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Atlanta Doll's Head Trail is probably the scariest hike in the country

The fear of being buried alive could be an age-old obsession – Pliny the Elder recorded cases among the Romans in his Natural History of 77 AD. The golden age for this peculiar phobia, however, was the Victorian era, when a sensational press came across a public fascination with death (and a somewhat spotty science) to found a home industry with books and inventions, those of premature burial and before dedicated to their prevention. Groups such as the London Association for the Prevention of Premature Burials and alarming texts such as a thousand persons buried alive by their best friends (published by a Boston physician in 1

883) shot up.

Deep in a coffin was a popular plot for gothic writers, as well as for Edgar Allan Poe, whose 1844 story, "The Premature Burial" (among others), contributed to a public exploration of the subject. The Italian psychiatrist Enrico Morselli said the fears of premature burial were so widespread that it was time to create an official medical term [PDF]. He coined the word taphephobia (Greek for "tomb" + "fear"). As Morselli described it, "Taphephobia … is an unhappy person who is plagued every day and every hour by the sudden idea of ​​being buried alive."

The rampant Taphephobia also led to the emergence of the so-called "taphephobia" "safety coffins", which should prevent premature burials. In Germany alone, more than 30 of these designs were patented in the second half of the 19th century. Most included mechanisms for communication with the living, such as ropes and other tools used to ring the bells above the earth (some safety coffins also contained air, food, and water supplies). In 1822 a Dr. Adolf Gutsmuth from Seehausen, Altmark (today's Germany), made his design by burying himself alive, where he "stayed underground for several hours and served a meal with soup, beer and sausages in the kitchen coffin feeding tube.

The following are ten famous taphephobes, and although not all were affected by a full-blown phobia, they have all taken precautions to prevent them from being declared dead before their time.

. 1 Hans Christian Andersen

According to his biographer Jackie Wullschlager, the Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen was mortally afraid of being buried alive. He spent his last days with his friends Dorothea and Moritz Melchior in Copenhagen and asked Dorothea to end his veins after he had breathed his last breath. Dorothea joked that he could do what he had often done and left a note saying "I just seem to be dead" next to him. "

The note was part of Andersen's bedside table – some say he even wore it on his neck. Andersen was more than a little neurotic, and being buried alive was anything but his only fear. According to Wullschlager, he was also traveling with a rope in his luggage, because he was afraid of fire, was afraid of dogs and refused to eat pork for fear of Trichinosis.

. 2 Frédéric Chopin

In his last written message, the composer Frédéric Chopin is said to have written the words (in French): "The earth suffocates. Swear that they will cut me so that I will not be buried alive. "(Some biographers translate the word" earth "into" cough. "Chopin was diagnosed with tuberculosis.) Chopin's exact cause of death has never been determined. Although the researchers had long wanted to examine his heart, which was included in the column of a Warsaw church in alcohol to test the theory that he might have died of CF.

. 3 George Washington

A few hours before his death, George Washington told his secretary, "I'm leaving, let me bury you decently, and do not leave my body in the vault in less than three days after I'm dead." The request was not uncommon in its time: before the invention of modern stethoscopes, the onset of putrefaction-which generally occurs in corpses within days-was the only sure sign of death.

His nephew, US Supreme Court Justice Bushrod Washington was even more evident in his protection from premature burial. He said to his doctor, "[M] Your thumbs should not be tied together – nor anything that is pressed onto my face or person by bandages, etc. My body is to be placed in a completely simple coffin with a flat top and a sufficient number of holes drilled through the lid and sides – especially around the face and head to allow breathing when a resuscitation should occur and as long as it has been held to determine whether or not there has been an expiration, the casket must be closed. "

. 4 Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Victorian writer and politician Edward Bulwer-Lytton is responsible for the phrase, "It was a dark and stormy night." Make the worst opening lines in the literature.) But spare some pity for the guy: he was like that worried that one day he would wake up in a coffin and ask that his heart be punctured before being buried, just in case.

. 5 Alfred Nobel

Alfred Nobel was the inventor of dynamite. Although invented for non-military purposes, he believed that his invention would help create peace by rendering the war inedible. The Nobel Prizes were created by his will, who left most of his vast fortune to creating a fund of prizes for those who "brought the greatest benefit to humanity." The last part of Nobel's will, however, reflected another occupation. He wrote, "It is my express wish that my veins be opened after my death and when this has been done and competent physicians have confirmed clear signs of death." My remains are to be cremated in a so-called crematorium. "

6 .Auguste Renoir

Following a memoir by his son Jean Renoir, the French painter Auguste Renoir repeatedly expressed the fear of being buried alive.His son insisted that a doctor "take all necessary" to ensure that the artist really and was really dead before he was buried.

7. Arthur Schopenhauer

According to historian Jan Bondeson, the influential German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer "openly dispelled the fear of premature burial." He called for his corpse, to stay above the ground for five days so that he is good and lazy before the funeral.

8. Nikolai Gogol [19659014] The Russian author Nikolai Gogol (famous for his short story "The Mantle" and the novel Dead Souls ) was both fascinated and appalled by the prospect of a premature burial In a letter to a friend in which he was stunned that people could stay in trance and see, hear and feel without being able to do anything to prevent premature burial heartbeat.

When Gogol was exhumed a few decades later (Russian authorities had decided to demolish the cemetery where he had been buried), his body had shifted and lay on the side, creating a legend t his worst fear was true become – he had been buried alive. Although it is tempting to believe such a dramatic story, corpses may postpone death due to rot and earthmoving.

. 9 Johann Nepomuk Nestroy

The Austrian writer Johann Nepomuk Nestroy has taken extensive precautions against premature burials according to Bondeson:

In his will, he explained that the only risk he faces is that of his current situation Literature on this subject had taught him that one could not rely on the doctors distinguishing the dead from the living. His body was to be kept for two days in an open coffin in a waiting morgue with a signaling device that would announce all signs of life. Even after the funeral the coffin lid was not allowed to be nailed down.

10.Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield

Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, was a British statesman and wit who is perhaps best known today for the letters to his illegitimate son, which he received from 1737 Wrote almost daily for 30 years. (Not everyone was a fan: after the letters were first published in 1774, Samuel Johnson wrote that they taught "the moral of a whore and the manners of a dancer.") While Stanhope was not exactly crippled by the fear of premature burial, In a letter to his son's wife in 1769, he referred to the predicament: "All I desire for my own funeral is not to be buried; but how or where, I think, must be completely indifferent to any rational being.

This story was first published in 2015 and reissued in 2019.

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