Monday, October 26, 2015

More people fear being buried alive than fear public speaking

That is what was found by two surveys I previously mentioned here in Joyful Public Speaking. Digging them up again was prompted by reading that today A & E is airing a TV special titled Buried Alive.

One survey was mentioned in the Daily Mail (UK) on October 29, 2013. In January 2014 I blogged about how a Survey done before last Halloween for Ripley’s Believe It or Not! in London found women’s top five fears were losing family members, being buried alive, speaking in public, dying, and fire. The rest of that top ten were snakes, heights, spiders, crashing the car, and public humiliation. 

The other survey was done in the U.S. back in 2000. I blogged about it in a 2009 post titled U.S. residents are slightly more afraid of public speaking than of hell or fire. There the top ten fears of adults were snakes (25%), being buried alive (22%), heights (17%), being bound or tied up (15%), drowning (14%), speaking in public (13%), hell (12%), cancer (11%), fire (10%), and tornadoes & hurricanes (10%). 

Fear of being buried alive is a well-known problem. Wikipedia has a page on Premature Burial and another on Fear of being buried alive, and Edgar Allen Poe wrote a short story (The Premature Burial) about it back in 1844. In 1868 Franz Vester devised the safety coffin (U.S. Patent 81,437, whose drawing is shown above colorized) which has a bell cord that can be pulled by the occupant to indicate he is not in fact dead yet. (According to a Mental Floss article, the phrase “saved by the bell” actually refers to the end-of-round bell in a boxing match).

In 1843 Christian Henry Eisenbrandt devised a “life preserving coffin” whose lid would be opened by any movement of the occupant. But it only would be useful before the coffin was put underground, which is considered a grave defect.       

Fear of being buried alive is called taphephobia, a word which appears in the Merriam-Webster dictionary and in the Wikipedia page on Premature Burial. The Italian psychiatrist Enrico Morselli 1891 reportedly devised that word back in 1891 in a magazine article where he also came up with term dysmorphophobia (now called body dysmorphic disorder). But the other Wikipedia page on Fear of being buried alive uses another spelling - taphophobia.

The Eisenbrandt coffin image was adapted from one at Wikimedia Commons.

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