What is taphophobia: main symptoms, treatment methods

Taphophobia is the fear of funerals, including your own, as well as the fear of being buried alive. Taphophobe also experiences fear of funeral paraphernalia and any mention of burial ritual. This is a phobia that is a frequent consequence or companion of thanatophobia - fear of death. Both of them are closely interconnected with each other. Taphophobia can also be accompanied by nyctophobia - phobia of darkness, claustrophobia - fear of enclosed spaces.

The phobia is based on cultural traditions, on a person’s personal perception of rituals and ceremonies associated with death. Taphophobia is not a social phobia.

What is taphophobia and its origin

What is taphophobia? Taphophobia is the fear of funerals, fear of coffins, wreaths and other attributes, as well as the fear of being buried alive. Taphophobes are frightened by the thought of their own funeral or the funeral of another person. The patient is also haunted by the fear of waking up in a coffin. Just the thought of this is terrifying.

The fear of being buried alive can be associated with claustrophobia, nyctophobia and thanatophobia. Fear is based on individual beliefs and perceptions of the individual, the peculiarities of perception of the burial ceremony and other rituals associated with death.

The peak of the spread of taphophobia occurred in the 19th century, but back in 1772, the rule of a three-day delay before burying a corpse was introduced. The media still fuels rumors and mystical stories about lethargic sleep, which is most often associated with burial alive. Many writers suffered from this neurosis and ordered their bodies to be embalmed and periodically checked for signs of life.

This is interesting! Taphophobia is more common in men. Scientists suggest that this is due to the attitude and orientation of women towards life, giving birth and raising children. They believe that they will live forever, continuing through their children.

Why does pathology develop?

This phobia is a rather exotic condition, but, nevertheless, it occurs frequently. It is known that very famous personalities suffered from it, for example, Schopenhauer, Gogol and many others.

  • Sources on the Internet and media. Articles appear on the Internet that people fell into a lethargic sleep and were buried alive. And this happened through the fault of the doctors. There are also cases where people who fell into a lethargic sleep were actually buried and froze. The feeling even for an ordinary person is actually creepy.
  • Heredity. No, people do not inherit the tendency to fall into lethargy. However, there are families who have had similar cases. If such stories are passed on from one generation to another, then a hereditary factor can also be identified.

In addition, there is generally a category of people who are afraid of everything. Most people approach the prospect of their own death with fear, and this is a completely natural state. Thus, taphophobia is the fear of being buried alive; people begin to experience attacks of real panic attacks at the sight of someone else's procession. They are afraid of cemeteries and funeral agencies.

Very close to this condition are claustrophobia (fear of closed spaces) and nyctophobia (fear of the dark). Their nature is similar. Doctors say that according to statistics, approximately 60% of women and 40% of men see their deceased relatives and friends in their dreams. However, it is not uncommon for them to have the idea that these people were buried by mistake.

If an ordinary person experiences unpleasant thoughts about the inevitable end of human life, then the phobe cannot relate to this in the same way. Of course, modern medicine has every opportunity to determine the fact of death, for this there are special procedures and devices, however, there are no absolute methods for diagnosing this fact. All these procedures are not used if death confirmation at home is required.

Therefore, it is not surprising that some people regard the fact of death as a mistake. And they begin to fantasize about this topic.

Where does this fear come from?

According to psychologists, many phobias are a consequence of fear experienced in childhood. Moreover, this fear is associated specifically with death. On the other hand, many, unfortunately, have to experience the passing of their relatives and friends. Therefore, when a child is immersed in an atmosphere of sorrow, grief, he has a fantasy that a person can wake up in a coffin after being buried.

What happens if the deceased wakes up? As he grows up, he finds out that there is such a disease as lethargy. An impressionable and emotional child begins to try on his own fantasy. Gradually, the fear of funerals begins to acquire new details. As a result, even his own thoughts scare him, and he cannot get rid of them.

Gradually, taphophobia acquires irrationality and persistence, which gradually takes on the form of an obsessive state. The taphophobe turns out to be so frightened by his own imagination that he can no longer attend ritual processes, for example, the funeral of close relatives. Adult life requires showing respect for death, but the phobe is afraid of such events; he is not able to cope with a panic attack, which in this case is inevitable. It is easier for a taphophobe to look impolite than to show everyone his inadequacy during a panic attack.

Another cause of phobia is often horror films, which many enjoy watching. A particularly common plot is when the main character is buried while alive, and, unable to escape, dies due to tragic circumstances. Therefore, doctors recommend that people with morbid imaginations not watch such pictures, especially before going to bed.

Main signs of taphophobia

Signs of taphophobia can be divided into somatic and behavioral. Let's look at each group in more detail.

Somatic symptoms of taphophobia

Somatic manifestations depend on the type of nervous system and the intensity of the response to stress. The list of symptoms varies from person to person, but the most common are the following:

  • sweating;
  • eating disorders (bulimia, anorexia);
  • aggression;
  • obsessive thoughts;
  • pressure surges;
  • cardiopalmus;
  • dyspnea;
  • headache;
  • fainting state;
  • vomit;
  • nausea;
  • muscle pain and tension;
  • stool disorder;
  • absent-mindedness;
  • decreased performance;
  • chronic fatigue.

Atypical behavioral reactions

The patient is constantly prepared for sudden death, because of this he prepares a lot of information in case of his death. For example, he writes a suicide note, draws up a will, leaves messages, and gives instructions. He gives this information to those who will bury him in the event of sudden death.

