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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Ensuring Deadness in 1889

On page 103 of Burroughs' Encyclopaedia of Astounding Facts and Useful Information, 1889 is a section called "How to Distinguish Death."

As many instances occur of parties being buried alive, they being to all appearance dead, the great importance of knowing how to distinguish real from imaginary death need not be explained.
In case there is great doubt, the body should not be allowed to be inclosed in the coffin, and under no circumstances should burial be allowed until there are unmistakable signs of decomposition.
Among the foolproof tests for "imaginary death" are these:
4. A coal of fire, a piece of hot iron, or the flame of a candle, applied to the skin, if life remains, will blister--if dead it will merely sear. 5. A bright steel needle introduced and allowed to remain for half an hour in living flesh will be still bright--if dead, it will be tarnished by oxydation. [Link, via Boing Boing]
Red-hot coals applied to the soles of the feet remain an excellent way to distinguish the truly dead from the soundly sleeping.

Dave

Hmm, I might have seen some records of "imaginary" deaths earlier this week. While scouring Lutheran burial records, I came across one or two entries that were completely filled out (two or three lines of text), but then crossed out. Were they really dead?

Chris

Maybe they had second thoughts. This gives new meaning to the term "cold feet."

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