Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

The First Is Rarely The Best

It’s pitch black. And the stench of chemicals burns your nostrils.

Guided by the ache in your back, you brace your hands against the floor and push yourself up. THUD! Your head slams into a hard surface and you slump back down. You frantically thrust your hands into all directions and find yourself in a tight space—you’ve been buried alive.

While extraordinarily rare today, being buried alive was a legitimate fear for those in the Victorian era where ‘dead’ people magically came back to life.

A documented case from 1842 tells a story of a man who woke up from suspended animation as he was being lowered into his grave. He got up, ignored the clergy and undertaker who demanded payment for their services, and walked off. The next day he was sued.

But the psychological damage was done. Afraid of one day waking up inside a coffin, the people demanded a fix.

Numerous creative solutions were found.

One was the waiting mortuary where bodies were kept until they turned rancid.

As new stiffs entered the hospital of the dead, nurses checked the alleged corpses for signs of life by placing feathers and mirrors in front of their faces. Sometimes attendants tied a system of strings and bells to a body so the slightest movement would be heard.

Another answer was the safety coffin. Which came in all kinds of zany shapes and sizes.

Like running a tube up from the grave into a little telephone sized box where priests could see and smell signs of life from down below. Other inventions involved strings fixed to toes and fingers to an above-ground bell, feeding tubes and crypts with hatches.

Legend has it the first solution was much more efficient.

You see, most of the methods to prevent being buried alive are expensive and time consuming.

Recognising the need for simplicity, an anonymous inventor came up with something strikingly simple. A plain coffin with a stake implanted in its lid right above the person’s heart.

Shut the lid and any doubts about the coffin occupant’s vitals are brought to an end.

Despite seeign little use, the stabbing coffin teaches us an important lesson.

There’s always more than one answer. And if you want a good one, you better invent a lot.

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach