People Who Were Buried Alive And Somehow Survived

Fair warning: even if you’re not claustrophobic or taphophobic, these buried alive stories will have you squirming. Mistaken for dead, many people have been entombed prematurely, only to awaken to a horrifying reality. There are many tales of people being accidentally buried alive who are discovered all too late, but this list is concerned with people who were buried alive and lived to tell the tale—in some cases, just barely.

If you’re still reading, you’re ready to delve into some bizarre buried alive stories. Scroll at your own risk...

  • French Teenager Survives Being Buried for Three Days

    French Teenager Survives Being Buried for Three Days
    Photo: Paul Townsend / flickr / CC-BY-ND 2.0

    19-year-old Angelo Hays was believed to have died in a motorcycle accident in 1937 in France. Hays was thrown from the bike into a brick wall, head first. After a suspicious insurance agent came to inquire about the policy Hays’s father had taken out on his son, the teenager was exhumed two days after his burial. He was still alive, having slipped into a coma. As his body required less oxygen in this state, Hays managed to survive the ordeal.  

    After rehabilitation, Hays lived to tell the tale of his live burial. He became a celebrity throughout France, and also invented a security coffin complete with a radio transmitter, food locker, library, and chemical toilet, just in case anyone found themselves in his same predicament.
  • Natalya Pasternak Buried Alive by a Bear

    Natalya Pasternak Buried Alive by a Bear
    Photo: Boris Kasimov / flickr / CC-BY 2.0
    In 2015, Natalya Pasternak and a friend were walking in the woods of Siberia when they were attacked by a bear. She and her friend fought back, but the huge bear got the best of Pasternak, mauling her and knocking her unconscious. Her friend went for help and flagged down police. The bear, thinking she was dead, buried Pasternak with leaves and dirt. He apparently planned to eat her later. The bear was killed and Pasternak went through a long recovery. The attack gave her a new lease on life. She captioned a pic on social media, “How beautiful life is.” 
  • Magician Nearly Dies When Stunt Goes Wrong

    Magician Nearly Dies When Stunt Goes Wrong
    Photo: Eddie~S / flickr / CC-BY 2.0
    British magician Antony Britton was hoping to pull off an amazing feat like the great Harry Houdini, but instead nearly died after being buried alive. Britton wore handcuffs and was buried under loose dirt, with the intent of freeing himself from the six-foot grave. Although he spent 14 months preparing for the stunt, Britton wasn’t prepared for the actual weight of the dirt, nor the fact that his arm would become trapped. As the time ticked by, his crew became alarmed and quickly unearthed the magician.  
    “I almost died,” he said. “I was just seconds away from death. It was scary. The pressure of the soil was crushing around me. Even when I found an air pocket, when I exhaled the soil around me was crushing me even more. I could feel myself losing consciousness and there was nothing I could do about it. I was pretty much dying,” Britton said. 
  • Woman Visits Family Tomb, Finds Man Buried Alive

    Woman Visits Family Tomb, Finds Man Buried Alive
    Photo: Jo Christian Oterhals / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0
    A woman was visiting the family plot in 2013 in a small town in Brazil when she saw a man clawing his way out of a grave. His head and hands were free but he was struggling to pull himself out. The woman brought rescue workers to free the man, who turned out to be an employee at city hall. The man has no memory of being buried alive, though authorities said he was badly beaten before being buried. The theory is, the man's attackers, believing him to be dead, buried him in the cemetery to expose of his body.
  • Irish Barman Buried for 61 Days to Break World Record

    Irish Barman Buried for 61 Days to Break World Record
    Video: YouTube
    In 1968, Mike Meaney set out to break the world record for entombment of 45 days, set by American Digger O’Dell. Meaney allowed himself to be buried in a coffin with holes for air, access to food and water, and a telephone. The barman talked to boxer Joe Louis while he was underground. After 61 days, Meaney emerged weakened but in good health otherwise, sporting sunglasses as the coffin lid was pulled away. 
  • The Legend of Tom Guerin, Three Year-Old Accidentally Buried Alive

    The Legend of Tom Guerin, Three Year-Old Accidentally Buried Alive
    Photo: "Summum jus, summa injuria" by Erik Henningsen, 1886
    There were many sick and dying among the Irish during the potato famine of 1845-1852. Tom Guerin was mistaken for dead and was buried in a mass grave. There are varying reports of what actually happened to Guerin, but one account states that when the gravedigger hit his legs with a spade, the boy cried out. Although the boy survived, he was handicapped for life. Guerin struggled financially as an adult, but was a cheerful person and something of a poet. He even wrote a poem to the Irish government asking for new shoes.