In a panic attack, the patient may furiously ask to be sure of his death before burial. If a person lives alone, then before going to bed he writes a note with instructions and instructions for those who find him. As a rule, a person with a fear of being buried alive asks not to perform an autopsy, to carry out tests that will confirm death, to wait several weeks before burial.

Some taphophobes exhaust themselves with visits to doctors in order to exclude the possibility of falling into lethargic sleep. No matter how strange it may be, they are looking for information about real cases of burial alive, looking at scary pictures and videos.

Somatic symptoms of taphophobia

The somatic symptoms of taphophobia are quite extensive and characteristic of many phobias. Each patient has an individual set of symptoms and depends on the intensity of the response to the stressor, as well as on the stability of the nervous system.

The most typical symptoms of taphophobia are:

  • increased sweating;
  • eating disorders (anorexia, bulimic attacks);
  • obsessive thoughts;
  • aggression;
  • pressure changes;
  • rapid pulse;
  • fainting conditions;
  • dyspnea;
  • headache;
  • vomiting, nausea;
  • diarrhea, constipation;
  • muscle pain;
  • forgetfulness, absent-mindedness.

Physiological manifestations

Manifestations of phobia are individual, but psychologists have been able to identify several common signs of taphophobia. Let's take a closer look at them.

Sleep disorders

A dark room, horizontal position, loneliness, closed eyes are directly associated with a funeral. Because of this, the quality of sleep suffers.

What sleep problems does a taphophobe experience:

  • frequent awakening;
  • trouble falling asleep;
  • nightmares;
  • insomnia;
  • inability to completely relax;
  • unnatural sleeping positions.

The latter is often a method of dealing with fear. To get rid of associations, patients take unnatural positions: standing, sitting, bending over.

It is important! With taphophobia, the patient dreams that he finds himself in a nailed-up coffin and hears earth pouring onto the lid of the coffin. Waking up after such dreams, a person is in a cold sweat, it is difficult for him to breathe, his blood pressure rises, and his heartbeat quickens.

Physical ailments

We have already looked at the somatic symptoms that occur most often. It remains to add that in addition to them, panic attacks and individual psychosomatic symptoms are observed. Some people feel unwell in one system, others in several systems of the body at once. Some people regard any deterioration in well-being as impending death.

How does a phobia manifest itself?

The manifestations of phobias are quite individual and largely depend on the character of the person, the degree and duration of the phobic disorder. But all taphophobes still have something in common. For the most part, these people avoid talking about death in any context. If the road home lies past a cemetery, it will be easier for a taphophobe to sell an apartment and move to another area than to force himself to walk past a frightening place that instills anxiety. People suffering from this phobia are sensitive to any information about someone's death, even if it is about a stranger.

Fear of being buried alive and fear of funerals may be accompanied by a refusal to attend such ceremonies, even if this is required by the standards of decency (a relative has died). At the physical level, fear manifests itself as sleep disturbance. The disorder is often accompanied by hypnophobia (fear of falling asleep in order not to die in your sleep). Such people are more often tormented by nightmares and terrible dreams.

Causes of taphophobia

The reason is associations with death and burial. The mechanism for forming associations can be direct or indirect. For example, this could be watching a funeral procession at an early age, the death of someone close to you, and fear after the funeral. A nightmare, threats and attacks can frighten you.

Another reason is a dysfunctional childhood. If a child was directly told that he was unwanted, that his parents did not love him, then he may develop a fear of being buried alive.

In addition, taphophobia in children can be caused by attending a funeral, observing the process, actions and reactions of people. You can never say exactly how a child’s unstable psyche will react to this. Therefore, it is not recommended to take children with you to the funeral. If this is unavoidable, then you need to tell the child in advance about what he will see there and why this is happening. It is also important to explain that death is an integral stage of life.

Psychologists have identified several common traits in people who become taphophobes:

  • increased emotionality;
  • increased sensitivity;
  • vulnerability;
  • suspiciousness;
  • developed imagination;
  • developed associative and figurative thinking;
  • impressionability;
  • psychophysical exhaustion, tension.

A phobia can develop both after personal experience with death, and after watching films, listening to stories, etc.

Fear of being buried alive: reasons

The causes of taphophobia can be very different, because its development is associated with associations about death and burial. And they can be caused not only by observing mourning rituals or the death of a loved one, but also by any other event. It should be noted that there is a general trend in the development of fear of funerals, the fear of being locked in one’s own coffin in hyper-emotional people with a rich imagination, sensitive people prone to suspiciousness, in people with developed associative, imaginative thinking. In such a person, taphophobia can develop both on the basis of real events, and after reading certain literature, watching films of a tragic nature, or conversations with certain people.

The development of any fears and phobias, and in particular taphophobia, is facilitated by factors such as nervous tension. Moreover, it can be caused not only by real stressors. Often, an impressionable person independently exhausts his nervous system with constant heavy thoughts.

A typical cause of taphophobia is often the death of a dear, close person, which the individual experiences heavily.

With low stress resistance, the phobia can progress rapidly. And under the influence of negative events, within just a few days, some individuals, figuratively speaking, “fade away” - fall into a state of intense anxiety and deep depression. According to statistics, women are 2 times more susceptible to phobic disorders than men. In the case of taphophobia, this ratio is inversely proportional. As it turns out, men are more afraid of death and funerals than women. Scientists have suggested that in a woman the maternal instinct and the instinct of procreation are much more developed. Therefore, a woman is more focused on life, on her children (or the prospect of having a child in the future), and on caring for offspring. She sees a continuation of herself in her offspring. This protects her from developing a fear of death and funerals. At the same time, men are more prone to philosophical reflection on eternal topics. Which contributes to their greater vulnerability regarding the fear of death.

