• Graveyard Shift

Scary Stories of People Who Were Buried Alive

Many people's biggest fear is being buried alive, and it's not hard to see why. You might think these are all historical tales of terror, but not all of the men and women on this list passed before the modern era. These stories are horrifying, so if this is your personal fear, you might want to steer clear.

Some unfortunate souls buried too soon make it out alive, but more often than not, premature burial ends exactly how you think it will. Just try to fall asleep after reading about people being buried alive.

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  • A Kidnapped Heir Suffocated Underground

    In 1987, an Illinois publishing and media heir named Stephen Small was kidnapped and buried alive in 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.
  • A Man Was Buried In A Case Of Insurance Fraud

    One day in 1937, Angelo Hays was riding his bike around France when he ran headfirst into a brick wall. He 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, and was shocked to discover that Angelo was still alive.

    When the doctor removed the 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. 

  • A Man Beat His Head Against His Coffin In His Efforts To Be Heard

    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 demise so that she could inherit his belongings. 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 he had passed, but Cawthorn’s shroud was completely shredded. His eyes were swollen and his head was bloodied from where he’d beaten it against the coffin.

  • A Man Remained In His Coffin For Two Full Days

    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 fiancée 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.