For people who suffer from taphophobia, the fear of being buried alive is greater than any other.
Thankfully, truly horrifying instances of poor souls being placed in graves while still breathing are usually reserved for the movies.
But that’s not to say they don’t ever happen in real life too.
These days, modern medicine allows a high level of accuracy when it comes to pronouncing deaths, but you cannot always account for human error – or pure malevolence.
Although wrongful burials are as rare today as they have ever been, there are still horrific tales of hapless folk being buried alive, usually by mistake, but occasionally on purpose.
Here, we explore six astounding cases where people were entombed or inhumed before they had drawn their last breaths.
From the warm body that was dug up 11 days after it had been buried to the woman who banged from inside her coffin, these tales all have one thing in common – pure terror.
In February 2018, neighbours heard screams coming from Senhora Santana cemetery in the Brazilian town of Riachao das Neves.
Initially, they thought it was just kids playing tricks – then someone heard clear moans.
Speaking to Brazilian news outlet G1, Natalina Silva said: “When I arrived right there, I heard it hitting inside. Then I thought it was the boys’ game, that the boys only live here [in the cemetery] playing. Then she moaned twice, with both moans she stopped.”
According to family members, when the grave was dug up, 37-year-old Rosangela Almeida’s body was turned over to reveal bruises and scars that were allegedly not on her body at the time of her burial.
Her family said her body was warm when the coffin was opened, suggesting Rosangela had tried to escape and that signs of struggle were there to see.
Her mother, Germana de Almeida, told reporters: “Even those little nails that were on top were loose. The little hand was injured, like someone who was fixing it like this – fixing the coffin to get out.”
Rosangela had been buried for 11-days and had seemingly attempted to fight her way out of the coffin – her family believe she was still alive when she was buried and that her death was recorded due to a medical error.
According to her death certificate, she died from septic shock after two cardiac arrests on January 28.
Essie Dunbar’s story is probably one of the most astonishing.
In 1915, Ms Dunbar, 30, was laid to rest after she suffered an epileptic seizure and was declared dead.
Her body was placed in a wooden coffin and the funeral was to take place the following morning, so her sister could attend.
However, Essie’s sister had still not arrived when she was lowered into the grave – she arrived at the funeral a few minutes after.
Unconventionally, ministers agreed to dig up the grave so she could see her sister’s face one last time.
As they began to remove the screws, and opened the coffin door, Essie sat up and beamed at her sister.
According to the book, Buried Alive: The Terrifying History of Our Most Primal Fear, by Jan Bondeson, some say ministers were so shocked that they fell into the grave, breaking a few ribs.
Even Essie’s sister thought she was a ghost and began to scream. Mourners became hysterical and started running as Essie climbed out and began walking.
Reports say villagers believed she was a zombie for years and that many looked at her with suspicion until she died in 1955 – 47 years after her first burial.
Screams from beneath
A Brazilian woman got the shock of her life when she saw the earth moving after a recent burial.
On closer inspection, the woman, who was visiting a relative’s grave nearby heard screams coming from beneath the ground too, reported Record TV.
Shocking footage from 2013 shows a man being pulled from the freshly covered grave in the Ferraz de Vasconcelos area of Sao Paulo
The video shows him buried from the waist down as people help free his upper half from the ground.
It is unknown how or when the man was buried, but local media said he suffered from psychiatric problems, according to a family member.
Incredibly, the man taken to hospital but discharged the same day by Sao Paulo State Health Service after he had seen a psychiatrist.
In one of the most traumatic scenarios imaginable, a widower visiting the grave of his pregnant wife a day after she had been buried heard banging coming from the ground.
Rudy Gonzales raised the alarm and the body of his 16-year-old wife Neysi Perez, who was buried in her wedding dress in Honduras in 2015, was dug up promptly.
Neysi was three months pregnant at the time of death.
Speaking to Primer Impacto, Rudy said: “As I put my hand on her grave I could hear noises inside. I heard banging, then I heard a voice. She was screaming for help.
“It had already been a day since we buried her. I couldn’t believe it. I was ecstatic, full of hope.”
The family rushed to get her out and hammered their way through concrete around the coffin.
They reportedly found her with bruises on her fingers and the viewing glass of the coffin smashed with her body still warm.
Neysi’s family took her to the hospital immediately, but by then it was too late and she could not be revived.
She was then re-buried in the same La Entrada General Cemetery.
Her mum Maria Gutierrez told reporters: “We were all so happy. After being declared dead for such a long time, everybody was saying that she had come back to life. We were all so happy. I thought I was going to get my daughter back.”
Neysi was pronounced dead after suffering a panic attack, but her family believed she had been possessed by an evil spirit.
In February 2014, Walter Williams was pronounced dead – but then “miraculously” resurrected.
The 78-year-old Mississippi man was declared dead and funeral preparations had begun.
Coroner Dexter Howard claimed “there was no pulse, he was lifeless” and began the paperwork before transferring Mr Williams into a body bag, according to CNN.
The body was transported to the funeral home, where the strangeness began.
Like something out of a horror film, the body bag began to move just as they were about to embalm the body.
“We got him into the embalming room and we noticed his legs beginning to move, like kicking,” Mr Howard said. “He also began to do a little breathing.”
The coroner rushed to call an ambulance immediately and he was hooked up to monitors in no time.
Mr Howard described it as nothing short of a miracle.
Speaking to WJTV, Walter’s daughter said: “I don’t know how much longer he’s going to grace us and bless us with his presence, but hallelujah, we thank Him right now!”
Unfortunately, Mr Williams died two weeks after the traumatic event.
In a horrific case of infanticide, a newborn baby was discovered alive after being buried in an earthen pot in a shallow grave.
The discovery was made after a couple burying their own child in a cemetery in northern India heard the cries of a baby.
They began to dig where the noise was coming from and soon found the newborn baby girl in the clay pot.
People magazine reported the baby had been buried for around six hours before she was discovered in October 2019.
After being taken out of the pot, she was taken to hospital where she was placed in intensive care on a ventilator, reported CNN.
In December it was reported by the BBC the baby had recovered and was doing well.
Doctors were shocked at how the baby survived the incident and experts said she would likely have died had she been dug up an hour later.