Wikimedia Commons

Many people cringe at the mere thought of being buried alive. But in the 18th and 19th centuries, being buried alive was a realistic fear. Hundreds of people were reported to have been buried prematurely. Considering this horrifying reality, safety coffins were invented so that those buried alive can signal for help.

Safety coffin by Dr. Adolf Gutsmuth in 1822

In 1822, Dr. Adolf Gutsmuth of Seehausen, Altmark, designed a safety coffin complete with a feeding tube. He demonstrated its functions by allowing himself to be buried underground for several hours. During that time, he was fed with beer and sausages through the feeding tube. Several of Gutsmuth’s safety coffins were sold, but there was no record of them being used as intended.

Security coffin by Dr. Johann Gottfried Taberger in 1829

In 1829, Dr. Johann Gottfried Taberger designed a coffin with a bell that could alert the cemetery night watchman if a person who had been buried was still alive. Strings were attached to the head, hands, and feet of the “corpse” so that any slight movement caused the bell to ring.

Safety coffin by Walter McKnight in 1900

In 1900, Walter Mc Knight of New York invented a safety coffin with the usual air pipe on the surface together with an electric device that would signal of the “awakening” of the person buried alive. An electric bell would alert others if the corpse suddenly moved.

Safety coffin by Monroe Griffin in 1901

In 1901, Monroe Griffin patented a safety coffin equipped with a telegraphic grave signal. Instead of a buzzer as a signal, there were switches under the corpse that would automatically close if the body was lifted. The wires of the switch were connected to a central office, such as a police station.

Safety coffin by Fabrizio Caselli in 1995

The most modern safety coffins were invented and patented by Fabrizio Caselli in 1995. His coffin included high-technology mechanisms such as an alarm, a two-way microphone/ speaker, an oxygen tank, a torch, and a heartbeat sensor and stimulator.