Buried alive 1821

North Wales Chronicle, December 25th, 1886

The Buried Alive

I had been for some time ill of a slow and lingering fever. My strength gradually wasted, but the sense of life seemed to become more and more acute as my corporeal powers became weaker. I could see by the looks of the doctor that he despaired of my recovery, and the soft and whispering sorrow of my friends taught me that I had nothing to hope.

One day towards the evening the crisis took place. I was seized with a strange and undescribable quivering, a rushing sound was in my ears. I saw around my couch innumerable strange faces, they were bright and visionary and without bodies. There was light and solemnity, and I tried to move but could not. For a short time a terrible confusion overwhelmed me and when it passed off all my recollection returned with the most perfect distinctness, but the power of motion had departed.

I heard the sound of weeping at my pillow, and the voice of the nurse say, "He is dead." I cannot describe what I felt at these words. I exerted my utmost power of volition to stir myself, but I could not move even an eyelid. After a short pause my friend drew near, and sobbing and convulsed with grief, drew his hand over my face, and closed my eyes. The world was darkened, but I still could hear, and feel, and suffer. When my eyes were closed, I heard by the attendants that my friends had left the room, and I soon after found the undertakers were preparing, to habit me in the garments of the grave. Their thoughtlessness was more awful than the grief of my friends. They laughed at one another as they turned me from side to side, and treated what they believed, a corpse with the most appalling ribaldry.

When they had laid me out, those wretches retired, and the degrading formality of affected mourning commenced. For three days a number of friends called to see me. I heard them in low accents speak of what I was, and more than one touched me with is finger. On the third day some of them talked of the smell of corruption in the room.

The coffin was procured. I was lifted and laid in. My friend placed my head on what was deemed its last pillow, and I felt his tears drop on my face. When all who had any particular interest in me had for a short time looked at me in the coffin, I heard them retire, and the undertaker's men placed the lid on the coffin and screwed it down. There were two of them present, one had occasion to go before the task was done. I heard the fellow who was left behind whistle as he turned the screw nails, but he checked himself and completed the task in silence.

I was then left alone, everyone shunned the room. I knew, however, that I was not buried and though darkened and motionless, I still had hope, but this was not permitted long. The day of interment arrived. I felt the coffin lifted and borne away. I heard and felt it placed in the hearse. There was a crowd of people around, some of them spoke sorrowfully of me. The hearse began to move, I knew that it carried me to the grave. It halted, and the coffin was taken out, and I felt myself carried on the shoulders of men by the inequality of the motion. A pause ensued, I heard the cords of the coffin move, I felt it swing as dependant by them, it was lowered, and rested on the bottom of the grace, the cords were dropped on the lid, I heard them fall. Dreadful was the effort I then made to exert the power of action, but my frame was immoveable.

Soon after, a few handfuls of earth were thrown upon the coffin, then there was another pause, after which the shovel was employed, and the sound of the rattling mould, as it covered me, was far more tremendous than thunder, but I could make no effort. The sound gradually became less and less, and by a surging reverberation in the coffin, I knew that the grave was filled up, and that the sexton was treading in the earth, and slapped the grave with the flat of his spade. This, too, ceased, and all was silent.

I had no means of knowing the lapse of time and the silence continued. This is death, thought I, and I am doomed to remain in the earth till the resurrection. Presently the body will fall into corruption, and the epicurean worm that is only satisfied with the flesh of man, will come to partake of the banquet that has been prepared for him with so much selicitude and care. In the contemplation of this hideous thought, I heard a low and uinder-sound in the earth above me, and I fancied that the worms and reptiles of death were coming, that the mole and the rat of the grave would soon be upon me. The sound continued to grow nearer and louder. Can it be possible, I thought that my friends suspect they have buried me too soon ? The hope was truly like light bursting through the gloom of death.

The sound ceased, and presently I felt the hands of some dreadful being worked about my throat. They dragged me out of the coffin by the head. I felt again the living air, but it was piercingly cold, and I was carried swiftly away, I thought to judgement, perhaps to perdition.

When borne to some distance, I was thrown down like a clod, it was not upon the ground. A moment after I found myself upon a carriage and by the interchange of two or three brief sentences, I discovered I was in the hands of two of those robbers who live by plundering the grave, and selling bodies of parents, children and friends. One of the men sang snatches and scraps of obscene songs as the cart rattled over the pavement of the streets. When it halted I was lifted out, and I soon perceived by the closeness of the air, and the change of temperature, that I was carried into a room and being rudely stripped of my shroud, was placed naked upon a table. By the conversation of the two fellows with a servant who admitted them, I Learnt that I was that night to be dissected.

My eyes were still shut I saw nothing, but in a short time I heard, by the bustle in the room, that the students of anatomy were assembling. Some of them came round the table, and examined me minutely. They were pleased to find that so good a subject had been procured. The demonstrator himself at last came in. Previous to beginning the dissection, he proposed to try on me some galvanic experiments, and an apparatus was arranged for that purpose. The first shock vibrated through all my nerves, they rung and jangled like the strings of a harp. The students expressed their admiration at the convulsive effect. The second shock threw my eyes open, and the first person I saw was the doctor who attended me, but still I was as dead. I could, however, discover among the students, the faces of many with whom I was familiar, and when my eyes were opened I heard my name pronounced by several of the students with an accent of awe and compassion, and a wish that it had been some other subject.

When they had satisfied themselves with the galvanic phenomena, the demonstrator took the knife and pierced me on the bosom with the pint. I felt the dreadful crashing, as it were, through my whole frame, a convulsive shuddering instantly followed, and a shriek of horror rose from all present. The ire of death was broken up, my trance ended. The utmost exertions were made to restore me, and in the course of an hour, I was in full possession of all my faculties, --- From the North Wales Chronicle, December, 1821.


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