Many people’s biggest fear (after giant spiders) is being buried alive. Not only is the thought of slowly running out of breath as you try in vain to scratch your way out of a wooden box absolutely horrifying, but realizing that your friends and family didn’t care enough to make sure you were actually dead before throwing you in the ground is an existential nightmare unto itself. You might think these are all historical tales of terror, but not all of the men and women on this list died before the modern era. There’s an unfortunate (and frankly, kind of scary) number of people who died after being buried alive in the 21st century as well. This list is full of some good ol’ fashioned nightmare fuel, so if you’re taphophobic (the fear of being buried alive), you might want to steer clear. Or better yet, face your fears and be healed by this list of people who were buried alive!
Below you’ll find a few happy endings, but more often than not, premature burial ends exactly how you think it will. If the thought of being trapped in a box and gasping for every breath is totally freaking you out right now (as it should!), then after reading this list get to work on your “I’m not dead!” cards and work out a secret code so your friends will know you’re alive even when though you’ve been sleeping for 48 hours. Have fun trying to get to sleep after reading about people being buried alive. We’re almost certain it won’t happen to you!
In 2005, Jessica Lunsford was abducted from her home in Homosassa, FL and taken to an empty trailer where she was held captive and raped by a convicted sex offender before he buried her in a hole approximately 2.5′ deep and 2′ circular, covered with leaves. Her body had undergone “moderate” to “severe” decomposition and, according to the publicly released autopsy reports, was skeletonized on two fingers that Lunsford had poked through the bags before suffocating to death.
Brazilian Man Crawls Out Of His Own Grave
For a brief moment, a woman visiting a family tomb in Brazil thought she was witnessing patient zero in a real life version of Night of the Living Dead when she witnessed a body emerging from a grave, waving its arms. After finally convincing the authorities to come to the cemetery to either rescue the man or start making headshots, police rescued the man who they believe to be a former city hall worker, who was involved in a fight in another part of the city, where he was badly beaten by attackers until he passed out and was taken to the cemetery to be buried alive.
In 2015, a 16-year-old Honduran girl named Neysi Perez was mistakenly buried alive. Her family reportedly heard screaming coming from inside her coffin, though when they opened it, she was dead. According to relatives, her body was still warm and she had bruises on her fingertips. As well, the glass viewing pane on her coffin had been smashed. Doctors believe she had suffered a severe panic attack, which temporarily stopped her heart, resulting in the initial pronouncement of her death.
Benson was a London socialite and daughter of conservative MP Leonard Plugge who became mixed up with up with Racial Adjustment Action Society and its leader, Michael X. On the morning of January 2, 1972 a group of men, including Michael X, took Benson out for a walk outside their commune where they pushed her into a hole and attacked her with a cutlass. Her autopsy later found inhaled dirt in her lungs. It was alleged that Michael X had ordered her death because she was causing “mental strain” to her husband.
In 1991, Shakereh Khaleeli – the wealthy daughter of one of India’s more preeminent families, went missing. In May 1994, her skeletal remains were discovered by police in the courtyard of her own home. In an awful turn of events, her second husband had drugged her in her sleep, placed her on a mattress in a “coffin like box,” and covered it with another mattress. She died unconscious, confined to a constricted space, and buried by the man whom she trusted implicitly. When Shakereh’s skeletal remains were recovered and the mattress was removed, one of her hands was found clutching the mattress which lay below her. The side of the box was scratched with her nails, perhaps in an attempt to get out, probably suffocating in the last pangs of breath.
In 1915, a 30-year-old South Carolinian named Essie Dunbar suffered a fatal attack of epilepsy – or so everyone thought. After declaring her dead, doctors placed Dunbar’s body in a coffin and scheduled her funeral for the next day so that her sister, who lived out of town, would still be able to pay her respects. But Dunbar’s sister didn’t travel fast enough; she arrived only to see the last clods of dirt thrown atop the grave. This didn’t sit well with Dunbar’s sister, who wanted to see Essie one last time. She ordered that the body be removed. When the coffin lid was opened, Essie sat up and smiled at all around her. She lived for another 47 years. No one gave Essie’s sister guff about running late ever again.