Another prerequisite for the formation of fear of funerals can be events from childhood. It develops if a dysfunctional psychological atmosphere reigned in the family, and the child was unwanted, and he was directly told about this.

There is a theory that even in the womb, the embryo at a subconscious level is able to sense whether it is expected to be born. It’s incredible, but young children acutely feel the emotions of their parents, and especially their mother’s. The fear of not being born from the prenatal period remains deep in the subconscious for life.

Childhood memories stay with us for the rest of our lives, images from childhood are etched deep into the subconscious. Therefore, watching a complex, tragic funeral procession with grieving, wailing relatives, the solemn actions of the priest, the immersion of a person “sleeping” in a coffin can also leave an indelible impression in the child’s imagination. This is why it is not recommended to take small children to funerals. After all, no one can know how a child’s unstable psyche will behave. Against the background of the observed event, the baby may develop not only a fear of attending a funeral, but also thanatophobia, fear of loneliness, darkness and other anxiety disorders.

Therefore, if you take your child to a funeral (sometimes it is impossible to do without it due to family and religious traditions), you should psychologically prepare him for observing this ritual. Namely, to explain what and why happened to the deceased, what exactly will be done with him and why this is necessary. Explain that death is a natural process and that you should not be afraid of it.

Types of taphophobia

There are several subtypes of taphophobia. Let's look at each in more detail.

Fear of being buried alive

Taphophobia most often refers to this very fear - the fear of being buried alive (taphephobia). It is based on the instinct of self-preservation, the fear of being immobilized, without food, water and access to air. It is important to understand that all stories about being buried alive go back a long way. Then medicine was not as developed as it is now, there were no morgues. Fainting, coma and other borderline conditions could be mistaken for death. But this does not stop taphophobes, and modern films with similar plots frighten impressionable citizens even more.

Fear of funerals, cemeteries and coffins

Fear of the process of funerals and cemeteries (coimetrophobia), fear of coffins can be associated with memories of someone's death. And also the fear of going to funerals and visiting cemeteries affects superstitious people. Some are afraid of the rising of the dead, some of their own death, some of the departure of a loved one, and some of burial.

Fear of the hearse

A hearse is another attribute of a funeral. This is a machine that sends a person on his final journey. In this case, fear is associated with both the fear of death and the fear of the unknown. Particularly sophisticated taphophobes may imagine that they were still alive in a coffin and were being transported in a hearse, and that it got into an accident.

Fear of suffering from illness

Some people are afraid not so much of death itself as of pain and death in agony. The reason for such fear should be sought in the past. The patient probably witnessed how his loved one died.

Fear of death

Thanatophobia, or fear of death, is the basis of taphophobia. This is an exaggerated instinct of self-preservation, which manifests itself after a person has witnessed someone’s death or because a person is frightened by ignorance, the unknown. We will talk more about this fear in another article.


The first cases of lethargic sleep were described several centuries ago. In this state, a person’s body temperature decreases, breathing becomes invisible, and the heartbeat decreases to a minimum. According to research results, people who have been subjected to extreme stress, psychophysically and emotionally exhausted individuals can fall into lethargic sleep. This can also happen with severe intoxication, alcohol poisoning, or head injury. Patients with this type of phobia are tormented by the fear of waking up in a coffin.

Treatment of taphophobia

Psychotherapy is the most reliable method of treating anxiety-phobic disorders. Various psychotechniques can be used to treat taphophobia. It all depends on the degree of neglect of the disorder and personality type. To correct anxiety, methods such as:

  • Free association and desensitization.
  • Neurolinguistic programming.
  • Cognitive behavioral psychotherapy.

One way or another, if obsessive anxiety constantly bothers you or your loved ones, you should immediately contact a specialist for psychological help.

Independent work on your mental state is no less important. In the case of taphophobia, the following measures will be effective:

  • Reading, listening, watching life-affirming, positive books, audio recordings, music, films.
  • Sports, active recreation, walks in nature.
  • Searching and studying information about your anxiety disorder, looking at your fears objectively.
  • Re-evaluating your life, daily activities.
  • Minimizing situations that provoke attacks of fear (avoid staying in closed dark spaces, in too cold or hot, stuffy rooms, alone)
  • Conversations with people suffering from a similar problem both live and on social networks, on forums, providing mutual psychological support.

It should be remembered that anxiety-phobic disorder can be successfully treated; any fears can be corrected with timely contact with a qualified psychotherapist.

We hope that the treatment methods listed in the article will help you cope with taphophobia or prevent its development. Many people experience all kinds of fears and phobias. Let's help them together! To do this, just repost this post on a social network. You can also leave your opinion on the article or discuss it with other readers below.

How to get rid of taphophobia

How to get rid of taphephobia? The main method of treatment is psychotherapy. The specific method is selected depending on the patient’s personality type and depending on the course of the phobia.

Use methods such as:

  • free association and desensitization;
  • neurolinguistic programming (NLP);
  • cognitive behavioral psychotherapy;
  • hypnosis.

In advanced stages, the psychotherapist prescribes medications: antidepressants, tranquilizers, sedatives.

Psychologist's advice

Psychologists recommend supporting the patient. With this type of phobia, you should never leave a person alone. It is not recommended to self-medicate; psychologists advise immediately contacting specialists. Before going to the doctor, you can take a herbal sedative.

