the temperature of the body had fallen to 97° Fahr.
In this condition the man had lain for some hours before my arrival;
and yet, under the simple acts of raising the warmth of the room to 84°
Fahr. and injecting warm milk and water into the stomach, he rallied
slowly out of the sleep, and made a perfect recovery.”

More remarkable is the case of a man struck by lightning, details of
which Sir Benjamin received, in 1869, from Dr. Jackson, of Somerby,

“The patient reached his home in a state of extreme prostration, in
which he lay for a time, and then sank into such complete catalepsy
that he was pronounced to be dead, and heard the sound of his own
passing bell from the neighbouring church; by a desperate attempt at
movement of his thumbs he attracted the attention of the women engaged
about him, and, being treated as one still alive, recovered, and lived
for several years afterwards, retaining in his memory the facts, and
relating them with the most consistent accuracy.”


Medical practitioners tell us that the signs of death are quite easy
and impossible to mistake. Dr. Richardson, who has had the best of
reasons, as already shown, for observation and investigation, holds a
different opinion, and enumerates the signs of death as follows:--

(1) Respiratory failure, including absence of visible movements of
the chest, absence of the respiratory murmur, absence of evidence of
transpiration of water vapour from the lungs by the breath.

(2) Cardiac failure, including absence of arterial pulsation, of
cardiac motion, and of cardiac sounds.

(3) Absence of turgescence or filling of the veins on making pressure
between them and the heart.

(4) Reduction of the temperature of the body below the natural standard.

(5) Rigor mortis and muscular collapse.

(6) Coagulation of the blood.

(7) Putrefactive decomposition.

(8) Absence of red colour in semi-transparent parts under the influence
of a powerful stream of light.

(9) Absence of muscular contraction under the stimulus of galvanism, of
heat, and of puncture.

(10) Absence of red blush of the skin after subcutaneous injection of
ammonia (Monteverdi’s test).

(11) Absence of signs of rust or oxidation of a bright steel blade,
after plunging it deep into the tissues. (The needle test of Cloquet
and Laborde.)

Sir Benjamin sums up as follows:--

“If all these signs point to death--if there be no indications of
respiratory function; if there be no signs of movement of the pulse
or heart, and no sounds of the heart; if the veins of the hand do
not enlarge on the distal side of the fillet; if the blood in the
veins contains a coagulum; if the galvanic stimulus fails to produce
muscular contraction; if the injection of ammonia causes a dirty
brown blotch--the evidence may be considered conclusive that death is
absolute. If these signs leave any doubt, or even if they leave no
doubt, one further point of practice should be carried out. The body
should be kept in a room, the temperature of which has been raised to a
heat of 84° Fahr., with moisture diffused through the air; and in this
warm and moist atmosphere it should remain until distinct indications
of putrefactive decomposition have set in.”

Dr. Franz Hartmann, whose recent monograph[15] has excited much
attention both in the English and American Press, observes:--

“Apparent death is a state that resembles real death so closely that
even the most experienced persons believe such a person to be really
dead. In many cases not even the most experienced physician, coroner,
or undertaker can distinguish a case of apparent death from real
death, neither by external examination nor by means of the stethoscope,
nor by any of the various tests which have been proposed by this or
that writer, for all those tests have been proved fallible, and it
is now useless to discuss them at length, because many of the most
experienced members of the medical profession have already agreed that
there is no certain sign that a person is really and not apparently
dead, except the beginning of a certain stage of putrefaction. All
other tests ought to be set down as delusive and unreliable.”


In the Royal Decree issued by the Government for examining the dead
in Würtemberg, dated January 24, 1882 (_Dienst-Vorschriften für
Leichenschäuer_, Stuttgart, 1885), various signs and experiments for
enabling the official inspector of deaths to ascertain if actual death
has taken place are laid down. Among these are:--

(1) “The cessation of sensibility may be assumed if, on raising the
eyelid, the pupil remains unaltered when a lighted candle is held
close to it; or if pungent odours, such as those derived from onions,
vinegar, sal-ammoniac, or severe friction of the chest, arms, or
soles of the feet, the application of mustard, or burning tinder,
or if sealing-wax dropped upon the chest produces no reaction, and
particularly if in the latter case the skin does not blister.

(2) “The stoppage of the circulation of the blood, apart from the
absence of heart beating, if, after tying a tight bandage around the
arm, the veins do not swell up, upon the hands being firmly gripped;
also if, upon pricking the lips, no blood escapes; furthermore, if, on
holding the hand in front of a bright light (the diaphanous test), the
finger-tips are no longer translucent as in the living.”

Nor should the inspector ever neglect to examine the heart to ascertain
the complete absence of all sound, and to test the absence of breath by
other experiments.

The rescript further adds that these experiments “may not furnish
absolute proof of death,” and describes what further proceedings to
institute. These are referred to in this volume in the chapter devoted
to Death Certification.

An editorial note in the _Lancet_, January 29, 1887, p. 233, shows the
difficulty of distinguishing real from



“It was only last year that we commented in our columns upon the ‘signs
of death,’ drawing attention to the more important criteria by which
a skilful observer may avoid mistaking cases of so-called suspended
animation from actual disease. Quite recently two instances have been
recorded, in which, if report be true, it would seem there is still
room for maturing the judgment upon the question herein raised. At
Saumur a young man afflicted with a contagious disease apparently died
suddenly. His body was enshrouded and coffined, but as the undertaker’s
men were carrying the ‘remains’ to their last resting-place they
heard what they believed to be a knocking against the coffin-lid, and
the sound was repeated in the grave. Instead of testing at once the
evidence of their senses, they, in accordance with judicial custom,
sent for the Mayor, in whose presence the lid was removed from the
coffin. Whereupon, to the horror of the spectators, it was observed
that the dead man had only just succumbed to asphyxia. The above
narrative seems on the face of it too ghastly to be true, especially as
the occupant of the coffin must have been shut up in a space containing
oxygen in quantity totally inadequate to sustain an approximation
to ordinary breathing. But in cataleptic and similar states the
organic functions are reduced to the lowest ebb, and history records
several instances in which, for a time at least, the determination
of the living state was a matter of uncertainty. In our issue of the
15th inst., p. 129, the reader will find an account of ‘Post-mortem
Irritability of Muscle,’ in which the phenomenon was manifested in a
marked degree two hours after death from a chronic wasting disorder--a
condition which favours early extinction of vital action in muscle.
It may be argued, then, with some show of reasonableness, that it
is quite possible for the heart to stand still, as it were, and yet
retain the power of action, although experience tells us but little on
the question as regards the human subject. Experiments on the lower
animals, however, show that over-distension of the right cavities of
the heart causes cessation of cardiac contraction, and that relief
from the distension may be followed by resumption of the function of
contractibility. It must not be forgotten that an analogous condition
is witnessed at times in patients suffering from capillary bronchitis
or other physical states underlying acute distension of the right
heart; for, in these cases, venesection is not uncommonly instrumental
in arresting the rapidly failing cardiac contractions. The second
case of apparent death alluded to above happened in ‘the land of big
things.’ An inhabitant of Mount Joy, Paramatta, was believed to be
dead, and his supposed remains were about to be committed to the
earth, when a mourning relative startled the bystanders by exclaiming,
‘I must see my father once more; something tells me he is not dead.’
The coffin was taken from the grave to the sexton’s tool-house, and
there opened, and was found to contain a living inmate, who justified
the presentiment of his son by ‘slowly recovering.’ As no mention is
made in either case of the period that elapsed between the occurrence
of apparent death and the body being placed in the coffin, or of the
time during which the encasement lasted, special and minute criticism
is uncalled for. Enough has been said on the subject to emphasize
the exhortation, ‘Get knowledge, and with all thy getting get

The _British Medical Journal_, of September 28, 1895, in a leading
article on the “Signs of Death,” says:--

“The question of the possibility of the interment of living beings
has recently been exercising the minds of a portion of the public,
whose fears have found expression in a series of letters to some of
the daily papers. It is a matter of regret that so much irresponsible
nonsense and such hysterical outpourings should find a place in the
columns of our great daily press. No attempt at the production of
evidence in support of their beliefs or fears has been made by the
majority of writers, whilst the cases mentioned by the few are either
the inventions of the credulous or ignorant, or are destitute of
foundation. It cannot be said that the few medical men who have joined
in this public correspondence have either contributed any useful
information or have seriously attempted to allay the fears of the
public. One medical gentleman managed to earn for himself a cheap
notoriety by employing, with very scanty acknowledgment of the source,
copious extracts from Dr. Gowers’ article on ‘Trance’ in Quain’s
‘Dictionary of Medicine.’

“The possibility of apparent death being mistaken for real death can
only be admitted when the decision of the reality of death is left to
ignorant persons. We are quite unprepared to admit the possibility of
such a mistake occurring in this country to a medical practitioner
armed with the methods for the recognition of death that modern
science has placed at his disposal. Moreover, even by the ignorant the
reality of death can only be questioned during the period preceding
putrefaction. During this period various signs of death appear which,
taken collectively, allow of an absolute opinion as to the reality of
death being given. To each of these, as a sign of death, exception may
perhaps be individually taken, but a medical opinion is formed from a
conjunction of these signs, and not from the presence of an individual


The writer must surely have overlooked the able treatises by Winslow,
Kempner, Russell Fletcher, Hartmann, Gannal, and others, supported by
evidence in the aggregate of thousands of cases of premature burial
or narrow escapes, or have forgotten the dreadful cases which have
appeared from time to time in the columns of the _British Medical
Journal_ itself. Commenting upon the case of a child nearly buried
alive, this medical authority in its issue of October 31, 1885,
under the head of “Death or Coma,” sensibly refers to some of the
difficulties in distinguishing apparent from real death as follows:--

“The close similarity which is occasionally seen to connect the
appearance of death with that of exhaustion following disease, was
lately illustrated in a somewhat striking manner. An infant, seized
with convulsions, was supposed to have died about three weeks ago at
Stamford Hill. After five days’ interval, preparations were being made
for its interment, when, at the grave’s mouth, a cry was heard to
come from the coffin. The lid was taken off, and the child was found
to be alive, was taken home, and is recovering. Such is the published
account of the latest recorded case of suspended animation. We need
not now attempt a dissertation on the physical meaning of coma. It
is well known that this condition may last for considerable periods,
and may at times, _even to the practised eye_, wear very much the
same aspect as death. In the present instance, its association with
some degree of convulsion may easily have been mistaken by relatives,
dreading the worst, for the rigid stillness of _rigor mortis_. This
is the more likely, since the latter state is apt to be a transient
one in infants, though it is said to be unusually well marked in death
from convulsions. One cannot, however, help thinking that the presence
of the various signs of death was not, in this case, very carefully
inquired into. It is hardly possible that, had the other proofs as well
as that of stiffening been sought for, they would have been missed. _It
is true that hardly any one sign short of putrefaction can be relied
upon as infallible._ In actual death, however, one may confidently
reckon on the co-existence of more than one of these. After a period of
five days, not one should have been wanting. Besides _rigor mortis_,
the total absence of which, even in forms of death which are said
not to show it, we take leave to doubt, the _post-mortem_ lividity of
dependent parts afford sure proof, as its absence suggests a doubt,
of death. Then there is the eye, sunken, with glairy surface, flaccid
cornea, and dilated insensitive pupil. Most practitioners, probably,
are accustomed to rely upon stethoscopic evidence of heart-action or
respiration. These alone, indeed, are almost always sufficient to
decide the question of vitality, if they be watched for during one or
two minutes. There is no information as to whether the child so nearly
buried alive was seen by a medical man. It is difficult to believe
that, if it had been, some sign of life would not have been observed.
Still, the case is a teaching one, even for medical men, and warns us
to look for a combination of known tests where any doubt exists as to
the fact of death.” The italics are ours.

Prof. Alex. Wilder, M.D., in “Perils of Premature Burial,” p. 20,


“The signs of total extinction of life are not so unequivocal as many
suppose. Cessation of respiration and circulation do not afford the
entire evidence, for the external senses are not sufficiently acute to
enable us to detect either respiration or circulation in the smallest
degree compatible with mere existence. Loss of heat is by no means
conclusive; for life may continue, and recovery take place, when no
perceptible vital warmth exists.”

M. B. Gaubert, in “Les Chambres Mortuaires d’Attente,” p. 187, Paris,
1895, says:--

“One of the most celebrated physicians of the Paris hospitals,
according to Dr. Lignières, declares that out of twenty certified
deaths, one only presented indubitable characteristics of absolute

The difficulty of diagnosis in many cases being allowed renders
the obligation and necessity for a radical change in our methods
of treating the supposed dead a very urgent one. Medical writers,
whilst admitting the unsatisfactory nature of the current practice of
medical certification, allege that the remedy lies with Parliament
to make compulsory a personal medical inspection of the dead, and to
allow a fee as compensation for the trouble. This, however, would be
very far from meeting the difficulty. How many general practitioners
would be willing to submit half-a-dozen, say, of the eleven tests of
death formulated by Sir Benjamin Ward Richardson, in any given case,
and if willing, how many, having regard to the fact that these tests
are not taught in the Medical Schools, and form no part of the usual
medical curriculum, would be competent to make them with the requisite
skill? In most of the Continental States there are State-appointed
surgeons to examine the dead, _médécins vérificateurs_, and in
some of these--Würtemburg, for instance--the official is obliged
to examine the corpse several times before his certificate is made
out. But notwithstanding this careful official inspection, cases of
premature burial and narrow escapes are telegraphed by _Reuter_ and
_Dalziel_ every now and then to the English Press, as we have seen, and
additional details, with the names and addresses of the victims, are
furnished by responsible special correspondents.


The best proof that one can give of the uncertainty of the signs of
death is the great divergence of opinion amongst medical experts. Dr.
Gannal, in “Signes de la Mort,” Paris, 1890, p. 27, observes:--“If
any of these signs had presented characters of absolute certainty, it
is unquestionable that the unanimity of authors would have recognised
it; now, there is none. One sign held to be good by some, is declared
bad by others.” Dr. Gannal affirms with iteration that there is only
one unequivocal sign and proof of dissolution--decomposition. All
authorities agree that whatever degree of doubt attends the ordinary
appearances of death, none dispute that this amounts to a demonstration.

When standing round the bed of a sick patient, reduced to a state
of coma or suspended animation, to which death is the expected
termination, as soon as the doctor utters the fatal words “all is
over,” no one present thinks of doubting the verdict, or putting it to
the test. Mr. Clarke Irvine, who has had a wide experience, writing in
the _Banner of Light_, December 14, 1895, Boston, U.S., says:--

“I have known of hundreds of deaths in my experience, and never have
I known of any instance wherein a bystander has doubted save once,
and then the person supposed dead was revived, and is now living out
in Colorado. The mere accident of a stranger coming in just previous
to the enclosing in a coffin prevented the man from the awful fate of
burial alive, so far as we can see.

“In one other, the supposed dead man came to life a little before the
time set for his funeral, by the accident of some one seizing hold of
his foot: he is still living, and a resident of this country. The case
was widely published in the newspapers after he was interviewed by a
reporter in Chicago, where the rescued man was visiting at the time of
the great Fair. He is known as Judge William Poynter. I saw him a few
days ago, and have heard him relate the experience.

“The case of the little girl who was rescued while the funeral was
in progress, at St. Joseph, Missouri, I have already contributed to
_The Banner_. These people were saved by a mere chance; how many have
passed underground forever, of whom nothing was ever suspected! All
through the country, people are dying or apparently dying, or falling
into death-like trances daily, and being placed in their coffins _as a
matter of course_, and hurried to and into their graves, _as of course_
also--and in the very nature of things it must be and must have been
that hundreds upon hundreds have been and are being consigned to that
most awful of all the dooms possible. The horror of the thing is simply



The following are extracts from the Police Regulations for the
inspection of the dead, and the prevention of premature burial in
Bavaria, and issued by the Royal State-Ministry for Home affairs:--

 § 4.

 In public hospitals, penitentiaries, charitable or other similar homes
 or institutions, the duty of inspection falls upon the physician in

 Outside these institutions the inspectors must be chosen, in the
 first instance, from among physicians, after them surgeons, former
 assistants of military hospitals, and lastly, in default of such, from
 lay people. The latter must, however, be of undoubted respectability,
 and, before their appointment, must be properly instructed by the
 district physician, and subjected from time to time to an examination.

 § 6.

 As a rule the inspection of dead bodies must be made once if by
 doctors, and twice if by laymen. In communities which possess a
 mortuary a _second inspection_ has to be made, even though the regular
 inspection has previously been made by doctors or laymen.

 § 7.

 The first inspection has to be made as soon as possible after death,
 and, where practicable, within twenty-four hours, and in cases
 described under § 6, sec. 2, at least before removal of the body to
 the mortuary.

 The second inspection must take place just before burial.

 § 8.

 The body, until the arrival of the Inspector, must be left in
 an undisturbed position, with the face uncovered, and free from
 closely-fitting garments.

 The instructions of the Inspector, for the resuscitation of a body
 suspected of apparent death only, are to be followed most strictly.

 § 9.

 The Inspector has to give a certificate of corpse inspection
 confirmatory of his inspection, but he must only issue the same if he
 has fully ascertained the actuality of death.

 § 10.

 (1) As a rule the bodies must not be interred before the lapse of 48
 hours, but not later than 72 hours, after death.

 The Police Authorities may, however, at the recommendation of the
 Corpse Inspector, exceptionally grant permission for the burial before
 the expiration of 48 hours if a _post-mortem_ dissection has taken
 place, also if decomposition has set in, and if on account of lack of
 room the body has to be preserved in an overcrowded habitation.

 APPENDIX to the Police Instructions as to Corpse Inspection and time
 of Burial, of 20th November, 1885.


 The purpose of corpse inspection is to prohibit the concealment of
 deaths by violent means or resulting from medical malpractices;
 to detect infectious diseases, and the establishment of correct
 death lists; and particularly _to prevent the burial of people only
 apparently dead_. For this purpose each corpse is to be closely
 examined on the first inspection as to any signs of death, both in the
 front and the back of the body.


 The Inspectors have primarily to establish the actuality of death by
 observing and notifying all the symptoms accompanying or following the

 Indications of death may be noted:--

 (1) If there is no indication of any pulsation noticeable, either in
 the region of the heart, at the neck, at the temples, or the forearm.

 (2) If the eyelids when pulled asunder remain open, and the eyes
 themselves appear sunken into their sockets, dulled, and lustreless,
 also if the eyeballs feel soft and relaxed.

 (3) If parts of the body are pale and cold, if chin and nose are
 pointed, if cheeks and temples are sunken.

 (4) If the lower jaw hangs down and immediately drops again if pushed
 up, or if the muscles feel hard and stiff (rigidity).

 (5) If the skin of the fingers held against one another, held towards
 light, do not appear reddish.

 (6) If a feather or burning candle held against the mouth show no sign
 of motion, or if there is no sign of moisture upon a looking-glass
 held before the mouth.

 (7) If on different parts of the body, particularly the neck, back, or
 posterior, or the undersurface of the extremities there are bluish-red
 spots (death spots) visible.

 (8) If the skin, particularly at the sides of the stomach, show a
 dirty-green discoloration (decomposition spots).

 The non-Medical Inspector has to observe at least all the symptoms 1
 to 4.

 In doubtful cases the Medical Inspectors are advised to test the
 muscles and nerves by electric currents.


 If the inspection gives rise to suspicions of apparent death
 (Scheintod), the inspector must (if he is not himself a doctor)
 immediately call for the assistance of a practised physician, so as to
 establish the actual condition, and to adopt the necessary measures
 for resuscitation, as follows:--

 (1) Opening of the windows, and warming the room.

 (2) Efforts at artificial respiration.

 (3) Applications of warm mustard-plaisters to the chest and the

 (4) Rubbing with soft brushes, with cloths saturated in vinegar, or
 spirit of camphor, also with hot woollen cloths.

 (5) Irritation of the throat with a feather.

 (6) Smelling sal-ammoniac.

 (7) Dropping from time to time a few drops of “extract of balm” or
 similar essences into the mouth.

 Unless medical aid has meanwhile arrived, the application of these
 measures must be continued until the apparently dead comes, back to
 life, and begins to swallow, in which case he ought to have warm
 broth, tea, or wine, or until there is absolutely no doubt as to the
 total ineffectiveness of all attempts at reanimation.



THE differences observed in the length of time that persons have
remained in this condition depended, doubtless, upon the constitutional
peculiarities of the patients--such as strength or weakness--or upon
the nature of the disease from which they may have suffered. Struve,
in his Essay, pp. 34-98, says “that it depends upon the proportion
of vital power in the individual. Hence children and young persons
will endure longer than the aged. Also upon the nature of the element
in which the accident happened, whether it contained greater or less
proportion of oxygenated or carbonic acid gas, or other poisonous
vapours. The latent vital power seems to be much longer preserved
when animation has been suspended by cold. A man revived after being
under snow forty hours. Persons apparently dead sometimes awake after
an interval of seven days, as was the case with Lady Russell.... In
the female sex, the suspension of vital power, spasms, fainting fits,
etc., originating from a hysterical, feeble constitution, are not
rare, nor is it improbable that the state of apparent death may be of
longer duration with them; nay, it may be looked upon as a periodical
disorder, in which all susceptibility of irritation is extinguished.”
Struve further remarks, p. 98, “that the state in which the vital
power is suspended, or in which there is a want of susceptibility
of stimuli, consists of infinite modifications, from the momentary
transient fainting fit, to a death-like torpor of a day’s duration.
The susceptibility of irritation may be completely suppressed, and the
apparently dead may be insensible of the strongest stimuli, such as the
operation of the knife, and the effects of a red-hot iron.”


M. Josat, in “De la Mort et de ses Caractères,” gives the result of
his own observations in one hundred and sixty-two instances, in which
apparent death lasted--

  In 7 from 36 to 42 hours.
    20   ”  20 to 36   ”
    47   ”  15 to 20   ”
    58   ”   8 to 15   ”
    30   ”   2 to  8   ”

The order of frequency of diseases in which these occurred was as
follows:--Asphyxia, hysteria, apoplexy, narcotism, concussion of the
brain, the cases of concussion being the shortest.

The length of time a person may live in the grave will depend upon
similar concomitant conditions; but all things considered, a person
buried while in a state of trance, catalepsy, asphyxia, narcotism,
nervous shock, etc., and in any of the other states that cause apparent
death without passing through a course of disease, and that occur
during his or her usual health, will have a longer struggle before
life becomes extinct than one whose strength had been exhausted by
an attack of sickness. Estimates of the duration of such a struggle
differ considerably. Some writers believe that “however intense, it
must be short-lived.” As to the prolongation of the horrible suffering
incident to such tragic occurrences, Dr. Léonce Lénormand, in his
“Des Inhumations Précipitées,” pp. 2-4, observes--“It is a mistake to
think that a living person, enclosed in a narrow box, and covered with
several feet of earth, would succumb to immediate asphyxiation.”[16]

Dr. Charles Londe, in his “La Mort Apparent,” remarks:--“It has been
calculated that, after one quarter of the quantity of atmospheric air
contained in the coffin--approximately estimated at one hundred and
twenty litres--was exhausted, death would set in; therefore, it is
quite certain that, if the shroud is thick, and the coffin well closed,
and the grave impenetrable to the atmosphere, life could not last more
than forty to sixty minutes after inhumation. But is not that a century
of torture?”

Some allowance should be made for the persistence of the vital energy,
which continues after all atmospheric air is cut off. “Experiments on
dogs show that the average duration of the respiratory movements after
the animal has been deprived of air is four minutes five seconds. The
duration of the heart’s action is seven minutes eleven seconds. The
average of the heart’s action after the animal has ceased to make
respiratory efforts is three minutes fifteen seconds. These experiments
further showed that a dog may be deprived of air during three minutes
fifty seconds, and afterwards recover without the application of
artificial means.”[17]


Prof. P. Brouardel, M.D., Paris, in “La Morte Subité,” p. 35, observes
that:--“A dog, placed in a common coffin, lived five to six hours;
but a dog occupies less room than a man, who, in such a coffin, when
closed, would not have more than one hundred litres, so he would
possibly live twenty minutes. I would not wish anybody to pass twenty
such cruel minutes.”

“Mr. Bernard, a skilful surgeon of Paris, certified that, in the parish
of Riol, he himself, and several other bystanders, saw a monk of the
Order of St. Francis, who had been buried for three or four days, taken
from his grave breathing and alive, with his arms lacerated near the
swathes employed to secure them; but he died immediately after his
releasement. This gentleman also asserts that a faithful narrative of
so memorable an accident was drawn up by public authority, and that
the raising of the body was occasioned by a letter written from one of
the monk’s friends, in which it was affirmed that he was subject to
paroxysms of catalepsy.”--_The Uncertainty of the Signs of Death, by
Surgeon M. Cooper. Dublin, 1748._

In a volume, entitled “Information Relative to Persons who have been
Buried Alive,” by Heinrich Friedrich Köppen, Halle, 1799, dedicated to
Frederick William III., King of Prussia, and Louise, Queen of Prussia,
are the nine following amongst many other cases:--

 “_England._--Lady Russell, wife of a colonel in the army, was
 considered dead, and only through the tender affection of her husband
 was she saved from living burial. He would not allow her to be taken
 away until decomposition would absolutely force him to do so. After
 seven days, however, in the evening, when the bells were ringing, the
 faithful husband had the triumph to see her eyes open and her return
 to full consciousness.”

 “_Halle, Germany._--Medical Professor Junker, in Halle, a very humane
 man, had a corpse of a suicide--by hanging--delivered for dissection
 at his college. He was placed on a table in the dissecting room, and
 covered with a cloth. About midnight, while the professor was sitting
 at his writing-table in an adjoining room, he heard a great noise
 in the dissecting room, and fearing that cats were gnawing at the
 corpses, he went out, and saw the cloth in a disturbed condition,
 and on lifting it up found the corpse missing. As all the doors and
 windows were closed, he searched the room, and found the missing one
 crouching in a corner, trembling with cold, in the terror of death.
 He besought the professor for mercy, help, and means for escape, as
 he was a deserter from the army, and he would be severely punished
 if caught. After consideration the kind professor clothed him,
 and took him out of town at night as his own servant--passing the
 guards--pretending to be on a professional visit, and set him free
 in the country. Years afterwards he met the same man in Hamburg as a
 prosperous merchant.”

 “_Leipsic._--The wife of the publisher, Mathäus Hornisch, died, and,
 according to the custom of the times, the coffin was opened before
 being put into the ground. The grave-digger noticed golden rings on
 her fingers, and in the following night went to the grave to steal
 them--which he found was not easy to do--when suddenly she drew back
 her arm. The robber ran away frightened, leaving his lantern at the
 grave. The woman recovered, but could not make out where she was, and
 cried for help. No one heard her; so she got out of the grave, took
 the lantern, and went to her home. Knocking at the door, the servant
 called to know who it was. She replied, “Your mistress. Open the door;
 I am cold, and freezing to death.” The master was called; and happily
 she was restored to her home again, where she lived for several years

 “_Pavese, Italy, 1787._--A clergyman was buried, and noises were heard
 in his grave afterwards. Upon opening the grave and the coffin, the
 man was found alive, and violently trembling with fright.”

 “_Paris, 1787._--A carpenter was buried, noises were heard proceeding
 from his grave, and upon opening it he was found to be breathing. He
 was taken to his home, where he recovered.”


 “_Stadamhof, 1785._--A young, healthy girl, on the way to a wedding,
 had an apoplectic stroke, as it was thought, and fell as if dead. The
 following day she was buried. The grave-digger, who was occupied near
 her grave that night, heard noises in it, and being superstitious ran
 home in fright. The following morning he returned to finish a grave
 he was digging, and heard the whining again from the girl’s grave.
 He called for help, the grave was opened, when they found the girl
 turned over, her face scratched and bloody, her fingers bitten, and
 her mouth full of blood. She was dead, with evidences of most dreadful

 “_France._--Madame Lacour died after a long sickness, and was buried
 in a vault of a church, with all her jewels on. Her maid and the
 sexton opened the coffin the following night to steal the jewellery,
 when some hot wax from the candle they were using fell on the
 woman’s face and woke her up. The robbers fled in fright, and the
 woman went back to her home. She lived many years afterwards, and
 had a son who became a priest, who in turn--inheriting his mother’s
 nature--underwent a fate similar to her own.”

 “_Lyons, France._--The wife of a merchant died. Two days after her
 seeming death, and just before the time set for her burial, her
 husband, who, it seems, had some doubts as to her death, had her
 taken from the coffin, and had a scarifier used in cupping applied in
 twenty-five places without bringing any blood, but the twenty-sixth
 application brought her to consciousness with a scream, and she
 recovered completely.”

 “_Cadillac._--A woman had been buried in the morning. In the following
 morning whining was heard in her grave. It was opened, and the woman
 was found still alive, but she had mutilated half of her right arm and
 the whole hand. She was finally restored.”

The _Spectator_, October 11, 1895, publishes particulars of a recent
case of recovery, after three days’ interment, in Ireland. See pp. 111,
112 in this volume.

Köppen’s investigations led him to observe that--“Human life may
appear to come to a stop, and no one can say it will not go on again,
if time enough is allowed for it to do so. This even the most learned
in medicine cannot explain away or deny; and the greatest precaution
should be taken before death is declared to exist.”



THE following extracts from French, English, and American authorities,
who have made the subject of premature burial one of patient research,
show how the dead, or apparently dead, were treated in their respective
countries at the time they wrote, and when no reforms had been
instituted. Buffon, who wrote more than a century ago, said:--“Life
often very nearly resembles death. Neither ten, nor twenty, nor
twenty-four hours are sufficient to distinguish real from apparent
death. There are instances of persons who have been alive in the grave
at the end of the second, and even the third day. Why, then, suffer to
be interred so soon those whose lives we ardently wished to prolong?
Most savages pay more attention to deceased friends and relatives,
and regard as the first duty what is but a ceremony with us. Savages
respect their dead, clothe them, speak to them, recite their exploits,
extol their virtues; while we, who pique ourselves on our feelings, do
not show common humanity; we forsake and fly from our dead. We have
neither courage to look upon or speak to them; we avoid every place
which can recall their memory.”

In his “History of the Modes of Interment among Different Nations,” pp.
191-193, Mr. G. A. Walker, surgeon, quotes the following observations,
as deserving consideration on the subject of premature interment:--“On
many occasions, in all places, too much precipitation attends this
last office; or, if not precipitation, a neglect of due precautions
in regard to the body in general; indeed, the most improper treatment
that can be imagined is adopted, and many a person is made to descend
into the grave before he has sighed his last breath. Ancient and
modern authors leave us no doubt respecting the dangers or misconduct
of such precipitation. It must appear astonishing that the attention
of mankind has been, after all, so little aroused by an idea the most
terrible that can be conceived on this side eternity. According to
present usage, as soon as the semblance of death appears, the chamber
of the sick is deserted by friends, relatives, and physicians; and the
apparently dead, though frequently living, body is committed to the
management of an ignorant and unfeeling nurse, whose care extends no
further than laying the limbs straight, and securing her accustomed
perquisites. The bed-clothes are immediately removed, and the body is
exposed to the air. This, when cold, must extinguish any spark of life
that may remain, and which, by a different treatment, might have been
kindled into flame; or it may only continue to repress it, and the
unhappy person afterwards revive amidst the horrors of the tomb.

“The difference between the end of a weak life and the commencement of
death is so small, and the uncertainty of the signs of the latter is
so well established, that we can scarcely suppose undertakers capable
of distinguishing an apparent from a real death. Animals which sleep
in the winter show no signs of life. In this case, circulation is
only suspended; but were it annihilated, the vital spark does not so
easily lose its action as the fluids of the body, and the principle
of life, which long survives the appearance of death, may re-animate
a body in which the action of all the organs seems to be at an end.
But how difficult it is to determine whether this principle may not
be revived.... Coldness, heaviness of the body, a leaden, livid
colour, with a yellowness in the visage, are all very uncertain signs.
M. Zimmermann observed them all upon the body of a criminal, who
fainted through dread of that punishment which he had merited. He was
shaken, dragged about, and turned in the same manner as dead bodies
are, without the least signs of resistance, and yet, at the end of
twenty-four hours, he was recalled to life by means of the volatile
alkali.” Mr. Walker’s history was written nearly sixty years ago, but
the custom he deprecates still continues.


Dr. Moore Russell Fletcher, in his “Suspended Animation and
Restoration,” Boston, 1890, p. 19, speaking of the treatment of the
dead in the United States, says:--“It is doubtful whether modern
civilisation has much advanced the rites of burial, or the means of
preventing interment before positive death. The practice now is, as
soon as apparent death takes place, to begin at once preparing the body
for burial; the relatives and physician desert the room, pack it in ice
or open the windows, thus banishing any possible chance of reviving or
resuscitating any spark of vitality which may exist. No examination
is ever made by the physician or the friends to see if there are even
the faintest signs of life present. Under such circumstances, and with
no attempts made at discovering whether any signs of life were still
present (but a hasty burial instead), it is not strange that cases of
premature interment frequently occur.”

The Rev. Walter Whiter, in his “Dissertation on the Disorder of
Death,” 1819, p. 328, sensibly observes:--“The signs marked on the
dying and the dead are fallacious. The dying man may be the sinking
man, exhausted by his malady, or perhaps exhausting his malady, and
fainting under the conflict. Exert all the arts which you possess,
and which have been found not only able to resuscitate and restore
the dying, but even the dead; rouse him from this perilous condition,
and suffer him not, by your supineness and neglect, to pass into a
state of putrefactive death.” And in p. 363:--“If the humane societies
had applied the same methods in various cases of natural death which
they have adopted in the case of drowning, and if they had obtained a
similar success in the cultivation of their art, the gloom of the bed
of death would be brightened with cheering prospects, and would have
become the bed of restoration and the scene of hope.”


In this connection we may remark that no profession is more overcrowded
at the present time than that of medicine, particularly in the United
Kingdom, the English Colonies, and the United States. Hundreds of young
men graduate from medical colleges every year, vainly seeking openings
for a practice; and some, for the purpose of gaining a livelihood,
resort to expedients which the _Lancet_ denounces as undignified,
unprofessional, and disgraceful.[18] Then, again, the number of nurses
and of those qualifying for this honourable vocation is already
in excess of the demand, and nursing institutions under the keen
competition to which they are subjected, are reducing their charges.
Now, the care and treatment of the supposed dead is an honourable
vocation, offering a wide field for the instructed physician and the
tender and sympathetic nurse, and if the appliances for resuscitation
were always at hand, as they should be, in every hospital, town-hall,
mortuary, police station, and in all large hotels and churches, many
lives now subjected to the risks of premature burial would be saved.
While in London there are two or more houses or retreats for the dying,
there is no place for the apparently dead but a shunned and neglected
coffin. The time is not far distant when the present mode of treating
the dead and the apparently dead--a practice born of superstition
and fear, by which many are consigned to premature graves--will be
catalogued amongst the barbarisms of the nineteenth century.



THOSE interested in the movement, if we are right in designating the
widespread feeling of discontent by this name, are occasionally asked
if the cases of premature burial are numerous, and what estimates,
if any, have been made of them. We have no means of answering these
queries. We do not even know the percentage of people who are subject
to trance, catalepsy, shocks, stroke of lightning, syncope, exhausting
lethargy, excessive opium-eating, or other diseases or conditions
which produce the various death-counterfeits. Personal inquiries over
a considerable portion of Europe, America, and the East prove that
such cases are by no means of infrequent occurrence, and this is the
deliberate conclusion of nearly all the authorities cited in this

Dr. Chambers wrote in 1787--“Every age and country affords instances
of surprising recoveries, after lying long for dead. From the number
of those preserved by lucky accidents, we may conclude a far greater
number might have been preserved by timely pains and skill.”--_Cited in
Mort Apparente et Mort Réelle, p. 17._

In his introduction to the work above cited, “Information Relative
to Persons who have been Buried Alive,” by Henrich Friedrich Köppen,
Halle, 1799, the author says:--“General Staff Medical Officer, D. O.
in D., states that, in his opinion, one third of mankind are buried
alive.” This estimate is very obviously exaggerated, although many
trustworthy experiences prove that a certain number of those who die
have returned to consciousness in their graves. A great many are buried
alive from ignorance of their relatives, who mistake coldness of the
body, stoppage of the pulse and breathing, the colour of death, spots
of discolouration, a certain odour, and stiffness of the limbs--which
are only deceptive signs, not the signs of real death.


The very respectable Dr. Hufeland says:--“One cannot be too careful in
deciding as to life or death, therefore I always advise a delay of the
funeral as long as possible, so as to make all certain as to death. No
wonder when those who are buried alive, and who undergo indescribable
torture, condemn those who have been dearest to them in life. They will
have to undergo slow suffocation, in furious despair, while scratching
their flesh to pieces, biting their tongues, and smashing their heads
against their narrow houses that confine them, and calling to their
best friends, and cursing them as murderers. The dead should not be
buried before the fourth day; we even have examples that prove that
eight days or a fortnight is too soon--as there have been revivals as
late as that. I say every one should respect those who only seem to
be dead. They should be treated gently, and kept in a warm bed for
thirty-six hours.”

Mr. John Snart, in his “Thesaurus,” pp. 27, 28, London, 1817,
says:--“The number of dreadful catastrophes, arising from premature
interment, ... that have been _discovered_ only, or have transpired
to man, _above ground_, both in ancient and modern times, conveys to
every reflecting mind the fearful thought that they are but a _sample_
(per synecdochen) out of such an incalculable host, perhaps one in a

Professor Froriép, quoted in Kempner’s volume, says that--“In 1829,
arrangements were made at the cemetery, New York, so as to bury the
corpses in such manner as not to prevent them communicating with the
outside world, in case any should have awakened to life; and among
twelve hundred persons buried six came to life again.” In Holland, the
same author states, of a thousand cases investigated, five came to life
before burial or at the grave. The Rev. J. G. Ouseley, in his pamphlet
on “Earth to Earth Burial,” London, 1895, estimates “that two thousand
seven hundred persons at least, in England and Wales, are yearly
consigned to a living death, the most horrible conceivable.”

The Rev. Walter Whiter, in the “Disorder of Death,” 1819, p. 362,
calls attention to one of the reports (of Humane Societies) where the
following passage occurs: “Monsieur Thieurey, Doctor Regent of the
Faculty of Paris, is of opinion that one third, or perhaps half, of
those who die in their beds are not actually dead when they are buried.
He does not mean to say that so great a number would be restored to
life. In the intermediate state, which reaches from the instant of
apparent death to that of total extinction of life, the body is not
insensible to the treatment it receives, though unable to give any
signs of sensibility.”

Maximilian Misson, in his “Voyage Through Italy,” vol. i., letter 5,
tells us “that the number of persons who have been interred as dead,
when they were really alive, is very great, in comparison with those
who have been, happily, rescued from their graves.” He then proceeds
to substantiate his statement by the recital of cases.


Dr. Léonce Lénormand, in his able treatise, “Des Inhumations
Précipitées,” has given his deliberate opinion that a thousandth part
of the human race have been, and are, for want of knowledge, annually
buried alive. This we regard as an under, rather than an overestimate.

M. Le Guern, in his “Danger des Inhumations Précipitées,” which has
passed through several editions, declares that he has personally met
with forty-six cases of premature burial in twelve years. He devoted
thirty years to the study of the facts, and collected a list of two
thousand three hundred and thirteen cases from various sources. He
estimates the number of premature burials in France at two per thousand.

On February 27, 1866, the petition of M. Cornot was presented to the
French Senate by M. de la Gueronnière, stating that a comparatively
large number of persons are annually buried alive, which he supported
by statistics. The author has tried to procure a copy of this petition,
but these documents are not published by the State department.

The following appears in the _Lancet_, June 14, 1884, p. 1104:--


 “Sir,--That this is an incident that does happen, and frequently
 has happened, has for some years past been my firm conviction; and
 during epidemics, particularly in the East, its possible contingency
 has frequently caused me much anxiety; and when the burial has, for
 sanitary reasons, had to be very hurried, I always made it a rule to
 withhold my certificate unless I had personally inspected the body and
 assured myself of the fact of death.

 “The reason and necessity for extreme caution in such matters were
 impressed vividly upon me some years ago, when visiting the crypt
 of the cathedral at Bordeaux, where two bodies were shown, to whom,
 I think it obvious, this most terrible of all occurrences must have
 happened; and I am unable to attribute the position in which they were
 found in their coffins, and the look of horror which their faces still
 displayed, to any action of _rigor mortis_ or any other _post-mortem_
 change, but simply and solely to their having awakened to a full
 appreciation of their most awful position. In the case of one of
 these bodies, which was found lying on its side, the legs were drawn
 up nearly to a level with the abdomen, and the arms were in such a
 position as to convey the impression that both they and the legs had
 been used in a desperate, but futile, attempt to push out the side of
 the coffin; whilst the look of horror remaining on the face was simply
 indescribable. In the other case, the body was found lying on its
 face, the arms extended above the head, as if attempting to push out
 the top of the coffin. In the year 1870 these two bodies were still on
 view; and the attendants used to dwell at some length upon the horrors
 of being interred alive. It appears that some years prior to 1870,
 in making excavations in a church-yard in the immediate vicinity of
 the cathedral, the workmen came upon a belt of ground that apparently
 was impregnated with some antiseptic material, as all the bodies
 within this belt, to the number of about two hundred, were found to
 be almost as perfect as when they were buried; of these a selection
 appears to have been made; and at the time I mention about thirty or
 forty were exhibited, propped up on iron frames, in the crypt of the
 cathedral. The impression left on my mind at the time was that; if out
 of two hundred bodies so discovered there could be two in which, to
 say the least, there is a strong probability of live interment, this
 awful possibility was a thing that should receive more attention than
 is generally devoted to it.--I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

  “H. S.

 “Bayswater, June 10, 1884.”


Protests against the present state of the law in France are very
frequent. M. Gaubert in “Les Chambres Mortuaires d’Attente,” page 80,
says: “During the monarchy of July petitions have not ceased to come
in from all parts of France to the Chamber of Deputies.” For a great
number of years, said the Deputy Varin, in the sitting of April 10,
1847, every year petitions having the same object (the prevention
of premature burial) are presented to the Chambers and referred to
the Ministry. What has been done, however? Nothing! Again M. Gaubert
in p. 88, referring to resolutions of the General Councils of the
Departments, observes: “That under the movement of protest, which we
are examining and find particularly serious, is shown the widespread
character which it assumes. It is, indeed, from all parts of France,
and under every form, that the sad complaints of the public (for the
prevention of premature burial) arrive at the office of the Minister
of the Interior. Those protests adopted by the General Councils (of
Departments) were not the less numerous nor the less conspicuous in
important places. Many of those who take the trouble to petition
or draw up resolutions have been prompted to action by melancholy
experience of such catastrophes in their own families.”

