Buried alive

Two Czech women met the cruel fate of death underground. One was a countess, the other a common thief, but both had to drink the bitter cup of „living death“ to the bottom. They died a death that none of us would want to experience.

Being buried alive is surely many people’s worst nightmare. No one would want to be left without oxygen under the choking dirt. However, there are many cases throughout history where this horrific and deadly experience has occurred. Victims who were buried alive experienced a cruel death by suffocation. Persons placed in a coffin before actual burial had their death agony prolonged for several hours until they ran out of the oxygen needed to live. But the victims often died of heart attacks or strokes because of the shock.


Hannah Beswick had a panic terror of being buried alive. The doctor turned her into a mummy after she died

In Czech history, there are two known cases of women who were buried alive. The first woman was Countess Isabella Zinsendorf, who lived in what is now Brno, where she is also buried in the crypt of the Capuchin monastery. The Countess’s post-mortem body was found with her arms along her body and her head to one side. According to experts, this proves that she was buried alive „by mistake“. Medical mistakes in the form of death alive occurred due to imperfect knowledge of medicine. Thus, the doctor declared dead even a person who may have only fallen into a coma, unconsciousness or showed no other signs of life at first sight. The Countess’s apparent death was caused by the black plague, which was widespread in the 18th century. There was therefore a misdiagnosis and the doctor apparently assessed the Countess as having died.

How not to be buried alive? These inventions were designed to prevent it.

The second woman is an unnamed crofter from Tabor who lived in the 18th century during the reign of Maria Theresa. Maria Theresa ruled with a strict hand and cruel punishments were not uncommon in history. During Maria Theresa’s reign, women who were guilty of theft were punished by being killed alive. Death in the form of the „brown blanket“ was not only applied to medical errors, but was also used as an inhumane punishment for the act of theft. The aforementioned shopkeeper deliberately alienated goods, which she then traded on. The verdict was clear: burial alive!


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