Independent struggle with phobia

As self-help, it is recommended to adhere to the following recommendations:

  1. Read life-affirming books, listen to life-affirming songs, audio books. Watch positive films.
  2. Play sports, walk, have active rest.
  3. Develop an objective attitude towards fear. Study the statistics, information that refutes the likelihood of being buried alive.
  4. Determine the purpose and meaning in life, be busy with it.
  5. Find support in your loved ones.

It is important! If you cannot cope with the phobia on your own, then consult a psychologist. Taphophobia responds well to treatment if it is selected by a specialist and is carried out under his supervision.

Methods to combat taphophobia

To get results from therapy, you need to clearly set a goal for yourself and seek advice from a psychotherapist. This specialist will be able not only to plan a course of treatment, but also to find the cause of taphophobia.


The fear of being buried alive, as well as the fear of the coffins themselves, can be overcome with the help of improved techniques. The therapist's goal is to obtain as much information as possible from the patient. All information is analyzed in detail to find the psychological “anchor” that cemented fear in the subconscious. The most successful methods are:

  1. Neurolinguistic programming is the unobtrusive suggestion to the patient of the necessary tactics to combat a phobia. Specific words that are selected by the doctor are introduced into normal conversation. The result is recorded with some kind of marker: clicking a pen, tapping your fingers, etc. Later, when a person begins to feel the approaching panic, it is enough for him to recreate this sound. This calms you down and gives you the opportunity to switch to something else.
  2. The cognitive method is the fight against fear by constantly confronting it. The patient is encouraged to watch videos on relevant topics, read stories, and visit cemeteries. This method is used only for adults with a mature psyche.

Simulators can be an effective way to combat the fear of being buried alive. The entertainment industry offers the bored public quests to escape from the coffin. The patient may have a loved one with them during this trial. This should not be done if, in addition to the phobia, the person suffers from problems with the cardiovascular system.


With minor manifestations of taphophobia, you can cope with them yourself. This method of dealing with a phobia is less effective and gives short-lived results, but it is very relevant if there is no opportunity to contact a specialist.

You need to find a hobby that will distract you from anxious thoughts. An excellent solution is playing sports or some kind of creativity. Experts also recommend avoiding films and books with depressing content, choosing fun and life-affirming topics.

Patients with taphophobia should give up alcohol and drugs. These substances have a destructive effect on a person’s psychophysical state and can lead to prolonged depression, which will only increase fear.

The support of loved ones is important. The feeling that a person is not alone makes him calmer and significantly reduces the risk of panic attacks.

The patient is not recommended to read scary and depressing books

Consequences and danger of neglected phobia

Constant tension leads to depression. With low stress tolerance, in just two days the phobia can reach a dangerous stage. A person goes from a state of mild anxiety to a state of deep depression and intense anxiety.

The patient is tormented by the fear of falling asleep and not waking up, as well as the fear that no one will help. This is how the fear of loneliness is born, which in this case is a consequence of the fear of death. In advanced stages, the patient can only fall asleep in the presence of someone. These measures, like sleeping in an unnatural position, are aimed at reducing anxiety and creating a feeling of security. However, the opposite effect is achieved: anxiety increases, the patient creates additional problems for himself and other people.

It is important! Obsessive thoughts and actions prevent a person from working, living, and building family relationships. Chronic sleep deprivation leads to complications: hallucinations, neuroses, nervous breakdowns, blindness, paranoia. Without treatment, the taphophobe's condition will constantly worsen.

Taphophobia: the story of one fear

Fear of death is one of the two main human fears. Only the fear of betrayal - loss of love and respect, expulsion from the social circle - has equally significant power. Both are losses. The departure of a loved one to another world gives us reason to think: what after? How will I, exactly me, die?

People with developed imagination are more acutely afraid of death. One of the images that comes to them is being buried alive. Taphophobe seeks to protect himself: he falls asleep with difficulty and has a nightmare. This man woke up in a coffin, in a confined space, in complete darkness and practically without air. He pounds on the lid and tries to escape from the grave, and then wakes up in a cold sweat and with a rapid beating of his heart.

Fantasy also suggests methods for solving problems. The taphophobe leaves appeals to loved ones and asks to postpone his funeral for several days. Some even write a note every time before going to bed. Taphophobe avoids closed spaces - it is difficult for him to ride in the subway or elevator, or travel on night trains.

A person who suffers from the fear of being buried alive may waste money and time on constant medical examinations. For example, some taphophobes take a 24-hour electroencephalogram several times a year. The manifestations of taphophobia are very diverse, but it leads to malfunctions in the functioning of those organs where there are already disturbances. It is very difficult for someone who suffers from this fear to control their thoughts, so the nerve cells are the first to suffer. Taphophobes often experience pain in joints and muscles, they are familiar with problems with appetite and changes in blood pressure.

Psychotherapists claim that taphophobia is not related to cultural characteristics and is inherent in residents of all countries of the world. It can appear in a person of any status, professing any religion. This fear can develop from memories of early childhood, and after acquaintance with works of art, and, which happens quite often, come from rumors and gossip.

The history of taphophobia is the history of human delusions, weakness and stupidity.

Ancient authors provide the first evidence of burials alive and miraculous rescues. However, Greek and Roman doctors never formulated an exact definition of death. Hippocrates described the types of cadaveric decomposition and suggested that the heart is the seat of the soul. According to him, breathing was required to cool a hot heart, and a sharp decrease in body temperature during loss of consciousness could be a sign of death. However, the only reliable sign of death according to Hippocrates is the appearance of corpse spots.