M. Gaubert in “Les Chambres Mortuaires d’Attente” (Paris, 1895), pp.
193-195, says that in France there are in round numbers thirty-six
thousand Communes, and it is beyond doubt that in every one of these
will be found cases of premature burial. Communes with a population
of eight hundred have even several. Dr. Pineau has recorded twelve in
the single Commune of Fontenay-le-Comte in Poitou. In the large towns,
especially in those which have great hospitals, the proportion is
more considerable. In Paris, Dr. Rousseau, verificateur of the dead,
in 1853 wrote: “Le médecin n’est jamais appelé que pour constater la
mort apparente.” M. Gaubert declares that he would not be far from the
truth in estimating the number of victims to apparent death at eight
thousand a year, and asks if France be so rich in population as to be
able to pay such an enormous tribute. Dr. Josat, lauréat de l’Institut,
declares that a considerable number of people refuse to visit France
through fear that they might be overtaken by apparent death and
precipitately buried alive.

The _Undertakers’ Journal_, July 22, 1889, the editor of which has
exceptional opportunities of knowing the true facts, observes: “It
has been proved beyond all contradiction that there are more burials
alive than is generally supposed. Stories of these cases are numerous.
Five cases are reported on p. 85 of this same issue, one the wife of a
well-known tradesman at St. Leonards, medically pronounced dead, but
who revived before it was too late. Many undertakers could describe
similar experiences.”


Dr. Roger S. Chew, of Calcutta, in reply to the author’s inquiries
while in India in the early part of the year (1896) says: “There are
hundreds of instances on record where from some cause, as syncope,
shock, chloroform, hysteria, or other condition not clearly understood,
the powers of life assumed a static condition in which oxidation
was completely arrested, carbonification was held in abeyance, and
nitrification maintained at positive rest, with the consequence that
the vital functions have passed into a condition of hibernation or
apparent death so closely simulating real or absolute death as to
render differential diagnosis an almost impossibility, and to lead to
the interment or cremation while yet alive of a body apparently dead.”

Dr. Franz Hartmann, of Hallein, Austria, whose book, “Buried Alive,”
is now being translated into French, has collected seven hundred cases
of premature burial and narrow escapes, several of which have occurred
in his own neighbourhood, and is of opinion that the actual danger to
every member of the human family is of serious proportions, and that
the subject should not be trifled with. He is a strong advocate for
cremation as offering the easiest practical method of prevention.

It will have been noticed that whenever the subject of premature burial
has been introduced in an influential journal published in England,
the United States, or the Continent, one contribution follows another
in quick succession, by persons furnishing particulars of cases of
trance, catalepsy, and of narrow escapes from living burial. The Paris
_Figaro_ opened its columns two years ago for this subject, and in
fifteen days received four hundred letters from all parts of France.
When we consider that nearly all the reported cases of resuscitation
have come about spontaneously and independently of human intervention,
it becomes evident, owing to our ignorance and apathy, that cases of
premature burial are far from infrequent, and our church-yards and
cemeteries, like those examined by Dr. Thouret in Paris, are probably
the silent witnesses of unnumbered unspeakable tragedies. Immediate
legislation is called for to remedy a national evil, and to remove the
feeling of disquietude which extensively prevails.



AN intelligent and observing correspondent writes to the author that
“under the prevailing custom of embalming in vogue in the United
States, it is almost impossible to have a living burial, as the
injection of the fluids used in the operation would prevent revival
and make death certain. Of course, the class denominated ‘poor folks,’
who cannot afford this security, have to take their chances with the
mysteries of trance and other forms of apparent death, as well as with
ignorance, indifference, and unseemly haste, that seem to encompass a
man at a time when he is in need of the most considerate care.”

Embalming is no doubt preferable, as was thought by the late Lady
Burton, to the risks, prevailing in almost all countries, of burial
before careful medical examination, for the reason that it is better
to be killed outright by the embalmer’s poisonous injections, or even
to come to life under the scalpel of the anatomist, than to recover
underground. A leading New York investigator has openly declared his
belief that a considerable number of human beings (supposed by their
relatives to be dead, but who are really only in a state of death
trance) are annually killed in America by the embalming process.


In the second edition of Dr. Curry’s “Observations on Apparent Death,”
1815, p. 105, the case is cited of William, Earl of Pembroke, who died
April 10, 1630. When the body was opened in order to be embalmed, he
was observed, immediately after the incision was made, to lift up his

F. Kempner, in “Denkschrift,” p. 6, says:--

 “Owing to some great mental excitement, the Cardinal Spinosa fell
 into a state of apparent death. He was declared to be dead by his
 physicians, and they proceeded to open his chest for the purpose of
 embalming his body. When the lungs were laid open, the heart began
 to beat again; the cardinal returned to consciousness, and was just
 able to grasp the knife of the surgeon when he fell back and died in


The _Journal de Rouen_, Aug. 5th, 1837, relates the following:--

 “Cardinal Somaglia was seized with a severe illness, from extreme
 grief; he fell into a state of syncope, which lasted so long that the
 persons around him thought him dead. Preparations were instantly made
 to embalm his body, before the putrefactive process should commence,
 in order that he might be placed in a leaden coffin, in the family
 vault. The operator had scarcely penetrated into his chest when the
 heart was seen to beat. The unfortunate patient, who was returning to
 his senses at that moment, had still sufficient strength to push away
 the knife of the surgeon, but too late, for the lung had been mortally
 wounded, and the patient died in a most lamentable manner.”

Dr. Hartmann in “Premature Burial,” p. 80, says:--

 “The celebrated actress Mlle. Rachel died at Paris, on 4th January,
 1858. After the process of embalming her body had already begun, she
 awoke from her trance, but died ten hours afterwards owing to the
 injuries that had been inflicted upon her.”

The _Celestial City_, New York, June 15, 1889, records:--


 “Mrs. Eleanor Fletcher Bishop, the mother of the celebrated
 mind-reader, has a thrilling experience of her own regarding the
 horrors of being railroaded into the grave. Anent the unseemly haste
 exercised by the doctors who made the autopsy on her son, the old lady
 stated what terrible perils she at one time barely escaped. ‘I am
 subject to the same cataleptic trances in which my boy often fell,’
 said Mrs. Bishop. ‘One can see and hear everything, but speech and
 movement are paralyzed. It is horrible. For six days, some years ago,
 I was in a trance, and saw arrangements being made for my funeral.
 Only my brother’s determined resistance prevented them from embalming
 me, and I lay there and heard it all. On the seventh day I came to
 myself, but the agony I endured left its mark forever.’”

Dr. P. J. Gibbons, M.A., says:--

“In my mind there is no doubt that bodies in which life is not extinct
are embalmed. To prevent the embalming of live bodies in cases where
doubt exists, my method for resuscitation should be resorted to. If
success does not follow, death has taken place. When one in whom the
vital spark may possibly not yet have fled is found, two objects should
be aimed at, viz., first, to restore breathing, and, second, to promote
warmth and circulation.”--_The Casket_, Rochester, New York, April 1,

The Select Committee of the House of Commons appointed in 1893 to
enquire into the subject of Death Certification, suggests in their
report that in all cases where it is desired to embalm a dead body
an authorisation should be obtained from the Home Secretary. This is
probably intended to prevent concealing cases of death by poisoning.
The Select Committee might very well have extended its recommendations
to the need of verifying the death before the embalmer was allowed to
exercise his art on the subject. Legislation in the United States,
where embalming is extensively practised among well-to-do people, is a
matter of urgent necessity. The author is aware of only one town where
the city ordinance enforces such verification before permitting burial.

Mr. M. Cooper, surgeon, in his admirable little volume “The Uncertainty
of the Signs of Death,” London, 1746, p. 196, observes that “those who
are dissected run no risk of being interred alive. The operation is an
infallible means to secure them from so terrible a fate. This is one
advantage which persons dissected have over those who are, without any
further ceremony, shut up in their coffins.”


The following from Ogston’s _Medical Jurisprudence_, p. 370, is a
case in point (quoted by the _Lancet_):--“In October, 1840, a servant
girl, who had retired to bed apparently in perfect health, was found
the following morning, as it appeared, dead. A surgeon who was called
pronounced her to have been dead for some hours. A coroner’s inquest
was summoned for four o’clock, and the reporter and the surgeon who
had been called in to the girl were ordered to inspect the body
previous to its sitting. On proceeding to the house for this purpose
at two o’clock, the inspectors found the girl lying in bed in an easy
posture, her face pallid, but placid and composed, as if she were in
a deep sleep, while the heat of the body had not diminished. A vein
was opened by them, and various stimuli applied, but without affording
any sign of resuscitation. After two hours of hesitation and delay, a
message being brought that the jury were waiting for their evidence,
they were forced to proceed to the inspection. In moving the body for
this purpose, the warmth and pliancy of the limbs were such as to give
the examiners the idea that they had to deal with a living subject! The
internal cavities, as they proceeded, were found so warm that a very
copious steam issued from them on exposure. All the viscera were in a
healthy state, and nothing was detected which could throw the smallest
light on the cause of this person’s death.” Tidy (_Legal Medicine_),
part i., p. 140, remarks thereon--“A mistake had no doubt been made in
this case, as its warmth was not caused by decomposition.”

In the _Cyclopædia of Practical Medicine_, edited by Sir John
Forbes, M.D., and others, 1847, vol. i., pp. 548-9, we find the
following:--“Nothing is more certain than death; nothing is more
uncertain at times than its reality; and numerous instances are
recorded of persons prematurely buried, or actually at the verge of the
grave before it was discovered that life still remained; and even of
some who were resuscitated by the knife of the anatomist.... Bruhier,
a celebrated French physician, who wrote on the uncertainties of the
signs of death in 1742, relates an instance of a young woman upon whose
supposed corpse an anatomical examination was about to be made when
the first stroke of the scalpel revealed the truth; she recovered,
and lived many years afterwards. The case related by Philippe Pue is
somewhat similar. He proceeded to perform the Cæsarean section upon
a woman who had to all appearance died undelivered, when the first
incision betrayed the awful fallacy under which he acted.... ‘There
is scarcely a dissecting-room that has not some traditional story
handed down of subjects restored to life after being deposited within
its walls. Many of these are mere inventions to catch the ever greedy
ear of curiosity; but some of them are, we fear, too well founded to
admit of much doubt. To this class belongs the circumstance related
by Louis, the celebrated French writer on medical jurisprudence. A
patient who was supposed to have died in the Hospital Salpétrière was
removed to his dissecting-room. Next morning Louis was informed that
moans had been heard in the theatre; and on proceeding thither he
found to his horror that the supposed corpse had revived during the
night, and had actually died in the struggle to disengage himself from
the winding sheet in which he was enveloped. This was evident from
the distorted attitude in which the body was found. Allowing for much
of the fiction with which such a subject must ever be mixed, there
is still sufficient evidence to warrant a diligent examination of
the means of discriminating between real and apparent death; indeed,
the horror with which we contemplate a mistake of the living for the
dead should excite us to the pursuit of knowledge by which an event
so repugnant to our feelings may be avoided.... If life depends upon
the presence of a force or power continually opposed to the action of
physical and chemical laws, real death will be the loss of this force,
and the abandonment of organised bodies to these agents; while apparent
death will be only the suspension of the exercise of life, caused by
some derangement of the functions which serve as instruments of vital
action. This suspension must have been lost for a considerable time,
if we may judge by the cases collected by credible authors, to some of
which we have alluded, and by the numerous instances of drowned persons
restored to life after long submersion. From this definition of life
and death, it would follow that putrefaction is the only evidence of
real death.’ ... The absence of the circulation of the blood has been
looked upon as a certain indication of death; but this test is not much
to be depended on, for it is well known that persons may live even for
hours in whom no trace of the action of the heart and arteries can be

Le Guern, in “Du Danger Des Inhumations Précipitées,” chap. iv., p. 24,
relates that “The Abbé Prévost was found in the forest of Chantilly
perfectly insensible. They thought him dead. A surgeon proceeded
to make a _post-mortem_; but hardly had he put the scalpel in the
body of the unfortunate victim before the supposed corpse uttered a
cry, and the surgeon realised the mistake he had made. Prévost only
became conscious to feel aware of the horror of the death by which he

Dr. Franz Hartmann, in his “Premature Burial,” p. 80, has the

 “In May, 1864, a man died very suddenly at a hospital in the State of
 New York, and, as the doctors could not explain the cause of death,
 they resolved upon a _post-mortem_ examination, but, when they made
 the first cut with the knife, the supposed dead man jumped up and
 grasped the doctor’s throat. The doctor was terrified and died of
 apoplexy on the spot, but the “dead” man recovered fully.

Brigade-Surgeon W. Curran in his 8th paper, entitled “Buried Alive,”
relates the following:--“At the Medical College at Calcutta, on the 1st
of February, 1861,” so writes my friend as above, “the body of a Hindu
male, about 25 years of age, was brought from the police hospital for
dissection.... It was brought to the dissecting-room about 6 a.m., and
the arteries were injected with arsenical solution about 7. At 11 the
prosector opened the thorax and abdomen for the purpose of dissecting
the sympathetic nerve. At noon Mr. Macnamara distinctly saw the heart
beating; there was a regular rythmical vermicular action of the right
auricle and ventricle. The pericardium was open, the heart being freely
exposed, and lying to the left in its natural position. The heart’s
action, although regular, was very weak and slow. The left auricle was
also in action, but the left ventricle was contracted and rigid, and
apparently motionless. These spontaneous contractions continued till
about 12.45 p.m., and, further, the right side of this organ contracted
on the application of a stimulus, such as the point of a scalpel, &c.,
for a quarter of an hour longer.”--_Health_, May 21st, 1886, p. 121.

Bruhier in his work, “Dissertation sur l’Incertitude de la Mort et
l’Abus des Enterrements,” records a number of cases of the supposed
dead who, after burial, were revived at the dissecting table, together
with fifty-three that awoke in their coffins before being buried,
fifty-two persons actually buried alive, and seventy-two other cases of
apparent death. This was at a time when body-snatching was in vogue,
and it is a curious comment on our civilisation to be compelled to
admit that a subject of trance or catalepsy during the last or the
early part of the present century had a better chance of escape from so
terrible a fate than now, when the vocation of the resurrection-man has
become obsolete.



A SELECT COMMITTEE of the House of Commons, under the chairmanship
of Sir Walter Foster, M.D., was appointed on March 27, 1893, to
inquire into the subject of death-certification in the United Kingdom.
Fourteen sittings were held, and thirty-two witnesses examined. All
the witnesses practically agreed as to the serious defects in the law,
and a number of recommendations were made. It was shown that in about
four per cent. of the cases the cause of death was ill-defined and
unspecified, many practitioners having forms specially printed for
their own use, in which all mention of medical attendance is omitted,
the object being to enable the doctor to give certificates in cases
which he has never attended. Numerous deaths attended by unqualified
practitioners were certified by qualified practitioners who had
probably never seen the cases; and deaths were certified by medical
practitioners who had not seen the patient for weeks or months prior
to death, and who knew only by hearsay of the deaths having occurred.
Deaths were also certified in which the true cause was suppressed in
deference to the feelings of survivors; these last in particular are
reported to be very numerous.


In Q. 2552-83, remarkable evidence was produced as to the reckless mode
of death-certification. One medical witness testified that he saw a
certificate of death, signed by a registered medical practitioner,
giving both the fact and the cause of death of a man who was actually
alive at the time, and who lived four days afterwards, with facts of
even a more startling character described as “murder made easy.” It was
pointed out that fraud and irregularity in giving false declarations of
death are by no means infrequent. Various other matters are treated,
and the following are some of their recommendations:--

 1. That in no case should a death be registered without the production
 of a certificate of the cause of death by a registered medical
 practitioner, or by a coroner after inquest, or, in Scotland, by a

 2. That in each sanitary district a registered medical practitioner
 should be appointed as public medical certifier of the cause of
 death in cases in which a certificate from a medical practitioner in
 attendance was not forthcoming.

 3. That a medical practitioner in attendance should be required,
 before giving a certificate of death, to personally inspect the body,
 but if, on the ground of distance, or for other sufficient reason, he
 is unable to make this inspection himself, he should obtain and attach
 to the certificate of the cause of death a certificate signed by two
 persons, neighbours, verifying the fact of death.

 4. That medical practitioners be required to send certificates of
 death direct to the registrar instead of handing them to the relatives
 of the deceased.

 5. That a form of certificate of death should be prescribed, and that
 medical practitioners should be required to use such form.

From the _Times_, May 23, 1896:--


 At the special meeting of the Metropolitan Counties Branch of the
 British Medical Association, held last night at the Museum of
 Practical Geology, Jermyn Street, the subject of an improvement in
 the present procedure in death-certification and registration came up
 for discussion. Sir W. Priestley, M.P., president, took the chair.

 Sir Henry Thompson moved the following resolution:--“Considering
 that a Select Committee of the House of Commons has in 1893 made
 an extended inquiry into the subject of death-certification and
 registration on the plan now followed in this country, and has
 reported that it manifestly fails to accomplish the purpose for
 which it was designed, this meeting is of opinion that Her Majesty’s
 Government should be respectfully memorialised to bring in a bill as
 soon as possible to give effect to an improved procedure in general
 accordance with the suggestions offered in the Committee’s report.”
 He said that, during the last twenty years or more, circumstances had
 not unfrequently occurred to attract public attention to the existence
 of grave defects in the system of death-certification adopted in this
 country, whether regarded as a safeguard against criminal attempts
 on life, or as a means of forming trustworthy records of disease for
 scientific purposes. From the Registrar-General’s report for England
 and Wales for the year 1892, it was shown that in fifteen thousand
 cases of death no inquiry had been made as to its cause, and that no
 certificate had been obtained from any source--a number amounting to
 nearly three per cent. on the total returned for the year. On the
 same authority it appeared that in twenty-five thousand more, or four
 and a half per cent., the cases “were so inadequately certified as
 not to be classifiable,” making together a class of seven and a half
 per cent. in which no evidence of any value as to the cause of death
 existed. After what had already been done in the matter, all that
 appeared to be necessary at present seemed to him to be that they
 should forward a memorial to the Home Secretary, with a request that
 he would consider the important work which had been already done by
 the Select Committee, and, if he saw fit, take steps to embody their
 recommendations in an Act of Parliament, for the purpose of giving the
 country a greatly improved procedure in exchange for that at present
 employed. Dr. Isambard Owen, in the absence of Dr. Farquharson, M.P.,
 seconded the resolution, and asserted that the State now winked at
 an exceedingly loose system of death-certification, since under
 the present procedure it was possible for a medical man to give a
 death-certificate on a patient whom he might not have seen for an
 interval of several weeks, and perhaps months. The resolution was
 supported by Dr. Nelson Hardy, Dr. Alderson, Dr. Hugh Woods, Dr.
 Sykes, and others, and was unanimously adopted.

A well-known physician in large practice, writing to the author from
a Midland town, October 10, 1895, says:--“Medical men, attending
patients seriously ill, accept the statement of the friends that the
patient died in the night, and give a certificate at once, without any
inspection of the body. This is the regular practice.”


In Ireland matters are no better, and clergymen and others, with whom
the author has been in correspondence, say they are much worse, and
the danger of premature burial is, if possible, greater than it is in
England. The Rev. W. Walters, writing from Ventry Parsonage, Dingle,
Ireland, September 16, 1895, says:--“In Ireland interment usually takes
place the day after decease, and no certificate as to the cause of
death is ever required. There is no safeguard whatever, and amongst the
ignorant poor I fear premature burial is terribly frequent.”

A prominent medical officer of health, having charge of a populous
metropolitan parish, wrote to the author, October 8, 1895, in reply to
inquiries:--“When a doctor attends a patient in an illness, and the
patient dies, he usually accepts the word of the friends as to the
facts of death, and if they are poor, or in moderate circumstances,
he grants the certificate in the ordinary way. If he is satisfied as
to the cause of death he dare not refuse the certificate. You will
see by the form I send you that _he need not actually satisfy himself
that the patient is dead_; if he is not satisfied he writes, ‘As I
am informed,’ in the space left for the words.... On one occasion
I was directed by a lady to drive a very long hat-pin through her
heart after death, to ensure that she should not be buried alive.
I have given so little attention to the matter that I cannot say
if the Continental practice in this respect is better than ours.
_Signs of decomposition are, I believe, the only ones of any real
value._ The form of certificate of death referred to is marked,
‘Printed by authority of the Registrar-General,’ and a request marked
‘N.B.’ is to read the suggestions on page ii. In this other form,
which is entitled ‘Suggestions to medical practitioners respecting
certificates of the cause of death,’ elaborate instructions are set
forth under ten separate clauses, with examples showing in what way the
death-certificates are to be filled up, but not one word of instruction
or caution as to the fact of death--whether it be real or apparent--the
absolute signs of death, or the steps to be taken in doubtful cases,
or in the various forms of suspended animation, such as coma, trance,
catalepsy, etc.”

The _Times_, January 19, 1878, p. 9, foot of column 6, reports a
singular case in point:--

“PREMATURE.--A poor woman lay very ill in her scantily-furnished home
in Sheffield. The doctor was sent for, and came. He at once saw that
hers was a very grave case, and that she had, as he thought, little
chance of recovery, even if she could get the nourishment her illness
required. As he was about to leave, the question was put, ‘When should
we send for you again, doctor?’ ‘Well,’ was the reply, as he looked at
the poor woman and then at her wretched surroundings, ‘I don’t think
you need send for me again. She cannot possibly get better; and to
save you further trouble I’ll just write you out a certificate for her
burial.’ And he did. After the doctor departed the woman--women always
were wilful--got better rapidly. She has now completely recovered,
and goes about carrying her burial certificate with her.--_Sheffield


Dr. Charles Cameron, M.P., in moving the introduction of the Disposal
of the Dead (Regulation) Bill, in the House of Commons, on April 30,
1884, said:--“A very large number of our population die without any
medical attendance at all, or at least without having ever received
sufficient medical attention to enable a certificate of the cause of
death to be given worth the paper on which it is written. In many
of these cases some sort of worthless certificate is procured and
presented to the registrar, but many thousands of persons are each year
buried in the United Kingdom without even this formality.”

The contrast between the laxity at home and the regulations laid down
by authority in Würtemburg, Bavaria, and other Continental States, is
remarkable, and should receive the attention of the Registrar-General
without delay.

From the _Lancet_, 1890, vol. i., p. 1440:--


“Considering the general progress that has been made in public health
during the last twenty years, it is seriously to be regretted that this
matter of unknown and uncertified causes of death has been practically
left untouched, and its settlement is, therefore more urgently needed
now than when so often pressed upon the public notice by the late
Dr. William Farr during his connection with the Registrar-General’s

The Parliamentary Committee above referred to omitted an unexampled
opportunity of inquiring into the facts of premature burial. They
could have summoned pathologists, who had made trance and catalepsy a
subject of close and searching investigation, as well as physicians,
who, in their practice, have been called in to decide upon cases of
apparent death, and of witnesses up and down the country who know
of such cases, and others who have met with narrow escapes from
these horrible mishaps. Instead of taking this reasonable course of
procedure, the Committee contented themselves by examining two or
three medical men, who had been summoned to give evidence upon the
irregularities of death-certification only, and whose negative and
apathetic replies showed either that the subject had never engaged
their attention, or that they were unwilling to charge any member of
the profession with a fault so ruinous to his professional reputation
as to be unable to discriminate between the living and the dead. No
questions were submitted to the witnesses as to the signs of death,
the characteristics of catalepsy, trance, asphyxia, syncope, etc., or
how to distinguish these from death, or as to the submission of tests
in doubtful cases in order to ascertain the fact of death. Indeed, it
may be observed that the investigation regarding a most vital point
connected with death-certification appears to have entirely escaped
the notice of this tribunal. As a specimen of the proceedings under
this head are the following (“Report,” p. 116)--Mr. John Tatham, M.A.,
M.D., being under examination by the chairman, Si Walter Foster, M.D.


 Q. 2112--Have you ever had any instances within your knowledge, or
 brought to your notice, of cases where persons have been buried

 Q. 2113--Do you think such cases occur frequently?--I have no means of

 Q. 2114--Supposing the public think they do sometimes, your methods
 (of medical death-certification) would be a great barrier to anything
 like that?--Yes.

 Q. 2115--The doctor’s examination and identification of the body would
 enable them to detect in many instances if such an occurrence was
 likely to take place?--I think so.

Further questions were asked of the same witness by Dr. Farquharson.

 Q. 2178--You do not believe in people being buried alive?--I do not
 think that occurs in Manchester.

 Q. 2179--Do you think it occurs anywhere?--I do not know.

 Q. 2180--We read occasionally very horrifying descriptions of bodies
 having been found to have turned in their coffins. How do you explain
 that?--I am not able to explain it.

A correspondent of the _Undertakers’ and Funeral Directors’ Journal_,
July 22, 1893, p. 92, writes:--


 “Sir,--The newspapers continue to give us fresh accounts of premature
 burials. Seeing how frequently cases are heard of (in spite of the
 exhumations being not one-thousandth per cent. of the interments), the
 occurrence is probably far more common than is generally supposed.
 It is, therefore, surprising that medical men have not discovered an
 infallible evidence of death--whatever the cause of death may be; or
 a simple means of proving, beyond the possibility of doubt, that life
 is extinct. Further, the application of such a test should, by law,
 be made to form part of the certificate of death.--I am, Sir, your
 obedient servant,


 “July 3.”


“In Paris and the large French towns medical inspectors, called
_médecins verificateurs_, are appointed, whose business it is to visit
each house where a death occurs, and ascertain that the person is
really dead, and that there are no suspicious circumstances connected
with his or her decease. More than eighty qualified medical men are
employed for this purpose in Paris.

“In the rural districts of France this system is not in force; two
witnesses making a declaration to a civil officer that a death
has taken place, is considered sufficient. The burial is not
allowed to take place until at least twenty-four hours after the
declaration.”--_Blyth: Dictionary of Hygiene and Public Health._


Dr. Léonce Lénormand, in his admirable work “Des Inhumations
Précipitées,” p. 140, accuses the _médecins des morts_ in France
with culpable carelessness in the exercise of their function, which
consists in verifying the reality of the death. Instead of making a
minute examination of the body to ascertain the fact of death, this
writer says they are content (except in cases of death from violence)
to merely glance at the body, and immediately to hand the family the
necessary authorisation for interment. The inspector knows that if
he examined every part of the body, as in duty bound, he would be
accused of barbarism and profanation. Those, therefore, who think that
premature burial could be prevented in England by means only of a more
stringent law of compulsory death-certification, would, if it were
carried, find themselves in hardly any better position than at present,
where the fact of death is left to a great extent to the judgment of
friends, if the deceased has any, or to the perfunctory inspection of
the undertaker. It is in France where probably, in spite of _médecins
verificateurs_, more premature burials occur than in any country in
Europe except Turkey, immediate burial after real or apparent death
being the inexorable rule. Dr. Lénormand attributes the frequency
of premature burials in France, first of all, to the negligence and
prejudices of the families of the deceased; then to the carelessness of
the doctors charged by the State with the inspection of the dead; and
lastly, to the imperfection of the police regulations.

From the _British Medical Journal_, January 28, 1893, p. 204. (Special
Correspondence, Paris.)


“The question whether premature burial occurs, and how to prevent it,
is, notwithstanding the all-absorbing interest of the Panama question,
attracting some attention here. The ‘Union Medicale’ devotes one of
its feuilletons to it, in which two or three _nouvelles à sensation_
are reproduced, and easily proved to be untrue. Premature burial
cannot occur, the writer says, when a death is duly verified. The
77th Article of the Code obliges the _officier de l’état civil_ to
visit the death-bed and verify every death; but this Article is a
dead letter. The officer in question has neither time nor knowledge
sufficient to put it in practice. In small country places, rarely any
precautions are taken to prevent premature burials. In more important
villages and towns, the mayors delegate the doctors of the locality
to verify deaths before burial. Throughout the whole of France, it
appears that there are not fifty towns where the death-verifying
service is well organised; and, on an average, there are from twenty
thousand to thirty thousand burials without previous verification of
death. The declaration of two witnesses is sufficient, who obtain
their information from those around the deceased. In Paris, the two
mortuaries already in existence--one at the Montmartre Cemetery,
the other at Père La Chaise--are rarely used. The bodies of those
who die in the streets, from accident or sudden death, are taken
there when there is no domicile; also, those of foreigners who die
in lodging-houses. In the course of eighteen months the mortuary of
Montmartre received five dead bodies, and Père La Chaise one. In
Germany the mortuaries are much used, and every arrangement made is in
order that any who come back to life may be able to easily summon help.
At Munich, a ring in connection with a bell-cord is put on one of the
fingers of the hands of the dead. At Frankfort, similar precautions are


Extracts from “Regulations for the Domiciliary Examination of the Dead
in the City of Brussels Civil Government (Medical Service).”

 “ARTICLE 1.--The Medical Service of the Civil Government is
 distributed among the medical heads of divisions, the deputies and
 chiefs of the Department of Hygiene.”

 “ARTICLE 5.--No interment can take place except after the decease has
 been verified by the doctors of the Civil Government by means of a
 careful and complete examination of the corpse.”

This verification, as well as the identity of the person deceased,
shall be certified by a _procès-verbal_ [statement, or description,
for which a blank is furnished “A”], which they shall leave at the
house of the deceased.

 “ARTICLE 8.--They shall notify the officers of the Civil Government,
 and their superintendents of police, of any infractions of the
 regulation provisions which forbid proceeding with autopsy, moulding
 [making a cast?], embalmment, or putting in a coffin the corpse,
 before the death has been duly ascertained.”

 “ARTICLE 9.--The verification of the decease of still-born or of
 newly-born infants shall exact a most attentive examination on the
 part of the examining doctors. They shall indicate in their report if
 the infant has died before, during, or after birth; and, in the last
 case, how long it lived after birth.”

 “ARTICLE 10.--If they doubt the reality of the death, they shall
 employ, without delay, every means of recovery that science suggests
 under the circumstances. They shall immediately notify the visiting
 doctor, and, in every case, shall prepare the _procès-verbal_ of the
 verification of death only after certainty has been established, and,
 if need be, by repeated visits.”

 “ARTICLE 11.--When a woman has died in a state of advanced pregnancy,
 they shall direct the artificial extraction of the infant, supposed to
 be yet living; and, in the lack of an attending doctor, shall perform
 it themselves when necessary.”


A Royal Decree, entitled “Dienst-Vorschriften für Leichenhaüser,”
for the inspection and burial of the dead, promulgated by the King
of Würtemburg, January 24, 1884, provides for the appointment of
medical inspectors of the highest integrity and qualifications in
every commune, the position being justly regarded as one of great

Immediately after a death, the body must under no circumstances be
interfered with, and must not be removed from the death-bed until after
the authorised inspection. _Post-mortems_ can be made only if the fact
of death has been previously clearly established. Precise instructions
are laid down, so that the inspector, who is to examine the entire
body, may see that the various forms of suspended animation are not
certified as actual death. Amongst these are the following:--

 “Section ii.--To see that sensibility, pulsation of the heart, neck,
 temples, and forearm, and the breath, have ceased. That the muscles of
 the body have lost their elasticity; therefore the limbs are limp, the
 face sunken, the nose pinched, the eyes sunken, and, when the eyelids
 are forcibly opened, they remain so, the lower jaw drops more or less,
 and drops again when pressed upwards.

 “In actual death the body gradually gets colder, beginning with the
 exposed limbs, and in from ten to sixteen hours the body will be
 quite cold. The colour of the face becomes ashy pale, and the lips
 discoloured. The eye loses its brilliancy, and is usually dulled by a
 covering of dried mucus.

 “If all the foregoing symptoms are exhibited, and particularly if the
 deceased was of an advanced age, or if the death was caused by severe
 or long illness, which led to the expectation of a fatal result, the
 fact of death may be safely assumed.

 “But, on the other hand, if part of these symptoms are missing, or in
 cases of pregnancy, or exhaustion in consequence of flooding after
 confinement, or if death occurs under fits, or in violent outbursts
 of passion, the possibility of counterfeit-death is to be taken for

 “Notwithstanding the existence of all the symptoms (signs of death)
 before mentioned, the possibility of _apparent_ death is not excluded
 in cases where the death has occurred after syncope, tetanus,
 suffocation, or in cases of drowning, stroke of lightning, or from a
 severe fall, or from frost, or in still-born children.”

After detailing instructions as to a variety of experiments to
ascertain whether the death is actual or apparent, this Royal Decree

 “Section viii.--These experiments may, however, not give absolute
 certainty as to the complete extinction of all life. If, therefore,
 the slightest doubt remains as to the reality of death, the inspector
 is to take the necessary precautions for the protection of the
 deceased, by frequent inspections, and the most careful examinations,
 and to obtain the assistance of the nearest physician or surgeon, who
 is to co-operate with him to promote resuscitation. If these attempts
 prove abortive, he must see that nothing is done which would be
 detrimental to reanimation, or resumption of life.”

Then follow minute instructions how to proceed under the varied
circumstances which may have produced the symptoms known as apparent
death. _In no case must the burial certificate be handed over by the
inspector until he has thoroughly satisfied himself of the presence of
unmistakable signs of actual death._

One cannot help contrasting these carefully considered rules with
the lax and haphazard methods of dealing with the dead and apparent
dead both in England and in the United States. As a consequence,
cases of premature burial in Würtemburg are of very rare occurrence,
and sensible people in that country, knowing that the danger of
premature burial has been reduced to a minimum, are not consumed by an
ever-abiding anxiety as with us, nor is it the custom for testators in
Würtemburg to give instructions to their executors for piercing the
heart or severing the jugular vein, or some other form of mutilation,
as in France, Spain, and other countries, where the risks are so
terribly great.


The only case of the danger of premature burial that has come to the
author’s notice in Würtemburg is related by Bouchut, in his “Signes de
la Mort,” p. 48:--

 “In the village of Achen, in Würtemburg, Mrs. Eva Meyers, twenty-three
 years of age, was taken ill during an epidemic. Her condition became
 rapidly worse, and she apparently died. They put her into a coffin,
 and carried her from the warm into a cold room, there to await burial,
 which was to take place at two p.m. on the following day. Shortly
 after noon on that day, and before the carriers arrived, she awoke and
 made an effort to rise. Her aunt, who was present, and who believed
 that a ghost had taken possession of her, took a stick and would
 have killed her, if she had not been prevented by another woman.
 Nevertheless, she succeeded in pushing the body back violently into
 the coffin, after which she indignantly went to her room. The patient
 remained helplessly in that condition, and would have been buried if
 the usual hour for the burial had not for some reason been changed.
 Thus she remained for another twelve hours, when she was able to
 gather sufficient strength to arise. She still lives, and has paid
 the charges for her funeral, which were claimed by the clergy, the
 bell-ringer, and the undertaker.”

In the United States the subject of Death-Verification has only
recently begun to engage public attention. The following appears to
be the only instance in which reasonable, although not altogether
adequate, precautions are adopted.




 “SECTION 3.--Whenever any person shall die within the limits of the
 city, it shall be the duty of the physician, attending such person,
 during his or her last sickness, to examine the body of such deceased
 person before the burial thereof, and to make out a certificate,
 setting forth, as far as the same may be ascertained, the name, age,
 colour, sex, nativity, occupation, whether married or single, duration
 of residence in the city, cause, date, and place of death of such
 deceased person; and it shall be the duty of the undertaker, or other
 person in charge of the burial of such deceased person, to add to such
 certificate the date and place of burial, and, having duly signed the
 same, to deposit it with the city clerk, and obtain a permit for
 burial; and, in the case of death from any contagious or infectious
 disease, said certificate shall be made and forwarded immediately;
 and, in each case of a physician so examining and reporting, he shall
 receive of the city a fee of one dollar.”

 “SECTION 4.--Whenever a permit for burial is applied for, in case of
 death without the attendance of a physician, or it is impossible to
 obtain a physician’s certificate, it shall be the duty of the city
 physician to make the necessary examination, and to investigate the
 case, and make and sign a certificate of the probable cause of death;
 and, if not satisfied as to the cause and circumstances attending such
 death, he shall so report to the mayor.”

 “SECTION 5.--No interment or disinterment of the dead body of any
 human being, or disposition thereof in any tomb, vault, or cemetery,
 shall be made within the city without a permit therefor, granted as
 aforesaid, nor otherwise than in accordance with such permit.

 “No undertaker, superintendent of cemetery, or other person shall
 assist in, assent to, or allow any such interment, or disinterment, to
 be made, until such permit has been given as aforesaid....

 “Any person violating any of the provisions of this chapter shall be
 fined not less than ten nor more than twenty dollars.”

Mr. A. Braxton Hicks, Barrister-at-Law, and Coroner for London and
Surrey, states that--

 “The giving of certificates of death, and the registration of deaths,
 is regulated by 37 and 38 Vict. c. 88, called the Registration of
 Births and Deaths Act, its object being to provide a proper and
 accurate registration of births and deaths, with the causes of the

 “In case of the death of any person who has been attended during his
 last illness by a registered medical practitioner, that practitioner
 shall sign and give to some person, required by this Act to give
 information concerning the death, a certificate stating, to the best
 of his knowledge and belief, the cause of death.

 “No certificate given by an unregistered medical man can be
 registered, and any person who covers an unregistered medical
 man by giving a certificate, or lending his name to the giving
 of a certificate by an unregistered medical man, is guilty of
 _unprofessional conduct_, as defined by the Medical Council.”--_Hints
 to Medical Men concerning the granting of Certificates of Death._


Dr. J. Brindley James, in a communication to the _Medical Times_,
May 23, 1896, pp. 355-356, calls attention to the insufficient
safeguards against premature burial under the present system of
death-certification, and observes--“The dread possibility of premature
interment ever hangs like a gloomy sword of Damocles over all our
heads, and fearful indeed is the authentic record of persons buried
alive, who have recovered consciousness; too late, alas! to be rescued
from their frightful dungeon. How often does our overworked--we do not
say careless--practitioner sign the death-certificate of a patient
whose death-bed he did not attend--whose corpse he has not visited? And
even assuming him to have done so, and conscientiously too, in how many
of the fearful cases above alluded to have not these formalities proved
insufficient, clearly suggesting the advisability of a specialist,
experienced in _post-mortem_ inspection, solely sanctioning interment
in all cases.” And Dr. Frederick Graves, writing in the same journal of
July 18, 1896, says:--

 “I have recently heard of a case which illustrates the utility of
 a medical examination before burial. A soldier in the German army,
 during the forced march on Paris, became unconscious, with five
 others, from sunstroke, and the six were put aside for burial by
 their comrades, when the timely examination of the army surgeon
 prevented premature burial of the person referred to, who is alive and
 well at the present time.”


The _Daily Chronicle_, London, September 16, 1895, in a leading article
on the danger of premature burial, says:--“The truth is, the whole
system of certifying for burial needs to be reconsidered and reformed,
and that for other reasons than the danger of entombment before life is
extinct. We do not want a coroner’s inquest, with its jury, for every
death; but the doctors should be compelled, under severe penalties, to
discover the certain sign of death before they authorise the burial,
and to know the cause of death in every case. We trust now too much to
individuals in a generally trustworthy profession, who may not reach
the high general standard of their class, or may grow listless through
the indifference wrought by use and wont, or who think they can detect
the _rigor mortis_ at a glance, never having seen the severest form
of catalepsy. There would be no difficulty in getting Parliament to
pass a more stringent regulation for death-certificates without much
discussion, and there is no reason why Sir Matthew White Ridley should
not turn his attention to the matter, and, with such medical advice as
the Health Department of the Local Government Board will be pleased to
lend him, propose a necessary little bill to the House of Commons next

The following letter by a German resident in England appeared in the
_Times_ of September 20, 1895:--


 “Sir,--As this important subject appears to be arresting the
 attention of the public in England, may I venture to state the law
 as to the examination of corpses in my own country? In a copy of
 the official regulations in Würtemburg for the inspection of dead
 bodies (‘Dienst-Vorschriften für Leichenhaüser in Würtemburg, 1882.’
 Stuttgart, W. Kohlhammer), I find the following:--

 “‘No corpse must be interfered with before the arrival of the
 inspector, who is expected to pay several visits before granting the
 death-certificate, which he alone is authorised to do. In cases of
 death from infectious disease the body must be removed to a mortuary,
 where it is carefully watched.’

 “These inspectors are highly qualified, State-appointed physicians,
 but, as if to show the uncertainty of all this care and experience,
 as we see by the researches of Dormodoff, Hufeland, Hartmann, and
 others, as well as by the reports of startling cases in the press,
 those medically and officially declared to be dead do occasionally
 come to life before burial. This is a state of things unworthy of the
 civilisation and humanity of which we are proud.

 “Medical examination, not being infallible when carried out at its
 best, must be very unreliable when performed in a careless manner.

 “A safer plan would be to send every supposed corpse to a mortuary,
 there to remain until decomposition manifests itself. As a German I
 should be afraid to die in England (excuse the paradox) for fear of
 being buried alive.

  “P. P.

 “Forest Hill, September 17.”



THE learned Dr. Vigné, of Rouen, who won the respect of his
fellow-citizens during a long and honourable career, was for many years
engaged in the study of this question, and published the result of his
researches shortly before his death. Convinced that the resources of
science were insufficient to distinguish real from apparent death, he
left testamentary instructions to provide against his own premature
burial. (“Des Inhumations Précipitées, p. 83,” by Lénormand.)

Dr. Winslow, a French physician, who had on two different occasions
very nearly fallen a victim to premature burial, having been laid out
for dead, chose for the subject of his thesis before the Paris Faculty
of Medicine, “Les moyens les plus propres à reconnaître la réalité
de la mort.” Dr. Winslow may be said to have been the pioneer of a
movement in France for exposing the danger of, and educating the public
into the necessity of reforms in, the mode of treating the apparent
dead; and, although his efforts and warnings were as of one crying
in the wilderness or amongst an apathetic people, with a legislature
apparently uninfluenced either by facts or by reason, they were never
relaxed. Numerous writers have since confirmed the truth of Dr.
Winslow’s contention by facts within their own experience, and it is
believed that legislation in France cannot be much longer delayed.