Octavia Smith Hatcher
In the late 1800s, the city of Pikeville, KY was shaken with an unknown disease, and the most tragic case of all was that of Octavia Smith Hatcher. After her infant son passed away in January 1891, Octavia went into a bedridden depression where she gradually became very ill and was soon pronounced dead. In the 19th century, embalming wasn’t the fad that it is today and, needless to say, when the rest of the sick townsfolk started to fall into comas and WAKE UP, Ocatavia’s hubby freaked out and dug her up only to discover that he was too late. Octavia was reburied and her husband erected a lifelike monument over her grave site. The monument still stands today.
In 1893 a woman named Mrs. Bogersuddenly died of unknown causes. Doctors confirmed her death, and she was promptly buried. The end. JK! This ends horribly.
A friend of Mrs. Boger’s told her husband, Charles, that his wife had suffered from hysteria before he had met her, and it was possible that she hadn’t actually been dead. So Mr. Boger dug up his wife and found Mrs. Boger’s body turned over. Her shroud and robes were shredded to pieces and the glass of her coffin lid was broken all over her body. Her skin was bloodied and scratched, while her fingers were missing entirely. It was presumed that she chewed them off while attempting to escape.
Man Buries Himself For Good Luck, Dies On Accident
Around 2010, an odd Internet craze began in Russia that found bloggers burying themselves alive. Some people thought it would bring them luck, others just hoped they would get likes.
The man in this story believed that burying himself alive for 24 hours would make him lucky for the rest of his life. With some help from a friend, he dug a grave outside the city of Blagoveshchensk, inserted a makeshift coffin complete with air piping, a single bottle of water, and a cell phone. Once the man got inside the casket, his friend covered him with nearly a foot of dirt and left. The man called his friend just once to say he was fine, but when the friend returned to relieve him in the morning, he was dead. It seems that an overnight rain might have blocked the air pipes and left the man to suffocate in his own casket.
In 1987, an Illinois publishing and media heir named Stephen Small was kidnapped and buried alivein a makeshift wooden box near the town of Kankakee. His assailants, a 30-year-old man named Danny Edwards and his 26-year-old girlfriend, Nancy Rish, crafted a plan to abduct him and keep him immobile underground while asking for a $1 million ransom from his surviving family members. His kidnappers were able to provide the 39-year-old Mr. Small with minimal air, water, and light inside his homemade coffin via tubes, but he was left buried three feet under a sandy area and he suffocated after his breathing tube failed.
Mina El Houari
We’ve all made bad decisions on bad dates, but Mina El Houari’s beau might have made the worst decision ever. Mina, a 25-year-old French woman, travelled to Fez, Morocco for a first date and she collapsed onto the floor mid-date. So her date made an interesting choice and buried her in his backyard. A few days passed before Mina’s family filed a missing persons report and flew to Morocco to try and find her. The Moroccan police were finally able to track down her murderer and raided his home, finding a shovel and muddy clothes.
One day in 1937, Angelo Hays was riding his bike around France when he ran headfirst into a brick wall and was declared dead on the spot before being quickly buried. In the nearby town of Bordeaux, an insurance company became suspicious after realizing that Angelo’s father had recently insured his son’s life for 200,000 francs, and an inspector was sent to investigate the claim. The inspector had Angelo’s body exhumed just two days after he had been buried to confirm the cause of death, only to find a surprising answer. Angelo wasn’t actually dead!
When the doctor removed the death shroud, he found Angelo’s body warm and his heart barely beating. He was immediately taken to a hospital, where he endured several operations and extensive rehabilitation before making a full recovery and inventing the security coffin.
Cornish was a beloved mayor of Bath who died of an apparent fever and, as was customary at the time, Cornish’s body was buried quickly after being pronounced dead. The gravedigger was halfway done when he stopped for a drink with some visitors.
While they were having a chat, they heard the sound of stifled moans coming from the general direction of Mr. Cornish’s half-buried grave. Unfortunately by the time he’d been dug up, Mr. Cornish had run out of oxygen and died. His fate scarred Cornish’s half sister so much so that she requested to be beheaded when she was thought to be dead, to avoid a similar nightmare.
The Girl Who Lived
According to her uncle in August 2014 an Indian girl was told by a married couple that lived close to the family that her mother wanted them to accompany her to a fair a few villages over. It wasn’t until they reached an expansive sugar cane field that they proceeded to strangle the girl and bury her for an unknown reason.
Luckily, some of the villagers working in the field saw them enter and became suspicious when they exited without the child. They went to the spot and found her unconscious and not breathing in a shallow grave just inside the field. They were able to rush her to the hospital in the nick of time, and when she regained consciousness she was able to identify her kidnappers.