However, the Greeks knew a number of diseases similar to death. Another Greek physician, Galen, included hysteria, asphyxia, coma and catalepsy among them. For example, one of his patients was unable to regain consciousness after giving birth. Galen convinced her family to postpone the funeral, and a month later she returned to life. Roman doctors, for example, Aurelius Cornelius Celsus, also urged their colleagues not to rush to declare death. According to his estimates, every thousandth inhabitant of the Roman Empire was buried prematurely. Pliny the Elder describes cases where people regained consciousness while lying on funeral pyres or funeral biers.

Already in Antiquity, the plot of premature burial fascinated writers. Chariton of Aphrodisias wrote the story “Cherei and Callirhoe.” A jealous husband suspects his wife of cheating and beats her half to death. She wakes up in the family crypt and cannot understand what happened. Suddenly, pirates burst into the crypt. They want to profit from an expensive ring from Callirhoe’s finger. Seeing that she is alive, the robbers take Callirhoe away and sell her into slavery to a rich man. This is how the plot of one of the first love stories in Europe begins, and Chaerei will have to make considerable efforts to return his wife.

The Middle Ages is a time when much of the medical knowledge of ancient doctors was lost and forgotten. However, doctors of the 18th century were sometimes surprised when examining the bodies: some corpses continued to grow hair, shed tears, and sometimes even retained a pulse in the first hours after breathing stopped. Many noble people even made special notes in their wills because they were afraid of waking up in a coffin. For example, Parisian lawyer Jean de Poitevin asked to delay his funeral for two days. There were wishes to drive nails under the nails, to slash the fingers with a sharpened razor, to apply hot coals to the heels. During epidemics, rumors spread that someone infected with the plague had woken up in a mass grave.

Legends about those buried alive were not only the property of popular rumor, but a popular plot of fiction. One of the plots is the story of the “lady with the ring”. The name of the noblewoman Richmondia von Aducht is known to this day by every resident of Cologne. According to legend, she passed away in 1357 during a plague epidemic. She was buried in the dungeon of the Cologne Cathedral. One priest decided to remove expensive jewelry from the body of the deceased and visited the crypt with a lantern and a knife. However, as soon as he cut off his finger, Richmondia woke up. The priest fainted, and the “resurrected” woman went home with his lantern. The servant, who met the mistress on the threshold of the house, in turn, also fell unconscious. But the husband turned out to be more persistent: he grabbed the sword and promised to finish off Richmondia if she did not prove that she had come to life.

And then a miracle happened: two white horses, ridden by the Adukhta spouses, rose from the stable to the top floor of the house. As the legend says, Richmondia lived another seven years in marriage with Mr. Aducht, and with the money of this family the Apostolic Church of Cologne was erected. The fresco on the wall of this church depicts the rescue of Mrs. Aducht from the coffin, and two molded horse heads are placed on the bell tower.

Many cities have their own “ladies with rings.” However, this plot was not the only one: medieval Europeans loved legends about the rescue of young maidens and unhappy love. The offspring of two wealthy families were refused by their parents to marry. The girl lost consciousness from unhappy love, and she was declared dead. However, the guy entered the family crypt and saved his beloved. After a miraculous rescue, the young people left for distant lands, where they got married and lived happily ever after. The variation we know best has a sad ending: this is the story of Romeo and Juliet, described by the Italian Matteo Bandello, and then adapted by William Shakespeare for a theatrical production.

A more piquant version of the young lady's revival is the story of a wandering monk. The monk agreed to stay overnight near the body of the daughter of a respected man (for example, an innkeeper), and finally brought her to her senses. However, the result of his work was the birth of an illegitimate child. As a result, the monk had to relinquish his spiritual title in disgrace and get married. However, the monk could also encounter otherworldly forces: remember the story by N.V. Gogol "Viy".

Finally, another plot is confirmed by historical facts. The story of an unlucky doctor. One of these was the Spaniard Andreas Vesalius. When he opened the daughter of a Spanish nobleman, he discovered that her heart was pulsating. The father somehow found out about this and reported to King Philip II. We can say that the king saved his best doctor from unpleasant consequences: he pardoned him at the Inquisition trial and sent him for an internship in Venice. Vesalius was subsequently under the protection of the king, but did not appear in Spain again. He spent the rest of his days traveling, and died in a shipwreck on the way from Palestine to Greece.

Most of the stories about unlucky doctors and patients who died during autopsies are somehow connected with court circles. The deceased could have been a high-ranking official: one Spanish cardinal woke up in the morgue. He even jumped up from the table and fought with the doctor when an incision had already been made in his stomach. As a result, he died on the spot from loss of blood. These stories are both tragic and anecdotal: the combination of low medical knowledge and court intrigue creates an explosive mixture.

The authors of the first treatises on possible signs of death treated urban legends and gossip as real stories and did not check the veracity of these cases. And if some scientists, like the Frenchman with Danish roots Jacques-Benigne Winslo, made sharp conclusions about the impossibility of ascertaining the occurrence of death with complete confidence, then some engaged in outright plagiarism and inflated the scale of the problem. Jean-Jacques Bruyère d'Ablaincourt simply rewrote the work of his colleague at the French Academy and published a popular science work for high society. For example, he frightened the nobles with pictures of people waking up in a coffin and eating their fingers. However, it was Bruyère who first raised the question of the limits of human survival. He cites stories of monks who were able to fast on water for several months.