That the risk of premature burial is not an imaginary one, as recently
declared by a leading London medical journal, has been shown by the
citation in this volume of cases of death-like trance which have
baffled the ablest of medical experts; also the instances of numerous
narrow escapes from this terrible occurrence, and of others where the
victims were suffocated before timely aid could be obtained, most of
which are drawn from medical sources, and some from the columns of
the said sceptical journal. The painful reality is also shown by the
multitude of preventive measures suggested by medical authorities, and
by the ingenious contrivances of those who have made this distressing
subject one of patient and laborious research. Several of the remedies
suggested for adoption in cataleptic cases are really homicidal, or
seriously mutilative; many of them are impracticable, and have been
shown by Hufeland, Lénormand, Richardson, Hartmann, Bouchut, Fletcher,
and Gannal to be delusive. The merits and demerits of some of these
methods might be inquired into by the appointment of a Parliamentary
Committee, or a Royal Commission, as a supplement to that appointed in
1893, by Mr. Asquith, on Death-Certification.


Dr. James Curry, F.R.S., in his “Observations on Apparent Death,” pp.
56, 57, says, concerning the application of stimulants to the skin:--

 “To assist in rousing the activity of the vital principle, it has been
 customary to apply various stimulating matters to different parts
 of the body. But, as some of these applications are in themselves
 positively hurtful, and the others serviceable only according to the
 time and manner of their employment, it will be proper to consider
 them particularly.

 “The application of all such matters in cases of apparent death is
 founded upon the supposition that the skin still retains sensibility
 enough to be affected by them. It is well known, however, that even
 during life the skin loses sensibility in proportion as it is deprived
 of heat, and does not recover it again until the natural degree of
 warmth be restored. Previous to the restoration of heat, therefore, to
 a drowned body, all stimulating applications are useless, and, so far
 as they interfere with the other measures, are also prejudicial.”

Several writers, besides Dr. Winslow, whose views on premature burial
are cited in this volume, have themselves been the victims of hasty
and erroneous medical diagnosis; and, having had narrow escapes of
premature burial, their experience has prompted them to take a deep
interest in the subject, with the determination to do what they could
to enlighten and safeguard the public from so terrible a danger. In
other cases, members of their families have been the unhappy victims
of mistaken certificates. Mr. George T. Angell, the editor of “_Dumb
Animals_,” Boston, U.S., whose father was pronounced by his physician
dead, and returned to consciousness after preparations for the funeral
had been made, has repeatedly alluded to the subject in his paper,
and published preventive suggestions at various times, including the
following from a physician:--

 “When I arrived, the man had been dead twenty-four hours. I empanelled
 a jury; the family of the deceased testified to the extent of their
 knowledge; but I was unable to find he had any disease sufficient
 to kill him. I looked at the body and examined it carefully. Then I
 lighted a match, and applied it to the end of one of the fingers of
 the corpse. Immediately a blister formed. I had the man put back into
 his bed, applied various restoratives, and to-day he is alive and

 “That is the test. Do you see the philosophy of it? If you are alive,
 you cannot burn your hand without raising a blister. Nature, in the
 effort to protect the inner tissues, throws a covering of water, a
 non-conductor of heat, between the fire and the flesh. If you were
 dead, and flames should come in contact with any part of your body, no
 blister would appear, and the flesh would be burned.

 “All you have to do is to apply a match to any part of the supposed
 corpse. If life remains, however little, a blister will at once form.”

The test, like the following one, is deceptive, because life may be so
torpid and inactive as to be unable to respond to the irritation of
heat, or even to the application of red hot irons.


The _British Medical Journal_, January 18, 1896, p. 180, under the head
of “Living or Dead?” prints the following communication concerning this


 “Sir,--Burial alive, though of exceedingly rare occurrence, sometimes
 does happen, and calls for increased attention to the means of
 detecting with certainty the presence of vitality, however feeble.
 The ordinary means of deciding the vital question are known to all
 persons. Auscultation may detect the enfeebled heart-beat, while the
 electric battery can elicit any existing muscular contractility.
 Conditions of trance are occasionally almost mystical in their
 profundity (Brahmin trance), and a simple and ready-to-hand test to
 decide whether death has occurred is of prime importance. We can
 ascertain whether or not life still lingers in uncertain cases by
 applying (say) to the back of the forearm a small stream of boiling
 water directly from the kettle. If life is present, the boiling water
 will soon and unfailingly raise a blister where applied, and the
 blister will contain fluid, the serum of the blood. The production of
 the serum blister being essentially a vital process, its production
 or non-production becomes an infallible test, and determines the
 question. This test, not generally known, should be widely proclaimed.


 “Belfast, January 11, 1896.”

This test has frequently failed, and should not be relied upon.



The stethoscope, which is regarded by many medical practitioners as an
infallible means of preventing premature burial, has proved a broken
reed in hundreds of cases, and can be of use only when applied with
other tests. Dr. Roger S. Chew, of Calcutta, writes to me, February,

“The _British Medical Journal_ (September 28, 1895) tells us that the
careful use of the stethoscope will enable a medical man to distinguish
a living from a dead body. Auscultation may give startling results,
and the body yet be absolutely dead. I recollect an instance of death
from cobra-bite, when, though decomposition had set in, the relatives
refused to believe she was dead, because one of them declared that,
though he did not see her chest rise and fall, he had distinctly heard
her sigh. A medical man was called in, applied the stethoscope over
her thorax, and declared he could hear sounds from her lungs, and a
peculiar ‘_sough_,’ ‘_sough_’ towards the apex of the heart. So far he
was right, but, as the girl had already been dead some fourteen hours,
and the weather was warm, the sounds he heard were those of the escape
of the putrefactive gases bubbling upward and unable to find exit, as
her mouth was closed with a chin-bandage, and her nostrils plugged with
mucus. To convince the parents that the girl was really dead, I offered
to perform artificial respiration, to which end I untied the bandage,
prized open her jaws, and pressed _heavily_ on her thorax, when some of
the imprisoned gases escaped, emitting an abominable odour that brought
conviction of the girl being beyond all hope.

“In another case, that of my son, aged two years, after a series of
brain symptoms and severe clonic convulsions preceding an outbreak
of confluent small-pox, the stethoscope told me and a medical friend
who was present that my little boy had ceased to exist; but a liberal
application of ice to his head and cardiac region, together with
violent friction and artificial respiration vigorously employed for
_forty_ minutes, restored the child to me, and I thanked God that I had
refused to accept the evidence of the stethoscope as final.”


The application of the electric current is a powerful restorative agent
in cases of suspended animation, if judiciously applied. Struve in
his essay, “Suspended Animation,” p. 151, under the head of “Apparent
death from a fall,” says:--“A girl, three years of age, fell from a
window two stories high upon the pavement. Though she was considered
as lifeless, Mr. Squires, a natural philosopher, applied electricity.
Almost twenty minutes elapsed before the shocks produced any effect. At
last when some of the electric force pervaded the breast he observed a
slight motion of the heart. The child soon after began to breathe and
groan with great difficulty, and after some minutes a vomiting ensued.
For a few days the patient remained in a state of stupefaction, but in
the course of a week she was perfectly restored to health.”


Referring to the subject of premature burial, Dr. W. S. Hedley, writing
to the _Lancet_, October 5, 1895, says:--“Forty years ago the subject
was investigated by Crimotel, twenty years later by Rosenthal, and more
recently by Onimus. It seems safe to say that in no disease, certainly
in none of those conditions usually enumerated as likely to be mistaken
for death, is galvanic and faradaic excitability abolished in every
muscle of the body. On the other hand, electro-muscular contractility
disappears in all the muscles within a few hours after death
(generally ninety minutes to three hours, according to Rosenthal), its
persistence varying to some extent with the particular muscle examined
(1), and with the mode of death (2). Therefore, if electro-muscular
contractility be present in any muscle, it means life or death only
a few hours before. It is clear that no interment or _post-mortem_
examination ought to take place so long as there is any flicker of
electric excitability. To me it seems almost equally obvious that in
all doubtful cases, sometimes in sudden death, and often to allay the
anxiety of friends, this test ought to be applied, and applied by
one who is accustomed to handle electric currents for purposes of

The _Medical Record_, New York, March 30, 1895, contains the
following:--“In a case reported by M. D’Arsonval, a man was struck with
a current of four thousand five hundred volts. The current entered at
his hand and issued at his back. Half an hour or more elapsed before
any attempts at resuscitation were made, but, on artificial respiration
being practised on Silvester’s method, recovery took place. Dr.
Donnellan reports a case of the passage of a current of one thousand
volts through a man, which instantly caused coma, dilated pupils,
pallor of the face, and sweating; delirium and tonic, alternating
with clonic, spasms followed. The pulse was eighty. The respiration,
at first stertorous, passed into the Cheyne-Stokes type. After the
injection, first of morphia, and then of strychnia, the patient fell
into a deep sleep, from which he awoke convalescent.--_Centralblatt für
die medicinischen Wissenschaften._”

The apparatus for applying electrical currents, long used by the
Humane Society for restoration of the drowned, might with advantage
be kept at public mortuaries, for use in cases of apparent death due
to other causes, where decomposition has not manifested itself. The
Weather Bureau at Washington advises those who are in the neighbourhood
of persons struck by lightning to make immediate efforts to restore
consciousness, because the effect of lightning is to suspend animation
rather than to produce death. Respiration and circulation should be
stimulated, and the usual remedies for relief in such cases should be
administered for at least an hour before giving up the victim as dead.

Dr. Moore Russell Fletcher says:--“When persons without pulse or
breathing are found in bed, in the field, or elsewhere, treat them
in such manner as will restore from stroke of lightning, paralysis,
or suspended animation from catalepsy, trance, or somnambulism, and
continue the treatment until resuscitation rewards the exertions, or
decomposition is evident.”--_Suspended Animation, pp. 7, 8._


Mr. E. E. Carpmael, of the Medical Department, Berkeley University,
U.S.A., recommends, in the _Morning Post_, London, September 19,
1895, the injection of strychnine in “a supposed corpse;” while
“Medicus,” in the _Daily Chronicle_, September 17, 1895, considers
that _post-mortems_ “would be to the advantage of the patient, to
his relations, to science, and the community at large.” No doubt
either of these plans would prevent live sepulture, by killing the
cataleptic subject; while “M.R.C.S.,” in _Morning Post_, September
20, says:--“Obviously the simplest and best proof of death is
putrefaction--shown chiefly by the discolouration of the abdomen.”


A correspondent in the _English Mechanic_, October 25, 1895, says:--“I
have long advised hypodermic injection of morphia before placing in
coffin for burial. _Ex hypothesi_, the vital spark is not supposed to
have expired, and the circulatory system not finally stopped. Hence the
hypodermic injection cannot be futile.”

A medical correspondent writing from Dresden, August 18, 1895, sends me
the following as showing the value of


“Major J. H. Patzki, Surgeon, U.S. Army, reports that in 1882, at St.
Augustine, Florida, a lady patient of his had an attack of tetanus,
caused by a scratch upon her foot by a nail while bathing. The
convulsive symptoms commenced in the muscles of the face, and increased
in violence in spite of energetic treatment, until the fifth day, when
the respiratory muscles became involved. The breathing was completely
suspended by the spasmodic action, and the radial and carotid pulse
ceased. The cardiac sounds became utterly inaudible to careful
stethoscopic examination repeatedly employed. The lady assumed all
the appearances of death, and there was _rigor mortis_, the result of
muscular spasm. Artificial respiration was resorted to, but not until
after the expiration of eighteen minutes did the first faint efforts
of respiration, and a feeble action of the heart, become perceptible.
Artificial respiration was continued for an hour afterwards, and the
life of the patient was saved, although the muscular spasms continued
to some extent for six days.

“This case is instructive in showing that tetanus, when it involves the
chest, may produce a state of apparent death, by interfering with the
respiratory and cardiac functions; and that artificial respiration, if
persistently employed, may rescue patients so affected from the perils
of apparent death.”


Dr. John Oswald, in “Suspended Animal Life,” Philadelphia, 1802, p.
65, says:--“The books of authors on this subject are replete with
criteria to judge of the existence or non-existence of the vital
principle. It is not necessary to take a separate view of the propriety
or impropriety of adopting any of these ambiguous signs, when we have
the accomplishment of so great an end as that of restoring suspended
life! Our exertions should never be influenced by any of them, but
continued with ardour and unremitted attention for a length of time.
It would be more happy for our unfortunate patients, and a source of
greater satisfaction to ourselves, were they expunged altogether. They
are all fallacious to a certain degree, and ought never to have the
smallest influence on the propriety or impropriety of persevering in
our attempts to revive the latent spark; for it is an unfortunate fact,
in consequence of an ignorant confidence placed in them, that persons
who might have been restored to life, to their friends, and to society
have been consigned to the grave.... This important subject has been
anxiously investigated by philosophers, to discover a just criterion of
judging with more certainty in these cases whether life is extinct, and
our patient a mass of dead matter, or whether, by our perseverance, he
may not be again recovered. The most indubitable sign is allowed to be
putrefaction of the body, or disorganisation of the fibre.”

The following extracts from an instructive but apparently forgotten
article in Dickens’ “All the Year Round,” July, 1869 (_à propos_ of a
pamphlet, “Lettre sur la Mort Apparente, les Conséquences Réelles des
Inhumations Précipitées, et le Temps pendant lequel peut persister
l’Aptitude à être rappellé à la Vie,” by the late regretted Dr.
Charles Londe), afford valuable suggestions:--

 “Suffocation by foul air and mephitical gas is not a rare form of
 death in the United Kingdom. It is possible that suspended animation
 may now and then have been mistaken for the absolute extinction
 of life. Dr. Londe gives an instructive case to the purpose. At
 the extremity of a large grocer’s shop, a close, narrow corner, or
 rather hole, was the sleeping-place of the shopman who managed the
 night sale till the shop was closed, and who opened the shutters at
 four in the morning. On the 16th of January, 1825, there were loud
 knocks at the grocer’s door. As nobody stirred to open it, the grocer
 rose himself, grumbling at the shopman’s laziness, and, proceeding
 to his sleeping-hole to scold him, he found him motionless in bed,
 completely deprived of consciousness. Terror-struck by the idea of
 sudden death, he immediately sent in search of a doctor, who suspected
 a case of asphyxia by mephitism. His suspicions were confirmed by
 the sight of a night-lamp, which had gone out, although supplied
 with oil and wick, and by a portable stove containing the remains
 of charcoal partly reduced to ashes. In spite of a severe frost, he
 immediately had the patient taken into the open air, and kept on a
 chair in a position as nearly vertical as possible. The limbs of the
 sufferer hung loose and drooping, the pupils were motionless, with
 no trace either of breathing or pulsation of the heart or arteries;
 in short, there were all the signs of death. The most approved modes
 of restoring animation were persisted in for a long while without
 success. At last, about three in the afternoon--that is, after _eleven
 hours’_ continued exertion--a slight movement was heard in the region
 of the heart. A few hours afterwards the patient opened his eyes,
 regained consciousness, and was able to converse with the spectators
 attracted by his resurrection. Dr. Londe draws the same conclusions
 as before--namely, that persons suffocated by mephitism are not
 unfrequently buried when they might be saved.”


 “We have had cholera in Great Britain, and we may have it again.
 At such trying times, if ever, hurried interments are not merely
 excusable, but almost unavoidable. Nevertheless, one of the
 peculiarities of that fearful disease is to bring on some of the
 symptoms of death--the prostration, the coldness, and the dull livid
 hues--long before life has taken its departure. Now, Dr. Londe states,
 as an acknowledged fact, that patients pronounced dead of cholera have
 been repeatedly seen to move one or more of their limbs after death.
 While M. Trachez (who had been sent to Poland to study the cholera)
 was opening a subject in the dead-house of the Bagatelle Hospital, in
 Warsaw, he saw another body (that of a woman of fifty, who had died
 in two days, having her eyes still bright, her joints supple, but
 the whole surface extremely cold) which vividly moved its left foot
 ten or twelve times in the course of an hour. Afterwards, the right
 foot participated in the same movement, but very feebly. M. Trachez
 sent for Mr. Searle, an English surgeon, to direct his attention
 to the phenomenon. Mr. Searle _had often remarked it_. The woman,
 nevertheless, was left in the dissecting-room, and thence taken to the
 cemetery. Several other medical men stated that they had made similar
 observations. From which M. Trachez draws the inference: ‘It is
 allowable to think that many cholera patients have been buried alive.’”

 “Dr. Veyrat, attached to the Bath Establishment, Aix, Savoy, was
 sent for to La Roche (Department of the Yonne), to visit a cholera
 patient, Thérèse X., who had lost all the members of her family by
 the same disease. He found her in a complete state of asphyxia. He
 opened a vein; not a drop of blood flowed. He applied leeches; they
 bit, and immediately loosed their hold. He covered the body with
 stimulant applications, and went to take a little rest, requesting to
 be called if the patient manifested any signs of life. The night and
 next day passed without any change. While making preparations for the
 burial, they noticed a little blood oozing out of the leech-bites.
 Dr. Veyrat, informed of the circumstance, entered the chamber just as
 the nurse was about to wrap the corpse in its winding-sheet. Suddenly
 a rattling noise issued from Thérèse’s chest. She opened her eyes,
 and in a hollow voice said to the nurse: ‘What are you doing here?
 I am not dead. Get away with you.’ She recovered, and felt no other
 inconvenience than a deafness, which lasted about two months.”

 “Exposure to cold may also induce a suspension of vitality liable to
 be mistaken for actual death. This year the French Senate has again
 received several petitions relative to premature interments.... And,
 considering the length of time that trances, catalepsies, lethargies,
 and cases of suspended animation have been known occasionally to
 continue, it is scarcely, in England, less interesting to us, though
 public feeling, which is only an expression of natural affection,
 approves, and indeed almost compels, a longer delay. The attention
 of the French Government being once more directed to the subject,
 there is little doubt that all reasonable grounds for fear will be

 “The petitioners have requested, as a precaution, that all burials for
 the future should, in the first instance, be only provisional. Before
 filling a grave, a communication is to be made between the coffin and
 the upper atmosphere by means of a respiratory tube; and the grave is
 not to be finally closed until all hope of life is abandoned. These
 precautions, it will be seen at once, however good in theory, are
 scarcely practicable. Others have demanded the general establishment
 of mortuary chambers, or dead-houses, like those in Germany. And not
 only the petitioners, but several senators, seem to consider that
 measure the full solution of the problem. Article 77 of the Civil Code
 prescribes a delay of twenty-four hours only, which appears to them
 to be insufficient, since, they urge, it admits the certainty that
 death has taken place only after putrefactive decomposition has set
 in. Now, a much longer time than twenty-four hours may elapse before
 that decomposition manifests itself. Deposit, therefore, your dead in
 a mortuary chapel, until you are perfectly sure, from the evidence of
 your senses, that life is utterly and hopelessly extinct.


 “When Article 77 of the Civil Code was under discussion by the Council
 of State, Fourcroy added: ‘It shall be specified that the civil
 officer be assisted by an officier de santé (a medical man of inferior
 rank to a doctor of medicine); because there are cases in which it is
 difficult to make certain that death has actually occurred, without a
 thorough knowledge of its symptoms, and because there are tolerably
 numerous examples to prove that people _have_ been buried alive.’

 “In Paris, especially since Baron Hausmann’s administration, Article
 77 has been strictly fulfilled; but the same exactitude cannot be
 expected in out-of-the-way nooks and corners of the country, where
 a doctor cannot always be found at a minute’s warning, to declare
 whether death be real or apparent only. It is clear that the
 Legislature has hit upon the sole indisputable practical solution; the
 difficulty lies in its rigorous and efficient application.

 “It has been judiciously remarked that it would be a good plan to
 spread the knowledge of the sure and certain characteristics which
 enable us to distinguish every form of lethargy from real death. It
 cannot be denied that at the present epoch the utmost pains are taken
 to popularise every kind of knowledge. Nevertheless, it makes slow way
 through the jungles of prejudice and vulgar error. Not long ago it was
 over and over again asserted that an infallible mode of ascertaining
 whether a person was dead or not was to inflict a burn on the sole of
 the foot. If a blister full of water resulted, the individual was not
 dead; if the contrary happened, there was no further hope. This error
 was unhesitatingly accepted as an item of the popular creed.

 “The Council of Hygiene, applied to by the Government, indicated
 putrefaction and cadaverous rigidity as infallible signs of actual
 death. In respect to the first--putrefaction--a professional man is
 not likely to make a mistake; but nothing is more possible than for
 non-professionals to confound hospital rottenness (gangrene) with true
 _post-mortem_ putrefaction. M. de Parville declines to admit it as a
 test adapted for popular application. Moreover, in winter, the time
 required for putrefaction to manifest itself is extremely uncertain.

 “The cadaverous rigidity--the stiffness of a corpse--offers an
 excellent mode of verifying death; but its value and importance are
 not yet appreciable by everybody, or by the first comer. Cadaverous
 rigidity occurs a few hours after death; the limbs, hitherto supple,
 stiffen; and it requires a certain effort to make them bend. But when
 once the faculty of bending a joint is forcibly restored--to the
 arm, for instance--it will not stiffen again, but will retain its
 suppleness. If the death be real, the rigidity is overcome once for
 all. But if the death be only apparent, the limbs quickly resume, with
 a sudden and jerking movement, the contracted position which they
 previously occupied. The stiffness begins at the top, the head and
 neck, and descends gradually to the trunk.

 “These characteristics are very clearly marked; but they must be
 caught in the fact, and at the moment of their appearance, because,
 after a time of variable duration, they disappear. The contraction
 of the members no longer exists, and the suppleness of the joints
 returns. Many other symptoms might be added to the above; but
 they demand still greater clearness of perception, more extended
 professional knowledge, and more practised habits of observation.

 “Although the French Government is anxious to enforce throughout the
 whole empire the rules carried out in Paris, it is to be feared that
 great difficulties lie in the way. The verification of deaths on so
 enormous a scale, with strict minuteness, is almost impracticable.
 But, even if it were not, many timid persons would say: ‘Who is
 to assure us of the correctness of the doctor’s observations?
 Unfortunately, too many terrible examples of their fallibility are on
 record. The professional man is pressed for time. He pays a passing
 visit; gives a hurried glance; and a fatal mistake is so easily made!’
 Public opinion will not be reassured until you can show, every time a
 death occurs, an irrefutable demonstration that life has departed.

 “M. de Parville now announces the possibility of this great
 desideratum. He professes to place in any one’s hands a self-acting
 apparatus which would declare not only whether the death be real,
 but _would leave in the hands of the experimenter a written proof of
 the reality of the death_. The scheme is this: It is well known that
 atropine--the active principle of _belladonna_--possesses the property
 of considerably dilating the pupil of the eye. Oculists constantly
 make use of it when they want to perform an operation, or to examine
 the interior of the eye. Now, M. le Docteur Bouchut has shown that
 atropine has no action on the pupil when death is real. In a state of
 lethargy, the pupil, under the influence of a few drops of atropine,
 dilates in the course of a few minutes; the dilatation also takes
 place a few instants after death; but it ceases absolutely in a
 quarter of an hour, or half an hour at the very longest; consequently
 the enlargement of the pupil is a certain sign that death is only


 “This premised, imagine a little camera obscura, scarcely so big as an
 opera-glass, containing a slip of photographic paper, which is kept
 unrolling for five-and-twenty or thirty minutes by means of clockwork.
 This apparatus, placed a short distance in front of the dead person’s
 eye, will depict on the paper the pupil of the eye, which will have
 been previously moistened with a few drops of atropine. It is evident
 that, as the paper slides before the eye of the corpse, if the pupil
 dilate, its photographic image will be dilated; if, on the contrary,
 it remains unchanged, the image will retain its original size. An
 inspection of the paper then enables the experimenter to read upon it
 whether the death is real or apparent only. This sort of declaration
 can be handed to the civil officer, who will give a permit to bury in

 “By this simple method a hasty or careless certificate of death
 becomes impossible. The instrument applies the test, and counts the
 minutes. The doctor and the civil officer are relieved from further
 responsibility. The paper gives evidence that the verification has
 actually and carefully been made; for suppose that half an hour is
 required to produce a test that can be relied on, the length of the
 strip of paper unrolled marks the time during which the experiment has
 been continued. An apparatus of the kind might be placed in the hands
 of the minister or one of the notables of every parish. Such a system
 would silence the apprehensions of the most timid; fears--natural
 enough--would disappear, and the world would be shocked by no fresh
 cases of premature burial.”

The authors have not heard whether this ingenious contrivance had been
put into practice, or with what result.

Various prizes have been offered, and awards made, by scientific and
medical societies, but, with one exception, the so-called proofs of
death for which the awards have been given are deemed unsatisfactory.
The most notable of the prizes is that of the Marquis d’Ourches,
who by his will bequeathed the sum of twenty thousand francs to be
given to the author of the discovery of a simple and common means of
recognising beyond doubt the absolute signs of death, by such a test
as could be adopted by poor villagers without technical instruction.
The Marquis d’Ourches left also a prize of five thousand francs for
a similar discovery, but requiring the intervention of an expert. M.
Pierre Manni, Professor at the University of Rome, offered a prize,
which was awarded to Dr. E. Bouchut, in 1846. And M. Dusgate, by will,
dated January 11, 1872, bequeathed to the French Academy of Sciences
a sufficient sum in French _Rentes_, to found a quinquennial prize of
two thousand five hundred francs to the author of the best work on
the diagnostic signs of death, and the means of preventing premature
interments. A decree of November 27, 1874, authorised the Academy to
accept this legacy.

Dr. Gowers, on “Diseases of the Nervous System,” vol. ii., p. 1037,
says:--“In cases of ‘death-trance,’ in which no sign of vitality can be
recognised, the presence of life may be ascertained (1) by the absence
of any sign of decomposition; (2) by the normal appearance of the
_fundus oculi_ as seen with the ophthalmoscope; (3) by the persistence
of the excitability of the muscles to electricity. This excitability
disappears in three hours after actual death. In a case observed by
Rosenthal, thirty hours after supposed death, the muscles were still
excitable, and the patient awoke.”

The _British Medical Journal_, January 21, 1893, p. 145, reports,
through its Paris correspondent, the first award. “The Académie des
Sciences proposed as the subject for the Dusgate Prize for 1890, ‘The
Signs of Death, and the Means of Preventing Premature Burial.’ The
prize has been awarded to Dr. Maze, who considers that putrefaction is
the only certain sign. He urges that the deaths should be certified
by medical men on oath; also that in every cemetery there should be a
mortuary where dead bodies can be deposited, and that burial should
take place only when putrefactive changes set in. Cremation should be





AMONGST the numerous suggestions made by correspondents in the press
with a view of preventing live sepulture, none has been more frequently
put forward than that of cremation. Sir Henry Thompson, the president
of the Cremation Society of England, in the second edition of his
admirable volume, “Modern Cremation: Its History and Practice,” p. 41,
observes:--“There is a source of very painful dread--as I have reason
to know--little talked of, it is true, but keenly felt by many persons
at some time or another, the horror of which to some is inexpressible.
It is the dread of a premature burial--the fear lest some deep trance
should be mistaken for death, and that the awakening should take
place too late. Happily such occurrences must be exceedingly rare,
especially in this country, where the interval between death and
burial is considerable, and the fear is almost a groundless one.
Still, the conviction that such a fate is possible--which cannot
be altogether denied--will always be a source of severe trial to
some. With cremation no such catastrophe could ever occur; and the
completeness of a properly-conducted process would render death
instantaneous and painless if by any unhappy chance an individual
so circumstanced were submitted to it. But the guarantee against
this danger would be doubled, since inspection of the entire body
must of necessity immediately precede the act of cremation, no such
inspection being possible under the present system.” While agreeing
with this distinguished authority as to the advantages of cremation
from the sanitary and æsthetic point of view, which he dwells upon
in the treatise referred to, and admitting that a certain amount of
protection against live burial is obtainable by means of the dual
medical inspection, we cannot agree that this protection is absolute.
Cases of trance are on record where some half a dozen doctors, after
careful examinations, have pronounced a cataleptic patient to be dead,
and the patient, in defiance of their united opinion, has recovered
consciousness, and been restored to health.

Dr. Franz Hartmann, in his “Premature Burial,” quotes the two following
cases amongst many others:--

 “Madame de P----, aged eighteen years, and subject to hysteria,
 apparently died, and for forty hours she presented all the signs of
 real death. All possible means of restoring her to life were taken,
 but proved of no avail. _Five physicians of Lyons were called in, and
 they finally agreed, positively, that the lady was really dead._ The
 funeral preparations were made; but owing to the supplications of a
 sister of the deceased the burial was delayed, when after a while the
 patient recovered. She said that she had been all the time aware of
 all that was going on, without being able to give a sign, and without
 even being desirous of attempting it.” (F. Kempner, p. 38.)

 “In 1842 a remarkable affair occupied the attention of the court
 at the city of Nantes. A man apparently died, and _his death was
 certified to both by the attending physicians and the medical
 inspector_; he was put into a coffin, and the religious ceremonies
 were performed in good style. At the end of the funeral service, and
 as he was about to be buried, he awoke from his trance. The clergy and
 the undertakers sent in their accounts for the funeral expenses; but
 he refused to pay them, giving as his reason that he had not ordered
 them; whereupon he was sued for the money.” (F. Kempner, p. 39.)

Neither can we share the optimistic views of Sir Henry Thompson as
to the rarity of premature interment. The results of searching and
independent inquiries and study in various countries by each of the
authors of this treatise all point the other way, and the various
authorities whose names and opinions are cited elsewhere in this
volume confess their astonishment at the number of cases brought to
light during their investigations. The Rev. H. R. Haweis also, in his
work “Ashes to Ashes: A Cremation Prelude” (London, 1895, now out
of print), advocates cremation on the ground of preventing living
burial, and quotes several cases of persons buried while in a state of
trance. During a discussion on the merits and demerits of cremation
in the _Birmingham Gazette_, September 17, 1895, Lieutenant-General
Phelps, an able and judicious observer, advocated cremation for similar
reasons, and said that “the use of a crematorium would entirely prevent
that ghastly accident, the burial of the living. There is no room to
doubt that this frightful catastrophe is of continual occurrence. The
phenomena of trance are little understood, and a certificate of death
is held by most of us to justify the burial of the ‘corpse,’ dead or
alive. Those of us who object to the risk of being buried alive should
do all in our power to promote the success of this sanitary contrivance
for disposing of our dead.”

The writer of the following communication, which appeared in the
_Sunday Times_, September 6, 1896, has substantial reasons for
preferring cremation to the risks of burial:--



 “Madam,--When I was about five years old, my paternal home was one
 day plunged into a state of great consternation, through the sudden
 apparent death of my father, who had been sitting up during a part
 of the previous night occupied with some literary work, without a
 fire (it was in January), which brought on a death-like numbness,
 in which he was found the next morning. The family doctor, who was
 sent for at once, declared life to be extinct, but said he could not
 tell the cause of death until after the opening of the dead body.
 My mother, however, who did not see any reason why a young man of
 thirty-six should have died without any previous illness, caused the
 body of my father to be rubbed for about two hours, which renewed its
 circulation and brought it to life again. My father lived thirty-two
 years after that memorable day. Without the prudence of my mother,
 he would either have been dissected or buried alive. About twenty
 years after that occurrence, I visited the cemetery of Père La Chaise
 (Paris), accompanied by some friends. While inspecting the monuments
 of some musical celebrities we heard a noise from another part of the
 cemetery, whereto we proceeded without delay. When we had arrived
 there we found a strong body of policemen surrounding an open grave.
 But in answer to our inquiring ‘what had happened,’ we were simply
 requested to leave the cemetery at once, which, of course, we had to
 do. Neither the _portier_ nor any other person connected with the
 burial-ground would give any satisfactory answer to our questions.
 We left puzzled. But a week after, a young lady, who had been of our
 party the week before, went again to the Père La Chaise, determined
 to penetrate the mystery, in which endeavour she succeeded, partly
 through persuasion and partly through the gift of a twenty-franc piece
 to a grave-digger, who then told her the following story:--A poor
 young man of twenty-one years had been buried on the day of our visit.
 When the mourners had left the cemetery the grave-digger, who was
 occupied in filling up the grave, heard some noise coming from below.
 He hastened to the superintendent of the cemetery, imploring him
 to have the coffin opened, which, however, the superintendent could
 not do without the permission and the presence of the Commissaire de
 Police of that district. When the Commissaire appeared at last with
 his men, all was silent in the grave. But he had the coffin opened,
 nevertheless, ‘to appease the mind of that poor grave-digger,’ as
 he mockingly said. But great was the horror of the Commissaire de
 Police and his followers when the coffin was opened. The unfortunate
 young man (who was now quite dead) had been buried alive, recovered
 consciousness in his grave, scratched his face, bitten off the tips of
 his fingers, and turned around in his coffin, until suffocation put an
 end to his sufferings, which, if not long, must have been terrible.
 The Parisian newspapers did not mention the case. They were probably
 forbidden by the French Government to do so. But would it not have
 been wiser to let the whole world know of it, and thereby prevent
 repetitions of such dreadful occurrences? A similar case of live
 sepulture occurred in a village near Wiesbaden some thirty years ago,
 where a girl of sixteen was found with the same signs of suffocation
 in her coffin as those of that unfortunate young man in Paris. We are
 assured by a German authority that thousands of people are buried
 alive every year. But why should this be the case? If people must be
 buried before they begin to show signs of putrefaction (which seems
 to be the only reliable proof that life is really extinct), why not
 shorten their sufferings, in case of resuscitation, by opening an
 artery before they are buried? There is still much prejudice against
 the cremation of dead bodies, although two great facts are decidedly
 in its favour--viz., the impossibility of recovering consciousness
 when once inserted in the crematory oven, and the prevention of
 the unhealthiness which the slow process of putrefaction must
 entail.--Yours, etc.,



Professor Alexander Wilder, M.D., in his “Perils of Premature Burial,”
1895, p. 16, says:--“I have often wished that the old Oriental practice
of cremation was in fashion among us. There would then be at least
the comfortable reflection of no liability to suffocation in a coffin.
The application of fire, however, will generally rouse the cataleptic
person to some manifestation of life.”


Having regard to the importance of the subject the author wrote to the
hon. secretary of the Cremation Society of England, and received the
following reply, dated 8 New Cavendish Street, London, W.:--

 “With reference to your inquiry as to the steps adopted to prevent a
 person in a trance being cremated, I may say that this society has not
 made any special provision in that respect. You will notice, however,
 that before a cremation can be carried out, the cause of death must be
 certified without the slightest shadow of doubt by two duly qualified
 medical men. This being so, I think there is less likelihood of a
 person who is simply in a trance being cremated than buried, one
 doctor’s certificate being sufficient in the latter case.

  “(Signed)      T. C. SWINBURNE-HANHAM.”

In the present state of medical knowledge on an occult subject not
usually taught in the medical schools, and regarding phenomena as to
which a large number of medical men are sceptical, to say the least,
we fail to see how the fact of death, in the absence of putrefaction,
can be certified “beyond the slightest shadow of doubt.” Many of the
cases cited in this volume are those regarding which the examining
medical practitioners have been most sure. The Rev. John Page Hopps, in
_Light_, July 4, 1896, says:--

 “We are told that respect for the dead urges to burial as against
 cremation, but many are now very keenly feeling the reverse of this.
 They can bring the mind to bear the liberation of the body by one
 swift act of disintegration and purifying, but cannot overcome the
 shrinking from subjecting it to the foul and lingering processes of
 the grave--or, perchance, to the horror of recovering consciousness in
 the grave.”

We take the occasion, however, to express on general grounds our
cordial adherence to the cremation movement. Mr. Hopps further states
one of the strongest arguments thus:--

 “Respect for the living, too, is an urgent motive. The highest
 authorities tell us that the air we breathe and the water we drink are
 often contaminated by the emanations of graves. It cannot be right
 that London, for instance, with all its inevitable impurities, should
 add to its foulnesses that of trying to live in company with thousands
 upon thousands of decaying bodies in its very midst.”

To dispose of the dead decently, and at the same time without injury to
the living, is one of the first obligations of civilised communities,
and cremation seems best calculated to fulfil the conditions. Zymotic
diseases, such as typhus, scarlatina, and the plague, have been traced
in certain instances to emanations from burial-grounds.

Dr. Charles Creighton, in his “History of Epidemics in Britain,” vol.
i., p. 336, says:--“The grand provocative of plague was no obvious
nuisance above ground, but the loading of the soil, generation after
generation, with an immense quantity of cadaveric matters, which were
diffused in the pores of the ground under the feet of the living, to
rise in emanations more deadly in one season than in another.”

It would seem from these experiences as though there was quite as much
truth as poetry in Shakespeare when he said, “Grave-yards yawn, and
hell itself breathes out contagion on the world.” Before many years it
is not unlikely that cremation in this as in some other countries will
be made obligatory in cases of death from all infectious diseases. As
the late Bishop of Manchester observed, “The earth is not for the dead,
but for the living.” During the thirteen years ending 1890 there were
three hundred and three thousand four hundred and sixty-six deaths from
cholera in Japan, and all the bodies of these persons were cremated. In
India, as we have already shown, cremation is practised under most of
the religious systems, as it is believed that the soul is not free from
its earthly tenement until the body is reduced to ashes. The method of
burning is slow and cumbersome as compared with that adopted in Europe;
but during the author’s last visit to Ceylon, in the early part of the
present year (1896), there was some talk of establishing a crematorium.


In “The London Burial-Grounds,” by Mrs. Basil Holmes, 1896, p. 269, the
question is asked:--“Are we ever to allow England to be divided like a
chess-board into towns and burial-places? What we have to consider is
how to dispose of the dead without taking so much valuable space from
the living. In the metropolitan area alone we have almost filled (and
in some places over-filled) twenty-four new cemeteries within sixty
years, with an area of above six hundred acres; and this is as nothing
compared with the huge extent of land used for interments just outside
the limits of the metropolis. If the cemeteries are not to extend
indefinitely they must in time be built upon, or they must be used for
burial over and over again, or the ground must revert to its original
state as agricultural land, or we must turn our parks and commons into
cemeteries, and let our cemeteries be our only recreation grounds,
which heaven forbid!”

According to Dr. Ebenezer Duncan eight thousand bodies are buried
yearly in Glasgow and its neighbourhood, poisoning both air and water,
and endangering the public health. The same state of things has existed
in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, and other large towns.
The following resolution was unanimously adopted in the Preventive
Medicine Department of a Health Congress, Glasgow, in July, 1896:--

 “That in the opinion of this Congress cremation of the dead,
 especially in cases of infectious disease, is a natural and very
 desirable hygienic process, and that this Congress of the British
 Institute of Public Health use all proper means to urge upon the
 Government the desirability of their promoting a measure to enable
 sanitary authorities, if they so desire, to build crematoria and to
 conduct them under proper superintendence.”

It must be allowed, however, that cremation, in spite of its obvious
advantages, is not one of those movements which advance by leaps and
bounds. The recent annual report of the Cremation Society of England
states that during the last year there were two hundred and eight
cremations in the United Kingdom--viz., one hundred and fifty at
Woking, and fifty-eight at Manchester. Crematoria have recently been
established at Glasgow and Liverpool.



OF all the various methods that have been suggested or introduced for
the prevention of premature interment, none has been attended with such
satisfactory results as the erection of mortuaries (Leichenhäuser) in
Germany. These structures, described in pp. 294 _et seq._, ought to
be provided, as far as practicable, in every parish, and certainly
in every Sanitary District in the United Kingdom, and by the Boards
of Health in the United States, and adapted to the requirements of
the population. They should be of chaste and elegant design, well
ventilated; their atmosphere made antiseptic with living plants and
flowers, and by plenty of light; provided with baths and couches, and
a skilled attendant--edifices where both the dead and the apparent
dead can be deposited pending burial, cremation, or resuscitation.
Separate compartments are necessary for cases where death has been due
to accidents and for those who have succumbed to infectious diseases.
Every modern appliance should be introduced for the restoration of
such as may exhibit signs of returning consciousness, and of those in
whom, after sufficient time had elapsed, no sign of putrefaction was
observable. The temperature of the room should be kept at eighty-four
degrees, as suggested by Sir Benjamin Ward Richardson, and no
interment, cremation, _post-mortem_, or embalming should be permitted
until a medical examination by one or more experienced physicians
showed unequivocal signs of putrefaction. Perhaps the Royal Humane
Society, which during the last one hundred and fifty years has done
such splendid work in restoring the drowned and asphyxiated, might
be willing to extend the field of its benevolent operations to other
neglected forms of suspended animation where intelligent direction and
supervision is so much required.

A writer in the _British and Foreign Medico-Chirurgical Review_, 1855,
vol. xv., p. 75, says:--“The earliest movements in the direction of
means for the prevention of premature interments originated with
Winslow in France, followed by other well-known writers upon the signs
of death. It was Madame Necker, however, who embodied their suggestions
in a practicable form as submitted to the National Assembly, in
1792, by Count Berchshold. In the ninth year of the first French
Republic (1801) a project was entertained for the erection of six
‘temples funeraires’ in Paris, but came to no good, as attendant evils
preponderated. To Germany belongs the credit of having executed these
designs in such wise that they should not prove the positive sources
of more danger to the living than could be counter-balanced by the
occasional preservation of an individual from the risk of premature
interment. Believing that this risk had been prodigiously diminished
since the establishment of these institutions for the reception of
cases where doubt of the reality of death has existed, Hufeland, in
Weimar, devised the plan that Frankfort-on-the-Maine incorporated
with its reform in sepulture and establishment of extra-mural
cemeteries, in 1823. Hufeland’s plans have subsequently been adopted
and carried out in many other German States.... As a sanitary measure
the separation of the dead from the living, especially from among
the crowded poor, would be, apart from the not less important point
of verification of death, an incalculable benefit.... It behoves us
in this matter to learn another lesson from our neighbours, and to
take measures to prevent the occurrence of catastrophes too fearfully
horrible to contemplate in thought, too dreadful for the most vivid
imagination to realise. Science can hold out no token by which to
recognise the certainty of death. Sanitary police, at least in England,
is indifferent about the risk of a few burials alive, and thinks it
superfluous to prevent their occurrence.”


