Is the Fear of Being Buried Alive a Common Phobia?

The possibility of being buried alive has terrified people for centuries, at least partly due to the publication of numerous tales about such a ghastly event. In the mid-1800s, for example, Edgar Allan Poe wrote several such tales, including "The Cask of Amontillado." A Boston physician named Moore Russell Fletcher published a compendium of terrifying stories about premature burial that he had collected from around the world. The fear was so widespread that inventors began coming up with ways to ensure that you had an escape route if you found yourself breathing while buried six feet under. Over the years, these have included coffins with bells that could be rung to notify those above ground of one's predicament; graves with ropes and ladders built in; and a window dug into the ground that showed a clear view of the supposedly deceased person's face far below. Although not nearly as widespread as it was in the 18th and 19th centuries, the fear of premature burial is still alive and well today, as demonstrated by new patents for high-tech security coffins and feature-length films such as Buried and Buried Alive.

Fear itself:

  • Phobias are one of the most common mental disorders; approximately 10 percent of Americans have some kind of phobia.

  • The National Institute of Mental Health says that most phobias can be overcome with cognitive therapy -- confronting rather than hiding from the fear.

  • The medical community officially recognizes at least 400 phobias, and recent studies suggest that some might be hereditary.

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More Info: New England Historical Society

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