Bruyère also introduces the reader to the story of the Swedish gardener Erik Bjornson. He was walking along the lake near Drotningholm Castle and saw that a fisherman had fallen into an ice hole. Although the gardener pulled the fisherman out, he himself did not have the strength to swim out: the current pulled Bjornson under the ice. The fisherman went for help, but due to bad weather it did not arrive soon. The gardener spent the whole day under the ice. However, Bjornson's head ended up in an air bubble, and he survived. The fishermen pulled him out with a hook, and soon Queen Eleanor of Sweden learned about this incident. The gardener showed her the scar from the hook on his neck and admitted that he slept under the ice. The only sound he heard in his sleep was the ringing of the cathedral bells.

However, it was Bruyère who first took the initiative to build morgues for delayed burial. He suggested keeping bodies for a minimum of 72 hours between the announcement of death and the body being sent on its final journey.

Mortuary palace and escape from the coffin

In general, the level of knowledge in biology in general and medicine in particular by the end of the 18th century could not be called high. For example, biologists at that time had already observed the ability of some species (for example, toads) to hibernate when there is a lack of water and food. However, at the same time, some scientists assumed that some species of birds winter at the bottom of the seas, and humans are also capable of hibernation. However, scientific societies of that time even established medals for doctors who managed to revive those declared dead. The competition rules could contain interesting clauses. For example, in Prussia, prison doctors could not apply for a medal. And among the revitalization techniques common at that time was, for example, pumping air with tobacco smoke into the anus.

Already in 1790, the first morgue for bodies suspected of “imaginary death” opened in Weimar. The doctor Christoph Wilhelm Hufeland was active in raising funds for morgues, and by the beginning of the 19th century they were operating in Prussia, Bavaria, and Saxony. Hufeland himself used very harsh procedures such as hot patches, caustic powders and needles under his nails. His colleagues also loved to experiment with “imaginary dead” and revived them with varying degrees of success. There were always caretakers on duty in the morgue, and there was a bell next to each body. It was assumed that the imaginary dead man could call and get help if he regained consciousness. Flower pots were placed in empty spaces to improve the smell in the room.

Many morgues were richly furnished: architects copied Italian villas, decorated the walls with marble, and erected a rotunda dome. It is in German morgues that separate farewell rooms first appear. In March 1871, Emperor Wilhelm I even signed a decree requiring a five-day quarantine for every dead body.

The widespread fear of being buried alive resulted not only in the construction of morgues, but also in attempts to make a coffin with an escape system. For example, in 1792, the Duke of Brunswick ordered a coffin for himself that could be opened from the inside with a key. The lock on the door of his family crypt was built using the same system. At the same time, the first coffins with bells appeared: a pipe was inserted into the coffin, and there was a rope in it. One end of it was tied to the hand of the deceased, the other to the tongue of the bell that hung on the tombstone.

In Britain, this type of coffin was sold by the owner of the funeral home, George Bateson. It is curious that he made the coffin primarily for himself: he was very afraid of waking up in a coffin. Sales initially went so well that even Queen Victoria awarded him the Order of the British Empire on the recommendation of her courtiers. However, over time, gravediggers began to hate Bateson’s coffin: the huge number of false positives called the very idea of ​​a safe coffin into question. Bateson was so afraid of reprisals that he published his will. When he stopped breathing, he asked to be given a hemp oil enema and taken to the nearest crematorium. Fear drove Bateson to suicide: he drank several bottles of this oil, and eventually got poisoned. The students found him in a puddle of oil in the workshop.

However, it was the Germans and Americans who were particularly successful in ingenuity. By the end of the 19th century, the market included: a coffin with a siren, a catapult coffin, a coffin with signal flares, and even a coffin with an entrenching tool and a protective mask for self-digging. The Polish aristocrat Count Karnice-Karnicki even organized a tour of Europe at the turn of the century to demonstrate his safe coffin. He equipped his coffin with an electric bell, an air pump and warning flags. Karnice-Karnicki was buried in the ground in front of a crowd of onlookers at fairs, and soon he began to give signals. The trigger mechanism was taken from a hunting rifle: Karnitsky insisted that one movement of the finger was enough for salvation. However, by that time, safe coffins had become more of a joke, and the invention was soon forgotten.

Medicine of the 19th century: the first tests for death

The 19th century was a time when new ways to check the occurrence of death appeared. One technique is to create a simple electrical circuit and test how the muscles react to the current. Dr. Christian August Struve developed a device consisting of two cones, copper and zinc. They were wrapped in rags soaked in ammonia and brought to the patient’s face when he was unconscious. The inventor of the stethoscope, Rene Laennec, and his colleague Eugene Bochoux persistently pressed the French authorities to pass a law making it mandatory to listen to the heart rhythm. When the French Academy announced a competition in 1848 for the most reliable sign of death, it was Bochu who received the first prize. However, the competition also offered a test of body temperature using a stomach tube and a blood test (mainly determining its color and temperature). Subsequently, Bosch was able to describe the course of diseases in which the pulse slows down and is very difficult to listen to: pulmonary emphysema, pericarditis, severe poisoning.

The aristocrat Marquis d'Ourcher established a prize fund in 1867 for the authors of two methods: the first - for the doctor whose method of determining death can be scientific and gives a high probability. The second is for the author of the method, which can be used not only by doctors, but also by people without medical education and special equipment. The second prize, remarkably, was four times larger than the first: twenty thousand francs versus five thousand. This competition attracted mainly not doctors, but charlatans with hypnosis and safe coffins. The first prize was given to Professor Weber from Leipzig for rubbing the skin with sandpaper, and a consolation prize of 500 francs went to a certain de Cordu for running a burning candle over his fingers. No one received the big prize, and it was given to the poor relatives of the Marquis from the slums of Saint-Germain, to their undoubted joy.

