As recently as 100 years ago, being buried alive was a genuine fear for good reason. Pronouncements of death weren’t foolproof in the days when medicine was barely a science and the wounded or sick were sometimes assumed to be dead. Furthermore, a condition called catalepsy mimics the rigidity of death and in the past, could cause confusion. Death proved to be an illusion so often, some opted to be buried with loaded guns, knives, or poison just in case they suddenly woke up the morning after the funeral. In 1964’s lurid The Curse of the Living Corpse, a cranky Victorian millionaire prefers a different kind of insurance, threatening that he’ll return from the grave and kill his family if they don’t make good and sure he’s pushing up daisies, medically speaking.
If he’d just held on a few more years, he could have avoided all the curse-making and just bought one of those devices
that Snopes claims was patented in 1897, in hopes of making live
burials a thing of the past. It was a coffin with a tube running to the
surface to let in air and light, wave a flag, and even ring a bell if
its inhabitant began to move around down below. A modern equivalent is
on the market, which is essentially a walkie-talkie system that lets
the dearly departed give a squawk if they suddenly find themselves all
dressed up with nowhere to go.
Thanks to modern medicine, a misdiagnosis of death is unlikely to
happen. But just in case, better make sure to start training that
six-inch kung fu punch that got Uma out of her casket in Kill Bill Vol. 2. And if you have any cranky millionaires in the family, bury them extra deep.