That the people have a right to protection by the State against
preventable sources of danger, all civilised nations have acknowledged,
by the making of laws that guard their citizens from the invasion of
diseases of domestic or foreign origin, as well as many other perils.
But the German-speaking countries have gone further than any other
in this humane direction _by recognising apparent death as a special
peril to be guarded against by law_, in order to prevent living
burials. For this purpose they have established mortuaries connected
with cemeteries, in which the apparently dead are placed, under the
observation of physicians and attendants. Here the bodies are placed
upon tables, dressed in their ordinary clothes, amidst light, warmth,
and ventilation, surrounded by plants and floral tributes. Thus they
are kept from forty-eight to seventy-two hours, unless decomposition
sets in earlier, or the death was due to an infectious disease. Further
delay is allowed on application by the attending physician, or by some
member of the family interested. Cords connected with an alarm bell are
attached to the fingers, under the conviction that the least movement
of the body would arouse the attendant in an adjoining room. No doubt
these mortuaries have saved a certain number from being buried alive;
but the system can be improved by extending the observation until
such time as death is certain, for experience shows that no stated
limit of time can apply to all cases of trance and catalepsy, which
are the chief causes of apparent death. Some of these continue for
a week, and cases of even longer duration are not unknown. It often
happens that returning vital activity consists merely in scarcely
perceptible movements of the eyelids or the mouth, a change of the
complexion, slight moisture on the face, or a faint action of the
heart, or a warmth in that region, or feeble thoracic movements--all
of which might escape observation until the allotted time had expired,
and no contrivance, however delicately adjusted, could announce their
presence. Time alone will test the existence of life or death in such

The extensive literature on this subject shows that the struggle to
bring about the existing mortuary system in Germany was kept up for
many years before it obtained its measure of success. It was legalised
about the year 1795, after the physicians of Germany, France, and
Austria had shown the absolute necessity for it.

Mortuaries have continued in high favour with the people wherever they
have once been properly established; none, so far as the author has
been able to learn, have ever been abolished. At the present time the
city of Munich is constructing a mortuary at the Southern cemetery upon
a costly scale, surpassing in sumptuous accessories anything of the
kind before attempted in Germany. It will be not unworthy of the public
buildings of the city. This is an emphatic endorsement of the necessity
of the system by a people that for more than fifty years has given it a
thorough trial; and it is a strong argument for its adoption elsewhere.

The question suggests itself here: Why should not the English-speaking
peoples accept the long experience of a philosophical, painstaking,
clear-minded people like the Germans, supported as it is by many
sanitary and medical authorities in France, England, and the United
States, and establish these institutions in connection with existing
cemeteries, with such modifications as national habits, local tastes,
and customs may dictate?

The following practical suggestions are from a paper in the _Medical
Times_, vol. xvi., No. 415, p. 574, September 11, 1847, entitled, “On
the construction of houses for the reception of the dead; and on the
means to be used for the recovery of those who are only in trances or
fits, or in whom life is only impassive,” by Robert Brandon, Esq.,
Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury:--



 “The building should be large enough to provide means for
 resuscitation, and have room enough for the deposition of bodies
 when epidemics are prevalent. There should be hot baths, for these
 often are alone enough to recall the vital spark; and a kitchen to
 prepare nourishment for those who are recovered, and for the porter
 and other officers who would live on the building. The room for the
 deposit of the bodies should communicate with the porter’s room by
 means of a glass door, and every body should have a wire fixed to
 the feet and hands, in communication with a bell, which bell must
 ring in the porter’s room, in order to warn him should there be any
 motion in those thought to be dead. There should be men and women on
 the premises to use friction, a galvanic machine, and the implements
 necessary for transfusion and artificial respiration. As the usual
 and accepted signs of death are not signs to be relied on, so is
 decomposition a true sign, and none should be buried until this be
 present; but as the presence of decomposed animal matter would be
 injurious, not only to the inmates of houses, but to the surrounding
 inhabitants, and as it is inconvenient to the poor man who has but one
 room to keep a body in that room, where he and his family eat, drink,
 and sleep, asylums for the reception of those thought to be dead
 should be constructed, and are absolutely necessary. Nor is it enough
 to wait for decomposition, but we should endeavour to prevent this
 by endeavouring to restore vitality by means of hot baths, external
 heat, artificial respiration, galvanism, or transfusion; the first of
 these is oftentimes enough. Now, I think it probable that many persons
 would be recovered, thought to be dead, for, out of a number of those
 reputed dead, a certain number have recovered--some by the sticking of
 the pins into them which fixed the shrouds, some under the surgeon’s
 knife, some from delays in the burial, and others from the accidental
 overturning of the coffins, as we learn from a paper published on
 premature burials. Some time since a woman was kept above ground for
 a considerable time, as medical men could not decide if she were dead
 or no. And at Constantinople a sailor the other day was attacked with
 apoplexy, and a vein was opened in his arm; no blood came, and the
 man was thought to be dead, but on the road to the grave blood began
 to flow, and the supposed dead man recovered. There is now living in
 Brussels a man who escaped from the grave; and another built a house
 at Cologne to commemorate his escape. These cases will be enough to
 show that we have no certain sign of death but decomposition; and,
 if this be true, we must have asylums for the reception of bodies
 previous to decomposition, and for the application of means which can
 do no harm, and may do much good, such as those before indicated.
 Medical men think that the absence of respiration and want of heart’s
 action, with loss of motion and sensation, are signs of death; but
 this is not the case, for many bodies which have been drowned have all
 these signs present and yet recover. Again, infants are often born
 without any action of the heart or lungs, and yet are recovered by
 very simple means, such as the hot bath; and I myself have recovered
 persons by stimulants who were thought to be dead. Many may be
 recovered by transfusion (first introduced into this country by the
 celebrated Dr. Blundel) when the heart still palpitates, but the
 brain is insensible; or by stimulants given at that period; or by
 hot bath, and the external application of heat; by galvanism, where
 other means have failed; and these can do no harm. Since the brain
 is insensible there can be no suffering; and many lives will be saved
 by perseverance, and the skilful application of means which have
 succeeded in isolated cases. Buildings for the reception of those
 thought to be dead should be placed in cemeteries.

 “I divide life into active and passive. Life is active when man is
 in the enjoyment of all his faculties, intellectual and moral; when
 the various organs necessary for circulation and respiration are in
 play; when there is sensation, perception, and motion; and when the
 sphincters are not relaxed. Passive life is that state hitherto called
 death; but, according to me, death is decomposition.

 “Nor should we despair at any period previous to this, since we
 can give motion by galvanism; blood by transfusion; respiration by
 artificial respiration; heat by this and the external application
 of caloric; and by stimulants we can keep up that action which has
 been excited by other means. Nor must we despair if we do not at once
 succeed in our endeavours to recall life, for perseverance often
 accomplishes that which at first sight seems impossible.


 “Men have recovered from simulated death after being in the sea twenty
 minutes, and I see no reason why, after disease, men may not also be
 recovered from a state resembling death. Many who are left as dead
 are only in fainting fits, some are in trances; and graves have been
 opened where the buried man has been found to have eaten portions of
 his own flesh, which of course he could not have done unless recovery
 had taken place. How horrible to think that we may awake up in our
 graves tormented with the pangs of hunger, unable scarce to breathe,
 and finding all escape from our narrow cell impossible; the prisoner
 in his grave has nought to do but to commend his soul afresh to his
 Maker, and lay himself down to die! May not much of this be prevented
 by asylums for doubtful life, by the application of reagents, and by
 building vaults in our cemeteries instead of graves? I earnestly hope
 that the day has arrived when we see these things in the proper light;
 when our church-yards will be no longer overloaded with the remains
 of those who, perhaps, might have lived had they been left a little
 longer above ground--had they been transfused, or even buried in
 vaults instead of graves, with a guardian to watch over their mortal
 remains! Life may exist, but not be evident; but the non-evidence
 of life is no proof of death, as many have been recovered in whom
 life was only latent--in whom there was no action of the heart,
 no respiration, no motion, no sensation. This has happened after
 drowning, in infants born asphyxiated, in women after flooding, and
 would happen much more often were the proper means applied in all
 cases to recall life, and to ascertain those who may be recoverable.
 Simple inspection is not enough to decide if a man be dead or not,
 because persons are often only in trances or fainting fits when they
 are thought to be dead; and I wish to insist on the fact that there is
 no sign of death but decomposition, and that, therefore, none should
 be buried until this sign be present, nor until an attestation of the
 presence of decomposition be given by some surgeon.”

Referring to the universal fear of burying relatives alive, the
_Lancet_, September 20, 1845, vol. ii., p. 321, observed:--“It is
but little use to descant upon an evil without pointing out a remedy.
In Frankfort, Munich, and in various other towns, houses, properly
situated, have been fitted up for the temporary reception of the
dead. Corpses are there deposited immediately after death, and taken
care of until the signs of decomposition have become unequivocal,
medical assistance being at hand should symptoms of vitality manifest
themselves. By this simple plan all the objections which attend on the
retention of the dead in the dwellings of the poor may be obviated, and
at the same time their dread of burying their relatives whilst still
alive respected. This plan is evidently much preferable to that which
is followed in France. In the latter country, in the large towns, there
is in every district a medical inspector of the dead. The inspector
is informed of the death as soon as it has taken place, and within
a very limited time is bound to inspect the body and give a formal
certificate. This guarantee having been obtained, the inhumation of
the deceased is enforced by law within two or three days of the death.
Notwithstanding this precaution, cases have occurred, even during the
last few years, which appear to prove that inhumation has taken place
before life was quite extinct. We doubt, also, whether such early
interment could under any circumstances be enforced in our own country.
Some modification of the German plan is evidently what we must look
for in any system of legislation which may hereafter be decided on.”
These admirable suggestions from the leading medical journal were made
more than half a century ago; since that time, every year has brought
to light cases of living burial, and confirmed the urgent need of
reform; but nothing has been done until quite recently to awaken public
attention to their importance. The subject is of such a gruesome,
unpleasant, and depressing character that few people care to have
their names associated with a movement of this character, beneficent
though it is, and certain to save thousands of unfortunate people,
particularly women and children (who are more especially liable to
various forms of suspended animation), from such tragic occurrences.

The _Undertakers’ and Funeral Directors’ Journal_, August 22, 1895,
referring to the fact that in 1892 thirty-one thousand eight hundred
and ninety-two inquests were held in England, and to the urgent
necessity for the erection of mortuaries, says:--


 “The bountiful, or private enterprise, should provide these
 mortuaries. But once let their necessity be recognised and the scheme
 approved,--fashion leading the way,--then undertakers would readily
 supply what was wanted. If not, then the local authority should take
 the initiative. Mortuaries are sadly needed almost everywhere for
 present purposes, as newspapers constantly affirm. In providing them,
 care should be taken to build with an eye to future requirements when
 it shall become customary if not compulsory to remove the dead from
 among the living within a reasonable time after death.

 “It is merciful sometimes to be inexorable, and what a lot of willing
 and unnecessary discomfort and risk would be saved were it possible
 and the practice to find a temporary resting-place for our departed
 friends till we are ready to carry them befittingly to the tomb.”


Each of the sanitary districts in the Metropolis is supposed to have
a mortuary of some kind for the reception of bodies from hospitals,
infirmaries, hotels, private houses, as well as from the river and
streets, or in transit to and from foreign countries, where they are
kept without charge for about five days, unless the public health
requires earlier interment. Hospitals, hotels, and families are
thus relieved of the presence of corpses, for convenience, and for
purposes of inquest. The mortuaries are nearly all plain, gloomy, and
depressing structures of brick. The best of them comprise a coroner’s
courtroom, coroner’s private room, the caretaker’s rooms, waiting
room, _post-mortem_ room, chapel, and viewing room connected. There is
no physician in attendance, and no autopsies are performed except by
surgeons upon their own cases, or for purposes of inquests. There are
no appliances or conveniences for resuscitation, as all the bodies are
regarded as dead, having been, for the most part, certified as such by
a medical practitioner, the exceptions being such as are taken from the
water or street by the police, or left there for inquest. The buildings
are usually well lighted, and some of the rooms contain fire-places,
but they are devoid of taste or ornamentation of any kind. The bodies
are kept in coffins, which, if there is any odour proceeding from them,
are screwed down. Permission is afforded for inspection by doctors or
by any of the family of the deceased on application to the keeper.
These mortuaries are kept clean, and decent and respectful treatment of
the bodies is enforced by regulations.


The London County Council issued a return (No. 157) dated March 9,
1894, in pursuance of the Public Health (London) Act, 1891, relating to
coroners’ courts, mortuaries, etc., from which it appears that there
were fifty-one mortuaries in the sanitary districts of London up to
September 30, 1893. In most of these the accommodation is described
as “sufficient,” “good,” “well arranged,” “excellent,” “convenient.”
Others are of an opposite character. The one attached to the Town
Hall, Holborn district, is reported as “very small (about nine feet by
nine feet), inconvenient, and badly situated.” In the Poplar district
the mortuary “is an old crypt, quite unfit for the purpose, and has
no convenience for _post-mortems_.” At Ratcliffe, in the Limehouse
district, the mortuary “consists of a railway arch, and is very
unsuitable.” “There is a very small mortuary in the church-yard” at
Shadwell. The mortuary under the church-yard of St. Martin’s Church
(St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields) is reported “very imperfect.” The one in
the Southern Coroner’s district is situated under a railway arch, and
there is no mortuary-keeper. At St. Paul’s, Deptford, the mortuary
contains only one room, which serves for mortuary and _post-mortem_
room. Plumstead is possessed of an underground mortuary in the
church-yard, reported as “unsatisfactory.” The Lewisham district
has an “unsuitable” mortuary at the cemetery. Rotherhithe has “an
inadequate mortuary in the old burial-ground.” At St. George the
Martyr (Southwark) the mortuary is reported to be “inadequate and
unsuitable.” In the Strand district there is “no proper mortuary, but
a small dead-house attached to the Savoy Chapel is used.” Eltham,
Lea, and Kidbrooke, in the Plumstead district, have no mortuaries.
The part of Lambeth, S. and S.E., up the Clapham and Kennington Park
roads, is without a mortuary, and _bodies awaiting inquest are kept in
private houses_. Nor are there any mortuaries in the Greenwich district
(Hatcham), Wapping, or Mile End Old Town. Arrangements are reported to
be in progress for the enlargement of some of these establishments and
the erection of others.

No resuscitations are reported from any of these places, except in
the case of Ernest Wicks, a boy two years old, who was found lying
on the grass in Regent’s Park apparently dead, and resuscitated in
St. Marylebone Mortuary (after being laid out on a slab as dead) in
September, 1895, by the keeper, Mr. Ellis, assisted by Mrs. Ellis.
When the doctor arrived, the child was breathing freely, though still
insensible. The child was taken to the Middlesex Hospital, and was
reported by the surgeon to be recovering from a fit.


The London mortuaries stand well in the estimation of the authorities,
medical practitioners, and the people, on account of their usefulness
and convenience in relieving hotels and private houses of the dead
pending funerals, and in cases of deaths from infectious diseases, as
well as from accidents and acts of violence (amongst which suicides are
included) which require investigation. In consequence of this, there is
a disposition on the part of the authorities to enlarge and improve the
older and smaller ones, and to introduce the later conveniences. Those
in St. Marylebone and St. Luke’s are the latest examples, and could,
with comparatively little outlay, be rendered creditable and useful
establishments. First of all, they require the means of resuscitation,
such as are in use at the Royal Humane Societies’ Depôts, and at
the German mortuaries; also baths, couches, plants, flowers, and
mural ornaments, with a skilled nurse or caretaker, and a medical
practitioner either on the establishment or within telephone call. A
fundamental regulation should be added to the standing orders that,
when there is no sign of decomposition, bodies should be treated not
as dead but as sick needing attention, and to be kept under careful
observation. Such simple and inexpensive alterations, gradually
introduced by County, Parish, and District Councils, would, in the
course of time, bring about a greater respect for the dead, with proper
consideration for the apparently dead, besides increasing the feeling
of the sanctity of human life. In the course of time these improvements
would educate the public, and lead to the erection of new and handsome
structures of beautiful design, with appropriate artistic decorations,
such as are to be found in Munich and other parts of Germany.

The _Medical Times_, September 5, 1896, p. 569, says:--

 “In a recent issue of the _Nursing Record_, there is an interesting
 article on hospital mortuaries by a special commissioner.... At
 Guy’s the mortuary only contains room for one body. There is a bier,
 covered by a cradle and a red and white washing pall, and over this
 is a shelf, on which are placed a cross, fresh flowers, and candles.
 At St. Bartholomew’s the mortuary itself is certainly not a place
 where one would care to find one’s dead. The bare, white-washed
 walls, the sloping floor, the black lidless shells, covered by
 white sheets, would depress most people even if they had no special
 interest in them. That this is felt to some extent by the hospital
 authorities is evident from the fact that, when a member of the
 staff dies, they do their best to make other arrangements for the
 disposal of the body until it is removed from the hospital. There
 is an hospital not named [continues the _Medical Times_] where the
 only place available as a mortuary is the wash-house. It would appear
 that the managers of metropolitan hospitals do not believe in the
 reality of death-counterfeits, and therefore make no arrangements for


With the object of ascertaining the utility of these establishments,
the author wrote to the clerks or other officials in all the larger
towns in the United Kingdom, fifty in number, requesting copies of
the regulations, reports, etc. To these communications twenty-four
replies were received. Of these, only three sent copies of reports,
furnishing particulars of the number of bodies received, and the number
of inquests and _post-mortems_; three sent copies of regulations;
and the remainder do not publish either reports or regulations. One,
however (Poplar), states that the by-laws in use are approved by the
Local Government Board. The Chief Constable at the Town Hall, Salford,
writes, July 26, 1896--“There are three mortuaries in the borough, but
a separate record of the bodies laid in the mortuaries is not kept, and
no papers exist respecting them.” Mr. Hagger, the Vestry Clerk of the
Parish of Liverpool, says--“I know of no public mortuary in Liverpool
which is considered to be of such importance as to call for anything
in the shape of periodical reports.” Mr. R. Davidson, Governor of the
City Parish Poorhouse, Glasgow, writes, July 27, 1896--“I have never
had any reports relating to the mortuary here.” Mr. J. Jackson, Chief
Constable, Sheffield, writes, July 29--“We have never had papers or
reports connected with it (the mortuary), except the ordinary rules and
regulations for preserving decency, cleanliness, etc.” Similar replies
were received from Manchester, Swansea, Scarborough, Wigan, Bristol,
St. Mary’s (Islington), Dundee, and Catford. Mr. Robert Clinton, Master
of the Bethnal Green Workhouse, writes, July 30--“That their mortuary
has not been the subject of any reports,” and continues, “The subject
of persons being buried alive is a very important one, and should
arouse the interest of every intelligent person. Some method ought
certainly to be devised that will prevent anyone being subjected to so
horrible a fate.”


The following extracts are from the report by Dr. J. E. Kenny, M.P.,
Coroner for the City of Dublin, received in January, 1894:--


“There are no local laws in Dublin or in Ireland relative to the mode
of disposal of the dead, but the Sanitary Acts, which refer to the
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, can be availed of when
necessary to compel the burial of the dead within a reasonable period,
on the ground that an unburied body is a nuisance dangerous to public
health. There is, however, no fixed period. Among Roman Catholics it
is customary to bury the dead on the third or fourth day after death,
but there is no hard-and-fast rule.... The local burial authorities
usually require a medical certificate of death before opening the
grave, but there is no legal sanction for this, and it is merely the
custom. The coroner’s order for burial where an inquest is held does
away with the necessity of such certificates as those above referred
to, but _post-mortem_ examinations in these cases are the exception,
not the rule. A good many, however, are held on those who die in
local hospitals when the consent of the relatives or friends can
be obtained. I have not heard of any case of cremation in Ireland,
and earth-burial is the universal practice. Occasionally, when so
ordered by the will of the deceased, a body is removed to England
for cremation. I am myself rather in favour of cremation as a more
scientific and safer method of disposing of the dead.

“There are no chambers (mortuaries) of the kind referred to in this
question in Dublin, nor, so far as I know, in Ireland. I know of no
law as to the signs of death which must be recognised to exist before
burial is permitted, nor is there any officer on whom is thrown the
duty of ascertaining or deciding whether such exist or not.


“If cremation be generally adopted, it ought not to be performed
earlier than the third day after death, or perhaps not until some
unmistakable sign of decomposition has set in. I think this rule of
some such sign of decomposition setting in ought to apply to all
methods of disposal of the dead. Whenever well-marked warmth of the
body exists after apparent death, burial of any kind ought not to take
place until after a full and exhaustive examination by a competent
authority. In all doubtful cases I would suggest the application of
either a hot iron to some sensitive part of the body, or that a small
incision should be made over the course of some small artery, a person
being left to watch the result for some time in the latter case, so as
to take proper precautions against hæmorrhage, should the person be not
really dead. It might perhaps with advantage be made the law that in
every case of death or supposed death the body should be viewed by a
medical man, who, having satisfied himself that death had taken place,
would sign a certificate to that effect. If I understand rightly, such
is the law in France. I would, however, be opposed to any law making an
autopsy necessary in every case. The existence of such a public officer
as a coroner is undoubtedly of advantage in reference to cases of
sudden death or supposed death, as it is among such cases that mistakes
are most likely to occur. I can see no objection to the establishment,
at the public expense, of chambers for the reception of dead bodies
under certain circumstances.”

In reply to a similar inquiry Sir Charles A. Cameron, Superintendent
Medical Officer of Health, writes, August 10, 1896--“There is no public
mortuary in Dublin, but we are taking steps for the establishment of

It need hardly be said that the mortuaries described in these reports
have little in common with certain _Leichenhäuser_ of Germany or
the _Mortuaires d’ Attente_ urgently called for by various writers
of France, and proposed to be erected. The English mortuaries may
more appropriately be described as _morgues_ or depositories for
the homeless and neglected dead--useful for this purpose, but in no
respect fulfilling the requirements of the present day. Without skilful
attendants and scientific appliances for the restoration of suspended
life, to which all are liable, the apparently dead, if deposited
in such chilling establishments, would, through neglect, be more
likely to lose what spark of life remained than to have it kindled
into a flame and recover. The erection of mortuaries for the sake of
death-counterfeits, and in order to give peace of mind to doubting
friends, would no doubt be opposed chiefly on the ground of expense.
The outlay must come from the pockets of the rate-payers, who have been
accustomed to accept the cursory inspection of “the corpse” and the
certificate of the doctor as a satisfactory solution of any misgivings
as to the actuality of death. Under the circumstances it would not
be surprising if the unreflecting majority preferred to take what
they would consider to be an infinitesimal risk rather than to incur
the expense of the necessary outlay. This volume has been written to
remove such apathy, and, if possible, to arouse public attention to
the subject; and if the facts are, as the author believes, absolutely
true, and the danger real, other and abler contributions furnishing
the results of wider and more extensive investigations may be expected
to follow. It is believed that the expense of constructing tastefully
designed mortuaries in all populous districts could be met by a rate of
from a farthing to a penny in the pound, and in the smaller or thinly
populated districts groups of parishes could unite in providing such
useful institutions. At present, under existing customs, probably ten
times the amount required is annually expended in funeral trappings,
mourning habiliments, costly wreaths, and ornamental monuments (mainly
for the purpose of ostentatious display) than would provide temporary
resting-places for the real and apparently dead in every part of the
United Kingdom. The erection of such establishments, where the fact
of death in every case could be unequivocally demonstrated before
burial or cremation, would remove an ever present and consuming load of
anxiety from the hearts of thousands of sensitive souls.



The author is indebted to a “Treatise on Public Health,” by Albert
Palemberg and A. Newsholme, London, 1893, for the following details:--


 “This city possesses two mortuaries to which bodies are conveyed from
 confined houses. One of these, within the town, only receives the
 bodies of persons not having died of an infectious disease; all others
 are conveyed to the mortuary at the Evère Cemetery....

 “In times of epidemic the removal of corpses to the mortuary is
 compulsory, and so also in other cases where the medical health
 officer decides that it is necessary. No corpse, without special
 permission, can be kept in the mortuary more than forty-eight hours
 after death, but this interval can be shortened or lengthened by
 special order.”


 “By a decision of July 21, 1890, the Municipal Council of Paris has
 decided to establish a mortuary in each of the cemeteries of the east
 (Père La Chaise) and the north (Montmartre).... The mortuaries are
 not available for the bodies of persons having died from infectious

 “Bodies are only admitted to the mortuary--(1) On the written
 application of the head of the family or some other persons competent
 to undertake the funeral. (2) On the production of a certificate of
 death from the doctor who attended the patient, stating that the death
 was not caused by infectious disease.

 “Up to the present time (1893) these mortuaries do not appear to have
 been of great service, owing to the unwillingness of families to part
 with their dead before the time of interment.

 “‘La Morgue.’--This establishment only receives bodies on which a
 _post-mortem_ examination is required, and the bodies of unknown
 persons, placed there for recognition. In the hall where the bodies
 are exposed, the temperature is kept several degrees below zero by a
 system of refrigeration, thus retarding putrefaction. This system
 would, in consequence of the low temperature, greatly retard or
 prevent the revival of persons who may only be in a state of torpidity
 from submergence, or of trance or catalepsy, who could be resuscitated
 if warmth and other proper means were promptly applied to them.”


 “In some of the cemeteries mortuaries have been built, which are
 placed at the disposal of the public by the authorities, with the
 understanding that the corpses shall be taken from them as soon as

 “The bodies of the poor are first placed in the depository of the old
 cemeteries, within the city enclosure, whence they are removed by
 night in carriages kept for the purpose to the mortuary in the large
 cemetery outside the city, to be buried the next day. The Jews have
 built a mortuary chapel in their new cemetery at Weissensee, which
 fulfils all the conditions required by modern hygiene, and contains
 everything necessary for washing, isolating, and enveloping the bodies.

 “A new establishment, which answers its purpose perfectly, has
 been built in the old cemetery--Charité--and is used for inquests,
 _post-mortem_ examinations, etc., also for the exhibition of bodies
 of unknown persons. The bodies are preserved from putrefaction by an
 apparatus in which refrigeration is produced by ammonia and chloride
 of calcium, as the Morgue in Paris.”


 “There is a mortuary in each district of the city to which are brought
 corpses belonging to families who have imperfect accommodations.

 “The district doctor must decide whether removal is necessary, as it
 is his duty to register deaths and their causes. He should at the same
 time examine into the state of the dwelling from a sanitary standpoint.

 “In cases of sudden death, and when the cause of death is not
 apparent, a _post-mortem_ examination must be made.

 “The bodies of persons who have died from infectious disease must not
 be taken to the common mortuaries, but to one built in the common

 “Bodies must not be buried in the city. The principal cemetery is at
 Kaiser-Ebersdorf, north-west of the city, and cost four millions of


 “Every parish possesses a mortuary vault. According to the regulations
 of the Health Commission, bodies must not remain there more than
 forty-eight hours in the hot season, and seventy-two in the cold

The first modern mortuary was opened at Weimar, Germany, in 1791.

In a “Handbook for Travellers in Europe” for 1890, by W. Pembroke
Fetridge, p. 622, is the following description of the model mortuary in

 “The New Church-yard is a sweet place of its kind. Here may be seen
 an admirable arrangement to prevent premature burials in cases of
 suspended animation. In a dark chamber, lighted with a small lamp,
 the body lies in a coffin. In its fingers are placed strings, which
 communicate with an alarm clock; the least pulsation of the corpse
 will ring the bell in an adjoining chamber, where a person is placed
 to watch, when a medical attendant is at once supplied. There have
 been several cases where persons supposed to be dead were thus saved
 from premature burial.”

The _Middlesborough Gazette_ of 11th October, 1895, says:--

 “Those who have visited burying grounds in some parts of the South
 of England are well aware that tombs made in the shape of ‘waiting
 rooms’ are largely in vogue with the well-to-do classes. One in a
 little church-yard in Sussex was elegantly fitted up. The coffins were
 placed on one side of the well-lighted vault, while on the opposite
 side was a couch, chairs, and a table, together with books. The
 relatives of the deceased--eccentric they may have been, we are not
 prepared to say--visited the vault, access to which was gained by a
 flight of steps, and there passed much of their time in reading, the
 ladies doing needle work. But this sort of thing is only for the
 rich. The poor must be protected from being buried alive by other and
 more economical methods--namely, by stricter attention to the actual
 and unmistakable evidences of death, and by careful registration on
 medical certificates only.”

It would appear by the following announcement, that an effort is being
made to supply one of the several properly fitted mortuaries needed in
the French capital:--

 “The _Pall Mall Gazette_ of September 21, 1895, announces a decided
 novelty in the way of limited liability companies--the Mortuary
 Waiting-room Company, which, it says, is on the point of being floated
 in the French capital. Our contemporary says that the amount for
 subscription is stated to be £20,000, and dividends at the rate of at
 least 100 per cent. may, it is claimed, be confidently looked for. The
 company undertake to provide separate waiting-rooms, of two classes,
 in a large mortuary building. The alleged corpse will be comfortably
 deposited there upon a couch, and carefully looked after till the
 fact that it is a corpse shall have been established beyond question.
 The waiting-rooms will be tastefully decorated, with everything about
 them to welcome the revived tenant agreeably back to life. It is
 interesting to hear that no shareholder’s heirs will be allowed to
 visit him.”

Some sanitarians and funeral reformers urge with much reason that the
presence of the dead should not be allowed to endanger the health of
the living, and recommend that if death has occurred from infectious
disease, the body should be covered with charcoal and conveyed at once
to a mortuary chamber; and others advise early burials for all as soon
as possible. If, however, this volume has not demonstrated the danger
of such early burials, except where decay of the earthly vesture is
visible, it will have been written in vain.

The following recommendation from a well-known physician and surgeon
appears in _London_, p. 613, September 27, 1894:--

 “Coroners’ Courts and Mortuaries,” a paper read at the Hygiene
 Congress at Buda Pesth, by W. J. Collins, M.D., M.S., B.Sc., D.P.H.
 (Lond.), L.C.C.

 “I therefore hold that every inducement should be held out to the
 poor by local authorities, by the provision of decent, suitable, and
 attractive mortuaries, to allow their dead to be removed from danger
 to the living to a place where sentiment shall be respected and
 sanitation satisfied.”



During the discussion on Premature Burials in the press, the erection
of mortuaries (chambres mortuaires d’attente) has been objected to
(1) on the ground of expense to the rate-payers; and (2) because the
results by way of resuscitation of those constructed in Germany have
not justified the cost of their erection and maintenance, and that
if they had not already been in existence they would not now, it is
said, be established. The most recent investigations on this subject
have been made by Monsieur B. Gaubert, the results of which appear in
his work, “Les Chambres Mortuaires d’Attente,” a volume of 308 pages,
published in Paris, 1895. The author shows by the citation of facts
that both in France and Germany numerous cases of resuscitation of
persons certified as dead, and deposited in mortuaries, in spite of
many drawbacks connected with their management, have occurred, and that
their continuance is amply justified on the ground of utility. In the
report of the Municipal Council of Paris for 1880, No. 174, p. 84, is a
letter from Herr Ehrhart, Mayor of Munich, May 2, 1880, who says:--“The
lengthy period during which these establishments have been utilised,
the order which has always prevailed, the manner in which the
remains are disposed and adorned, _the resuscitation of some who were
believed to be dead_, have all contributed to remove any sentimental
objections to these establishments. The bodies are transported to the
Leichenhäuser twelve hours after death, without the least opposition on
the part of the relatives.” The expense of these institutions would, no
doubt, in the aggregate be a considerable sum, but not nearly so large
as that voted for the erection and maintenance of public libraries,
now so common; but in the presence of so serious and real a danger
as that of living burial, to which any of us is liable, it is hardly
worth considering. For peace of mind the cost of such insurance would
be cheerfully paid by thousands, and ought to be provided for the poor
and for those who would in time come to value it. This is a matter that
might appropriately be taken up by the County, District, and Parish
Councils and Boards of Guardians, under the powers granted to them by
the Local Government Act of 1894.

Dr. Josat, in his treatise “De la mort et de ses caractères,” shows
by numerous arguments and examples that, as there is an interval or
condition provided by nature between disease and health known as
_convalescence_, and the transition between the one and the other
is preceded by a variety of phenomena known as a _crisis_, so there
is an interval between the termination of a fatal malady and real
death (erroneously described as the agony), the symptoms which denote
intermediate or apparent death. But while the result of an error may
be of little moment in the first case, it may in the other become
disastrous, by abandoning the dying before absolute death. It is during
this interval, between (so called) death agony and absolute death,
which sometimes has been known to last a week, that the transfer to a
suitable mortuary should be made.

The following may be cited as typical illustrations of the utility of
mortuaries in discovering the existence of life after apparent death.


H. L. Kerthomas in “Dernières Considérations sur les Inhumations
Précipitées,” Lille, 1852, p. 17, relates that--

 “At a hospital in Liege two house-surgeons were at the ‘Salles des
 décades’ in pursuance of their anatomical studies, when hearing at
 one side of them a noise like stifled breathing great was their fear!
 Still they coolly finished their examination, and then discovered the
 supposed corpse moving convulsively amongst his dead companions; but,
 thanks to efficient help, he was completely restored to health.” (The
 above occurred in 1847.)

M.B. Gaubert, in “Les Chambres Mortuaires d’Attente,” records the six
following cases:--“On the 25th of January, 1849, the _Journal des
Débats_ recorded a fact somewhat similar to that which lately disturbed
the town of Perigueux:--


 “‘A young man who was asphyxiated by charcoal had been declared dead
 by the doctor. After they had been watching the body twenty-four hours
 at the mortuary chamber, the family caused it to be carried to the
 church, where it passed the night without the customary caretaker. The
 next morning “the corpse” was found bathed in its own blood, and the
 floor of the church was stained. Restored to consciousness during the
 night and not having any help, the poor young man had succumbed to
 hæmorrhage, brought on by the incisions which they blindly practised
 on the body of the supposed dead one to make sure of his death.’

 “‘The mother of a family had just lost her child, aged five years. She
 carried to the Leichenhäuser a heart broken by grief, cherishing the
 vague hope in the depth of her love that this separation would not
 be the last. According to habit the families of Munich exposed the
 corpse in a mortuary chamber amidst flowers and trees, and surrounded
 by a circle of light. The Leichenhäus then appeared to have lost its
 habitual funereal character--for it had quite a festive air. The
 poor mother passed the night amidst tears and prayers, waiting with
 anxiety and hoping for the arrival of the good news. The next morning
 a workman of the Leichenhäuser knocked at the door of the house with
 a large bundle which he carried in his arms; a few seconds after, the
 mother pressed to her heart the resuscitated child which she was told
 she had just lost. The transports of joy she experienced were so great
 that she fell down dead. The child had come to life in the mortuary by
 himself, and, when the keeper saw it, it was playing with the white
 roses which had been placed on its shroud.’ (P. 179.)

“The same recent writer quotes the following on the testimony of the
surgeons Louis and Junker:--


 “‘A young country girl,’ said Surgeon Louis, ‘strong and vigorous,
 twenty-five years old, left on foot from the Hotel Dieu, Paris, where
 she had been resting the night before, and came to Saltpétrière. The
 fatigue of the journey induced an attack of syncope on her arrival.
 They put her on the bed, and with cordials and warmth she revived,
 but at the end of an hour she had another attack. They thought she
 was dead, and carried her to the mortuary. After leaving the body--it
 had remained there some time--they carried it to the amphitheatre.
 The next morning a young surgeon said he had heard plaintive cries in
 the amphitheatre, and his fear had prevented him from coming to tell
 me. I went into the amphitheatre, and saw with sorrow that the poor
 girl, who had vainly struggled to free herself from the sheet which
 enveloped her, was now quite dead. She had one leg on the floor, and
 an arm on the seat of the trestle of a dissecting table. I here recall
 the feelings of horror with which I was agitated on this occasion.
 I doubt if there ever was a sadder or more touching spectacle than
 this.’ (P. 187.)


“‘A Berlin apothecary wrote to me lately’ (says Dr. Lénormand) ‘in this
town to the effect that during an interval of two years and a-half, ten
people stated to be dead had been recalled to life. I shall quote only
the following:--


 “‘In the middle of the night the bell of the vestibule rang violently.
 The caretaker, who had only entered on duties within a few days, much
 startled, ran towards the mortuary. As soon as he opened the door he
 found himself confronted with one of “the corpses” enveloped in his
 shroud who had quitted his bier and was making his way out. He was a
 soldier of the guard believed to be dead, and he was able to join his
 regiment five days later.’ (_Ibid._, p. 180.)


“Dr. Josat said that during his sojourn in Germany, Herr Schmill,
director of the mortuary at Frankfort, related to him a case of
apparent death which occurred under his own eyes.

 “‘In the year 1840, a girl of nineteen years died of acute
 pleuro-pneumonia. Her body, during very hot weather, was exposed
 in the mortuary for a period of eight days in a state of perfect
 preservation. Her face retained its colour, the limbs were supple,
 and the substance of the cornea transparent, whereas in ordinary
 cases decomposition shows itself on the third day. The parents could
 not reconcile themselves to have their daughter buried, and found
 themselves much troubled. Finally on the ninth day the supposed dead
 suddenly awoke without any premonitory indications of life.’ (_Ibid._,
 p. 180.)


“There was a case at Brussels in January, 1867, of a person who
returned to life just as the bearers arrived at the mortuary.

 “‘A workman of the suburbs, employed by a firm of carriers, fell ill,
 and in a few days died. This suddenness of the death caused doubts
 as to its reality, and after the usual delay he was taken to the
 mortuary connected with the cemetery. The body was left for a few
 days’ observation. As soon as they arrived a noise escaped from the
 coffin, and arrested the attention of the people present. At once they
 hastened towards the coffin, and tried to restore him, and in a short
 time he came to life. The same evening he was able to return to his
 home. On the following day he went himself to the authorities to annul
 the record of his supposed death.’” (P. 182.)

M. Gaubert continues:--“We have collected in Germany fourteen cases of
apparent death followed by return to life in mortuaries, in spite of
all that has been done for the prevention of such occurrences.” (P.


 “Dr. E. Bouchut, in ‘Signes de la Mort,’ 3rd edition, p. 50, relates
 that an apothecary’s assistant had an attack of syncope, which
 continued for eight days, when he was apparently dead, and was removed
 to the mortuary of the Military Hospital, Cassel, where he was covered
 with a coarse wrapper and left amongst the dead. The following night
 he awoke from his lethargy, and, on recognising the horrible place
 where he was, dragged himself to the door and kicked against it. The
 noise was heard by the sentinel, aid arrived, and the patient was put
 in a warm bed, where he recovered. Dr. Bouchut says that, if he had
 been swathed in tight bandages, his efforts at release would have been
 futile, and he would have been buried alive.”


The Paris _Figaro_, March 31, 1894, on the authority of the _Progrés du
Nord_, April 2, 1894, reports that:--

 “M. Vangiesen, aged eighty-one years, awakened from supposed death on
 the flagstones of the mortuary at the Charité Hospital at Lille.”

The _Undertakers’ Review_, January 22, 1894, reports that Lena Fellows,
aged twenty-two years, a servant in the employ of A. R. Knox, of
Buffalo, fell dead, as was thought, while at work on December 8.
The remains were taken to the morgue in a coffin, but next morning
when morgue-keeper McShane began to lift the supposed corpse into
the refrigerator he found that the woman was alive. It was a case of

The case of a child found apparently dead in Regents’ Park, London,
and carried to the Marylebone Mortuary, where it subsequently revived,
has already been noticed. The incident caused a good deal of comment,
and suggested, doubtless, to the reflective reader that other cases of
suspended animation might have a less fortunate issue.


It is quite impossible on the Continent for an enquirer, as the author
knows from experience, to obtain reliable information with regard
to what takes place within the walls of mortuaries, because of the
numerous officials and others who are interested in covering up any
errors of previous death-certification that may come to light in
them. These comprise the health authorities, and the police in places
where the latter regulate funerals, as well as the physicians, whose
credit is at stake, and the nurses and undertakers. In many districts
in Germany the original object of the mortuaries--the prevention of
premature burial--advocated by Hufeland and others, has not been kept
in view, but the edifices have rather been used for the convenience
of the undertakers and their assistants, the bodies in many cases
being removed before actual dissolution was established by evidence
of putrefaction. This will need to be guarded against by more careful



IT is universally admitted that nothing is less certain than life; and
if the reader will weigh the facts, which it has been the authors’
intention to understate rather than overstate, he will rightly conclude
that nothing is more uncertain than the signs which are ordinarily
accepted as indicating death. It would have been easy to fill a much
larger volume than this with reports of authentic cases of premature
burial, and narrow escapes from such terrible mischances, and with more
detailed results of the authors’ researches on the subject in various
parts of Europe and America, as well as in the East. The cases adduced
to illustrate the text are, however, presented as types of hundreds of
others obtainable from equally reputable sources, and to be found in
the works of various trustworthy authorities, the titles of which can
be seen in the Bibliography at the end of this volume.

The _London Review_ for July, 1791, p. 40, referring to “An Essay
on Vital Suspension: Being an Attempt to Investigate and Ascertain
those Diseases in which the Principles of Life are Apparently
Extinguished,” by a Medical Practitioner--observes, that this is one
of many publications “written by physicians and surgeons, versed in
medical science, and well skilled in anatomy, to demonstrate, beyond
a possibility of contradiction, that there are many cases in which
the human body has the appearance of death, and preserves it for a
considerable time, without the reality; the vital principle being
still unsubdued, and a restoration of all its powers and functions
practicable by the administration, in due time, of proper means.”
The author of the pamphlet under review says, “It is a proof of the
temerity and imbecility of human judgment, that we have too many
instances on record, wherein even the most skilful physicians have
erred in the decisions they have pronounced respecting the extinction
of life.”


Unfortunately, we appear to be no nearer the prevention of these
terrible mistakes now than we were when the reviewer called attention
to them a century ago. The imbecility of human judgment complained
of exists now in an unmitigated degree. The appearance of death is
generally taken for its reality: and the great mass of the inhabitants
of this planet are hurried to their graves without (except in a
comparatively few cases of drowning or poisoning) the application of
any serious efforts at restoration, and without waiting for unequivocal
signs of dissolution.

Whether the risks of being buried alive are as great as those declared
by some of the authorities quoted in this volume, must be left to the
reader to determine for himself; but that they are considerable there
appears little room for doubt by those who have taken the trouble to
inquire into the facts. How often is the reader shocked by reading
narratives in his daily or weekly newspaper of persons either buried
alive, or of those in a state of suspended animation, but diagnosed and
duly certificated by the attending doctor as dead, who have returned to
consciousness during the funeral rites or at the grave itself.

The _Lancet_ has borne frequent testimony to these disasters, some
of which are quoted in this volume; and, just as we are writing the
closing chapter, the leading medical journal, in its issue of September
12, 1896, p. 785, records the following from its Cork correspondent as
having occurred at Little Island, Ireland, which, the writer says, is
thoroughly vouched for:--

“A child of four years of age contracted (typhoid) fever, and to all
ordinary appearances died. The time of the funeral was appointed, and
friends were actually on their way to attend it. When the supposed
corpse was about to be removed from the bed to the coffin, signs of
animation were exhibited. The services of the medical man were again
requisitioned, and the child, opportunely rescued from such a terrible
death, is now progressing satisfactorily.”

Amongst the headings of paragraphs taken from recent papers lying
before me are the following:--“Buried Alive,” “A Gruesome Narrative,”
“Restored to Life in a Mortuary,” “Premature Burial,” “The Dead Alive,”
“Buried Alive,” “Sounds from Another Coffin,” “Mistaken for Dead,” “A
Lady Nearly Buried Alive,” “Revivification After Burial,” “A Woman’s
Awful Experience,” “Bolt Upright in His Coffin,” “Almost Buried while
Alive,” “A Woman Buried Alive,” “The Corpse Sat Up,” “Alive in Her
Coffin,” “Seemed to Rise from Death,” “Escaped Burial Alive,” “Revival
at a Wake,” “Snatched from Death at the Graveside,” “Laid Out, but not
Dead,” “Alive in His Grave,” “Interment before Death,” “Came to Life in
the Coffin,” “Corpse Seems to Live,” “The Corpse Moved,” etc.

According to the “London Manual and Municipal Year Book,” 1896-97,
there are over four hundred public authorities at work in governing
London, who spend over twelve million pounds a year, and from other
sources it is said that seven millions a year are collected in the
Metropolis for charitable purposes, and yet there are no officials,
associations, or insurance companies to safeguard the people either in
this wealthy Metropolis or in any part of the United Kingdom against
one of the most terrible physical calamities that can overtake any
member of the human family.


The Registrar-General’s Decennial Supplement for 1881-90, published
this year (1896), includes a “Life Table” furnishing the expectations
of life in England and Wales. It appears that the death-rate has fallen
from 21.3 in the decade ending 1880 to 19.0 per thousand living in
that ending 1890. The expectation of life at birth, according to the
actuary’s standard in the decade 1871-80, was 41.3 years for males, and
44.6 years for females. This has been increased, as shown in the “Life
Table” 1881-90, to 43.6 for males, and 47.2 for females, mainly through
sanitary amelioration. A perceptible increase, the author believes,
could be shown if steps were taken to restore still-born children, who
constitute about five per cent. of births, and if the same trouble were
adopted to restore the apparently dead from other diseases (which are
sometimes only crises of repose after wasting disease) as is generally
taken with respect to those accidentally poisoned or drowned. Besides
reducing the mortality and increasing the expectation of life, such
a reform would greatly diminish the appalling suffering of those
who, through our apathy and ignorance, are, under our present system
of _laissez faire_, consigned to precipitate interment, and would
bring tranquillity of mind to those who are haunted all their lives
through fear of such a catastrophe. Why we should limit our efforts
at restoration of those apparently dead to a few cases has never been
shown, and is surely a serious oversight, which should be remedied
without delay.

Dr. Hartmann, in “Premature Burial,” observes--“As by cleaning a
dusty watch the watchmaker causes the hindrances to be removed which
prevented the energy stored up in the watch from setting the clockwork
in motion, so, in cases of apparent death from catalepsy, asphyxia,
syncope, and other diseases causing obstacles to the manifestation
of the life-energy in the body, these obstacles may be removed by
appropriate means, such as are known to many intelligent physicians,
and the energy of life being latent in the physical form may be enabled
to manifest itself again when the harmony of the organism has been
sufficiently restored, even after the heart has entirely ceased to

Dr. A. Fothergill says:--“Since no one, from prince to peasant, can
at all times be secure from these dreadful disasters, which suddenly
suspend vital action; and since medical practitioners themselves are
not exempt, it surely becomes them to use every exertion to _improve_
the art of _restoring animation_. May each progressive step in this
interesting path of science tend to that great object! and may every
laudable attempt undertaken with that benevolent view enable us with
more certainty to preserve life and to diminish the sum of human

It is regrettable that medical practitioners, neither in this nor in
any of the Continental states, except, possibly, a few in Germany,
have been trained to distinguish apparent from real death; and when
a case of death-trance occurs, they certify to actual death, and the
unfortunate person is interred in a strong coffin, which effectually
conceals the tragedy following resuscitation. Moreover, the ordinary
practitioner, both in England and the United States, considers himself
exonerated from blame when he thus follows the traditions and practice
of the heads of his profession. Personally, he has neither the time,
opportunity, or inclination to study the abnormal phenomena of trance,
catalepsy, or hypnotisation, and thus the evil of live sepulture is
perpetuated from generation to generation.


(1) An examination of both the historical and modern cases of trance,
catalepsy, and other death-counterfeits shows that nothing is more
uncertain than the so-called signs of death, and that in all countries
and in all ages many persons supposed by their attendant physicians and
relations to be dead have revived, while the cases are as numerous and
the danger as great at the present day as at any previous period.

(2) That the risk of premature burial is especially serious in France,
in Spain and Portugal, in the west of Ireland, in both European and
Asiatic Turkey, and in India; also amongst the Jews, where both the
Jewish law and ancient customs enjoin burial within a few hours of
death, and for similar reasons in all Oriental countries; and in the
Southern States of North America.

(3) That the various signs which are supposed to indicate death, such
as the cessation of respiration and of cardiac action, a pale, waxy
and death-like appearance, the stiffening of the limbs, or _rigor
mortis_, insensibility to cutaneous excitation, the departure of heat
from the body, are singly and collectively illusory; the only safe and
infallible test of dissolution being the manifestation of putrefaction
in the abdomen.

(4) That medical death-certificates have been shown by various
witnesses before the Select Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry
of 1893-94 to be often misleading as to the cause of death, and
inconclusive as to the fact of death. Any compulsory extension of the
death-certification system in the present imperfect state of medical
knowledge would only partially meet the necessities of the case,
and might have the effect of crystallising a defective system into
perfunctory routine. A certain safeguard would, however, be provided
if the law made it binding on medical practitioners to set forth on
the death-certificate a precise statement of indications showing that
dissolution has actually occurred.

(5) That the only safe and effective method of reform is the
establishment of appropriately designed waiting mortuaries, such as
are provided at Munich, Weimar, Stuttgart, and other German cities,
with qualified attendants and appliances for resuscitation, and where
doubtful cases of death (and all are doubtful in which decomposition
has not clearly manifested itself) can be deposited until the fact of
death is unequivocally established.

(6) That premature burial in civilised countries is mainly possible
owing to the fact that instruction in the phenomena of trance,
catalepsy, syncope, and other forms of suspended animation is not
systematic in the medical schools in any country, and the means of
prevention are therefore practically unknown. This omission should be
immediately remedied by the inclusion of the subject at the appropriate
place in the medical curriculum, and in the examination for degrees.

(7) That, inasmuch as a radical change in the methods of treating
the dead or supposed dead is extremely urgent, and legislation with
an overworked Parliament in England and apathetic State Legislatures
in America will probably be delayed, the authors recommend, as a
preliminary measure of protection, the formation of associations for
the prevention of premature burial amongst their members, as in some
cities in France, Austria, and the United States, or the alternative
plan of engrafting such an obligation of prevention upon existing
associations, clubs, and insurance companies established for other

       *       *       *       *       *

If the foregoing conclusions are established, the need for immediate
action is urgent and imperative, and the prompt intervention of
Parliament should be at once invoked. May we hope for the cordial
co-operation of all classes and of all sections on a question in
which the whole community have a deep and vital interest, and on which
procrastination will certainly be fatal to some of its members. It is
not an academic question, but one of the gravest practical character,
the earnest consideration and treatment of which cannot be neglected
with impunity.




FROM the time of Kornmann, Terilli, and Zacchia (see “Bibliography,”
seventeenth century), certain notable instances, from old authors,
of restoration from apparent death have been cited, with a good deal
of uniformity, in essays or theses on this subject. One of the most
convenient (to English readers) of these compilations is to be found in
an anonymous essay, “The Uncertainty of the Signs of Death,” Dublin,
1748 (printed by George Faulkner), from which the following extracts
are taken _verbatim_:--

Plutarch informs us that a certain person fell from an eminence, but
did not show the least appearance of any wound, for, three days after,
he suddenly resumed his strength, and returned to life as his friends
were conveying him to the grave.

Asclepiades, a celebrated physician, on his return from his country
seat, met a large company conveying a corpse to the grave. A principle
of curiosity induced him to ask the name of the deceased person, but
grief and sorrow reigned so universally that no one returned him
answer; upon which, approaching the corpse, he found the whole of it
rubbed over with perfumes, and the mouth moistened with precious balm,
according to the custom of the Greeks; then carefully feeling every
part, and discovering latent signs of life, he forthwith affirmed that
the person was not dead, and the person was saved.--_Celsus ii., 6, “De
re Medica.”_

In the tenth book of Plato’s Republic is related the story of one
Er, an Armenian, who was slain in battle. Ten days after, when the
surviving soldiers came with a view to inter the dead, they found all
the bodies corrupted except his; for which reason they conveyed him to
his own house in order to inter him in the usual manner. But two days
after, to the great surprise of all present, he returned to life when
laid on the funeral pile. Quenstedt remarks upon this case, which he
took from Kornmann’s treatise “De Miraculis Mortuorum,” “That the soul
sometimes remains in the body when the senses are so fettered, and, as
it were, locked up, that it is hard to determine whether a person is
dead or alive.” Pliny in his “Natural History,” book vii., chap. 52,
which treats of _those who have returned to life when they were about
to be laid in the grave_, tells us that Acilius Aviola, a man of so
considerable distinction that he had formerly been honoured with the
consulship, returned to life when he was upon the funeral pile; but, as
he could not be rescued from the violence of the flames, he was burnt
alive. The like misfortune also happened to Lucius Lamia, who had been
praetor. These two shocking accidents are also related by Valerius
Maximus. Celius Tubero had a happier fate than his two fellow-citizens,
since, according to Pliny, he discovered the signs of life before it
was too late. His state, however, was far from eligible, since, being
laid on the funeral pile, he stood a fair chance of being exposed to
the like misfortune. Pliny, from the testimony of Varro, adds that when
a distribution of land was making at Capua, a certain man, when carried
a considerable way from his own house in order to be interred, returned
home on foot. The like surprising accident also happened at Aquinum.
The last instance of this nature related by the author occurred at
Rome, and Pliny must, no doubt, have been intimately acquainted with
all its most minute circumstances, since the person was one Cerfidius,
the husband of his mother’s sister, who returned to life after an
agreement had been made for his funeral with the undertaker, who was
probably much disappointed when he found him alive and in good health.

These examples drawn from Roman history greatly contribute to establish
the uncertainty of the signs of death, and ought to render us very
cautious with respect to interments.

Greece and Italy are not the only theatres in which such tragical
events have been acted, since other countries of Europe also furnish
us with instances of a like nature. Thus, Maximilian Misson, in his
“Voyage Through Italy,” tome i, letter 5, tells us--

“That the number of persons who have been interred as dead, when they
were really alive, is very great in comparison with those who have
been happily rescued from their graves; for, in the town of Cologne,
Archbishop Geron--according to Albertus Krantzïus--was interred alive,
and died for want of a seasonable releasement.”

It is also certain that in the same town the like misfortune happened
to Johannes Duns Scotus, who in his grave tore his hands and wounded
his head. Misson also relates the following:--

“Some years ago the wife of one, Mr. Mervache, a goldsmith of
Poictiers, being buried with some rings on her fingers, as she had
desired when dying, a poor man of the neighbourhood, being apprised
of that circumstance, next night opened the grave in order to make
himself master of the rings, but as he could not pull them off without
some violence, he in the attempt waked the woman, who spoke distinctly,
and complained of the injury done her. Upon this, the robber made
his escape. The woman, now roused from an apoplectic fit, rose from
her coffin, returned to her own house, and in a few days recovered a
perfect state of health.”

What induced Misson to relate these histories was a certain piece of
painting preserved in the Church of the Holy Apostles at Cologne, in
order to keep up the memory of a certain accident, which that traveller
relates in the following manner:--

“In the year 1571, the wife of one of the magistrates of Cologne being
interred with a valuable ring on one of her fingers, the grave-digger
next night opened the grave in order to take it off, but we may readily
suppose that he was in no small consternation when the supposed dead
body squeezed his hand, and laid fast hold of him, in order to get
out of her coffin. The thief, however, disengaging himself, made his
escape with all expedition; and the lady, disentangling herself in the
best manner she could, went home and knocked at her own door, where,
after shivering in her shroud, after some delay she was admitted by the
terror-stricken servants; and, being warmed and treated in a proper
manner, completely recovered.”

Simon Goubart, in his admirable and memorable histories, printed at
Geneva in 1628, relates the following accident:--“A lady, whose name
was Reichmuth Adoloh, was supposed to fall a victim to a pestilence,
which raged with such impetuous fury as to cut off most of the
inhabitants of Cologne. Soon after, however, she not only recovered her
health, but also brought into the world three sons, who, in process of
time, were advanced to livings in the Church.”

“The town of Dijon, in Burgundy, was, in the year 1558, afflicted
with a violent plague, which cut off the inhabitants so fast that
there was not time for each dead person to have a separate grave;
for which reason large pits were made and filled with as many bodies
as they could contain. In this deplorable conjuncture, Mrs. Nicole
Tentillet shared the common fate, and after labouring under the
disorder for some days, fell into a syncope so profound that she was
taken for dead, and accordingly buried in a pit with the other dead
bodies. The next morning after her interment she returned to life,
and made the strongest efforts to get out, but was held down by the
weight of the bodies with which she was covered. She remained in this
wretched condition for four days, when the grave-diggers took her out
and carried her to her own house, where she recovered perfectly.”
Following this case, that of a labouring man of Courçelles, near
Neuchâtel, is narrated. He fell into so profound syncope that he was
taken for dead; but the persons who were putting him into his grave
without a coffin, perceived some motion in his shoulders, for which
reason they carried him to his own home, where he perfectly recovered.
This accident laid the foundation for his being called the ghost of

“A lawyer of Vesoul, a town of Franche-Comté, near Besançon, so
carefully concealed a lethargy, to which he was subject, that nobody
knew anything of his disorder, though the paroxysms returned very
frequently. The motive which principally induced him to this secrecy
was the dread of losing a lady to whom he was just about to be married.
Being afraid, however, lest some paroxysm should prove fatal to him,
he communicated his case to the Sheriff of the town, who, by virtue of
his office, was obliged to take care of him if such a misfortune should
happen. The marriage was concluded, and the lawyer for a considerable
time enjoyed a perfect state of health, but at last was seized with so
violent a paroxysm of the disease that his lady, to whom he had not
revealed the secret, not doubting his death, ordered him to be put in
his coffin. The Sheriff, though absent when the paroxysm seized him,
luckily returned in time to preserve him; for he ordered the interment
to be delayed, and the lawyer, returning to life, survived the accident
sixteen years.”

Another case is that of a certain person who was conveyed to the church
in order to be interred, but one of his friends sprinkling a large
quantity of holy water on his face, which was covered, he not only
returned to life, but also resumed a perfect state of health.

This writer subjoins other histories of persons who, being interred
alive, have expired in their graves and tombs, as has afterwards been
discovered by various marks made, not only in their sepulchres, but
also in their own bodies. He in a particular manner mentions a young
lady of Auxbourg, who, falling into a syncope, in consequence of a
suffocation of the matrix, was buried in a deep vault, without being
covered with earth, because her friends thought it sufficient to have
the vault carefully shut up. Some years after, however, one of the
family happened to die; the vault was opened, and the body of the young
lady found on the stairs at its entry, without any fingers on the right

It is recorded in “Tr. de Aere et Alim. defect.,” cap. vii., that a
certain woman was hanged, and in all appearances was dead, who was
nevertheless restored to life by a physician accidentally coming in and
ordering a plentiful administration of sal ammoniac.

Another case of hanging is the story of Anne Green, executed at Oxford,
December 14, 1650. She was hanged by the neck for half an hour,
some of her friends thumping her on the breast, others hanging with
all their weight upon her legs, and then pulling her down again with
a sudden jerk, thereby the sooner to despatch her out of her pain.
After she was in her coffin, being observed to breathe, a lusty fellow
stamped with all his force on her breast and stomach to put her out of
pain. But by the assistance of Dr. Petty, Dr. Willis, Dr. Bathurst, and
Dr. Clark, she was again brought to life.

Kornmann, in his treatise “De Miraculis Mortuorum,” relates the
following history:--“Saint Augustine, from Saint Cirille, informs
us that a Cardinal of the name of Andrew having died in Rome in the
presence of several bystanders, was next day conveyed to the church,
where the Pope and a body of the clergy attended service in order to do
honour to his memory. But to their great surprise, after some groans,
he recovered his life and senses. This event was at the time looked
upon as a miracle, and ascribed to Saint Jerome to whom the Cardinal
was greatly attached.”

The following account seems more to resemble a miracle, though we do
not find that it was looked upon as such:--“Gocellinus, a young man,
and nephew to one of the Archbishops of Cologne, falling into the
Rhine, was not found for fifteen days after, but was discovered to be
alive as he lay before the shrine of Saint Guibert.”

Persons curious or incredulous upon the dangers of precipitate burials
may, for their satisfaction, have recourse to the medical observations
of Forestus; those of Amatus Lusitanus; the chirurgical observations of
William Fabri; the treatise of Levinus Lemnius on the secret miracles
of Nature; the observations of Schenkins; the medico-legal questions
of Paul Zacchias; Albertinus Bottonus’s treatise of the Disorders of
Women; Terilli’s treatise on the Causes of Sudden Death; Lancisi’s
treatise Concerning Deaths, and Kornmann’s treatise on the Miracles of
the Dead. These authors furnish us with a great variety of the most
palpable and flagrant instances of the uncertainty of the signs of
death. As examples of the possibility of even great anatomists being
imposed upon by these fallacious signs, the two following accidents are

“Andreas Vesalius, successively first physician to Charles the Fifth
and his son Philip the Second of Spain, being persuaded that a certain
Spanish gentleman, whom he had under management, was dead, asked
liberty of his friends to lay open his body. His request being granted,
he no sooner plunged his dissecting-knife in the body than he observed
signs of life in it, since, upon opening the breast, he saw the heart
palpitating. The friends of the deceased, horrified by the accident,
pursued Vesalius as a murderer; and the judges inclined that he should
suffer as such. By the entreaties of the King of Spain, he was rescued
from the threatening danger, on condition that he would expiate his
crime by undertaking a voyage to the Holy Land.”

The account of the accident that befell the other anatomist is taken
from Terilli, and runs as follows:--

“A lady of distinction in Spain, being seized with an hysteric
suffocation so violent that she was thought irretrievably dead, her
friends employed a celebrated anatomist to lay open her body to
discover the cause of her death. Upon the second stroke of the knife
she was roused from her disorder, and discovered evident signs of
life by her lamentable shrieks extorted by the fatal instrument. This
melancholy spectacle struck the bystanders with so much consternation
and horror that the anatomist, now no less condemned and abhorred
than before applauded and extolled, was forthwith obliged to quit not
only the town but also the province in which the guiltless tragedy
was acted. But though he quitted the now disagreeable scene of the
accident, a groundless remorse preyed upon his soul, till at last a
fatal melancholy put an end to his life.”

Physicians of the earlier ages knew that there were disorders which so
locked up or destroyed the external senses that the patients labouring
under them appeared to be dead. According to Mr. Le Clerc, in his
“History of Medicine,” Diogenes Laertius informs us “that Empedocles
was particularly admired for curing a woman supposed to be dead, though
that philosopher frankly acknowledged that her disorder was only a
suffocation of the matrix, and affirmed that the patient might live in
that state (the absence of respiration) for thirty days.”

Mr. Le Clerc, in the work already quoted, tells us that “Heraclides
of Pontus wrote a book concerning the causes of diseases, in which he
affirmed that a patient is without respiration in certain disorders
for thirty days, and that they appeared dead in every respect, except
corruption of the body.”

To these authorities we may add that of Pliny, who, after mentioning
the lamentable fate of Aviola and Lamia, affirms--“That such is the
condition of humanity, and so uncertain the judgment men are capable of
forming of things, that even death itself is not to be trusted to.”

Colerus, in “Oeconom.” part vi., lib. xviii., cap. 113, observes, “That
a person as yet not really dead may, for a long time, remain apparently
in that state without discovering the least signs of life; and this has
happened in the times of the Plague, when a great many persons interred
have returned to life in their graves.” Authors also inform us that the
like accident frequently befalls women seized with a suffocation of the
matrix (hysteria).

Forestus, in “Obs. Med.,” 1. xvii., obs. 9, informs us--“That drowned
persons have returned to life after remaining forty-eight hours in the
water; and sometimes women, buried during a paroxysm of the hysteric
passion, have returned to life in their graves; for which reason it is
forbidden in some countries to bury the dead sooner than seventy-two
hours after death.” This precaution of delaying the interment of
persons thought to be dead is of a very ancient date, since Dilberus,
in “Disput. Philol.,” tome i., observes that Plato ordered the bodies
of the dead to be kept till the third day, _in order to be satisfied of
the reality of death_.

The burial customs of the ancients often included steps that were taken
as a precaution against mistaking the living for the dead. Indeed the
fear of such an accident seems to have always been entertained as a
thing liable to occur in every case of seeming death. The embalming
process employed by the Egyptians was a surgical test of the kind.
The abdomen was first opened in order to remove the intestines, and
some startling experiences must have been had in consequence of the
incisions required for this operation, because it was customary for the
friends and relatives of the deceased to throw stones at the persons
employed in embalming as soon as the work was over, owing to the horror
with which they were struck upon witnessing what must have been at
times a cruel proceeding.

The funeral ceremonies used in the Caribbee Islands are, in a great
measure, conformable to reason. They wash the body, wrap it up in
a cloth, and then begin a series of lamentations and discourses
calculated to recall the deceased to life, by naming all the pleasures
and privileges he has enjoyed in the world, saying over and over again,
“How comes it, then, that you have died?” When the lamentations are
over, they place the body on a small seat, in a grave about four or
five feet deep, and for ten days present aliments to it, entreating it
to eat. Then, convinced that it would neither eat nor return to life,
they, for its obstinacy, throw the victuals on its head, and cover up
the grave. It is evident from the practices of this people that they
wait so long before they cover the body with earth, because they have
had instances of persons recalled to life by these measures.

Lamentations of a similar kind were employed by the Jews and Romans, as
well as by the ancient Prussians and the inhabitants of Servia, founded
doubtless upon similar experiences.

The Thracians, according to Herodotus, kept their dead for only three
days, at the end of which time they offered up sacrifices of all kinds,
and, after bidding their last adieu to the deceased, either burned or
interred their bodies.

According to Quenstedt, the ancient Russians laid the body of the dead
person naked on a table, and washed it for an hour with warm water.
Then they put it into a bier, which was set in the most public room in
the house. On the third day they conveyed it to the place of interment,
where the bier, being opened, the women embraced the body with great
lamentations. Then the singers spent an hour in shouting and making
a noise in order to recall it to life; after which it was let down
into the grave and covered with earth. So that this people used the
test of warm water, that of cries, and a reasonable delay, before they
proceeded to the interment.

In the laws and history of the Jews, there is but one regulation with
respect to interment (in the twenty-first chapter of Deuteronomy),
where the Jewish legislator orders persons hanged to be buried the same
day. From this, one is led to infer that the funeral ceremonies, as
handed down from Adam, were otherwise perfect and unexceptionable. The
bier used by the Jews, on which the body was laid, was not shut at the
top, as our coffins are, as is obvious from the resurrection of the
Widow of Nain’s son, recorded in the seventh chapter of Luke, where
these words occur:--“And he came and touched the bier, and they that
bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise;
and he that was dead sat up and began to speak.”

Gierus and Calmet inform us that the body, before its interment, lay
for some days in the porch or dining-room of the house. According to
Maretus, it was probably during this time that great lamentations were
made, in which the name of the deceased was intermixed with mournful
cries and groans.

Mr. Boyer, member of the Faculty at Paris, observes that such
lamentations are still used by the Eastern Jews, and even by the Greeks
who embrace the articles of the Greek Church. These people hire women
to weep and dance by turns round the body of the dead person, whom they
interrogate with respect to the reasons they had for dying.

Lanzoni, a physician of Ferrara, informs us that “when any person among
the Romans died, his nearest relatives closed his mouth and eyes, and
when they saw him ready to expire, they caught his last words and
sighs. Then calling him aloud three times by his name, they bade him an
eternal adieu.” This ceremony of calling the name of the dying person
was called Conclamation, a custom that dates prior to the foundation of
Rome, and was only abolished with paganism.

Propertius acquaints us with the effect they expected from the
first Conclamation--since there were several of them. He introduces
Cynthia as saying, “Nobody called me by my name at the time my eyes
were closing, and I should have enjoyed an additional day if you had
recalled me to life.”

Conclamations were made also by trumpets and horns, blown upon the
head, into the ears, and upon neck and chest, so as to penetrate all
the cavities of the body, into which, as the ancients imagined, the
soul might possibly make her retreat.

Quenstedt and Casper Barthius, in “Advers.,” lib. xxxvii., ch. 17, tell
us that it was customary among the ancients to wash the bodies of their
dead in warm water before they burned them, “that the heat of the water
might rouse the languid principle of life which might possibly be left
in the body.”

By warm water we are to understand boiling water, as is obvious from
the copious steam arising from the vessel represented in pieces of
statuary in such instances: as also from the Sixth Book of Virgil’s
“Æneid”--“Some of the companions of Æneas, with boiling water taken
from brazen vessels, wash the dead body, and then anoint it.”

The Romans, as Lanzoni informs us, kept the bodies of the dead seven
days before they interred them; and Servius, in his commentary on
Virgil, tells us “that on the eighth day they burned the body, and
on the ninth put its ashes in the grave.” Polydorus and Alexander ab
Alexandro are also of opinion that the Romans kept the dead seven
days; and Gierus affirms that they sometimes did not bury them till
the ninth; but it is easy to believe that they deviated from the most
universal custom when evident and incontestable marks of death rendered
it safe to inter before the usual time. Alexander ab Alexandro also
observes that it was customary among the Greeks to keep the bodies of
their dead seven days before they put them on the funeral pile.

It would have, perhaps, been sufficient to have kept the bodies of the
dead seven days, or nine, or till putrefaction evinced the certainty of
death; but the Romans carried their circumspection farther, since, to
use the words of Quenstedt, “Those who were employed in watching the
dead now and then began their conclamations, and all at once called
the dead person aloud by his name, because, as Celsus informs us, the
principle of life is often thought to have left the body when it still
remains in it; for which reason conclamations were made, in order, if
possible, to rouse it and excite it.”

If our senses are so imperfect that the signs of life may escape
them; if the languid state of the sensitive powers, or the origin of
the nerves, is such that the most painful chirurgical operations are
sometimes insufficient to put the spirits in motion; if the duration
of a perfect insensibility for a considerable number of days is a
precarious and uncertain mark of death; and if situations, apparently
the most inconsistent with life, for a considerable time amount only to
strong presumptions that life is destroyed, we ought, with Mr. Winslow
and a great many other celebrated authors, to conclude that a beginning
of putrefaction is the only certain sign of death.

Mr. Winslow evidently proves that the most cruel chirurgical operations
are sometimes insufficient to ascertain death. From these observations
we can but conclude--(1) That it is to no purpose to use the most
cruel chirurgical operations; and (2) that it is necessary to abstain
from such as may prove mortal to the patient. Mr. Winslow is indeed so
far from recommending operations of the last mentioned kind, that he
calls it rash to plunge a long needle under the nail of an apoplectic
patient’s toe.

But if Mr. Winslow thinks it rash to make a simple puncture in a
nervous part, we ought, surely, not to entertain a favourable notion of
the large and enormous incisions made in dissections. Those, indeed,
who are dissected run no risk of being interred alive. The operation is
an infallible means to secure them from so terrible a fate. This is one
advantage which persons dissected have over those who are without any
further ceremony shut up in their coffins.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the appendix to the second edition of Dr. Curry’s “Observations on
Apparent Death” several instances of a similar kind are added, and
amongst others the case of William Earl of Pembroke, who died April
30, 1630. When the body was opened in order to be embalmed, he was
observed, immediately after the incision was made, to lift up his hand.
This is capped by the incident of Vesalius already given.

“A correspondent of the late Dr. Hawes assures us that there was then
living in Hertfordshire a lady of an ancient and honourable family
whose mother was brought to life after interment by the attempt of a
thief to steal a valuable ring from her finger. (See Reports of the
Royal Humane Society for 1787-88-89, p. 77.) Whether it was the same
or not I cannot say, but Lady Dryden, who resided in the southern part
of Northamptonshire, in consequence of some such event having occurred
in her family expressly directed in her will that her body should
have the throat cut across previous to interment; and to secure this
bequeathed fifty pounds to an eminent physician, who actually performed
it.”--_Ibid., p. 106._

Dr. Elliotson refers to a case of a female who was pronounced to be
dead. Her pulse could not be felt, and she was put into a coffin; and,
as the coffin lid was being closed they observed a sweat break out, and
thus saw that she was alive. She recovered completely, and then stated
that she had been unable to give any signs of life whatever; that she
was conscious of all that was going on around her; that she heard
everything; and that when she found the coffin lid about to be put
on,the agony was dreadful beyond all description, so that it produced
the sweat seen by the attendants.


In two cases related by the late Mr. Braid, of Manchester, “the
patients remained in the horrible condition of hearing various remarks
about their death and interment. All this they heard distinctly
without having the power of giving any indication that they were
alive, until some accidental abrupt impression aroused them from their
lethargy, and rescued them from their perilous situation. On one of
these occasions, what most intensely affected the feelings of the
entranced subject, as she afterwards communicated to my informant,
was hearing a little sister, who came into the room, where she was
laid out for dead, exulting in the prospect, in consequence of her
death, of getting possession of a necklace of the deceased.” In
another instance, the patient remained in a cataleptic condition for
fourteen days. During this period, the visible signs of vitality were a
slight degree of animal heat and appearance of moisture when a mirror
was held close to her face. But although she had no voluntary power
to give indication by word or gesture, nevertheless she heard and
understood all that was said and proposed to be done, and suffered the
most exquisite torture from various tests applied to her.... There is
hardly a more interesting chapter in the records of medical literature
than the history of well-authenticated cases of profound lethargy or
death-trance. Most of the reported cases in which persons in a state
of trance are stated to have been consigned to the horrors of a living
burial may possibly be apocryphal. Still, on the other hand, there are
unquestionably too many well-substantiated instances of the actual
occurrence of this calamity, the horrors of which no effort of the
imagination can exaggerate, and for the prevention of which no pains
can be excessive and no precaution superfluous.

The following is taken from “Memorials of the Family of Scott, of
Scott’s Hall, in the County of Kent, with an Appendix of Illustrative
Documents,” by James Benat Scott, F. S. A., London, 1876, page 225:--

“Robert Scott, Esq., tenth (but sixth surviving) son of Sir Thomas
Scott, of Scot’s-Hall, Knight, married Priscilla, one of the daughters
of Sir Thomas Honywood, of Elmsmere, Knight, by whom he had nine
children. Remarkable accidents happened to the said Robert Scott and
Priscilla, his wife, before their marriage, at their marriage, and
after their marriage, before they had children. At their marriage,
which was in or about the year 1610, the said Robert Scott having
forgot his wedding ring when they were to be married, the said
Priscilla was married with a ring with death’s head upon it.

“Within a short time after they were married, the said Robert Scott,
and Priscilla, his wife, sojourning with Sir Edward at Austenhanger,
the said Robert Scott, about Bartholomewtide, fell sick of a desperate
malignant fever, and was given over for dead by all, insomuch as that
he was laid forth, the pillows pulled from under him, the curtains
drawn, and the chamber windows set open, and ministers spoke to to
preach the funeral service, and a book called for his funeral that was
to have been kept at Scott’s Hall, where Sir John Scott the eldest
brother then lived. At night he was watched with by his own servant,
named Robins, and another servant in the house, and about midnight
they, sitting together by the fire in the chamber, the said Robins said
to the other, ‘Methinks my master should not be dead, I will go and
try,’ and presently starting up went to the bedside where his master
laid, and hallooed in his ear, and laid a feather to his nostrils, and
perceived that he breathed, upon which he called them up in the house,
and they warmed clothes and rubbed him, and brought him to life again.
He lived afterwards to be upwards of seventy-two years of age, and to
have nine children.

“Another remarkable passage was that his wife, Priscilla, being then
very sick also, they told her that he was dead. She answered that she
did not believe that God would part them so soon. The said Priscilla,
when born, was laid for dead, no one minding her, but all the women
went to help her mother, who was then like to die after her delivery;
but at last an old woman, taking the child in her arms, carried it
downstairs, and using means, brought her to life. The other women,
missing the child, and hearing the old woman had carried her down to
get life in her, laughed at her, as thinking it impossible to bring the
child to life; but in a little time she brought it into the chamber, to
the amazement of them all, and said she might live to be an old woman;
and so she did to the age of fifty-two, and had nine children.”

The following cases are from Mrs. Crowe’s “Night Side of Nature,” pp.

“Dr. Burns mentions a girl at Canton, who lay in a trance, hearing
every word that was said around her, but utterly unable to move a
finger. She tried to cry out, but could not, and supposed that she was
really dead. The horror of finding that she was about to be buried at
length caused a perspiration to appear on her skin, and she finally
revived. She described that she felt that her soul had no power to act
upon her body, and that it seemed to be _in her body and out of it at
the same time_.”

“Lady Fanshawe related the case of her mother who being sick of a
fever, her friends and servants thought her deceased, and she lay in
that state for two days and a night; but Mr. Winslow, coming to comfort
my father, went into my mother’s room, and looking earnestly into her
face, said, ‘She was so handsome, and looked so lovely, that he could
not think her dead,’ and, suddenly taking a lancet out of his pocket,
he cut the sole of her foot, which bled: upon this he immediately
caused her to be removed to the bed again, and she opened her eyes,
after rubbing and other restorative means, and came to life.”

“On the 10th of January, 1717, Mr. John Gardner, a minister at Elgin,
fell into a trance, and being to all appearances dead, he was put
into a coffin and on the second day was carried to the grave. But
fortunately a noise being heard, the coffin was opened, and he was
found alive and taken home again, where, according to the record, ‘he
related many strange and amazing things which he had seen in the other

Under the head of “Suspended Animation: Cases of Recovery, etc.,” the
Report of the Royal Humane Society for 1816-17, pp. 48-50, copies
the following:--“A young lady, an attendant on the Princess of----,
after having been confined to her bed for a great length of time with
a violent disorder, was at last to all appearances deprived of life.
Her lips were quite pale, her face resembled the countenance of a dead
person, and her body became cold.

“She was removed from the room in which she died, was laid in a
coffin, and the day of her funeral was fixed on. The day arrived,
and, according to the custom of the country, funeral songs and hymns
were sung before the door. Just as they were about to nail on the lid
of the coffin, a slight perspiration was observed to appear on the
surface of her body. It grew greater every moment, and at last a kind
of convulsive motion was observed in the hands and feet of the corpse.
A few moments after, during which time fresh signs of returning life
appeared, she at once opened her eyes, and uttered a pitiable shriek.
Physicians were quickly procured, and in the course of a few days she
was considerably restored, and is probably alive at this day.”

The description which she herself gave of her situation is extremely
remarkable, and forms a curious and authentic addition to psychology:--

“She said it seemed to her, as if in a dream, that she was really
dead; yet she was perfectly conscious of all that happened around her
in this dreadful state. She distinctly heard her friends speaking,
and lamenting her death at the side of her coffin. She felt them pull
on the dead-clothes and lay her in it. This feeling produced a mental
anxiety which was indescribable. She tried to cry, but her soul was
without power and could not act on her body. She had the contradictory
feeling as if she were in her body, and yet not in it, at one and the
same time. It was equally impossible for her to stretch out her arms,
or to open her eyes, or to cry although she continued to do so. The
internal anguish of her mind was, however, at its utmost height when
the funeral hymns began to be sung, and when the lid of the coffin was
about to be nailed on. The thought that she was to be buried alive was
the first one which gave activity to her soul, and caused it to operate
on her corporeal frame.”

Related by Dr. Herz in the “Psychological Magazine,” and transcribed
by Sir Alexander Crichton in the introduction to his essay on “Mental
Derangement.” [2 vols., Lond., 1798.]

       *       *       *       *       *

“One of the most frightful cases extant is that of Dr. Walker, of
Dublin, who had so strong a presentiment on this subject, that he
had actually written a treatise against the Irish custom of hasty
burial. He, himself, subsequently died, as was believed, of a fever.
His decease took place in the night, and on the following day he was
interred. At this time, Mrs. Bellamy, the once-celebrated actress, was
in Ireland; and as she had promised him, in the course of conversation,
that she would take care he should not be laid in the earth till
unequivocal signs of dissolution had appeared, she no sooner heard of
what had happened than she took measures to have the grave reopened;
but it was, unfortunately, too late. Dr. Walker had evidently revived,
and had turned upon his side; but life was quite extinct.”

Mr. Horace Welby, in a chapter on “Premature Interment,” says that “the
Rev. Owen Manning, the historian of Surrey, during his residence at
Cambridge University, caught small-pox, and was reduced by the disorder
to a state of insensibility and apparent death. The body was laid out
and preparations were made for the funeral, when Mr. Manning’s father,
going into the chamber to take a last look at his son, raised the
imagined corpse from its recumbent position, saying, ‘I will give my
poor boy another chance,’ upon which signs of vitality were apparent.
He was therefore removed by his friend and fellow-student, Dr.
Heberden, and ultimately restored to health.”--_The Mysteries of Life
and Death, pp. 115-116._

       *       *       *       *       *

A most conspicuous and interesting monument in St. Giles’s Church,
Cripplegate, London (where Cromwell was married and John Milton
buried), is associated with a remarkable case of trance or catalepsy.
In the chancel is a striking sculptured figure in memory of Constance
Whitney, a lady of remarkable gifts, whose rare excellences are fully
described in the tablet. She is represented as rising from her coffin.
Welby, at p. 116, relates the story that she had been buried while
in a state of suspended animation, but was restored to life through
the cupidity of the sexton, which induced him to disinter the body to
obtain possession of a valuable ring left upon her finger, which he
concluded could be of no use to the wearer. A study of the facts of
premature burial shows that the rifling of tombs and coffins to obtain
valuables has in other instances revealed similar tragic occurrences.

The often-cited case of Mrs. Goodman, one of those recalled to life by
the sexton’s attempt to remove a ring from the finger, is thus related
in the “History of Bandon,” by George Bennett:--

Hannah, wife of Rev. Richard Goodman, vicar of Ballymodan, Bandon, from
1692 to 1737, fell into ill-health, and apparently died. Two or three
days after her decease, the body was taken to Rosscarbery Cathedral,
and there laid in the family vault of the Goodmans. The attempt of the
sexton to recover a valuable diamond ring from the finger is said to
have been made at an early hour the next morning. Much violence was
used, so that the corpse moved, yawned, and sat up. The sexton having
fled in terror, leaving his lantern behind and the church door open,
the lady in her shroud made her way out of the vault and through the
church to the residence of her brother-in-law, the Rev. Thomas Goodman,
which was just outside the church-yard. Having been admitted after
some delay and consternation, she was put to bed, and fell asleep soon
after, her brother-in-law and his man-servant keeping watch over her
until mid-day, when she awoke refreshed. She is said to have shown
herself in the village in the afternoon, to have supped with the
family in the evening, and to have set out for home on horseback next
morning. She is said to have survived this episode for some years, and
to have borne a son subsequent to it, who died at an advanced age at
Innishannon, a village near Bandon.

In Smith’s “History of Cork,” vol. ii., p. 428, the same incident is
thus mentioned:--“Mr. John Goodman, of Cork, died in January, 1747,
aged about four score; but what is remarkable of him, his mother was
interred while she lay in a trance, having been buried in a vault,
etc.... This Mr. Goodman was born some time after.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Peckard, Master of Magdalen College, Cambridge, in a work entitled
“Further Observations on the Doctrine of an Intermediate State,”
mentions that Mrs. Godfrey, Mistress of the Jewel Office, and sister
of the great Duke of Marlborough, is stated to have lain in a trance,
apparently dead, for seven days, and was declared by her medical
attendants to have been dead. Colonel Godfrey, her husband, would not
allow her to be interred, or the body to be treated in the manner of a
corpse; and on the eighth day she awoke, without any consciousness of
her long insensibility.

The daughter of Henry Laurens, of South Carolina, the first President
of the American Congress during the Revolutionary War, died when young
of small-pox. At all events a medical certificate pronounced her dead,
and she was shrouded and coffined for interment. It was customary in
those days to confine the patient amidst red curtains with closed
windows. After the certificate of death had been duly made out, the
curtains were thrown back and the windows opened. The fresh air revived
the patient, who recovered and lived to a mature age. This circumstance
occasioned on her father so powerful a dread of living interment, that
he directed by will that his body should be burnt, and enjoined on his
children the performance of this wish as a sacred duty.

Bouchut in his “Signes de la Mort,” p. 58, relates that the physician
of Queen Isabella of Spain was treating a man during a dangerous
illness, and as he went to see his patient one morning he was informed
by the assistants that the man had died. He entered, and found the
body, in the habit of the Order of St. Francis, laid out upon a board.
Nothing daunted, he had him put back to bed in spite of the ridicule of
those present, and the patient soon revived and fully recovered.