Dr. Severin Icarus from Marseille won the prize of the French Academy in 1895. He was the first to conduct blood tests with the addition of a fluorescent dye. The blood of a living person turned yellow when interacting with this substance. When Doctor Icarus dripped dye into the eyes, the membrane turned green. His other test was more spectacular: the doctor wrote the words “I died” on a strip of paper using invisible lead acetate ink. The paper was in the patient's mouth. When lead acetate reacted with sulfur dioxide, words appeared. However, it soon became clear that sulfur dioxide is present not only in corpse gases, but also, for example, in teeth affected by caries, and is also formed during tonsillitis.

In the second half of the 19th century, the fear of being buried alive became widespread. If educated and wealthy people demanded an autopsy of the body, then the poor sections of society could even rebel and demand the exhumation of a fresh grave. Newspaper reporters, especially in the provinces, were looking for sensations, and rumors of burial alive allowed the latest issue to sell like hot cakes. Most activists in societies opposed to premature funerals did not have a medical education. They turned against doctors those people who often could not afford medicine.

If there was a doctor in such a society, then he was a person with an unusual biography. For example, a British citizen from Calcutta, Roger Chew, lost consciousness as a child at the funeral of his older sister and fell into her grave. He lay unconscious for several days, and a coffin had already been laid for him. But suddenly the younger sister noticed her brother’s lips moving. Doctors drained excess fluid from Roger's neck and he was saved.

Roger subsequently chose a career as a military surgeon and encountered cases of “revival” in morgues during cholera epidemics. His best friend, Officer Frank Lassell, sat next to Roger at one banquet. He laughed so hard at one of Roger's jokes that he passed out and fell head first into Roger's plate. A month later, Dr. Chu was tasked with exhuming Lassell's body and saw that the coffin lid had been moved, Lassell was covered with earth, and his posture was unnaturally crooked.

The last straw on Dr. Chu’s path to becoming an activist was the burial stories of his relatives. He handled his uncle's funeral and visited the family crypt to arrange the site. The coffin of one of his distant relatives was open, and her arms hung to the floor. Roger Chu began to blame her mother: she ran away to England with a new husband. And he, also a surgeon, allegedly poisoned his stepdaughter, with whom he was constantly in conflict.

Soon Roger Chu joined the American Society Against Premature Funerals, which did a great service to its members. People with fake diplomas posed as doctors, summoned spirits, and fought against vaccinations. The presence of a real doctor in the society allowed its leader, geologist William Tebb, to make presentations at medical conferences and in the parliaments of European countries. Interestingly, Dr. Chu liked the burial traditions of the indigenous people of his native India. He believed that predatory vultures and stray dogs have a connection with the other world and do not touch some bodies in the “towers of silence.” As a result, Roger Chu opened a dog shelter and tried to teach dogs to distinguish living people from dead ones.

Taphophobia in fiction

Writers of the 19th century also played up the plot of burial alive. Edgar Allan Poe addressed this topic especially often. The character in his story “Buried Alive” suffers from catalepsy and loses consciousness on the streets. He tells stories about those prematurely buried, and ends with an incident from his life. One day he woke up in a small room that smelled of damp earth, and his mouth was covered with a handkerchief. However, as soon as he tore off his scarf and screamed... the sailors came and escorted him off the barge. He wandered there the day before when he got lost in the forest in the rain.

In the story "Berenice", the title character's cousin Aegeus goes crazy. He sees everywhere the beautiful teeth of his cousin, who has fallen into a lethargic sleep. A servant enters Aegeus’s bedroom the day after Berenice’s funeral and reports: the family crypt has been destroyed. Someone cut the girl's face! To his horror, Aegeus discovers stains on his clothes and Berenice's teeth in the box...

“The Cask of Amontillado” is a story of revenge, Italian style. The nobleman Fortunato insulted the freemason Montresor, for which he paid at the carnival. Montresor invited him to try rare and expensive wine in the old castle, lured Fortunato into the dungeon, got him drunk and walled him up alive.

Mark Twain also writes a revenge story and sets it in a Munich morgue. A German immigrant's home in Mississippi is attacked by two robbers in military uniform. They kill his wife and child, and tie up the sleeping owner, having previously pumped him full of chloroform. However, the German comes to his senses and notices that one of the robbers is missing a thumb on his right hand. The robbers are scared off by the sound of a bugle: a cavalry officer knocks on the door and demands alcohol. They recognize their commander's voice and escape through the back door.

The German finds a bloody print... of his right thumb on his documents. He decides to find both soldiers and punish them. To do this, he has to infiltrate a military base under the guise of a fortuneteller and perform palm reading. The only nine-fingered soldier admits to his crime and repents to the German, and also names the name of his accomplice. The fingerprint of the colleague he indicated matches the evidence. The German tracks down the criminal and kills him, and then flees to Germany.

He finds a job: a position as a mortuary caretaker in his native Munich. One evening in the morgue, a bell is heard ringing above one of the beds. To his horror, he recognizes the killer. He survived the stabbing. The German is happy to see him and is in no hurry to light the fire in the room. He wraps himself in a blanket and drinks schnapps in front of his old enemy. The enemy is unable to move and slowly dies under the mocking gaze of the morgue caretaker...