One fearful story of premature burial comes from a pamphlet entitled The Most Lamentable and Deplorable Accident. A London butcher named Lawrence Cawthorn fell fatally ill in 1661 and his landlady was eager for his swift death so that she could inherit his belongings (so far so good!). She saw to it that he was quickly pronounced dead without a doctor’s consultation and buried at a nearby chapel. Not long after his entombment, visitors and mourners heard screams and shrieks coming from the grave. When they dug him up, Cawthorn’s shroud was completely shredded. His eyes were swollen and his head was bloodied beyond recognition from where he’d beaten it against the coffin.
Sipho William Mdletshe
In 1993, a 24-year-old South African man named Sipho William Mdletshe and his fiancée were involved in a severe car accident. Although Sipho’s fiance survived, Sipho was so badly injured that he was declared dead by responders following the accident. Afterwards, he was placed in a metal box for burial in the Johannesburg mortuary. For two days and nights he remained in the box until he awoke in a confused daze and began to scream for help. Luckily, some of the workers at the morgue were around to let him out of the box, and he survived the whole ordeal.
On January 10, 1884, Anna Hockwalt of Dayton, OH went downstairs to the kitchen after dressing on the day of her brother’s wedding and was found “dead” shortly afterwards, sitting in a chair with her head leaning against the wall. The wedding went on and her death was determined to be the result of a sympathetic heart palpitation combined with her naturally nervous disposition.
Anna was buried in Woodland, but her friends/smart people feared that she’d been buried alive because her ears bore a ” remarkably natural color.” They shared their suspicions with Anna’s parents, who finally had her disinterred. When her coffin was opened, she was on her right side, her fingers chewed to the bone, and her hair pulled from her head.
In June of 2015, a self-proclaimed prophet that went by the name Shamiso Kanyama allegedly died after after requesting his clients to dig a grave and bury him alive to enable him to later “resurrect” after summoning more cleansing powers and driving away cleansing spirits. Maybe this is all a part of his master plan!
In 1867, a 24-year-old French woman named Philomèle Jonetre contracted cholera. Not long afterwards, she was presumed dead, and 16 hours later, her body was lowered six feet underground. No breath was apparent when a candle was placed under her nose, but distinct rhythmical sounds could be heard in her chest, and she exhibited some muscle contraction and eyelid twitching. This didn’t last long, Jonetre was officially pronounced dead the following day and was buried a second time.
Unnamed Chinese Baby
If you’re reading this around children (why are you doing that?) maybe this is a good time to cover your monitor. In May of 2015 a newborn baby was found alive after being buried for eight days in a cemetery in the mountains of Guangxi province in southern China. The baby, a boy, was abandoned by his parents in Tian Dong County after being born with a cleft lip, but he was miraculously discovered after a middle-aged woman heard his crying while she was collecting herbs for Chinese medicine. Luckily the baby survived, but the parents weren’t charged due to lack of evidence and because the world is sometimes an awful place.
In early 2015 in Santa Fe Province, Argentina, Chiara Paez was eight weeks into her pregnancy when she was reported missing by her parents. Three days later her body was found in her boyfriend’s back yard, having been buried alive. Her boyfriend Manuel Mansilla, whom she had been dating for two months, took part in the search before later confessing to the murder.
Wealthy New Yorker James Rigely was buried at Pendleton in February 1899 after being in a “trance state” for three days. He had taken out several life insurance policies, which prompted an autopsy request to ascertain his cause of death. “The glass covering the casket was broken and the distorted features of the corpse, the position of his hands and feet, together with a number of blood spots on his face, showed that he was buried alive.”
In 1851, Virginia Macdonald lived with her father in New York City when she became ill, died, and was buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn. After the burial, her mother declared her belief that their daughter was not dead – why didn’t she mention that a few days earlier? Who knows. After exhuming the body, they discovered Virginia’s body lying on its side, with the hands badly bitten and scratches on the inside of the coffin.
One Friday night in September 2015, farm laborer Latori Barman walking home in a rural stretch of India’s Madhya Pradesh state. Drunk and navigating a potholed road in the dark, he fell into a large crater and lost consciousness. Construction workers repairing the roadway that very night didn’t notice the sleeping inebriate and paved over him, filling in the hole and flattening the surface with a roller. Barman suffocated and was not found until the next day when locals noticed his arm protruding from the ground.