The following cases are from Köppen (see Bibliography, 1799):--

Vienna. 1791.--A castle guard (_portier_) was in a trance for several
days. His funeral was prepared, and he was placed in a coffin. All at
once he unexpectedly opened his eyes and called out, “Mother, where is
the coffee?”

Halle, 1753.--In the register of deaths, at St. Mary’s Church, is the
following entry:--“Shoemaker Casper Koch was buried, aged eighty-one
years. Thirty years ago he had died, to all appearances, and was put in
a coffin, when suddenly, when they were about to bury him, he recovered
his consciousness.”

Haag, Holland, 1785.--The son of a cook died, and while the coffin was
being carried to the grave-yard, he was heard to knock. On opening the
coffin he was found alive. He was taken home and was restored.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the “Cyclopædia of Practical Medicine,” edited by John Forbes, M.D.,
F.R.S., and others, 1847, vol. i., pp. 548-549, is the following:--“A
remarkable instance of resuscitation after apparent death occurred
in France, in the neighbourhood of Douai, in the year 1745, and is
related by Rigaudeaux, (_Journal des Sçavans_, 1749,) to whom the
case was confided. He was summoned in the morning to attend a woman
in labour, at a distance of about a league. On his arrival, he was
informed that she had died in a convulsive fit two hours previously.
The body was already prepared for interment, and on examination he
could discover no indications of life. The os uteri was sufficiently
dilated to enable him to turn the child and deliver by the feet. The
child appeared to be dead also; but, by persevering in the means of
resuscitation for three hours, they excited some signs of vitality,
which encouraged them to proceed, and their endeavours were ultimately
crowned with complete success. Rigaudeaux again carefully examined the
mother, and was confirmed in the belief of her death; but he found
that, although she had been in that state for seven hours, her limbs
retained their flexibility. Stimulants were applied in vain; he took
his leave, recommending that the interment should be deferred until
the flexibility was lost. At five p.m. a messenger came to inform him
that she had revived at half-past three. The mother and child were both
alive three years after.”



THE danger of premature burial of still-born (apparently dead) infants
is clearly shown by the following quotation from Tidy’s “Legal
Medicine,” part ii., page 253, from tables given on the authority
of the _British and Foreign Medical Review_, No. ii., p. 235, based
on eight millions of births. “It would appear that from one in
eighteen to one in twenty births are still-born. Dr. Lever found that
the proportion in his three thousand cases was one in eighteen. So
notorious is it that a large number of these deaths could be averted,
that some legislation is urgently needed, requiring that still-borns,
whose bodies weigh, say, not less than two pounds (the average weight
about the sixth and seventh months at which children are viable),
should not be buried without registration and a medical examination.”

Many instances can be found in current medical literature of still-born
infants that have been revived by artificial respiration. Such cases
not infrequently revive without any means being employed for their
resuscitation; but among the poor, who dispose of the new-born
apparently dead in a hasty manner, they might be buried alive through
carelessness. The use of mortuaries, where the seeming dead would be
kept under observation until decomposition appears, would of course
prevent such disasters.

Struve, in the Essay cited in the Bibliography (1802), says:--

“All still-born children should be considered as only apparently dead,
and the resuscitative process ought never to be neglected. Sometimes
two hours or more will elapse before reanimation can be effected. An
ingenious man-midwife, says Bruhier, was employed for several hours in
the revival of an apparently still-born child, and as his endeavours
proved unavailing, he considered the subject really dead. Being,
however, accidentally detained, he again turned his attention to the
child, and by continuing the resuscitative method for some time it was
unexpectedly restored to life” (p. 150).

The following is one of Struve’s most striking cases:--

A Mr. E.---- called in 18---- to obtain a certificate of death for a
still-born child of seven months’ gestation. Arriving at the house,
the doctor found the child laid upon a little straw and covered with
a slight black shawl; this was one p.m., and the child had been there
since five a.m. It was icy cold, and there was no heart sound nor
respiration, but there was a slight muscular twitching over the region
of the heart. The child was immersed in a hot bath and artificial
respiration employed, but for twenty minutes the case seemed hopeless;
then the eyes opened and after continued effort the respirations began,
laborious and interrupted at first, then normal by degrees. The child
was saved, and became an accomplished violinist.

The mortality and waste of infant life, particularly in large cities
like Paris, London, Berlin, Vienna, and New York, is admitted by all
investigators to be enormous. In France medical writers, in view of
the small percentage of births to population, are waking up to the
realisation that the State cannot afford the loss, and that, among
other things, steps should be taken to resuscitate the still-born,
so that none should be buried before unequivocal signs of death are
manifested.[21] The premature abandonment of the still-born among the
poorer classes in crowded cities is only too probable. There are also
cases recorded which show a corresponding risk to infants who have
survived their birth:--

The _British Medical Journal_, January 21, 1871, p. 71, gives the
following case, under the heading, “Alive in a Coffin”:--“Stories of
this kind are generally very apocryphal; but the following reaches us
from an authentic source. A child narrowly escaped being buried alive
last week in Manchester. The infant’s father had died, and was to be
buried in Ardwick Cemetery. The day before the burial the infant was
taken ill, and apparently died. A certificate of death was procured
from a surgeon’s assistant who had seen the child, and, to save
expense, it was decided to place it in the same coffin with the father.
This was done, and the next morning the bearers set off to the cemetery
with their double burden; but before reaching the grave-yard a cry was
heard to issue from the coffin. The lid being removed, the infant was
discovered alive and kicking. It was at once removed to a neighbour’s
house, but died eight hours afterwards.

The _British Medical Journal_, 1885, ii., p. 841, gives the following
case, under the heading, “Death or Coma?”

“The close similarity which is occasionally seen to connect the
appearance of death with that of exhaustion following disease, was
lately illustrated in a somewhat striking manner. An infant seized with
convulsions was supposed to have died about three weeks ago at Stamford
Hill. After five days’ interval, preparations were being made for its
interment, when, at the grave’s mouth, a cry was heard to come from the
coffin. The lid was taken off, and the child was found to be alive; it
was taken home, and is recovering.”

The following is from Tidy’s “Legal Medicine,” pt. i., p. 29:--

“In a communication to the French Academy, Professor Fort mentions
a child (_ætat._ three) having been resuscitated by artificial
respiration continued for four hours, and not commenced until three and
a half hours after its apparent decease.

“Ogston records one case of a child alive for seven hours, and a second
case of a young woman alive for four hours, after they had been left as

From the _Lancet_, April 22, 1882, p. 675:--


 “A daily contemporary states that at the gates of the Avignon cemetery
 the parents of a child certified to have died of croup insisted on
 having the coffin opened to take a last look. The child was found
 breathing, and is expected to be saved.”

The following letter to the editor of the _Lancet_, March 31, 1866, p.
360, illustrates the danger to which infants supposed to be dead are
exposed, under one of our traditional customs:--


 “Sir,--In your journal of last Saturday, among the ‘Medical
 Annotations,’ you notice the inquiry into the circumstances under
 which an infant, being still living and moving, was ‘bandaged’
 beneath the chin, and ‘laid-out’ at St. Pancras Workhouse. Allow me
 to state that in the _Lancet_, vol. ii., 1850, a contribution from me
 ‘On the Danger of Tying-up the Lower Jaw immediately after Supposed
 Death’ was published. An infant, aged two months, was brought to me
 on a Friday with the lower jaw tied up by its mother, who asked for a
 certificate of death; but on my removing the bandage, the child began
 to show symptoms of vitality, and it lived until the following Monday.

  C. J. B. ALDIS, M.D., F.R.C.P.

 “Chester Terrace, Chester Square, March 26, 1866.”

It is recorded that Dr. Doddridge showed so little signs of life at
his birth that he was laid aside as dead, but one of the attendants
observing some signs of life, took the baby under her charge, and by
her judicious treatment perfectly restored it.

Mr. Highmore, Secretary of the London Lying-in Hospital, confirmed
(by a communication to the Royal Humane Society, April, 1816,) the
statement of Mrs. Catherine Widgen, the matron of that excellent
establishment, that, by a zealous perseverance in the means recommended
by that Society, she had been the happy instrument of restoring from
a state of apparent death in the space of _three years_ no less than
forty-five infants, who, but for her humane attention and indefatigable
exertions, must have been consigned to the grave. Later on, Mrs. Widgen
restored in one year twenty-seven apparently dead-born children--a
striking instance of the truth of the remark of a celebrated writer
(Osiander) that “the generality of infants, considered as still-born,
are only apparently so; if, therefore, persons would persevere in their
exertions to revive them, most of them might be restored.”--_Report of
the Royal Humane Society, 1816-17, pp. 52-54._

“For these exertions the General Court adjudged the Honorary Medallion
to Mrs. Widgen, and it was accordingly presented to her by His Royal
Highness the Duke of Kent.”--_Ibid., p. 52._

[The question naturally suggests itself in this place: If the matron
of such a noble institution as the above was able to save seventy-two
apparently dead children from the grave in four years, how many of
these poor little beings are consigned to the grave all over the world
for lack of the “humane attention and indefatigable exertions,” such as
this skilful matron gave to those that came under her intelligent care?]


“A child, who had a cough for some time, was suddenly attacked with
difficulty of breathing, and _to all appearances died_. A medical
gentleman immediately inflated the lungs, and by persisting in this
for a considerable time, recovered the child. A similar state of
suspended animation took place three or four times, and inflation
was as often had recourse to with the same success; but the attack,
happening, unfortunately, to recur whilst the medical gentleman in
whose family the case happened was from home, the proper measures were
not taken, and the child was lost.”--_Ibid., p. 140._


“A boy was struck down by a flash of lightning near Hoxton (in the
suburbs of London), and lay exposed to the rain at least an hour, until
his companions carried him home on some boards, apparently dead--the
body being stiff and universally cold, the fingers and toes contracted,
and the countenance livid. He was stripped of his wet clothes, put in
hot blankets, and bled twenty ounces. In half an hour, interrupted
respiration commenced, without inflating the lungs; in an hour more,
regular pulsation and breathing were established, together with power
of swallowing; and in a week he was quite well.”--_Ibid., p. 147._

In the _Lancet_, 1884, vol. i., p. 922, W. Arnold Thompson, F.R.C.S.I.,
reports a case of resuscitation of a child delivered by the forceps,
which was “apparently to myself [he says] and the nurse and relatives,
a perfectly dead child, and with no signs of respiration or life about
it.... My opinion was that the death was real and positive, but that,
there being no actual disease present, and the blood still warm, the
machinery of life was set going, and resuscitation followed as a
consequence of suitable means being taken and persevered in without
undue delay. In the future I do not intend to allow any still-born
children to be put away without making strenuous efforts to restore

The _Lancet_, 1880, vol. ii., p. 582:--In a discussion at the Royal
Medical and Chirurgical Society upon Artificial Respiration in New-born
Children, Dr. Roper related three cases in which the child was left
for dead. “One of these occurred in the practice of Mr. Brown, of St.
Mary Axe. The child was still-born in the absence of a medical man. It
was taken to the surgery, and thence to the late Mr. Solly, who next
day, in dissecting the body, found that the heart was still beating.
A second instance was of a fœtus of five months and a half, which was
set aside as dead, Dr. Roper attending the mother, who was suffering
from hæmorrhage. He was astonished next day to find that this immature
child, which had lain on the floor for eleven hours through a cold
night, was breathing and its heart beating....” Such examples show that
the new-born have greater tenacity of life than is supposed.

The _Lancet_, 1881, vol. ii., p. 430, under the heading of “The
Burial of Still-born Infants,” states that “Greater security for the
due observance of these necessary regulations (the Births and Deaths
Registration Act of 1874), for the burial of infants said to be
still-born, is urgently called for. It is constantly patent that the
burial of deceased infants as still-born, if checked, is by no means
prevented; and that the authorities of burial grounds, by their laxity
in carrying out the provisions of the Act, afford dangerous facilities
for the concealment of crime, or negligence, and for a practice which
threatens to impair the value of our birth and death registration
statistics; for, if a live-born infant be buried as still-born, neither
its birth nor its death is registered.”

A case of forceps-delivery occurred in the hands of the writer
(E.P.V.), in which the child, when extracted, was quite purple in
colour, and absolutely dead to all appearances--there was no breathing
nor impulse to be found anywhere. After some efforts at resuscitation
in the way of artificial respiration--not very thoroughly done, nor
much prolonged (for the child was believed to be dead)--with a warm
bath and frictions, it was laid aside and covered up. At a subsequent
visit some hours later, the child was found in the nurse’s lap,
completely recovered, and changed in colour to a bright pink. The nurse
said she did not like to give the little fellow up, and by breathing
into his mouth for some time he showed returning life, and by keeping
it up he soon began to breathe himself.

Cases like this are believed to be not infrequent, because physicians
and nurses are not, as a general rule, aware of the great tenacity of
life possessed by the new-born infant.

“_Still-births_ are not registered in England; but, under the
new Registration Act, no still-born child can be buried without
a certificate from a registered practitioner in attendance, or
a declaration from a midwife, to the effect that the child was
still-born. The proportion of still-births in this country is supposed
to be about four per cent., but this is uncertain.”--A. NEWSHOLME,
_Vital Statistics, 1889, p. 61_.

“The proportion of deaths from premature births, compared with the
total number of births, in 1861-65 was 11·19 to 1,000 births; since
which time it has steadily increased, reaching the ratio of 15·89 per
births in 1,000 in 1887.”--_Ibid., p. 216._

The same author, p. 17, states that “a certain proportion of the
_births remain unregistered_(_a_). There is strong reason for thinking
that a certain number of children born alive are buried as still-born.”



THIS is perhaps the best known and most generally appreciated occasion
of rescuing the apparently dead. The high degree in which it has
excited public sympathy will appear from a glance at that section of
the “Bibliography” (towards the end of the eighteenth century) which
gives the titles of essays and reports connected with the Royal Humane
Society and the corresponding foreign institutions upon which our own
was modelled. The following general remarks and cases are from the
essay of Dr. Struve, of Görlitz, Lusatia, 1802:--

“A great number of persons apparently drowned have been restored
to life without the use of stimulants, merely by the renovated
susceptibility of irritation. I have collected thirty-six cases of
persons apparently drowned in Lusatia from the year 1772 to the year
1792. Most of them were treated by uninformed people, and revived by
friction and warming; two persons, however, were indebted for their
lives to the continuation of the resuscitative process for several
hours. The greatest number were children; which is to be ascribed not
only to the greater danger to which they are exposed of drowning, but
also to the longer continuance of vital power in the infant frame” (p.

“A boy of about a year and a half old had lain upwards of a quarter
of an hour in the water, and was found face downwards, and the whole
body livid and swollen. He was undressed, wiped dry, and wrapped in
warm blankets; but the most particular part of the process was rolling
the body upon a table, shaking it by the shoulders, and rubbing the
feet. This having been continued for an hour, a convulsive motion
was observed in the toes; sneezing was excited by snuff; the tongue
stimulated by strong vinegar; the throat irritated with a feather; an
injection given. The child vomited a large quantity of water, and in an
hour afterwards began to breathe, and was completely restored to life”
(p. 137).

“A woman upwards of thirty years of age, and who was affected with
epilepsy, fell in a fit from a height of twenty feet into the water,
where she remained a full quarter of an hour before she was taken out.
Mr. Redlich, surgeon, of Hamburg, had her put into a bed warmed by hot
bottles; she was rubbed with warm flannels, some spirits were dropped
into her mouth, when in a quarter of an hour symptoms of life, such as
convulsive motion and a very weak pulse, appeared. In three hours from
the time she was taken out of the water she recovered completely” (p.

Dr. Charles Londe, in a remarkable pamphlet (“Lettre sur la Mort
Apparente, les Conséquences Réelles des Inhumations Précipitées, et
le Temps Pendent lequel peut persister l’Aptitude à étre Rapellé à la
Vie.” Paris, Bailliére, 1854), records some instances of narrow escapes
from premature burial of the drowned, one of which may be cited:--

“On the 13th of July, 1829, about two p.m., near the Pont des Arts,
Paris, a body, which appeared lifeless, was taken out of the river.
It was that of a young man, twenty years of age, dark-complexioned,
and strongly built. The corpse was discoloured and cold; the face and
lips swollen and tinged with blue; a thick and yellowish froth exuded
from the mouth; the eyes were open, fixed, and motionless; the limbs
limp and drooping. _No pulsation of the heart nor trace of respiration
was perceptible._ The body had remained under water for a considerable
time; the search for it, made in Dr. Bourgeois’s presence, lasted
fully twenty minutes. That gentleman did not hesitate to incur the
derision of the lookers-on by proceeding to attempt the resuscitation
of what, in their eyes, was a mere lump of clay. Nevertheless, several
hours afterwards, the supposed corpse was restored to life, thanks to
the obstinate perseverance of the doctor, who, although a strong man
and enjoying robust health, was several times on the point of losing
courage and abandoning the patient in despair. But what would have
happened if Dr. Bourgeois, instead of persistently remaining stooping
over the inanimate body, with watchful eye and _attentive ear_, to
catch the first rustling of the heart, had left the drowned man, after
half an hour’s fruitless endeavour, as often happens? The unfortunate
man would have been laid in the grave, _although capable of restoration
to life_!”

To this case, Dr. Bourgeois, in the “Archives de Medecine,” adds
others, in which individuals remained under water as long as SIX HOURS,
and were recalled to life by efforts which a weaker conviction than his
own would have refrained from making. These facts lead Dr. Londe to the
conclusion that, _every day, drowned individuals are buried, who, with
greater perseverance, might be restored to life_!

The following case in point appears in the _Sunnyside_, New York,
communicated by J. W. Green, M.D.:--

“A few years since I was walking by the Central Park, near One Hundred
and Tenth Street and Fifth Avenue. Noticing a crowd that was acting in
an unusual manner by the side of the lake, I approached and inquired of
one of the bystanders what was the cause of the excitement. He replied,
‘A boy is drowned.’ I advanced to the edge of the water, and saw two
or three men in the water searching for the body. As they had not yet
discovered it, I made enquiries, and found at last a small boy who had
been a comrade of the victim. He showed me the spot from which the boy
had fallen. I then pointed out to the searchers where to look, and
immediately the body was recovered. I took it at once from the hands of
the person who had it, and held it reversed, in order to disembarrass
it of all the water possible, for a minute or two, then stripped it of
its clothing, sent for a blanket and brandy. I took a woollen coat from
one of the bystanders until the blanket should arrive, laid the child
upon it and commenced to rotate it. This I continued to do for at least
fifteen minutes by the watch. I then tried auscultation; no murmur
could be heard.

“The skin was cold, the lips were blue. Every artery was still. With
all these signs of death present it was still obligatory upon me to
persevere. At the end of fifteen minutes there was a slight gasp. A
small quantity of brandy was placed upon the tongue. A little of this
ran into the larynx, and the stimulation was sufficient to produce
a long inspiration and then a cough. This was more than a half-hour
from the time when the boy had been removed from the water. Complete
restoration did not occur until nearly an hour from that time. He was
now given to his mother, and I was informed on the following day that
he entirely recovered, without an unfavourable symptom.”

The three following cases of resuscitation from apparent death by
drowning are copied from the most recent reports of the Royal Humane
Society, London:--

“On 13th of August, 1895, Samuel Lawrence, aged five years, while
playing on the bank of a disused clay-pit at South Bank, Yorkshire,
fell into the water and sank. Two of his companions dived into the
water, and brought him up after a submersion of from seven to ten
minutes in an unconscious state. Two working men commenced artificial
respiration, and Dr. Steele continued it for ten hours before the boy
showed signs of returning sensibility and his complete recovery.”

“October 6th, 1895.--At Deptford, Surrey, a woman with a baby in her
arms threw herself into the canal. They were rescued by the Royal
Humane Society’s drags. Two ladies took possession of the bodies (time
of submersion not stated), and they employed Silvester’s system of
artificial respiration with success, in the case of the woman in about
one hour, and with the child one hour and a half.”

“August 6th, 1895.--At Bradford, England, Rudolf Pratt, a clerk
with Midland R.R. Company, was bathing, and sank in deep water. A
bystander by diving brought him up. After a submersion of five minutes,
unconscious, and not breathing, Dr. Oldham restored respiration by
Sylvester’s method after one and a half hour’s treatment.”

These three cases are instructive on account of the length of time
animation remained suspended before it could be aroused to a state of
activity; and they lead to the belief that many cases that are given up
as actually dead could be saved if efforts at resuscitation were kept
up for a lengthened period, as in the first case.

In cases of drowning some persons are quickly revived after a long
submersion; others again who are under water only a short time require
artificial respiration for a long time before they show signs of
returning life, as was the case with Samuel Lawrence, who was submerged
only ten minutes, yet required ten hours’ active treatment to revive




AS an illustration of hasty burials dealt with in Chapter X.
the following case is cited from the _King’s County Chronicle_,
Parsonstown, Ireland, August 27, 1896:--


“Thursday--Present: T. Jackson, D.V.C., in the chair; L. S. Maher,
J.P.; M. Bergin, J.P.; W. J. Menton, W. Jackson, P. Roe.

“Mr. Roe--You made short work of Jack Ryan at the chapel of Knock. He
was alive and speaking at three o’clock, and buried at six the same
day. The Master stated that, it being supposed the man died from an
infectious disease, no person would assist in coffining him till a
message came asking that he (the Master) would send out some of the
male inmates, and he sent two and had him coffined and interred. Mr.
Roe--The man was not cold when he was buried. Master--The nun tells
me the man had an ounce of tobacco clasped tightly in his hands.
Chairman--What disease had he? Clerk--Pneumonia was certified by
the doctor. The people believed that he had died from an infectious
disease, and insisted he should be buried immediately. Mr. Roe--It was
certainly short work--a man dying at three o’clock and buried at six.
Master--This man was married to a woman who was a nurse in the old
Donoughmore workhouse, and they lived at Drumar, Knock.”[22]


Reference has been made in this volume to the discoveries of premature
burial brought to light during the investigations of charnel-houses
in France, and the removal of grave-yards, necessitated through the
rapid expansion of towns, in America. The _Casket_, Rochester, New
York, U.S., of March 2, 1896, gives a detailed narrative of recent
discoveries made by T. M. Montgomery in the removal of Fort Randall
Cemetery, with the condition of the bodies found as to decay or state
of preservation, and says:--

“We found among these remains two that bore every evidence of having
been buried alive. The first case was that of a soldier that had been
struck by lightning. Upon opening the lid of the coffin we found that
the legs and arms had drawn up as far as the confines of the coffin
would permit. The other was a case of death resulting from alcoholism.
The body was slightly turned, the legs were drawn up a trifle, and the
hands were clutching the clothing. In the coffin was found a large
whisky flask, showing that those who buried him were not his friends,
or else that they too were afflicted with the disease that had cut
short the life of their companion.

“It occurred to us at that time that this was a great argument in
favour of incineration. Nearly two per cent. of those exhumed here
were, no doubt, victims of suspended animation. Once before in our
experience have we noted this; and while not believing in as large a
percentage of live burials as the radical advocates of cremation claim,
yet we know that the percentage is larger than most scientists give.
Disinterment is the only solution of the question. In regard to these
two cases, we wish to say that science has proved that electricity does
not always kill, and that persons addicted to the liquor habit, after
long debauches, sometimes relapse into a comatose state, and are to all
appearances dead. Statistics show that a great many die annually of
these causes, hence the percentage in cases of this kind must be very
large. What is the remedy?”


The _Casket_, Rochester, New York, September, 1896, observes:--At
different times considerable opposition has been raised against
embalming by Boards of Health and other officials in various
localities, on account of the haste with which the embalmer proceeds
with his duties. A few recent cases of supposed corpses recovering, one
of which occurred in Philadelphia, Pa., have revived the question, and
it is reported that the Philadelphia Board of Health may take action
looking to the enactment of a law prescribing the period of time which
should elapse after death before a body should be embalmed.

In a recent issue of the Philadelphia _Times_, Funeral-Director John J.
O’Rourke, a well-known professional of that city, expresses himself on
the subject as follows:--

“These two narrow escapes from burial alive have further impressed me
with one of the perils attending the disposition of the dead--I mean
the danger of hasty embalming. As you know, in most cases the doctor
who has had the patient is not called in after death, and very often
the relatives of the deceased expect the undertaker, if embalming is to
be done, to proceed with it at once. All the embalming schools teach
that the only proper way to thus treat the body is by use of fluids
through the arteries. But in the lectures on the subject no period that
should be permitted to elapse before it is begun is prescribed, and, as
a rule, it follows dissolution as quickly as possible.

“I contend that there should be some law or official rule governing
the matter, because after the artery is punctured and the fluid goes
through the whole body, it is sure to destroy any spark of life that
might remain. I have never met with any cases of resuscitation myself,
but have had instances of deaths that made me hesitate in the work
of embalming. Some months ago a man came to me fifteen minutes after
a relative had breathed his last, and asked me to embalm the body. I
went to the house, and, after seeing the corpse, refused, saying that
I would not do it until after the expiration of twelve hours. The man
had died of consumption, yet, for fear of it being a case of suspended
animation, I would take no chances.

“At another time a person had died of dropsy. Within half an hour I was
summoned. The attending physician had not been there, and twenty-four
hours afterwards he gave a certificate of death from cancer. The body
was very warm when I arrived, and neighbours who had kindly volunteered
to prepare it were doubtful if life was extinct. I had the corpse laid
on an embalming table for two hours, and then placed it in what is
known as a Saratoga patent box, in which are pans filled with salted
ice, so arranged that cold air circulates around the body. Had this
been a case of suspended animation, it would have taken several hours
to dispel the heat within the corpse.

“Of course there are some supposed unmistakable signs. The only
positive signs of dissolution are those which depend on molecular
change or death-rigidity of the muscles of the whole body, and
putrefaction of the tissues. These are most marked in organs and
tissues the vital functions of which are the most active. The action
of the heart, the movements of respiration, may be reduced as to be
altogether imperceptible, so that the functions of circulation and
respiration appear to be arrested. This is occasionally observed in
temporary syncope, in which a person to all appearances dead has, after
a time, regained consciousness and recovered.

“The peculiar condition of the nervous system called catalepsy, and
the state of trance, are likewise further examples of the so-called
apparent deaths; but, on the occurrence of actual death, the
irritability of the muscles by degrees disappears, electricity no
longer excites their contraction, and then cadaverous rigidity sets
in.... Some action will, in all probability, be urged upon the next
Legislature or upon the Board of Health.”



IN the sixteenth Council of Milan, Saint Charles Borromeo prohibited
burials before twelve hours after ordinary cases of death, and
twenty-four hours after cases of sudden death. As early as the
sixteenth century serious attention in the examination of the dead
was made obligatory by the enactment of Article 149 of the Criminal
Statutes of Charles the Fifth. This was the foundation of legal
medicine in Germany. In France, a similar ordinance was first
established in 1789.


_Act of April 10th, 1869._

No burial is allowed without the written permission of the Civil
Recorder, granted upon the production of a certificate of a qualified
physician, and not until thirty-six hours have elapsed after death,
nor later than the fifth day after death. But this regulation can be
set aside, and a longer period allowed, by the Burgomaster, on the
application of a doctor.

Dead-houses are in use for bodies dead of infectious diseases.


Death must first be established by a licensed physician, who carefully
examines the body for that purpose, and, if satisfied, then issues
a certificate which states the name, age, sex, place, and date, and
immediate cause of death. The certificate is taken within twenty-four
hours after the death to the Standesamt, where the death is recorded,
and a certificate to that effect is given, and presented to the
Cemetery Commission, which assigns the place of burial. The corpse is
required to remain unburied three days, either at the place of death or
at the mortuary, where it is under the observation of attendants; but
there is no State-appointed inspector of the dead, nor electric bells
or other means for announcing and recording any movements of the body.
The system of inspection and certification by qualified physicians,
with the delay of three days, and the favourable condition of the
dead-houses, have been the means of preventing the living from being
mistaken for the dead in a number of cases.


Interments must not take place, according to Article 77 of the Code
Napoleon, before twenty-four hours of death, but in practice it is
twenty-four hours after death-notification by the _mort-verificateur_.
During epidemics, or when deaths occur from infectious or contagious
diseases, the interments must invariably be made within twenty-four
hours of death.

Article 77 of the Civil Code states that “No burial shall take place
without an authorisation, on free paper and without expense, of the
officer of the Civil State, who will not be empowered to deliver it,
unless after having visited the deceased person, nor unless twenty-four
hours after the decease, except in cases provided for by the
regulations of the police.” It results from this that no corpse can be
buried before a minimum delay of twenty-four hours shall have expired
after the decease. The formal record of the decease must be made by the
officer of the Civil State (the mayor), or, which is what takes place
in most of the communes, by a medical man delegated by the mayor, and
who takes the title of medical officer of the Civil State.

The Article 77 of the Civil Code is generally strictly observed in
Paris and in other cities of France. The obligation to await the delay
of twenty-four hours is intended to prevent too hasty burials. One
considers, in fact, that that delay is generally necessary in order to
be able to have certain proofs of death.

By Article 358 of the Penal Code, the burial of a deceased person
without such authorisation is punishable by a maximum period of two
months’ imprisonment, and a maximum fine of fifty francs, without
prejudice to other criminal proceedings which may be applicable under
the circumstances.

Exceptions, however, have been established in certain cases. For
example, in times of epidemics, or of too rapid decomposition of the
corpse in the usual case, there is urgent need, in fact, to bury the
body of a person attacked with a contagious or epidemic malady, in
order to suppress one of the causes of propagation of the epidemic,
or of the contagion. In the second case, it is understood that one
could not keep longer, without danger to the public health, a corpse
in complete putrefaction. There is occasion also to observe that, in
these circumstances, the end which the legislator has proposed to
himself is equally obtained, since there cannot be any doubt as to the
real death. However that may be, it is the mayor (officer of the Civil
State) to whom it appertains, according to the terms of the Article
77 of the Civil Code, to give authority to bury; and if he gives that
authorisation before the expiration of the delay of twenty-four hours,
it is after having established by himself, or by the medical officer
of the Civil State, the fact of its necessity, resulting from the
circumstances of which we have just spoken.

It is to be remarked that the Article 77 fixes a _minimum_ and _not a
maximum_ delay. It is always the mayor to whom it appertains to fix
the day and the hour of the burial, and there may happen such and such
a circumstance which necessitates a delay of the obsequies. The mayor
need only assure himself in that case that no danger will result to the
public health, which naturally is the case when the corpse is embalmed,
or is placed in a leaden coffin.

Outside Paris and other large cities, and especially in the rural
districts, much laxity prevails both as to verification of death and
the time of burial, and cases of premature burial are not infrequent.


The laws relative to funerals and burials are very strict--perhaps the
most thorough in their requirements of any in Europe. They provide for
a very careful inspection of the body by medical inspectors, quite
independently of the attending physicians, in order to ascertain if the
death be absolute. Minute and specific official directions guide them
as to the method of examination and the signs of death to be looked
for. And they further provide for carrying out any particular method,
as to which the deceased may have given directions, in order to prevent
a possible revival in the coffin. Should the surviving relatives
desire it, a _post-mortem_ operation may be made upon the body, in the
presence of the medical inspectors and the police; in which case the
heart is pierced through; and a full report of the operations must be
forwarded to the civic magistrate. A fee of six florins is allowed for
such an operation.


Every death to be inquired into by the municipal physician. The first
of five objects is to ascertain whether the person be really dead.
In examining whether there are any remaining indications of life, he
will rely not upon any one sign, nor even upon putrefaction, but upon
the totality of the signs of death. If there are any indications of
life remaining, he must at once institute the means of resuscitation
approved by science, and continue them until such time as the family
medical attendant is assured of their uselessness. If there be any
doubt as to the reality of the death, a second inspection of the body
is to be made by the municipal physician within twenty-four hours.
Burial, as a rule, is not to be until forty-eight hours after death;
but the interval may be shortened in cases of infectious diseases or of
unusually rapid decomposition.


_Vice-Governor’s Order of 29th April, 1894._

Every death to be inquired into by the parish physician, or a deputy
appointed by the mayor. The first of six objects of the inquest is
to ascertain whether the person be really dead. In the event of a
non-medical examiner discovering signs of life, he is to send for a
doctor. Inasmuch as decomposition, the only sure sign of death, is, as
a rule, a phenomenon of later occurrence than the time appointed for
the inquest (within twelve hours of the notification of death), the
examining person must base his certainty of the extinction of life, not
upon one sign, but upon the totality of the signs of death.


_Law of 20th July, 1850._

The burial of a corpse must not take place until seventy-two hours
after death, and the signs of decomposition are clearly visible.
Any proposed departure from this rule, in the event of earlier
putrefaction, or the absence of decomposition at the end of
seventy-two hours, requires the authority of a physician called in.
By the above Law, the following Orders are suspended: (1) the Order
of 11th February, 1792, concerning the treatment of the dead, and
the precautions necessary to prevent the apparently dead from being
buried prematurely; (2) the General Order of 13th February, 1801,
concerning precautionary measures in the burial of those dead of
infectious diseases; (3) the Law of 22nd June, 1841, together with the
Administrative Orders, concerning the examination of corpses and the
establishment of mortuaries.


_Order of 30th October, 1848._

The ordinance hitherto in force, as to making an incision in the
sole of the foot in cases of patients who die in the hospitals, is
abolished; the hospital physicians to use their discretion whether or
not the incision should be made; but, in cases for which is demanded
an earlier burial than is usually prescribed, whether they have been
hospital or private patients, the incision is to be made in the sole
of the foot at the end of the second inspection, and every other means
taken to ascertain whether the death be apparent or real.


1. The prevailing custom for Christians and Mahomedans is to bury the
dead. The Hindoos burn them as a rule, but many prefer to throw them
into a sacred river, particularly the Ganges or its tributaries, if
they can do so unmolested by the authorities.

2. There are no mortuaries. The signs which are assumed to indicate
death are the various conditions and appearances when animation is

3. Cases of revival from supposed death are sometimes heard of among
the Hindoos, who regard such persons as outcasts. If the signs of
returning life are not very manifest when a person begins to revive,
he is sometimes killed by stuffing the mouth and nose with mud, which
generally accomplishes the object.


1. There are no laws or regulations in India for the disposal of
the dead. The customs and formalities follow the traditions and
requirements of religious belief.

 _a._ The Hindoos burn their dead immediately after death takes place.

 _b._ The Parsees take their dead to a “Tower of Silence” as soon as
 death takes place, and, after certain prescribed ceremonies, the body
 is speedily devoured by vultures.

 _c._ The Europeans and Mahomedans bury their dead within from
 twenty-four to forty-eight hours, because putrefaction usually sets in
 soon after death on account of the heat and humidity of the climate.

2. There are no mortuaries, excepting in connection with hospitals,
where observations can be made.


1. There are no laws nor regulations relative to the disposal of
the dead, excepting in cases requiring an inquest or _post-mortem_
examination. The custom is to bury within twenty-four to thirty hours
after death, but the time is sometimes extended to two or three days.

2. There are no dead-houses, except at the hospitals, which are under
the management of the superintendent.

3. The certificate of the medical attendant is sufficient for burial
purposes. The complete cessation of respiration and the heart’s action
are considered an absolute indication of death. When decomposition sets
in, it usually appears within twenty-four hours after death, although
in winter that process may be longer delayed.


Orthodox Russians keep their dead three days before burial. During that
time the body lies with the face uncovered, and a deacon chants and
prays over it twice a day. A medical certificate of death is imperative
before burial.


Burials are regulated by the Communal Council in accordance with law.
The system is complicated, but thorough. The medical men connected with
the Government Medical Service (“Doctors of the Civil Government”) have
the sole control of the examinations of deaths, as well as births,
accidents, sudden deaths, suicides; and attend to burials, autopsies,
postponements of burials, etc., on their own motion. Interments usually
take place within forty-eight hours of death, but they may be carried
out sooner during epidemics for the public safety.

There are mortuaries in the city and suburbs, to which bodies may
be taken at the request of surviving relatives, or by the order of
the health authorities, according to private necessities or for the
public safety. Except by the special authorisation of the officers of
the civil government, bodies cannot remain in the mortuaries longer
than forty-eight hours; and a burial cannot take place in less than
twenty-four hours. Special care is taken to test the reality of
death in still-born infants, and efforts are made to revive them, as
well as all other cases of seeming death. In cases of women dying
during advanced pregnancy, the infant must be roused by artificial
respiration, in order to restore animation if possible. The process
for obtaining a delay for burial is intricate and cumbersome, and to a
foreigner unaccustomed to the language and the local usages the chances
would be against securing such a permit before the time allowed for
burial had transpired.


Mortuaries are connected with all the churches, cemeteries, and some
of the hospitals, and are growing in favour in the country places; but
as yet they are unprovided with any appliances for the resuscitation
of the apparently dead, or for the prevention of premature burials.
No corpse, however, is allowed to be taken to a mortuary before it
has been inspected, and a death-certificate issued by a qualified
physician; but, when this is done, death is considered absolute. No
corpse is allowed to remain in any church, chapel, or mortuary longer
than seven days after supposed death, without special permission.
Coffins that contain bodies which have died from infectious diseases
must be so indicated, and cannot be opened in the mortuaries.

As a rule, bodies are kept seventy-two hours before burial. The signs
that are considered sufficient to establish death are the glazed
appearance of the eyes, livid spots on the skin, and muscular rigidity.
In doubtful cases, the time before burial can be extended by authority
of the Board of Health, of which the Police Director is a member.


Burials usually do not take place until twenty-four hours after death.
For example, if a death takes place about four p.m., the burial is
made late in the following afternoon. In time of epidemic, bodies are
hurried to the cemeteries, where depositories are provided, which
are under the care of watchers until the expiration of twenty-four
hours after death. The certificate of a reputable physician as to
death is sufficient to authorise burial. Relatives or friends usually
remain with the body until burial, excepting in cases when judicial
proceedings are held over it to determine the circumstances of the


There are no laws in Ireland regarding the disposal of the dead, but
the Sanitary Acts of the United Kingdom can be applied in any case
within a reasonable period, on the ground of public health. There is
no fixed period for keeping a body before burial. The Roman Catholics
usually bury on the third or fourth day after death; but in some
districts custom sanctions burial within twenty-four or thirty-six
hours. Local burial authorities sometimes require a medical certificate
before burial, but, there being no legal obligation for it, this is
often omitted. In cases of suicide, sudden death, or death by violence,
the Coroner holds an inquest, and gives a certificate accordingly.

There are no dead-houses in Ireland, where bodies may be observed for a
period of time before burial.

Concerning burials in England, see Glen’s “Burial Acts” for the general
burial practice; also “Regulations for Wilton Cemetery.”


In the United States of America, as a rule, everything relative to
the disposal of the dead is regulated by local Boards of Health,
as authorised by State laws. A burial cannot take place without a
certificate from a legally licensed physician, which must state the
cause of death; the place and time when it occurred; the full name;
age; sex; colour; occupation; birth-place; names and birth-places
of both parents. There are no laws or regulations that require the
inspection of the body to verify the fact of death (the certificate,
as in England, as to the cause is considered sufficient for this
purpose), and no time is fixed when a body must, or must not, be
buried. This is regulated by, and left to, the convenience of the
family of the deceased, by the season of the year, by the opinion of
the attending physician, etc. But the Health Officers can order the
burial whenever, in their opinion, the public health requires it. As a
rule, burials after supposed death are made sooner in the South, and
among the poor, than in the North, and among the well-to-do classes. In
remote unsettled regions burials not seldom take place without these
formalities, and they are often carried out in a hasty manner; but
usually they do not take place till three days after supposed death,
and sometimes, particularly in cold weather, a longer time is allowed.
All large cemeteries have chambers for the temporary deposit of bodies,
but they are not under observation, as it is taken for granted that
they are dead.



R. J. WUNDERBAR, in his standard work on “Biblisch-talmudische
Medicin,” Riga and Leipzig, 1850-60, gives, in pp. 5-15 of the
concluding section (Abtheil. 4, Bd. ii.), the following summary of the
origin of the peculiar Jewish practice of burying the corpse within a
few hours of death:--

In the Levitical law (Num. xix. 11-22) every dead body was an unclean
thing, including those dead in the tent and on the battlefield.
Touching a corpse involved purification and separation for seven days.
This ordinance is supposed to have had a sanitary motive, having
probably originated with cases of infectious disease. There is only
one Biblical ordinance as to early burial, and that is indubitably
restricted to persons executed for crime: Deut. xxi. 22, 23, “And if
a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be put to death,
and thou hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night upon
the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day (for he that is
hanged is accursed of God), that thy land be not defiled which the Lord
thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.”This statutory limit to the
exposure of the bodies of malefactors was the most convenient way of
checking the practice, common in other countries, of leaving corpses of
criminals to hang upon the gibbet until they rotted, or were consumed
by birds of prey. Its motive was to prevent, by the promptest measure,
an indefinite degree of neglect in altogether special cases.

There is nothing else in the Bible concerning early burial; on the
contrary, the patriarchal practice, in the case of eminent persons,
seems to have been to keep the body for a considerable time above
ground, after the manner of Egypt. Prior to the Babylonian exile
there is not a trace of the later practice of speedy burial. The
post-Talmudic custom had arisen entirely from a misunderstanding.
It is true that the Talmud enjoins that corpses--according to
circumstances--be kept unburied not longer than one day; but it also
permits them to lie above ground for days, so that elaborate funeral
preparations might be made, or time given for mourners to arrive from a
distance. Lastly, the Talmud relates the burial of one apparently dead
who revived and lived for twenty-five years, and begat five children;
whereupon a rabbinical ordinance was made that the corpse (which would
have been laid in a vault or in a tomb above ground) should be visited
diligently until three days after death. (The references to the Talmud
are: Semachoth 8; Moedkaton 1, 6; Sabbat 151, 152; Sanhedrin 46a.)

Wunderbar admits that there had been cases of premature burial
among the Jews, but he asserts their extreme rarity, and doubts the
authenticity of most of the traditional or historical cases in general.

In Jewish circles in Germany towards the end of last century there
was much controversy as to the inexpediency of the practice of early
burial. In the “Berlinische Monatschrift” for April, 1787, p. 329,
(cited by Marcus Herz, “Ueber die frühe Beerdigung der Juden,” Berlin,
1788, p. 6,) there is printed a letter from Moses Mendelssohn to the
Jews of Mecklenburg, in which he advises them to keep their dead
unburied for three days. “I know well,” he adds, “that you will not
follow my advice; for the might of custom is great. Nay, I shall
perhaps appear to you as a heretic on account of my counsel. All the
same, I have freed my conscience from guilt.”