However, the German’s revenge also had a noble side. He gives the killer's watch to the son of that nine-fingered soldier, who repented of his crime and was initially against the murder. It is noteworthy that at the end of the 19th century, when Twain wrote his stories, fingerprinting had not yet received recognition from criminologists.

Wilkie Collins also feared being buried alive. He described one such story in the story "Jezebel's Daughter." According to him, this story was written after a visit to the morgue in Frankfurt and was based on the story of the orderlies. Mrs. Wagner was found in her home without signs of life and taken to the morgue. Jack, her adopted son, decides to stay at the morgue and watch the body. To pass the night, Jack brings brandy and drinks with the caretaker. Soon Madame Fontaine, one of Madame Wagner’s friends, comes to them. She brings some more drinks. But neither Jack nor the caretaker even guess: it was Fontaine who poisoned Mrs. Wagner. One of the bottles contains poison: a control dose for the rival. And although Mrs. Wagner woke up, Mrs. Fontaine even manages to distract Jack and the caretaker. However, the villainess Fontaine herself became so drunk that she mistakenly drinks poison and dies...

Guy de Maupassant noted with a short story about the students' farewell to the body of their teacher, the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. One of them notices with horror the terrible grimace on Schopenhauer's face. Students wonder if he is suddenly paralyzed and moving his facial muscles. However, it soon becomes clear that the muscles were indeed relaxed. The philosopher's false jaws are found under his deathbed and he is soon buried.

Maupassant also describes the story of burial alive in the story "Tick". A French aristocrat and his only daughter arrive at the resort. The narrator calls them “Edgar Poe characters” - the father looks so tired and gray, and the daughter is exhausted and hides her left hand in a glove. The father suffers from a nervous tic and explains its origin to the narrator: one day his daughter lost consciousness and was declared dead. At night, the grief-stricken father sat by the fireplace - he was left completely alone. Suddenly a pale figure appeared in the doorway. The daughter woke up because someone cut off her finger with an expensive ring. The father called his faithful butler. But as soon as he entered, he immediately collapsed dead. Actually, before us is not only one of the versions of medieval legends in a new way, but also one of the first stories where the butler is guilty of a crime.

Emile Zola is the author of the story "The Death of Olivier Besal". Besal is an epileptic who one day loses consciousness. He woke up completely paralyzed. His wife believes that Olivier is already dead. To Besal's horror, the doctor also pronounces death. Besal hears everything happening around him, but cannot open his eyes or move. Mobility returns to him only in the coffin. Besal cannot lift the lid, but with superhuman efforts he knocks out the boards at his feet. It turns out that a second grave was dug next door, still empty. He gets to the surface and goes home, but loses consciousness again. He is found and taken to the nearest hospital. Olivier makes inquiries about his wife, learns about her infidelities and dissatisfaction with her late husband. He decides to go on a trip around the world, which he informs the narrator about.

Billy the Goat is the title character of Selma Lagerlöf's short story series. This is the nickname of the wanderer with the violin, and he bows to every animal he meets. Billy the Goat once received an inheritance, bought a herd of goats and hoped to make a fortune from farming. One day he got lost with his herd in a snowstorm, and all his goats died. Billy went crazy and became a vagrant, earning money by playing the violin at fairs.

One day he comes to the cemetery and hears a knock in one of the fresh graves. He digs up the coffin, and there lies the orphan Ingrid. She complains about her life, and Billy decides to teach her stepmother a lesson. Billy comes to his stepmother's house with a large suitcase and strikes up a conversation with her. She scolds Ingrid and declares that her life is not worth a penny. When Ingrid jumps out of the suitcase, the stepmother collapses. Satisfied, Billy takes Ingrid with him and they travel around Sweden together.

Taphophobia today

As we see, the fear of being buried alive became the main fear of the era. Finally, in 1891, the first scientific study about it was published. Italian psychiatrist Enrico Morselli proposed the term "taphophobia" to describe this neurosis. It was his methods of treating taphophobia (by analogy with claustrophobia) that formed the basis of modern techniques for getting rid of fear.

In 1914, the First World War began. It was so terrible that the fear of being buried alive gave way to other fears in the public consciousness. By 1915, the activities of societies to combat premature burial were virtually curtailed.

Subsequently, improvements in medical technology enabled doctors to provide clearer criteria for death. By the 1920s, the first devices for taking electrocardiograms appeared, and during the Second World War, electroencephalograms. In the 1960s, a straight line on ECG and EEG machines was recognized by the medical community as a sufficient condition for making a diagnosis of “irreversible coma” and stating the fact of death. At the same time, artificial lung ventilation devices appeared, which are now installed in all intensive care units.

By 1990, doctors came up with the idea of ​​a two-minute “window” for cardiac fibrillation: the human brain can withstand about two minutes without oxygen supply and blood circulation, after which it will begin to die. In the medical practice of modern doctors, there are also cases of pulse restoration - the so-called Lazarus effect. Unfortunately, not all patients with this effect come to consciousness like old Lazarus, revived by Jesus.

Nowadays, the number of taphophobes has decreased. Basically, this is the fear of the older generation. Among young people it developed into a fear of medical error. That is, the fear of premature opening and removal of organs for transplantation. News of premature funerals continues to appear in print and online publications. These days, however, they have become reports of curiosities rather than mass sensations.

The phenomenon was studied by Mikhail Pitatelev

tour guide of the Historical and Artistic Museum of Death

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