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Buried Alive

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Overview

"A necrobibliac classic: it may keep you up all night—not from fear but from fascination."—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
Readers of Edgar Allan Poe's tales—just think of The Premature Burial—may comfort themselves with the notion that Poe must have exaggerated: surely people of the 1800s could not have been at risk of being buried alive? But such stories filled medical journals as well as fiction, and fear in the populace was high. It was speculated, from the number of skeletons found in horrific, contorted ...

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Overview

"A necrobibliac classic: it may keep you up all night—not from fear but from fascination."—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
Readers of Edgar Allan Poe's tales—just think of The Premature Burial—may comfort themselves with the notion that Poe must have exaggerated: surely people of the 1800s could not have been at risk of being buried alive? But such stories filled medical journals as well as fiction, and fear in the populace was high. It was speculated, from the number of skeletons found in horrific, contorted positions inside their coffins, that ten out of every one hundred people were buried before they were dead. With over fifty illustrations, Buried Alive explores the medicine, folklore, history, and literature of Europe and the United States to uncover why such fears arose and whether they were warranted. "A weird and wonderful little tome."—Salon.com "Bondeson weaves a strange disturbing, and weirdly enthralling tale. Cremation never sounded so good."—Lingua Franca "A most useful and entertaining book....Deserves a place on every bedside table in America."—Patrick McGrath, author of Martha Peake: A Novel of the Revolution

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393322224
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/1/2002
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 322
  • Sales rank: 1,044,634
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Jan Bondeson, a physician, holds a Ph.D. in experimental medicine and works at the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology in London.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 9
I. Miracles of the Dead 17
II. The Lady with the Ring and the Lecherous Monk 35
III. Winslow the Anatomist and Bruhier the Horror Monger 51
IV. The Eighteenth-Century Debate 72
V. Hospitals for the Dead 88
VI. Security Coffins 118
VII. The Signs of Death 137
VIII. Skeptical Physiologists and Raving Spiritualists 155
IX. The Final Struggle 183
X. Literary Premature Burials 204
XI. Were People Really Buried Alive? 238
XII. Are People Still Being Buried Alive? 258
Notes 283
Index 309
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2008

    Explains A Lot

    I found Jan Bondeson's study of the societal, medical, and folkloric background of the fear of live burial to be both informative and wildly entertaining. I had heard of such things as the Bateson Belfry coffins fitted with bells, and I'd been thoroughly puzzled by the waiting mortuary described in Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi but I was totally ignorant of how widespread the phobia of live burial truly was. The Bateson Belfry was by no means the only so-called safety coffin offered, and there really were buildings in Germany where the dead were kept until they displayed either signs or life or signs of putrefaction. The simple fact that the medical profession around the turn of the 18th/19th century couldn't agree on what constituted an infallible sign of death was enlightening and fascinating (a young physician won a prestigious prize for suggesting that the absence of a detectable heartbeat proved death). If at times it seemed that Bondeson was repeating himself, it was because the AntiPremature Burial hysterics were always repeating the same old stories as proof that their fears were justifiable. The Lady With the Ring was brought up so often that she was practically a running joke. I enjoyed this book thoroughly, and it's well written enough (unlike this review!) to be easily re-readable.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2003

    boring

    I was very excited when I got this book. But by the third chapter I realized the author aparently run out of ideas making this book very long and boring. It seems like I was reading the same over and over, for the next 5 or 6 chapters. Very disappionting.

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