The above-cited essay by Dr. Marcus Herz, of Berlin, arguing against
the Jewish practice, called forth a reply by Dr. Marx, of Hanover, who
was of opinion that the burial might safely proceed after the body had
been left on the bed for three hours, and had then been pronounced
lifeless by the medical attendant, according to the practice in that
part of the country. To that Dr. Herz rejoined, in a second edition,
that the medical attendant was no better judge than an ordinary man,
inasmuch as all experimental tests were fallacious, and decomposition
the only sure sign. He cites the following statement by an experienced
Jewish physician, Dr. Hirschberg, of Königsberg (from the Jewish
periodical, “Sammler,” vol. ii., p. 153):--“I have practised medicine
for forty years, and have always grieved over the practice amongst us
of too hasty burial of the dead--on the day of decease. It happened
once in my practice that a woman lay for dead three days and then awoke
and revived. At first I would not allow the body to be moved from the
bed, but the undertaker’s men violently resisted me, taking up the body
and laying it on the ground. According to their custom, they would have
buried it the same day, had I not earnestly called out to them: ‘Beware
lest you do lay her in the ground this day! She is still alive, and the
blame will be on you.’ I had her covered with warm, woollen clothes; on
the following morning some signs of life were manifest; she lay still,
and gradually awoke out of her death-slumber.”

Herz declared, as Wunderbar did subsequently, that the passages in the
Talmud on which the Jewish custom was based had been misinterpreted;
and he specially accused the rabbis Jacob Emden, of Altona, and
Ezechel, of Prague, of rabbinical subtilty on the one hand, and of a
fallacious dependence upon scientific signs of death on the other.

       *       *       *       *       *

At the World’s Medical Congress (Division of Eclectic Medicine), held
in Chicago, June 3, 1893, the following resolution was proposed by Dr.
John V. Stevens, and adopted:--

 “Whereas we believe that many persons in the past, in the condition
 simulating death from various causes, have been buried alive;

 “Resolved--That it should be the duty of all Governments to pass laws
 prohibiting the burial of bodies without positive proofs of death;
 that the nature of these proofs should be taught in all schools and
 printed in all newspapers throughout the world.”



KORNMANNUS (Henricus). De miraculis mortuorum. Francof., 1610.

TIRELLUS (Mauritius). De causis mortis repentinae. Venet., 1615.

ZACCHIAS (Paulus). Quaestiones medico-legales. Lib iv. cap. i., quaest.
xi, “De mortuorum resurrectione,” fol. 241-247 of editio tertia.
Amstelaedami, 1651.

[Gives many of the classical cases, with critical remarks.]

KIRCHMAIER (Theodor) and NOTTNAGEL (Christoph). Elegantissimum ex
physicis thema de hominibus apparenter mortuis. Wittenbergae, 1670.

[Collects cases, from ancient and more recent writers, of the
apparently dead having been taken for dead:--Pliny, Hist. Nat., lib.
vii. 52; Plutarch, De sera numinis vindicta; Apuleius, Floridorum,
lib. vi.; St. Augustine, De cura mortuorum; Thuanus (no ref.); Diomed
Cornarus, Hist. admirand. (case of a Madrid lady who is supposed to
have given birth to a child after she was laid in the tomb, the corpse
having a new-born dead infant in the right hand when the vault was
opened a few months after); Chr. Landinus, notes to Virgil, Æn. vi.
(incident at a funeral, of which he was an eye-witness at Florence);
Horst. Med. mir., cap. ix. (woman left for dead of the plague at
Cologne in 1357); and the case of a glazier, then living at Wittenberg,
who was treated as dead when a child of three years.]

GARMANN (L. Christ. Frid.). De miraculis mortuorum libri tres, quibus
praemissa dissertatio de cadavere et miraculis in genere. Opus
physico-medicum curiosis observationibus experimentis aliisque rebus
exornatum. Ed. L. J. H. Garmann. Dresden and Leipzig, 1709. (First ed.,
Leipzig, 1670.)

BEBEL (Balthasar). Dissertatio de bis mortuis. Jena, 1672.


HAWES (Dr.). On the duty of the relations of those who are in dangerous
illness, and the hazard of hasty interment. A sermon preached in the
Presbyterian Chapel of Lancaster in 1703, wherein it is clearly proved,
from the attestation of unexceptionable witnesses, that many persons
have been buried alive.

LANCISI (Johannes M.). De subitaneis mortibus libri duo. Romae, 1707;
Lucae, 1707; Lipsiae, 1709.

WILFROTH (Johannes Christianus). Dissertatio de resuscitatione
semi-mortuorum medica. Halae, 1725.

RANFT (Michael). Tractat von den Kauen und Schmatzen der Todten in
Gräbern, worm die wahre Beschaffenheit derer Hungarischen Vampyrs
gezeight, etc. Leipzig, 1734.

BEYSCHLAG (Fr. Jac.). Sylloge variorum opusculorum. “De hominum a morte
resuscitatorum exemplis.” Halae Sueviorum, 1727-31.

WINSLOW (Jacques Benigne), Professor of Anatomy at Paris. An mortis
incertæ signa minus incerta a chirurgicis quam ab aliis experimentis.
Paris, 1740. Dissertation.

---- Dissertation sur l’incertitude des signes de la mort, et l’abus
des enterremens et embaumemens precipités; traduite et commentée par
Jacques Jean Bruhier. Paris, 1742. (With the Latin text.)

BRUHIER (Jacques Jean), d’Ablaincourt. Mémoire sur la nécessité d’un
règlement général au sujet des enterremens et embaumemens--addition au
mémoire presente au Roi. Paris, 1745-46.

---- Dissertation sur l’incertitude des signes de la mort, et l’abus
des enterrements et embaumemens précipités. Second ed. Two vols. Paris,

---- The uncertainty of the signs of death and the danger of
precipitate interments and dissections. Second ed. London, 1751.

[Bruhier, in his work Dissertations sur l’incertitude des signes de
la mort et l’abus des enterremens, produces accounts of one hundred
and eighty-one cases, among which there are those of fifty-two persons
buried alive, four dissected alive, fifty-three that awoke in their
coffins before being buried, and seventy-two other cases of apparent

ANON. The uncertainty of the signs of death, and the danger of
precipitate interments and dissections demonstrated. Dublin, 1748.

COOPER (M). Uncertainty of the signs of death, precipitate interment
and dissection, and funeral solemnities. London, 1746.

JANKE (J. G.). Abhandlung von der Ungewissheit der Kennzeichen des
Todes. Leipzig, 1749.

LOUIS (Antoine). Six lettres sur la certitude des signes de la mort, ou
l’on rassure les citoyens de la crainte d’être enterrés vivans; avec
des observations et des experiences sur les noyés. Paris, 1752.

PLAZ (Antonius Gulielmus). De signis mortis non solute explorandis.
Specimen primum, Lipsiae, 1765; secundum, 1766; tertium, 1766; quartum,

---- De mortuis curandis. Diss. Lipsiae, 1770.

MENGHIN (Joh. Mich. de). Diss. de incertitudine signorum vitae et
mortis. Vienna, 1768.

ESCHENBACH (Christ. Ehrenfr.). De apparenter mortuis. Vienna, 1768.

JANIN DE COMBE BLANCHE (Jean). Reflexions sur le triste sort de
personnes qui sous un apparance de mort ont été enterrées vivants, etc.
Paris, 1774.

DE GARDANE (Joseph Jacques). Avis au peuple sur les asphyxies ou morts
apparentes et subites. Paris, 1774. Portuguese transl. included in
Avisos interessantes sobre as mortes apparentes. Lisbon, 1790.

---- Catechisme sur les morts apparentes, dites asphyxies, etc. Paris,

NAVIER (Pierre Toussaint). Réflexions sur les dangers des inhumations
precipitées et sur les abus des inhumations dans les eglises, etc.
Paris, 1775.

PINEAU (----). Mémoire sur le danger des inhumations precipitées, et
sur la nécessité d’un règlement pour mettre les citoyens à l’abri du
malheur d’etre enterées vivans. Niort, 1776.

MARET (Hugues). Mémoire pour rappeler à la vie les personnes en état de
mort apparente. Dijon, 1776.

BRINKMANN (Joh. Pet.). Beweis der Möglichkeit dass einige Leute können
lebendig begraben werden, etc. Düsseldorf, 1777.

SWIETEN (Baron Geerard Van). De morte dubia. Vienna, 1778.

TESTA (Antonio Guiseppe). Della morte apparente. Firenze, 1780.

DOPPET (F. A.). Des moyens de rappeler à la vie les personnes qui ont
toutes les apparences de la mort. Chambery, 1785.

[In 1784 the Imperial and Royal Academy of Sciences, etc., of Brussels
proposed as a subject for a prize essay, What are the means that can be
employed by medicine and police to prevent the dangerous mistakes of
premature burial?]

WAUTERS (Pierre Englebert). Responsum ad quaesitum, Quae tum
medica, tum politica praesidia adversus periculosas inhumationum
praefestinatarum abusus? Reprinted from the Mem. Acad. Imper. et Roy.
de Sc. de Bruxelles. Bruxelles, 1787 [1788].

PREVINAIRE (P. J. B.). Mémoire sur la question suivante proposée en
1784 par l’academie imperiale et royal des sciences, belles-lettres,
et arts de Bruxelles: Quels sont les moyens que la médecine et la
police pourroient employer pour prévenir les erreurs dangereuses des
enterremens precipités? Ouvrage qui a concouru pour la prix de l’annee
1786. Bruxelles, 1787.

---- The above in a German translation by Bernhard Gottlob Schreger.
Leipzig, 1790.

LEDULX (Gul. Petrus). De signis mortis rite aestimandis. Hardervici,
1787. Thesis.

THIERY (Franciscus). La vie de l’homme respectée et defendue dans ses
derniers moments; ou instruction sur les soins qu’ on doit aux morts,
et à ceux qui parroisent l’etre; sur les funerailles et les sepultures.
Paris, 1787.

STEINFELD (Johannes Christianus). De signis mortis diagnosticis dubiis
cautè admittendis et reprobandis. Thesis. Jena, 1788.

HERZ (Marcus). Ueber die frühe Beerdigung der Juden. Zweite vermehrte
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DURANDE (J. Fr.). Mémoire sur l’abus de l’ensevelissement des morts,
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DE HUPSCH (Baron Joh. Wilh. Carl Adolph). Nouvelle découverte d’une
methode peu couteuse, efficace et assurée de traiter tous les hommes
décédés afin de rappeler à la vie ceux qui ne sont morts qu’en
apparance. Cologne, 1789.

ANON. Des inhumations precipitées. Paris, 1790. (Attributed by Barbier
to Madame Necker.)

HUFELAND (Christoph W.). Ueber die Ungewissheit des Todes, und des
einzige untrügliche Mittel ... das Lebenigbegraben unmöglich zu machen,
etc. Salzburg, 1791; Halle, 1824.

REINHARDT (Julius Christophorus). Dissertatio de vano praematurae
sepulturae metu. Jena, 1793.

MARCELLO (Marin). Osservazioni teoriche-pratiche-mediche sopra le morti
apparenti. Two vols., with nine plates. Venezia, 1793.

ANSCHEL (Salomon). Thanatologia, sive in mortis naturam causas genera,
etc., disquisitiones. Goettingae, 1795.

HIMLY (Carolus). Commentatio mortis historiam causas et signa sistens.
Goettingae, 1795.

PESSLER (B. G.). Leicht anwendbarer Beystand der Mechanik um
Scheintodte beim Erwachen im Grabe auf die wohlfeilste Art wieder
daraus zu erretten. Braunschweig, 1798.

DESESSARTZ (Jean Charles). Discours sur les inhumations precipitées.
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KÖPPEN (Heinrich Friedrich). Nachrichten von Menschen welche lebendig
begraben worden. Als erster Theil des Buchs: Achtung der Scheintodten.
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Queen Louise, and Friedrich August, Prince of Hesse Darmstadt.)


GRUNER (Jacobus). Dissertatio inauguralis de causa mortis submersorum
eorumque resuscitatione observationibus indagata. Groningae, 1761.

Memoirs of the society instituted at Amsterdam in favour of drowned
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London, 1772.

JOHNSON (Alexander), M.D. A short account of a society in Amsterdam
... for the recovery of drowned persons; with observations showing the
advantage ... to Great Britain from a similar institution.... Extended
to other accidents. London, 1773.

JOHNSON (Alexander), M.D. A collection of cases proving the
practicability of recovering persons visibly dead, etc. London, 1773.

---- Relief from accidental death; or, summary instructions for the
general institution proposed in 1773. London, 1785.

---- Abridged instructions. London, 1785.

CULLEN (W.), M.D. A letter to Lord Cathcart concerning the recovery of
the drowned and seemingly dead. London, 1773.

HUNTER (John). Proposals for the recovery of persons apparently
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HAWES (William), M.D. An address to the public [concerning the
dangerous custom of laying out persons as soon as respiration ceases].
With a reply by W. Renwick, and observations on that reply. London,

FULLER (John), M.D. Some hints relative to the recovery of persons
drowned and apparently dead. London, 1784.

KITE (Charles), of Gravesend. An essay on the recovery of the
apparently dead. London, 1788.

---- Essay on the submersions of animals. London, 1795.

Reports of the Humane Society for the recovery of persons apparently
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The transactions of the Royal Humane Society from 1774 to 1784. With an
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FRANKS (John). Observations on animal life and apparent death. With
remarks on the Brunonian system of medicine. London, 1790.

---- The same in an Italian translation. Pavia, 1795.

GOODWYN (Edmund), M.D. De morbo morteque submersorum investigandis.
Thesis. Edin., 1786.

---- The connexion of life with respiration; or, an experimental
inquiry into the effects of submersion, strangulation, and several
kinds of noxious airs on living animals; with an account of the nature
of the diseases they produce, and the most effectual means of cure.
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Reflections on premature death and premature interment. Published by
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ANON. An essay on vital suspension: being an attempt to investigate and
ascertain those diseases in which the principles of life are apparently
extinguished. By a Medical Practitioner. London, 1791.

HAMILTON (Robert), M.D. Rules for recovering persons recently drowned.
London, 1795.

Directions for recovering persons apparently dead from drowning, and
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CURRY (James). Popular observations on apparent death from drowning,
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FOTHERGILL (Anthony). Inquiry into the suspension of vital action in
drowning and suffocation. Third ed. Bath, 1794.

---- Preventive plan; or, hints for the preservation of persons exposed
to accidents which suspend vital action. London, 1798.

CAILLEAU (J. M.). Mémoire sur l’asphyxie par submersion. Bordeaux, 1799.

BICHAT (M. F. Xavier). Recherches physiologiques sur la vie et la mort.
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COLEMAN (Edward). Dissertation on natural and suspended respiration.
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STRUVE (Christian August). A practical essay on the art of recovering
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LUGA (----). Traitement des asphyxiés, ou moyen de rendre impossible
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ACKERMANN (J. F.). Der Scheintod und das Rettungsverfahren. Frankft.,

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BERGER (J. F.). Essai physiologique sur la cause de l’asphyxie par
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THOMASSIN (J. Franç.). Considerations de police médicale, sur la mort
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DAVIS (----). L’abus des enterrements précipitées. Moyens de rappeler à
la vie les personnes en état de mort apparente. Verdun, 1806.

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MARC (C. C. H.). Des moyens de constater la mort par submersion.
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COLORINI (Ant.). Sulle varie morti apparenti, etc. Pavia, 1813.

PORTAL (A.). Sur la traitement des asphyxies: avec observations sur les
signes qui distinguent la mort réelle de celle qui n’est qu’apparante.
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ORFILA (F.). Directions for the treatment of persons who have taken
poison, and those in a state of apparent death. Transl. from the French
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SNART (John). Thesaurus of horror; or, the charnel-house explored,
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---- An historical inquiry concerning apparent death and premature
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VALPY (R.). Sermon before the Royal Humane Society, with observations
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WHITER (Rev. W.). A dissertation on the disorder called suspended
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CHAUSSIER (----). Vivants crus morts, et moyens de prévenir cette
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HERPIN (M.). Instruction sur les soins à donner aux personnes
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CALHOUN (T.). An essay on suspended animation. Philad., 1823.

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SPEYER (Carl F.). Ueber die Möglichkeit des Lebendigbegrabens, und die
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CHANTOURELLE (----). Paper at the Royal Academy of Medicine of Paris,
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p. 103.

GÜNTHER (Johann Arnold). Geschichte und Einrichtung der Hamburgischen
Rettungs-Anstalten für im Wasser verunglückte Menschen. Hamburg, 1828.

TABERGER (Joh. Gottf.). Der Scheintod in seinen Beziehungen auf
das Erwachen in Grabe und die verchiedenen Vorschläge zu einer
wirksamen.... Rettung in Fällen dieser Art. With a copper plate.
Hannover, 1829.

BOURGEOIS (R.). Observations et considérations pratiques qui
établissent la possibilité du retour à la vie dans plusieurs cas
d’asphyxié et de syncope prolongée avec apparence de la mort. 8vo.
Paris, 1829.

SCHNEIDAWIND (Franz Joseph Adolph). Der Scheintod, nebst Unterscheidung
des scheinbaren und wahren Todes, und Mitteln, etc. Bamberg, 1829.

WALKER (G. A.). Gatherings from grave-yards, etc. Lond., 1830.

TACHERON. De la vérification légale des décès dans la ville de
Paris, et de la nécessité d’apporter dans ce service médical plus de
surveillance. Paris, 1830.

PICHARD (----). Le danger des inhumations précipitées. Paris, 1830.

CHAUSSIER (Hector). Histoire des infortunés qui ont été enterrés
vivants. Paris, 1833.

DESBERGER (Ant. F. A.). Tod und Scheintod, Leichen-und-Begrabungswesen
als wichtige Angelegenheit der einzelnen Menschen und des Staates.
Leipzig, 1833.

FOUCHARD (P.). Aperçu général des précautions prises en France avant
l’inhumation des citoyens morts; réforme que l’humanité réclame. Tours,

DE FONTENELLE (Julia). Recherches médico-legales sur l’incertitude des
signes de la mort, les dangers des inhumations précipitées, les moyens
de constater les décès et de rappeler à la vie ceux qui sont en état de
mort apparente. Paris, 1834.

LEGALLOIS (C.). Expériences physiologiques sur les animaux tendant à
faîre connaitre le temps durant lequel ils peuvent étre sans danger
privés de la respiration, etc. Paris, 1835.

MARC (C. C. H.). Nouvelles recherches sur les recours à donner aux
noyés et asphyxiés. Paris, 1835.

SOMMER (----). De signis mortem hominis absolutam ante putredinis
accessum indicantibus. Havniae, 1833.

SCHWABE (C.). Das Leichenhaus in Weimar. Nebst einigen Worten über den
Scheintod und mehrer, jetzt bestehender Leichenhäuser, sowie über die
zweckmässigste Einrichtung solcher Anstalten im Allgemeinen. Leipzig,

KAY (J. P.). The physiology, pathology, and treatment of asphyxia,
including suspended animation in new-born children, and from
drowning, hanging, wounds of the chest, mechanical obstruction of the
air-passages, respiration of gases, death from cold, etc. London, 1834.

KOOL (J. A.). Tabellarisch overzigt over alle gevallen von schijndoode
drenkelingen, gestikten, en gehangenen, bekroond door de Maatschappij
tot Redding van Drenkelingen, opgerigt in den jare 1767 te Amsterdam.
Seder thare stichting tot en met den jare 1833 [-53]. Uit authentieke
stukken opgemaakt en met opmerkingen voorzien. Four vols. Amsterdam,

MANNI (Pietro), professor at Rome. Manuale pratico per la cura degli
apparentemente morti, premessevi alcune idee generali di polizia medica
per la tutela della vita degli asfittici. Roma, 1833. Napoli, 1835.
Germ. transl. by A. F. Fischer, Leipzig, 1839.

SIMON (L. C.). Quelques mots sur les enterrements prématures, et sur
les précautions à prendre sur-le-champ, relativement aux noyés et
asphyxiés. St. Petersbourg, 1835.

LE GUERN (H.). Rosoline, ou les mystères de la tombe. Paris, 1834.

---- Du danger des inhumations précipitées, exemples tant anciens que
récents de personnes enterrées ou dissequées de leur vivant. Paris,
1837, 1844.

---- Encore un mot, etc. Paris, 1843.

LESSING (Mich. Bened.). Ueber die Unsicherheit der Erkenntniss des
erloschenen Lebens, etc. Berlin, 1836.

SCHNACKENBERG (Wilh. Ph. J.). Ueber die Nothwendigkeit der
Leichenhallen zur Verhütung des Erwachens im Grabe. Cassel, 1836.

MISSIRINI (Melchiore). Pericolo di seppillire gli uomini vivi creduti
morti. Milano, 1837.

VIGNE (----). Memoire sur les inhumations précipitées, des moyens de
les prevenir, des signes de la mort. Rouen, 1837; Paris, 1839, 1841.

BIOPHILOS. Die neue Sicherungsweise gegen rettungloses Wiedererwachen
im Grabe. Neustadt, 1838.

SCHAFFER (Fried.). Beschreibung und Abbildung einer Vorrichtung durch
welche Scheintodte sich aus dem Sarge in Grabe befreien können.
Landsberg, 1839.

VILLENEUVE (P. E.). Du danger des inhumations précipitées et des moyens
de les prévenir, etc. Paris, 1841.

DESCHAMPS (M. H.). Précis de la mort apparente. Paris, 1841.

---- Du signe de la mort réelle, etc. Memoir read at the Acad. des Sc.,
March 28, 1843, in Gaz. Med., Ap. 1st.

---- Du signe certain de la mort, nouvelle epreuve pour éviter d’etre
enterré vivant. Paris, 1854.

NASSE (Frièd.). Die Unterscheidung des Scheintodes von wirklichen Tode,
zu Beruhigung über die Gefahr lebendig begrahen zu werden. Bonn, 1841.
French transl. by Fallot. Namur, 1842.

HICKMANN (J. N.). Die Elektricität als Prüfungs-und-Belebungsmittel im
Scheintode. Wien, 1841.

DENDY (W. C.). The philosophy of mystery, etc. London, 1841. [Contains
chapters on premature interment, resuscitation from catalepsy or
trance, etc.]

WELCHMAN (E.). Observations on apparent death from suffocation or
drowning, choke-damp, stroke of lightning, exposure to extreme cold,
with directions for using the resuscitating apparatus invented by
author, and gen. instruc., etc. 8vo. New York, 1842.

LENORMAND (Leonce). Des inhumations précipitées. Macon, 1843.

GAYET (----). De la nécessité de la verification des décès Nantes, 1843.

CHALETTE (J.), fils. Du danger des inhumations précipitées et de
l’importance de faire constater les décès par les gens de l’art.
Châlons-sur-Marne, 1843.

BARJAVEL (C. F. H.). Nécessité absolue d’ouvrir au plus tôt des maisons
d’attente; considérations de police médicale, précedées d’un sommaire
analytique, et suivies d’indications bibliographiques relatives au
sujet de cet écrit. (Tirage à cinquante exemplaires seulement).
Carpentras, 1845.

DEBAY (Auguste). Les vivants enterrés et les morts resuscités.
Considerations physiologiques sur les morts apparentes et les
inhumations précipitées. Paris, 1846.

GAILLARD (X.). Préservatif contre le danger d’être enterré vivant, ou
devoirs sacrés des vivants envers les morts. Paris, 1847.

LOTHMAR (C. J.). Ueber das Lebendigbegraben. Leipzig, 1847.

DU FAY (Hortense G.). Des vols d’enfant, et des inhumations d’individus
vivants, suivi d’un aperçu pour l’etablissement des salles mortuaires.
Paris, 1847.

[In 1839 the Paris Academie des Sciences threw open to competition the
Prix Manni (1,500 francs, founded in 1837 by Professor Manni, of Rome,)
for the best work on the signs of death and the means of preventing
premature burials. The prize was not assigned on that occasion, nor in
1842; but in the competition of 1846 it was assigned to Bouchut, on the
report to the Academy by Rayer, May 29, 1848.]

BOUCHUT (E.). Traité des signes de la mort et des moyens de ne pas être
enterré vivant. Paris, 1849. Second ed., 1847; third ed., 1883.

---- Mémoire sur plusieurs nouveaux signes de la mort, fournis par
l’opthalmoscopie, et pouvant empêcher les enterrements précipitées.
Paris, 1867.

BRAID (James). Observations on trance, or human hybernation. London,

KAUFMANN (M.). De la mort apparente et des enterrements précipités.
Paris, 1851.

KERTHOMAS (Hyac. L. De). Inhumations précipitées. Lille, 1852.

HARRISON (James Bower). The medical aspects of death. Lond., 1852.

CRIMOTEL (J. B. Valentin). Des inhumations précipitées; épreuve
infaillible pour constater la mort; moyens de rappeler à la vie dans
les cas de mort apparente causée par l’ether, le chloroforme, etc.
Paris, 1852.

---- De l’épreuve galvanique ou bioscopie électrique, moyens de
reconnaître la vie ou la mort et d’eviter les inhumations précipitées.

JOSAT (----). De la mort et ses caractères. Necessité d’ une révision
de la législation des décès pour prévenir les inhumations et les
délaissements anticipés. Ouvrage entrepris et exécuté sous les auspices
du gouvernement et couronné par l’Institut. Paris, 1854.

LONDE (C.). Lettre sur la mort apparente, les conséquences réelles
des inhumations précipitées, le temps pendant lequel peut persister
l’aptitude à être rappelé à la vie. Paris, 1854. Plates.

KEMPNER (F.). Denkschrift über die Nothwendigkeit einer gesetzlichen
Einführung von Leichenhäusern. New ed. Breslau, 1856.

PEYRIER (J. P. P.). Récherches sur l’incertitude des signes de la mort:
enumeration des maladies qui peuvent produire la mort apparente; abus
des enterrements précipités. Paris, 1855.

COLLONGUES (L.). Application de la dynamoscopie à la constatation des
décès. Paris, 1858, 1862.

HALMA GRAND (----). Des inhumations précipitées. Paris, 1860.

WELBY (Horace). Mysteries of life, death, and futurity (with chapter on
premature interment). London, 1861.

REYHER (O. C. A.). Ueber die Verwerthung der bekannten
Leichenerscheinungen zur Constatirung des wahren Todes. Leipzig, 1862.

CHEVANDIERE (Antoine Daniel). De la vérification des décès et de
l’organisation de la medecine cantonale. Paris, 1862.

DESMAIRE (Paul). Les morts vivants. Paris, 1862.

BARRANGEARD (Antoine). Extrait de divers mémoires publies depuis tres
longtemps par le Docteur Barrangeard, sur le danger des inhumations
précipitées et sur l’indispensable nécessité de constater avec soin
tous les décès sans exception. Lyon, 1863.

BONNEJOY (E.). Des moyens pratiques de constater la mort par
l’électricité à la aide de la faradisation. Paris, 1866.

LEVASSEUR (P.). De la catalepsie au point de vue du diagnostic de la
mort apparente. 8vo. Rouen, 1866.

---- De la mort apparente et des moyens de la reconnaître. Rouen, 1867.
Re-issued, with a second essay, in 1870.

JACQUAND (Frédéric). Appareil respiratoire avertisseur pour les tombes.
Assurance contre la mort apparente. Paris, 1867.

BIANCO (Giuseppe). Le pericolose consequenze della morte apparente
prevenute da un confaciente riforma del servizio mortuario. Torino,

GANNAL (Félix). Mort apparente et mort réelle. Moyens de les
distinguer. First ed. Paris, 1868. Third ed. (mention honorable a
l’Institut de France), 1890.

[In 1868 the Académie de Médecine of Paris threw open to competition
the Prix d’Ourches of 20,000 francs for the discovery of a simple and
popular means of detecting the signs of real death certainly and beyond
doubt. The prize was not awarded, but premiums were given to several

HOARAU (H.). La mort, sa constatation, ou procédé à l’aide du quel on
peut la reconnaître et éviter des enterrements de vifs. Paris, 1874.

VEYNE (----). Mort apparente et mort réelle, artériotomie donnant le
moyen de les reconnaître. Paris, 1874.

MONTEVERDI (A.). Note sur un moyen simple, facìle, prompt et certain de
distinguer la mort vrai de la mort apparente de l’homme. Cremone, 1874.

MARTEL (----). La mort apparente chez les nouveaux-nés. Paris, 1874.

BOILLET (Ch.). Mort apparente et victimes ignorées. Paris, 1875.

DE COMEAU (----). Les signes certains de la mort mis à la portée de
tout le monde. Limoges, 1876.

BELVAL (Th.). Les maisons mortuaires. Paris, 1877.

FRITZ-ANDRE (----). Du danger des inhumations précipitées. Bruxelles,

[The Prix Dusgate was founded by a decree of November 27, 1874,
authorising the Académie des Sciences of Paris to accept the legacy of
M. Dusgate of a quinquennial prize of 2,500 francs for the best work on
the diagnostic signs of death and on the means of preventing premature
burial. The essays of the first competition were received on June 1,
1880, and on March 14, 1881, the prize was divided among the three
following competitors. In 1885 the prize was not awarded.]

ONIMUS (E. N. J.). Modification de l’excitabilité des nerfs et des
muscles apres la mort. (Published.)

PEYRAND (H.). De la détermination de la mort réelle par le caustique de

LE BON (G.). Recherches experimentales sur les signes diagnostiques de
la mort et sur les moyens de prevenir les inhumations précipitées. (A
temperature of 25° C. on a thermometer kept in the mouth for a quarter
of an hour.) Also, Article on Premature Interment in Monit. scient.,
viii. Paris.

ALLEN (F. D.). Remarks on the dangers and duties of sepulture, or
security for the living with respect and repose of the dead. Boston,

BURDETT (H. C.). The necessity and importance of mortuaries for towns
and villages, with suggestions for their establishment and management.
London, 1880.

FLETCHER (Moore Russell). One thousand persons buried alive by their
best friends. A treatise on suspended animation, with directions for
restoration. Boston, 1890.

“A Hygienic Physician.” Earth to earth burial and cremation by fire
[includes cases of premature burial]. London, 1890.

HERNANDEZ (Maxime F.E.M.). Contribution à l’étude de la mort apparente.
Bordeaux, 1893.

LIGNIERES(Dr. D. De). Ne pas être enterré vivant. Paris, 1893.

Traitement physiologique de la mort apparente. Series of twenty-five
papers in “La Tribune Médicale,” Paris, 1894, vol. xxvi., 2 ser.

GILES (Alfred E). Funerals, suspended animation, premature burials,
Boston, 1895.

GAUBERT (B.), Avocat. Les chambres mortuaires d’attente, devant
l’histoire, la legislation, la science, l’hygiène et le culte des
morts. (Le péril des inhumations précipitées en France.) With sixty
figures, maps or plans. Paris, 1895.

HARTMANN (Franz). Buried alive: An examination into the occult causes
of apparent death, trance, and catalepsy. Boston, U.S., 1895. Lond.,
1896. Also, Lebendig begraben. Leipzig, 1896.

WILDER (Alexander). The perils of premature burial. London, 1895.

       *       *       *       *       *

French theses (at Paris, unless otherwise stated,) on apparent death,
the signs of death, danger of premature burial, etc.:--

  JOUY (Montpellier), 1803.          D’ALENCASTRE, 1832.
  THOMASSIN (Strassbourg), 1805.     CHAMPNEUF, 1832.
  LAURENT, 1805.                     BONIFACE, 1833.
  PIERRET, 1807.                     LINARES, 1834.
  VERNEY, 1811.                      MENESTREL, 1838.
  FOUCHER, 1817.                     DE SILVEIRA PINTO, 1837.
  GRESLON, 1819.                     CARRE, 1845.
  FERRY, 1819.                       DOSAIS, 1858.
  LEPAULMIER, 1819.                  GRESLON, 1858.
  LEVY (Strassbourg), 1820.          PARROT, 1860.
  AMAND D’AMBRAINE, 1821.            LEGLUDIC, 1863.
  POUIER, 1823.                      SCHNEIDER (Strassbourg), 1863.
  WEST, 1827.                        ACOSTA, 1864.
  PIERRET, 1827.                     EDMOND, 1871.
  GLEIZAL, 1829.

Graduation theses other than French, on the same theme:--

  VAN GEEST (Lugd. Bat.), 1811.     BETTMAN (Munich), 1839.
  DAVIES (Edin.), 1813.             SCHMIDT (Nürnberg), 1841.
  GOURY (Leodii), 1828.             KLUGE (Leipzig), 1842.
  TSCHERNER (Breslau), 1829.        WENDLER (Leipzig), 1845.
  SOMMER (Havniae), 1833.           KRIBBEN (Bonn), 1873.
  NYMAN (Dorpat), 1835.             SORGENFREY (Dorpat), 1876.


ABADIE (C.). Note sur l’examen ophthalmoscopique du fond de l’oeil
comme signe de la mort réelle. Gaz. d’Hôp., vol. xlvii, p. 290. Par.,

BOUCHUT (E.). Mort apparente durant six heures, avec absence des
battements du coeur à l’auscultation. Gaz. d’Hôp., vol. xxvii., p. 223.
Par., 1854.

BOURGEOIS (R.). Du danger d’être enterré vivant et des moyens de
constater la mort. Bull. Acad. de Méd., vol. ii., pp. 619-626. Paris,
1837-38, and Rev. Méd. Franç. et étrang., vol. ii., pp. 360-378. Paris,

BROWN-SÉQUARD (----). “Extraordinary prolongation of the principal acts
of life after the cessation of respiration.” Arch. de Physiol. Norm. et
Path., vol. vi., 2 S., pp. 83-88. Par., 1879.

----“Researches on the possibility of recalling temporarily to life
persons dying of sickness.” J. de la Physiol. de l’Homme, vol. i., pp.
666-672. Par., 1858.

CAZIN (----). De la nécessité de faire constater tous les genres de
mort. Précis d’Trav. Soc. Méd. de Boulogne-sur-mer, vol. i., pp. 27-33.

CHAUSSIER (----). Rapport sur les enterremens précipités. Bull. Fac. de
Méd. de Par., vol. v., pp. 467-476. 1816-17.

DESCHAMPS (M.-H.). Mémoire sur,la vérification des décès et sur le
danger des déclarations précipitées. Union Med., vol. xxi., N.S., pp.
56, 106. Par., 1864.

DEVERGIE (----). Inhumations précipitées. Ann. d’Hyg., 2 S., vol.
xxvii., pp. 293-327. Paris, 1867. De la création de maisons mortuaires
et de la valeur des signes de la mort. Ann. d’Hyg., vol. xxxiv., 2 S.,
pp. 310-327. Par., 1870.

---- Des signes de la mort; étude de leur cause, appréciation de leur
valeur. Ann. d’Hyg., vol. xli., 2 S., pp. 380-405. Par., 1874.

FODERE (----). Signes de la mort. Dict. de Sc. Med., vol. li., pp.
294-306. Paris, 1821.

FOUANES (----). Sur la rigidité cadavérique comme signe certain de la
mort. Gaz. Med. de Par., vol i., 3 S., p. 91. 1846.

FOUQUET (----). Mémoire sur la roideur cadavérique considerée comme
signe certain de la mort. Gaz. Med. de Par., vol. ii., 3 S., pp.
250-255. 1847.

FOURNIE (----). Les signes de la mort et le prix d’Ourches. (Also
translated into Italian.) Gaz. d’Hôp., vol. xlvii., pp. 273-275. Par.,

GIRBAL (----). Mort apparente: mesures prématurés d’inhumation:
topiques stimulants, prompte cessation des phénomenes léthiformes,
guérison. Revue de Thérap. du midi, vol. ii., pp. 161-167. Montpellier,
1851. Also, Gaz. d’Hôp., vol. iii., 3 S., p. 142. Par., 1851.

GRETSCHER DE WANDELBURG. (For Marquis d’Ourches’s prize.) Des moyens de
distinguer la mort réelle de la mort apparente. In his Mém. de Méd. et
Chir., pp. 49-54. 8vo. Par., 1881.

HAMON (L.). Simple note sur la mort apparente; acupuncture cardiaque et
diaphragmatique. Rev. de Thérap Med. Chir., vol. xlvii., p. 482. Par.,

HENROT (H.). Persistance des battements du cœur pendant plus d’une
heure après la cessation de la respiration. Bull. Soc. Méd. de Reims.,
No. 15, pp. 139-144. 1876-77.

LABORDE (J. V.). Gaz. hebd. de. Méd., vol. viii., 2 S., pp. 605, 623,
710. Par., 1871.

LARCHER (----). Arch. gén. de Méd., vol. i., pp. 685-709. Par., 1862.

LEGRAND (A.). Rev. Méd. Franç. et étrang., vol. i., pp. 705-714. Par.,

LEVASSEUR (P.) et MARTINS (S.). France Méd., vol. xiv., pp. 169, 177,
204, 226, 228. Par., 1867.

MALHOL (J.). Journ. Gén. de Méd. Chir. et Pharm., vol. xxii., p. 470.
Par., 1805.

MICHEL (A.). Bull. gén. de Therap., etc., vol. xxxvii., pp. 462-464.
Par., 1849.

MONFALCON (J. B.). Art. “Mort,” Dict. de Sc. Méd., vol. xxxiv., pp.
319-347. Par., 1819.

NICATI (W.). Un signe de mort certaine, emprunti à
l’ophthalmotonométrie; lois de la tension oculaire. Compt. Rend. Acad.
de Sc. cxviii., p. 206. Paris, 1896.

PAPILLON (F.). Rev. des Deux Mondes, vol. civ., pp. 669-688. Par., 1873.

PINGAULT (----). Bull. Soc. de Méd. de Poitiers, vol. xxviii., pp.
83-86. 1860.

PLOUVIEZ (----). Union Méd. Paris, vol. i., pp. 408-424. 1870.

Report to French Academy of Sciences on apparent deaths, etc., by
Rayer. Compt. Rend. Acad. de Sc. (Séance, May 29, 1848.) Also in Ann.
d’Hyg., vol. xl., pp. 78-110. Par., 1848; and in Ann. de Méd. Belge.,
vol. lv., pp. 1-24. Brux., 1848; and in Bull. Soc. de Méd. de Poitiers,
vol. xv., pp. 39-53, 1849.

SIMON (A.). Bull. gén. de Therap., etc., vol. xxxvii., pp. 221-226.
Par., 1849.

SIMONOT (----). Union Méd. de Par., vol. xii., 2 S., pp. 211, 286, 1862.

TOURDES (G.). Art. “Mort: la mort apparente,” in Dict. Encycl. d. Sc.
Méd., vol. ix., 2 S., pp. 598-690. Par., 1875.

TOURNIE (----). Union Méd., vol. viii., p. 235. Par., 1854.

VAN GHEEL (----). Gaz. d’Hôp., vol. xliv., pp. 345, 353. Par., 1871.

VAN HENGEL (J.). Journ. de Méd. Chir. et Pharm. Col., vol. vi., pp.
523-525. Brux., 1848.

_GERMAN ARTICLES._ (_The Titles Translated._)

ALKEN (----). Restoration to life of one apparently dead. Wochenschr.
f. d. ges. Heilk., p. 319. Berlin, 1838.

ARNOLD (J. W.). On acupuncture of the heart as a means of recovery in
apparent death. Heidlb. klin. Ann., vol. vii., p. 311. 1831.

BALDINGER (E. G.). Literary contribution to the history of being buried
alive. N. Magaz. f. Aerzte., vol. xiv., p. 84. Leipzig, 1792.

BETZ (F.). Sudden apparent death in a child with vomiting and purging.
Memorab., vol. v., p. 119. Heilbrn., 1860.

DEUBEL (----). New and simple means for the recovery of the apparently
dead. Wochenschr. f. d. ges. Heilk., p. 597. Berlin, 1846.

DIRUF (----). On the dread of being buried alive, etc. Ztschr. f. d.
Staatsarznk., extra part, p. 72. Erlang., 1840.

DYES (A.). Apparent death caused by inflammation of the lungs. Deutsche
Klinik, vol. xxiii., p. 44. Berl., 1871.

HANDSCHUH (----). A few remarks on mortuaries as a means of preventing
the burial of the apparently dead. Ztschr. f. d. Staatsarznk., vol.
xxi., p. 34. Erlang., 1831.

HECHT (S. C.). Reflections and proposals concerning the
impracticability of the existing regulations to prevent the burial of
the apparently dead. Ann. d. Staatsarznk., vol. v., p. 395. Freib.,

HOFFMANN (----). Simple means of preventing the being buried alive.
Allg. Med. Centr. Ztg., vol. xvi., p. 609. Berl., 1847.

HOPPE (J.). Recovery of one apparently dead and of one dying, by
burning on the breast. Memorabilien, vol. vi., p. 199. Heilbrn., 1861.

HUBER (M.). On inspection of the dead. Ztschr. d. Gesellsch d. Aerzte
zu Wien, vol. ii., p. 120. 1853.

HUFELAND (----). Report on the certain and uncertain signs of death,
on the indications of returning vitality, and how one should deal with
corpses in general. Weimar ordinance, 1794. Beytr. z. Arch. d. Med.
pol., vol. vii., 1 S., p. 61. Leipzig, 1797.

KAISER (K. L.). What means has the State to take so as to ensure that
no one be buried alive? Ztschr. f. d. Staatsarznk., fourteenth extra
number, p. 100. Erlang., 1831.

KLEIN (F. X.). Metallic irritation as a means of proving death. Extract
from Dissertation in Beytr. z. Arch. d. Med. pol., vol. vi., 1 S., p.
118. Leipzig, 1795.

KLOSE (C. L.). On the risk of being buried alive: several precautions
against it. Ztschr. f. d. Staatsarznk., vol. xix., p. 143. Erlang.,

KUNDE (F. T.). Physiological observations on apparent death. Arch, f.
Anat. Physiol, u. wissenssch. Med., p. 280. Berlin, 1857.

MAGNUS (H.). Certificates of death and sanitary reports. Wochenschr. f.
d. ges. Hlkde., p. 385. Berlin, 1841.

---- A certain sign that death has taken place. Virchow’s Archiv., vol.
lv., pp. 511, 523. 1872.

MASCHKA (J.). On symptoms of the corpse. Vrtljschr. f. d. prakt.
Heilk., vol. iii., p. 91. Prag., 1851.

MASCHKA (J.). On diagnostic errors in medical jurisprudence. Vrtljschr.
f. d. prakt. Heilk., vol. lxxix., p. 13. Prag., 1863.

MEYN (----). Fortunate resuscitation of an apparently dead woman.
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  ALDIS, Dr. C. J. B., letter on tying up the chin after death, 343.

  _All the Year Round_, paper cited from, on apparent death and means
      of recovery, 268-273.

  Andersen, Hans Christian, his dread of being buried alive, 154.

  Angell, Mr. George T., 259.

  Animation, suspended, in a case of small-pox, 99.
    (See “Trance.”)

  Apathy, public, concerning live burial, 39.

  Apoplexy, certified, in cases of apparent death, 83;
    Lénormand on, as cause of apparent death, 175.

  Asclepiades recovers a corpse from the bier, 325.

  Auscultation, fallacies of, in diagnosis of death, 261.

  Austria, laws of, for inspection of dead, 355.

  Awaking in coffin, inference as to, at Les Innocens, Paris, 51;
    at Fort Randall, U.S.A., 351;
    case of at Tonneins, 52;
    at Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn, 53;
    at Rudenberg, 53;
    at Montflorin, 54;
    at Bohaste, 54;
    at Salon (Bouches du Rhône), 55;
    at Naples, 55;
    at Grenoble, 56;
    at New York (two cases), 56, 57;
    at Derbisch, Bohemia, 58;
    at Majola, Mantua, 58;
    at Cesa, Naples, 58;
    at Erie, Pa., 59;
    at Tioobayn, St. Petersburg, 59;
    at Le Pin, Grenoble, 60;
    in Madras, 60;
    at Calcutta, 61, 62;
    Köppen’s cases of, 212-214;
    case of, in Franciscan monk, 211;
    at Bordeaux, 224;
    old cases at Cologne, 326, 327;
    at Dijon, 327;
    at Vesoul, 328;
    of a cardinal at Rome, 329;
    of case related by Elliotson, 334;
    of Robert Scott, 336;
    of Rev. John Gardner, 337;
    of case related by Dr. Herz, 337;
    of Mrs. Goodman, 339;
    of cases related by Köppen, 340;
    cases related by _British Medical Journal_, 342, 343.

  BARNETT, Dr. J. M., publishes letter on the blister test, 260.

  Bavaria, official regulations of, for preventing premature burial,
    police instructions of, for corpse inspection, 206.

  Berkeley, Bishop, his dread of being buried alive, 154.

  Beugless, Mr. J. D., on the dread of premature interment, 156.

  Bibliography, seventeenth century, 363;
    eighteenth century, 364-367;
    relating to humane societies, 367;
    nineteenth century, 369;
    theses, 378;
    French articles, 379;
    German articles, 381;
    English and American articles, 384;
    Spanish articles, 387;
    Italian articles, 387.

  Billimoria, Mr. N. F., writes to the author on premature burning in
      India, 134;
    relates cases of Parsees recovered from apparent death, 139;
    on advantages of the Parsee customs in assuring revival, 141.

  Bishop, Mrs. Eleanor F., her escape from premature embalming, 231.

  Blau, M., certifies an escape from live burial at Toulouse, 145.

  Blavatsky, Madam, the late, had an escape from live burial, 104.

  Blunden, Madam, her burial alive at Basingstoke, 51.

  Bombay, customs in disposal of dead, 357.

  Bonawitz, Mr. J. H., relates two experiences of escape, 279.

  Bordeaux, corpses shown in cathedral of, which had moved in the
      coffin, 224.

  Bouchut, Dr. E., his book gives sensational cases, 20;
    relates case rescued alive from coffin, 122.

  Braid, Mr. James, narrates case of catalepsy, 37;
    on animal hibernation, 41;
    on trance in fakirs, 46;
    on Sir Claude Wade’s testimony, 47;
    cases of trance with sense of hearing good, 334.

  Brandon, Mr. R., his paper on mortuaries for recovery cited, 289.

  _British Medical Journal_, on signs of death, 198;
    case of difficulty in diagnosing real death, 199;
    hardly any one sign but putrefaction infallible, 200;
    records two cases of revivals in the coffin, 342, 343.

  Brewer, Dr., relates cases of narrow escape, 75.

  Broadwey, Dorset, catalepsy in a bride at, 38.

  Brouardel, Dr. P., experiment on live dog in coffin, 211.

  Brown-Séquard, Dr., on fallacy of clenched jaws as sign of death, 187.

  Bruhier, Dr., relates case of premature dissection, 233.

  Brussels, regulations for verification of death, 248;
    burial regulations and mortuaries of, 358.

  Buffon, Comte de, on the treatment of the dead, 215.

  Bukovina, case of resuscitation in, 176.

  Burial, ancient practices of, 331-333.

  Burial, hasty, case of, at Roscrea, 350.

  Burial, live, experiment on, at Westminster Aquarium, 48.

  Burial, premature, a class of probable cases of, 113-119;
    G. A. Walker on risks of, 215;
    Fletcher on risks of, 217;
    number of cases of, 220-228;
    frequency of estimated, 220-228;
    Hufeland on risks of, 221.

  Buried alive, cases of. (See under “Awaking.”)

  Burning Ghat, the, of Calcutta, visited by the author, 129.

  Burton, Lady, provisions of her will against risk of live burial, 154.

  CADAVERIC, the, countenance as sign of death, 187.

  Calcutta, the Burning Ghat, visited by the author, 129;
    burial customs at, 357.

  Cameron, Sir C., M.D., of Dublin, mortuary needed, 303.

  Cameron, Sir C., M.P., on worthless or wanting death-certificates,

  Cape Town, want of mortuary regulations at, 357.

  Carnot, M., petitions French Senate on premature burial, 74;
    his statistics of live burial, 223.

  Carpmael, Mr. E. E., hypodermic strychnine as a reviver, 265.

  _Casket, The_, on testimony of opened graves, 351;
    on hasty embalming, 351.

  _Cassell’s Family Physician_, account of catalepsy from, 33.

  Catalepsy, definition and symptoms of, 32-34;
    cases of, by Good, 34;
    Jebb, 35;
    Dr. King Chambers, 35;
    Paris correspondent of _Lancet_, 37;
    Braid, 37;
    at Broadwey in 1895, 38;
    Gowers on predisposition to, 120;
    case of revival on eve of burial, 122;
    Dr. Milner on, 186.

  Cavendish, Miss Ada, provision in her will against risk of live
      burial, 154.

  Certificates of death, laxity of, 11, 241;
    prematurely given, 242;
    worthless or wanting, 243;
    directions for filling up, 242;
    in France, 246-248;
    in Brussels, 248;
    in Würtemburg, 249;
    in Dover, New Hampshire, 252;
    Mr. A. Braxton Hicks on, 253;
    Mr. Brindley James on, 254;
    _Daily Chronicle_ on, 255;
    a German resident on the Würtemburg practice in, 255.

  Ceylon, risks of premature disposal of dead in, 132, 133.

  Chambers, Dr. T. King, relates and cites cases of catalepsy, 35.

  Chantourelle, Dr., raises debate on premature burial at Paris Academy
      of Medicine, 51.

  Chew, Dr. Roger S., relates cases of live burial, 60-63;
    his own case of escape from same, 89;
    other cases of escape from same, 90-94;
    case of chloroformed girl buried as dead, 125;
    on cholera collapse mistaken for death, 126;
    on safety of soldiers in India from live burial, 136;
    on putrefactive test, 183;
    on _rigor mortis_, 185;
    on frequency of live burial, 227;
    on auscultation sounds after death, 261.

  Chippendale, Mr. J., on _post-mortem_ sweating, 29.

  Chloral, supposed death from, 192.

  Chloroform, effects of simulating death, 125.

  Cholera, special risk of live burial in cases of, 92, 95, 101, 126,

  Chri, Mr. Vira Raghava, describes disposal of dead at Madras, 131.

  Chunder Sen, Mr., relates case of trance in a fakir, 44.

  Coffin, sounds from the, 106, 107.

  Colerus, on apparent death, 330.

  Collins, Dr. W. J., advises the providing of mortuaries, 309.

  Cologne, old instances of revival at, 326, 327.

  Colombo, a Catholic priest of, subject to death-trances, 130.

  Conclamation, practice of, by the Caribs, 331;
    in antiquity, 331, 332;
    in Russia, 332;
    in the case of the Widow of Nain’s son, 332.

  Conclusions, summary of, 321.

  Constantinople, risks of live burial at, 147.

  Cooper, Mr. M., surgeon, on apparent deaths, 17;
    relates case of Madam Blunden, 51;
    case at Toulouse of escape from live burial, 145;
    condemns hasty burial, 171.

  Cork, case of revival from apparent death in a child at, 318.

  Creighton, Dr. C., his History of Epidemics cited, 282.

  Cremation, at Calcutta, 129;
    among Brahmins at Madras, 131;
    at Benares, 131;
    as a preventive of premature burial, 274-278;
    approved on general grounds, 282.

  Crowe, Mrs., cases related by, 336.

  Curran, Dr. W., brigade-surgeon, his papers in _Health_ on Burial
      Alive, 103;
    relates case of premature dissection, 236.

  Curry, Dr. James, women predisposed to death-counterfeits, 121;
    on slow ebbing of life, 174;
    on exciting the skin as a test, 258;
    cases cited from, 334.

  Cyclopædia of Practical Medicine, on premature dissections, 233;
    relates remarkable case of revival after apparent death, 340.

  _Daily Chronicle_, on lax death-certification, 255.

  Dalmatia, ordinances of, for inspection of dead, 356.

  Davies, Major-General T., his account of hibernating jerboa, 40.

  Dead, the, treatment of, 215;
    Buffon on same, 215;
    G. A. Walker on, 215;
    Fletcher on, in United States, 217;
    Whiter on, 218;
    as a department of medical practice, 218.

  Death-certification, Select Committee on, purport of its evidence, 11;
    advises authorisations to embalm, 232;
    evidence before, 238;
    recommendations of, 239;
    support of same at medical meeting, 239;
    questions by as to premature burial, 244.
    (See under “Certificates.”)

  Death, counterfeits of, 27;
    their duration, 208-214;
    Josat’s table of same, 209;
    Köppen’s illustrations of same, 212.

  Death, signs of, popular, 180;
    scientific, 181-207.
    (See also under “Tests of Death.”)

  Death, sudden, the only real cases of, 159;
    Farr on definition of, 160;
    Granville on same, 160;
    Tidy on causes of, 161;
    Wilder on same, 163;
    recent instances of, from newspapers, 164-170;
    from heart-disease, 176;
    _Manchester Criterion_ on revivals from, 178;
    Dr. Wilder on risks of premature burial in, 178;
    laws against early burial after, 179.

  Death, uncertainty of, 43;
    G. A. Walker on, 216;
    _London Review_ on, 316.

  Death, verification of, 246-256.

  Denmark, burial and mortuary regulations of, 358.

  Diaphanous test, the, failure of, 187;
    Haward on, 188;
    Gannal on, 191;
    Orfila on, 191;
    Richardson on, 192.

  Dijon, case of awaking in the tomb at, 327.

  Disraeli, Benjamin, endures a week’s trance, 23.

  Dissection, premature, probable case of, related by Ogston, 232;
    Bruhier’s case of, 233;
    Louis’ case of, 234;
    Cyclopædia of Pract. Med. on stories of, 234;
    Le Guern’s case of, 235;
    Hartmann’s case of, 235;
    Curran’s case of, 236;
    case at Lille, 311;
    by Vesalius, 329;
    of a Spanish lady, 330.

  Dog, the, his instinct for the presence of life in Parsee ceremonies,
      137, 138;
    in an Austrian case, 142;
    in a Moravian case, 143.

  Donnet, Cardinal Archbishop, relates to French Senate cases of narrow
      escape from live burial, 71-74;
    including his own case, 73.

  Douce, Francis, the antiquary, his fear of being buried alive, 153.

  Dover, New Hampshire, ordinances of, for verification of death, 252.

  Drowned, recovery of the, 347;
    cases of, by Struve, 347;
    Londe’s case of, 347;
    Green’s case of, 348;
    recent cases of (Royal Humane Society), 349.

  Dryden, Lady, her testamentary provisions, 334.

  Duncan, Dr. Ebenezer, statistics of Glasgow burials, 284.

  Duration of death-counterfeits, 208;
    statistics of, 209;
    experiments on, 210, 211;
    in case of Franciscan monk, 211;
    Köppen’s illustrations of, 212-214.

  ELECTRICITY as a restorative agent, 262-265.

  Elliotson, Dr., case related by, 334.

  Embalming, makes death certain, 229;
    cases of premature, 230, 231;
    case of escape from same, 231;
    authority of Home Secretary advised for, 232;
    hasty, in the United States, 351.

  Empedocles, his recovery of woman supposed dead, 330.

  Escape from dissection at Lille, 311.

  Escape from live burial, 64;
    case of Sir W. Lindsay, 64;
    case related by Vigné, 66;
    case of professor’s wife at Tübingen, 66;
    case at Coventry in 1858, 67-70;
    case at St. Agnan de Cenuières, 71;
    cases related by Cardinal Donnet, 71-74;
    Dr. Brewer on, 75;
    case at Cleveland, Ohio, 76;
    two cases of, related by Dr. M. S. Tanner, 76;
    case by Dr. W. O’Neill, of Lincoln, 77;
    case at Clinton, Ky., 78;
    at Memphis, Tenn., 79;
    at Burham, Rochester, 80;
    at St. Leonards, 80;
    case related by Dr. F. A. Floyer, 81;
    at Penn Station, U.S., 83;
    at Vagueray, Lyons, 83;
    at Limoges, 84;
    at St. Louis, 84;
    at Lagos, 84;
    at Militsch, Silesia, 85;
    at Sprakers, Rondout, N.Y., 85;
    at Heap Bridge, Heywood, 86;
    in the daughter of a physician, 87;
    in a case related to the author, 88;
    Dr. R. S. Chew’s personal experience of, 89;
    in cases communicated by him, 90-96;
    in the cases of two Irish persons of rank, 96;
    in case related by Dr. Colin Valentine, 97;
    in case related by Dr. A. Stephenson, 97;
    in the case of the Metropolitan of Lesbos, 98;
    in cases of small-pox, 99;
    in cases related by Rev. Harry Jones, 100;
    in case at St. Paul’s, Belchamp, near Clare, 101;
    in case at Neufchâtel, 102;
    in case at Alleghany, 103;
    in the case of the late Madam Blavatsky, 104;
    in a case at Toulouse, 145;
    in a case in Würtemburg, 251;
    in case related by Graves, 254;
    in two cases certified dead by several physicians, 277;
    in case at Lille, 311;
    in the Munich mortuary, 311;
    in a mortuary at Berlin, 313;
    in the Frankfort mortuary, 313;
    in a Brussels mortuary, 314;
    in a Cassel mortuary, 314;
    in a Lille mortuary, 314;
    in a Buffalo mortuary, 315;
    in the Marylebone mortuary, 315.

  Escapes from being cremated alive in India, 132-135.

  Exhumation, law of, in England, 106;
    cases of, too late for rescue, 106-110;
    case of, in time to save life, 111.

  FABRI, William, condemns hasty burial, 171.

  Fagge, Dr. Hilton, on risk of live burial in cases of sudden death,
    on putrefaction as the only certain sign of death, 183.

  Fakirs, cases of trance in, 44-48;
    experiment with, related by Hartmann, 49.

  Farquharson, Dr. R., M.P., on lax death-certification, 240;
    examines a witness as to live burial, 245.

  Farr, Dr. William, on definition of sudden death, 160.

  Fear of premature burial, _Spectator_ on, 18, 153-158;
    eminent subjects of, 153, 154;
    Rev. John Kingston on prevalence of, 156.

  Ferrier, Dr., on signs of death, 184.

  _Figaro, Le_, correspondence in, on live burial, 228.

  Fletcher, Dr. Moore Russell, on animal hibernation, 42;
    relates cases of narrow escape, 76-88;
    on negligent treatment of the dead, 217;
    on restoratives, 265.

  Floyer, Dr. F. A., relates case of narrow escape, 81.

  Forestus on possibility of recovering supposed dead, 331.

  Formalities, fatal consequences of, 105.

  Foster, Sir Walter, M.D., examines a witness as to live burial, 245.

  Fothergill, Dr. A., on cadaveric countenance, 187;
    on the art of restoring animation, 320.

  France, laws of, relating to burials, 354.

  Frankfort, regulations for inspection of the dead, 353.

  Froriep, M., cited as to ratio of revivals in grave, 222.

  GAIRDNER, Dr. W. T., case of trance for twenty-three weeks, 23-27.

  Gannal, Dr. Félix, his valuable Bibliography, 3;
    on putrefaction the only real test, 185;
    on diaphanous test, 191;
    on fallacious signs of death, 203.

  Gaubert, M., his estimate of ratio of live burials, 226;
    his essay proves that waiting mortuaries are useful, 309.

  _Gazette Medicale_ on putrefactive test, 183.

  _Gazette Medicale d’ Orient_ asserts live burials at Constantinople,

  Germany, waiting mortuaries of, 11;
    movement in, to prevent premature interment, 146.

  Gibbons, Dr. P. J., on premature embalming, 231.

  Glycas, Nicephorus, Metropolitan of Lesbos, escapes live burial, 98.

  Goa, resident of, prematurely coffined, 133.

  Godfrey, Mrs., case of, 339.

  Gooch, Dr., his case of catalepsy, 34.

  Goodman, Mrs., celebrated case of, 339.

  Gowers, Dr. W. R., on trance, 22;
    on catalepsy, 32;
    on predisposition to same, 120.

  Granville, Dr. A. B., on sudden death, 160.

  Graves, Dr. F., relates case of escape from live burial, 254.

  Green, Anne, case of, at Oxford, 328.

  Green, Dr. J. W., case of tardy recovery after immersion, 348.

  Guern, M. le, his experience of frequency of live burial, 223;
    relates case of premature dissection, 235.

  Guy, Dr. W. A., on neglect of the subject in England, 10.

  HANGED person, the heart beating at the dissection of a, 172;
    recovery of a, 328.

  Hanham, Mr. T. C. Swinburne, on safeguards used by Cremation Society,

  Hartmann, Dr. Franz, his essay published at Boston, U.S., 9;
    distinguishes trance from catalepsy, 32;
    relates two cases of rescue from live burial fatally delayed, 108;
    case of catalepsy revived, 122;
    case of Orrendo’s body found beside the empty coffin, 122;
    on predisposing causes of trance, 127;
    relates case of resuscitation from spasms of the heart, 176;
    on putrefaction the sole test of death, 194;
    on frequency of live burial, 227;
    case of premature dissection, 235;
    two cases of escape from death after formal certification, 277;
    on resuscitation, 320.

  Haward, Dr. Edwin, case of failure of diaphanous test, 188.

  Haweis, Rev. H. R., advocates cremation to prevent live burial, 278.

  Hearing, sense of, in suspended animation, 335, 336, 337.

  Heart, disease of, sudden apparent death in, 176.

  Heart, stoppage of, as test of death, 181.

  Hedley, Dr. W. S., on use of electricity as a restorative, 263.

  Herachborg, Dr., relates case of a Jewess rescued from the
      undertakers, 146, 362 (Hirschberg).

  Heraclides of Pontus, on a disease marked by absence of breathing, 21.

  Herz, Dr. Marcus, opposes hasty burial among the Jews, 146, 361.

  Hibernation, instance of, in the jerboa, 40;
    Braid on, in lower animals, 41;
    Russell Fletcher on, in reptiles and fishes, 42.

  Hibernation, so-called human, 43.

  Hicks, Mr. A. Braxton, on lax certification of death, 253.

  Hincks, Amelia, a case of narrow escape, 68-70.

  Hindus, their motive for speedy disposal of dead, 132.

  Historical cases, appendix of, 325.

  Holmes, Mrs. Basil, on the extension of burial-grounds, 283.

  Honigberger, Dr. J. M., his researches on trance in India, 50.

  Hopps, Rev. J. Page, advocates cremation to prevent live burial, 281.

  Hotels, hasty burials from, on the Continent, 152.

  Howard, Col., of Co. Wicklow, his escape from live burial, 97.

  Hufeland, Dr. C. W., on trance, 43;
    narrates narrow escape from live burial, 66;
    on risks and horrors of live burial, 221;
    devised the Weimar mortuary, 286.

  Humane Society, the Royal, cases from its reports, 337, 344, 345, 349;
    literature relating to, 347, 367.

  Hypodermic medicines, as restoratives or tests, 265.

  INDIA, premature burial and cremation in, 129;
    Mr. Billimoria on the risks of the same, 134;
    soldiers in, not liable to risk of same, 136.

  Infants, recovery of supposed dead, 342-345.

  Influenza followed by trance, 30, 124.

  Ireland, death-certification in, 241;
    practice of burial in, 301, 359;
    no mortuaries in, 302.

  Irvine, Mr. Clarke, on popular trust in the signs of death, 203.

  JACKSON, Dr., of Somerby, relates case of supposed death by
      lightning-stroke, 192.

  James, Mr. J. Brindley, on risks of live burial, 254.

  Jaws, clenching of, as signs of death, 187.

  Jebb, Dr. John, his graphic case of catalepsy, 35.

  Jerboa, the, its hibernation, 40.

  Jews, hasty burials among, opposed, 146;
    cases of, restored to life by delay, 146, 147, 148;
    their law of burial criticised, 150;
    funeral practices of, 332;
    history of their practice of early burial, 360;
    discussions on same, 361.

  _Jewish World_, on the special risk of live burial amongst Jews, 150.

  Jeypore, fakir in a trance at, 44.

  Johnson, Walter, exhibits himself in a trance, 48.

  Jones, Rev. Harry, relates cases of escape from live burial, 100.

  Josat, Dr., on absence of cardiac action at birth, 182;
    statistics of duration of apparent death, 209;
    on interval between apparent and real death, 310.

  Joseph, Mr., on risks of premature burial or burning in Ceylon, 132.

  KENNY, Dr. J. E., M.P., disposal of the dead in Ireland, 301.

  Kerthomas, M. H. L., relates revival of corpse at Lille, 311.

  Kesteven, Mr. W. B., on fallacy of cardiac test of death, 182.

  Kite, Dr. Charles, on uncertain signs of death, 14.

  Köppen, H. F., case of rescue from grave fatally delayed, 106;
    cases of long vitality in coffin or grave, 212-214;
    cites estimate of ratio of live burials, 220.

  Kuhn, Dr., reports on trance, 50.

  LABORDETTE, Dr. A. de, on fallacy of clenched jaws as sign of death,

  Lagenberg, Van, Dr., information from, as to premature burials at
      Colombo, 130.

  _Lancet, The_, on the horror of live burial, 16;
    on a case of revival from death-trance at Nuneaton, 67;
    on cholera patients buried alive, 149;
    on reality of premature interment, 155;
    on diagnosis of apparent death, 196;
    on lax death-certification, 243;
    on mortuaries, 293;
    its testimony, 318;
    on recovery of the still-born, 346.

  Lancisi, Dr., his belief in reanimation, 13;
    opposes delay in burial, 144.

  Laurens, Miss, her recovery from apparent death, 340.

  Lénormand, Dr. Léonce, enumerates death-like conditions, 127;
    on apparent death in cases of apoplexy, 175;
    on delay of asphyxia in coffin, 210;
    estimates ratio of live burials, 223;
    on laxity of the _médécins verificateurs_, 246.

  Lesbos, Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of, his escape from live burial,

  Levitical law of corpses and burials, 360.

  Lethargy, synonym of trance, 23, 28.

  Lightning-stroke, cases of apparent death from, 192, 371.

  Lignières, Dr. de, on premature burials from hotels, 152;
   on large ratio of uncertain deaths, 201.

  Lindsay, Sir W., his escape from live burial, 64.

  Londe, Dr. Charles, on duration of breathing in a coffin, 210;
    relates case of tardy recovery after immersion, 348.

  London, burial-grounds of, 283;
    mortuaries of, 295-298.

  Looking-glass test of death, 180.

  Louis, Dr. Antoine, relates case of premature dissection, 234.

  Lytton, Edward Bulwer, Baron, his dread of being buried alive, 154.

  MACNISH, Dr., on trance, 22.

  Madden, Dr. T. More, cases of death-counterfeits, 27.

  _Manchester Criterion_ on revivals after sudden death, 178.

  Manning, Rev. Owen, case of, 338.

  Martineau, Harriet, provision of her will against risk of live burial,

  Marylebone, case of recovery in the mortuary of, 9, 298, 315.

  Mason, Mr. R. B., of Nuneaton, authenticates case of narrow escape,

  Mayo, Dr. Herbert, on trance, 22;
    on states predisposing to same, 127.

  _Médécins verificateurs_, their duties perfunctorily discharged, 246.

  _Medical Examiner_ on putrefactive test, 183.

  _Medical Times_ on hospital mortuaries, 299.

  _Medical Times and Gazette_ on Cardinal Donnet’s cases of live burial,
    on vivisection of a criminal, 172.

  Medicine, profession of, sceptical as to death-trance and live burial,
    a new sphere of work for, 218;
    its overcrowded state, 219 (_footnote_).

  Mendelssohn, Moses, writes against early burial, 361.

  Meyerbeer, his dread of being buried alive, 54.

  Milner, Dr. Ebenezer, on appearances of death in trance, 186;
    on _rigor mortis_, 186.

  Misson, M. Max, his opinion on frequency of live burial, 222;
    instances cited by, 326.

  Mody, Ervad Jivanji, his explanation of the “Sagdeed” at Parsee
      funerals, 138;
    on the use of the chain at the Towers of Silence, 138.

  Molloy, J. F., alleges trance in B. Disraeli, 23.

  Monteverdi, M., his test of death, 193.

  Moore, Dr. G., on so-called human hibernation, 43.

  Mortuaries, an illustration of their use, 95;
    waiting, should be established in all sanitary districts, 285;
    movement in favour of, began in France, 286;
    first executed in Germany, 286;
    new and sumptuous example of, at Munich, 289;
    called for in London in 1847 by R. Brandon, 289-293;
    as now existing in London, 295-298;
    only one case of resuscitation reported from same, 298;
    suggestions for their improvement and extension, 298, 303;
    _Medical Times_ on those of hospitals, 299;
    as now existing in provincial towns, 300;
    want of, in Ireland, 301-303;
    those of Brussels, 305;
    of Paris, 305;
    of Berlin, 306;
    of Vienna, 306;
    of Stockholm, 307;
    that of Weimar, 307;
    suggested joint-stock company for, in Paris, 308;
    utility of, 309.

  Moscow, burial customs at, 358.

  Munich, new sumptuous mortuary at, 289;
    utility of the mortuary at, 309;
    ordinances of, for ascertaining death, 356.

  NECKER, Madam, her practical suggestions to prevent live burial, 286.

  Needle test of death, 194.

  Netherlands, the, burial laws of, 353.

  Newsholme, Dr. A., on unregistered still-births, 346.

  Newspaper cases, of trance, 30, 31;
    of sudden death, 164-170;
    some head-lines from, 318.

  _Nonna, La_, form of trance following influenza, 30, 124.

  Nowroji, Mr. Ardeshar, on premature exposure of the dead among
      Parsees, 138.

  Number, probable, of live burials, 220.

  Nuneaton, authentic case at, of narrow escape, 67.

  Nusserwanje, Mr. Dadabhoy, on cases of restored animation in Parsees,

  O’CONNELL, Daniel, his dread of being buried alive, 154.

  O’Rourke, Mr. John, on hurried embalming, 352.

  O’Neill, Dr. W., relates case of narrow escape, 78.

  Ogston, Prof. Francis, records probable case of premature dissection,

  Ordinances. (See under “Regulations.”)

  Orfila, M., diaphanous test useless, 192.

  Orrendo, case of, at Kronstadt, 122.

  Oswald, Dr. John, on means of restoration to life, 266, 267.

  Ouseley, Rev. J. G., estimates ratio of live burials, 222.

  PARSEES, their mode of disposing of the dead, 136-142;
    their prejudice against persons restored to life, 139, 142.

  Patzki, Dr. J. H., his case of recovery by artificial respiration,

  Pembroke, William, Earl of, embalmed, 230.

  Perspiration a sign of revival, 28, 363.

  Petitions for prevention of premature burial, 225.

  Phelps, Lieut.-Gen. A., advocates cremation to prevent live burial,

  Plato, his reason for advising tardy disposal of dead, 144, 331;
    relates a case of revival, 325.

  Pliny gives instances of the dead restored, 326.

  Plutarch, case of revival cited from, 325.

  Prasad, Mr. Durga, relates escape from burning alive, 132.

  Pratt, Dr. Samuel B., on _rigor mortis_, 185.

  Predisposition to trance, from nervous exhaustion, 120;
    in women, 121;
    habitual, 122;
    from cold, 123;
    after influenza, 30, 124;
    from narcotics, 125;
    in cholera, 126;
    in various morbid states, 127.

  Pregnancy, apparent death during, 66.

  Probability of life, recent rise in, 319;
    how same might be further raised, 319.

  Prevention, means of, various, 258;
    by exciting the skin, 258-261;
    by auscultation, 261;
    by electricity, 262-265;
    by hypodermic injection, 265;
    by artificial respiration, 266;
    summary of, in _All the Year Round_, 268-273;
    prizes for discovery of, 273.
    (See also under “Tests of death.”)

  _Prix Dusgate_, 274, 377.

  _Prix Manni_, 274, 374.

  _Prix d’Ourches_, 274, 376.

  Prize by the Brussels Royal Academy, 366.

  Publisher, a well-known, relates to the author a case of narrow
      escape, 88.

  Putrefaction, the one safe test of death, Dr. Chew on, 183;
    Dr. Fagge on, 183;
    _Medical Examiner_ on, 183;
    Dr. Gannal on, 185.

  Pye-Smith, Dr. P. H., on caution to be used in cases of trance, 175

  QUENSTEDT on dormancy of vital principle, 325.

  Quintilian gives reason for tardy burial by the Romans, 144.

  RACHEL, Mlle. (actress), said to have been prematurely embalmed, 230.

  Recommendations of the authors, 323.

  Regulations, against early burial after sudden death, 179;
    in Würtemburg for ascertaining real death, 195;
    in Bavaria for same, 204-207;
    in the Netherlands, 353;
    Frankfort, 353;
    France, 354;
    Austria, 355;
    Vienna, 355;
    Dalmatia, 356;
    Saxony, 356;
    Munich, 356;
    Calcutta, 357;
    Bombay, 357;
    Cape Town, 357;
    Moscow, 358;
    Brussels, 358;
    Denmark, 358;
    Spain, 359;
    Ireland, 359;
    United States, 359.

  Respiration, artificial, in case of apparent death, 266.

  Respiration, failure of, as test of death, 181.

  Resuscitation, cases of. (See under “Awaking,” “Escapes,” and

  Richardson, Sir B. W., his paper on the Absolute Signs of Death, 10;
    cites case of narrow escape, 75;
    on effects of narcotics simulating death, 125;
    his enumeration of signs of death, 181, 192-194;
    applies the tests of death in a case, 189.

  _Rigor mortis_ a sign of death, 185.

  Rescue from live burial, fatally delayed by formalities, 105;
    cases of, 106-110;
    cases of, promptly successful, 111-112.

  Romans, ancient, their burial practices, 333.

  Roper, Dr., relates cases of still-born recovered, 355.

  Roy, Dr. Mohan Chunder, on risks of live burial or burning at Benares,

  “SAGDEED,” the, ceremony at the Towers of Silence, 138.

  Salzburg, case of delayed rescue from live burial at, 108.

  Saxony, burial law of, 356.

  Schmid, Dr. J., case of sudden death revived, 176.

  Scott, Robert, of Scott’s Hall, case of, 335;
    his wife’s case, 336.

  Servius, cremation delayed among the Latins, 144.

  Sethna, Mr. Phiroze C., accompanies the author to the Towers of
      Silence, 136.

  Shaw, Mr. Oscar F., narrates case of live burial, 53.

  Sheffield, a premature death-certificate at, 242.

  Silence, Towers of, visit of author to, at Bombay, 136.

  Small-pox, cases of suspended animation in, 99.

  Snart, Mr. John, on number of live burials, 221.

  Somaglia, Cardinal, prematurely embalmed, 230.

  Spain, burial practices in, 359.

  Spasms of the heart, recovery after supposed death from, 176.

  _Spectator, The_, on indifference to the danger, 18.

  Spinosa, Cardinal, prematurely embalmed, 230.

  Sri Sumangala on risks of live burial or burning in Ceylon, 133.

  Stevenson, Dr. A., refuses demand for death-certificate in case of
      trance, 97.

  Still-born, the, resuscitation of, 341-346.

  Struve, Dr. C. A., case of rescue fatally delayed, 106;
    on duration of apparent death, 208;
    case of recovery by electricity, 262;
    cases of recovery of still-born, 342;
    of recovery of drowned, 347.

  Syncope, statistics of death by, 173;
    definition of, 173.

  TALMUD, the, its teaching as to burials, 361.

  Tanner, Dr. M. S., relates two cases of narrow escape, 76.

  Tatham, Dr. John, examined as to live burials, 245.

  Terilli, Dr., tardy burial a safeguard, 145.

  Tests of death: respiratory, 181;
    cardiac and arterial, 181, 182;
    putrefactive, 183;
    _rigor mortis_, 185;
    cadaveric countenance, 187;
    clenched jaws, 187;
    diaphanous web of fingers, 187;
    Richardson’s enumeration of, 193;
    Hartmann on fallaciousness of, 194;
    official statements of, 195;
    _Lancet_ on fallaciousness of, 196;
    _British Medical Journal_ on same, 198-201;
    Wilder on same, 201;
    Gaubert on same, 201;
    expert _verificateurs_ of, 202;
    popular trust in, 203;
    Bavarian official directions for, 204-207.

  Thouret, Dr., his inference from opening of graves, 51, 228.

  Thieurey, Dr., his estimated number of live burials cited, 222.

  Thompson, Sir Henry, on defective death-certification, 240;
    advocates cremation to prevent live burial, 276.

  Thompson, Mr. W. Arnold, case of still-born child recovered, 345.

  Tidy, Dr. C. M., on progressive nature of death, 160;
    on causes of sudden death, 161;
    on still-born infants, 341.

  Tobacco a cause of sudden death, 163.

  Trance, definition and symptoms of, 21-23;
    Gairdner’s case of, 23-27;
    Madden’s cases of, 27-29;
    other cases of, 29, 30;
    prolonged cases of, 31;
    Hufeland on, 43;
    in a fakir at Jeypore, 44;
    at Lahore, 47;
    self-induced at Westminster Aquarium, 48;
    cases of, require caution (Pye-Smith), 175 (_footnote_);
    Milner on diagnosis of, from death, 186.

  _Truth_, relation in, of a case of unverified death, 115.

  Turnbull, Mr. Peveril, communicates to _Spectator_ case of exhumation
      alive, 111.

  UNDERTAKERS, testimony of, 57;
    their experience of dubious death, 118;
    their fear of premature interment, 156.

  _Undertakers’ and Funeral Directors’ Journal_, on risks of hasty
       burial, 171;
    on frequency of live burial, 226;
    on necessity for mortuaries, 295.

  _Union Medicale, La_, on premature burial, 247.

  United States of America, regulations in, for disposal of dead, 359.

  VALENTINE, Dr. Colin S., relates case of escape from burial, 97.

  Verification of deaths, in France, 246;
    in Brussels, 248;
    in Würtemburg, 249;
    in the United States, 252.

  Vesalius, Andreas, his case of live dissection, 329.

  Vienna, ordinances of, for inspection of dead, 355.

  Vigné, Dr. J. B., narrates a narrow escape, 66;
    testamentary directions to prevent his own live burial, 257.

  Vivisection of a criminal, 172.

  WADE, Sir Claude, eye-witness of trances in fakirs, 47.

  Wadia, Mr. Soabjee Dhunjeebhoy, 138.

  Waiting Mortuaries, Gaubert on, 309.

  Walker, Dr., of Dublin, his case, 338.

  Walker, Mr. G. A., on risks of premature burial, 215.

  Walters, Rev. W., on death-certification in Ireland, 241.

  Waterman, Dr. S., recoveries from apparent death in heart-disease,

  _Wiener Medicinische Zeitung_ on a premature Jewish interment at
      Lemberg, 148.

  Welby, Mr. Horace, dread of live burial a prevalent one, 153.

  Whiter, Rev. Walter, advice as to treatment of the dead, 218.

  Whitney, Constance, her tomb in Cripplegate Church, 338.

  Widgen, Mrs., recovers many still-born at lying-in hospital, 344.

  Wilder, Dr. Alex., brings subject before State Legislature, N.Y., 19;
    on predisposition to trance, 120;
    on the causes of sudden death, 163;
    on risks of premature burial in sudden deaths, 178;
    on fallacious signs of death, 201;
    advocates cremation to prevent live burial, 280.

  Winslow, Dr. Jacques B., a pioneer in the prevention of live burial,
    on signs of death, 333, 334.

  Wunderbar, R. J., on the origin of, and authority for, early burial
      among the Jews, 360.

  Würtemburg, official directions of, for ascertaining real death, 195,
    case of escape from premature interment in, 251;
    regulations of, recommended for imitation, 255, 256.

  YATES, Edmund, bequeaths fee to surgeon to ensure that he was not
    buried alive, 154.

  _Hay Nisbet & Co., Printers, 16 St. Enoch Square, Glasgow, and
  25 Bouverie Street, London, E. C._


[1] “The Recovery of the Apparently Dead,” by Charles Kite, Member of
the Corporation of Surgeons in London, and Surgeon at Gravesend in
Kent. London, 1788.

[2] “Histoire de la Médecine,” La Haye, 1729, p. 333.

[3] “Linnæan Transactions,” 1797, vol. iv., p. 155. “An Account of the
Jumping Mouse of Canada--_Dipus Canadensis_.”

[4] Archives gén de Med., 1827, xiv., p. 105.

[5] The case referred to, being attended with considerable doubt, is

[6] _Evening News_, Nottingham, January 10, 1896.

[7] _Health_, May 21, 1886, edited by Dr. Andrew Wilson, pp. 120-1.
After relating other cases, Surgeon Curran continues:--“I have myself
personally seen or heard on the spot of three such cases--cases that in
other hands or in other localities might have passed as dead, were they
not buried as such accordingly.”

[8] For the antiquity of the Jewish practice of early burial, see note
in Appendix.

[9] Dr. A. B. Granville, “Sudden Death,” p. 278.

[10] Ibid., p. 278.

[11] Ibid., p. 279.

[12] Tidy, “Legal Medicine,” part i., pp. 279-280.

[13] In the 3rd ed., by Dr. Pye Smith, the following occurs at p. 817
of vol. i., under “Trance”:--“These are the cases which have led to the
popular belief that death is sometimes only apparent, and that there
may be a danger of persons being buried alive; and it cannot be denied
that a patient in such a condition might easily be allowed to die by
careless or ignorant attendants, or might be buried before death.”

[14] _Bulletin Therap. Méd._, tome xxvii., p. 371.

[15] “Premature Burial: An Examination into the Occult Causes of
Apparent Death, Trance, and Catalepsy.” By Franz Hartmann, M.D. Second
Edition. London: Swan Sonnenschein & Co. (One Shilling).

[16] “Pour se convaincre de l’erreur où l’on tomberait en adoptant
cette opinion populaire, il suffit de refléchir d’abord qu’un cercueil
n’est pas exactement moulé sur les proportions du corps qu’il
contient; que, par consequent, tous les intervalles sont remplis d’air
respirable, en quantité très-grande, égale à-peu-près à un cube dont le
côté aurait 50 centimètres de hauteur. Or, chaque inspiration absorbe
environ 1,200 centimètres cubes d’air dont l’oxygène n’est employé dans
l’hématose que pour sa cinquième partie, le reste étant rendu pendant
l’expiration; il en resulte donc que chaque inspiration ne consomme en
réalité que 240 centimètres cubes. L’homme, à l’état normal, respire
à-peu-près 800 fois par heure; et, comme un cube de 50 centimètres de
côté contient 125,000 centimètres cubes, on doit conclure que cette
quantité d’air peut suffire à 520 inspirations normales, c’est à dire à
soutenir la vie pendant près de trois quarts d’heure. Mais, d’un autre
côté, il est démontré, en botanique, que l’air filtre dans la terre;
celui contenu dans le cercueil peut donc en partie se renouveler. On
doit nécessairement tenir compte de la nature du terrain où le cercueil
à été déposé; s’il est sec, léger ou sablonneux, il laissera pénétrer,
circuler pour, ainsi dire, l’air atmosphérique plus facilement, que
des terres humides, grasses ou argileuses. Ajoutons enfin, que les
quantités determinées plus haut pourraient être réduites de plus de
moitié, sans causer directement la mort. On voit donc qu’un homme
peut vivre sous terre pendant plusieurs heures, et que ce temps sera
d’autant plus court que le sujet sera plus pléthorique, c’est-à-dire
predisposé aux congestions cérébrales, puisque, dans ce cas, ses
inspirations seront plus larges et plus frequentes.”

[17] Report on “Suspended Animation.” By a Committee of the Royal Med.
Chirur. Society, July 12, 1862.

[18] The _British Medical Journal_, August 15, 1894, p. 381, reports
a “Discussion on the Overcrowding of the Profession,” in which Dr.
Frederick H. Alderson says:--“The very crowded condition of the medical
profession concerns a very large body of the profession; neither is the
evil limited to any particular section of it. Our physicians are too
numerous, our surgeons alike too many, and our general practitioners
are legion.”

[19] Quoted by Dr. Franz Hartmann in “Premature Burial.”

[20] Alas for the futility of human expectations of reform when left to
the initiation of Governments--this was written twenty-seven years ago,
and nothing has been done to remedy the evil!

[21] During the five years ending 1895 the population of France,
where of all European countries premature burial is most in vogue,
has increased by only 133,819, or, leaving out the immigration of
alien population, the increase is under 30,000. The population for all
practical purposes may be regarded as stationary.

[22] With reference to the burial customs in Ireland, the _Kings County
Chronicle_, Parsonstown, September 17, 1896, says:--“Young children are
buried the day after death, but adults are waked for two, and sometimes
three nights.”

                          TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE:

--Obvious print and punctuation errors were corrected.

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