Doctor scared of being buried alive had a window installed in his grave

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By Phoebe Egoroff

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We all have fears. Clowns, heights, spiders, the dark depths of the ocean - the list is endless. For one Victorian doctor, however, his phobia of being buried alive was so great he had a window installed in his grave so people could check if he was truly dead.

Dr. Timothy Clark Smith, a Vermont medical doctor born in 1821, has one of those wacky graves people will rave about in the years to come.

(Though late Irish actor, Spike Milligan, surely takes the top prize with his headstone that reads: "I told you I was ill.")

According to Find A Grave, Dr. Smith first received his bachelor's degree in 1842, before completing his medical degree in New York City some 13 years later.

He led a colorful life - having worked as a teacher, a clerk in the US Treasury Department, and as a physician.

Smith also worked as a surgeon for the Russian Army, as well as the US Consulate in both Russia and Romania. However, the most interesting thing about him - that will continue to live on for decades - was his intense fear of being buried alive, something he literally took to his grave upon his death in 1893.

Check out this visit to Smith's grave below:

For the time period, however, this wouldn't have been so irrational, given the high instances of live burials during the 17th century. In fact, medical sources have shown 149 cases of premature burial, 10 cases where bodies were accidentally dissected prior to death, and 2 cases where embalming was performed prematurely, per Vermonter.

One can only believe that these stories would have continued to emanate as urban legends throughout the following decades to Smith's lifetime.

wp-image-1263176411 size-full
Credit: YouTube.com

A local newspaper article from the time Dr. Smith died wrote that he "died suddenly on Saturday morning at the Logan House (hotel) where he had been living. After breakfast, he walked out into the office and stood by the stove when stricken."

Upon burial, the doctor's grave was installed with a 6-foot tube and 14"x14" glass panel so that anyone visiting his grave would be able to see if he'd accidentally been buried alive.

The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry has since published an article about his unique burial, writing: "There are other legends about the tomb. One is that Smith had it outfitted with 'tools for his escape.' Although condensation and plant growth inside the shaft now block one’s view, residents in years past claimed to see the tools along with Smith’s bones."

"Said one, 'You can see the face of the skeleton down there with a hammer and chisel crossed on the ground next to it.'

Another source claims that when Smith was interred, "in the corpse's hand they placed a bell that he could ring should he wake up and find himself the victim of a premature burial,'" the article continued.

Well, I guess we know where those sayings your mom always uses - "saved by the bell" and "dead ringer" - come from!

Featured image credit: CBW / Alamy

Doctor scared of being buried alive had a window installed in his grave

vt-author-image

By Phoebe Egoroff

Article saved!Article saved!

We all have fears. Clowns, heights, spiders, the dark depths of the ocean - the list is endless. For one Victorian doctor, however, his phobia of being buried alive was so great he had a window installed in his grave so people could check if he was truly dead.

Dr. Timothy Clark Smith, a Vermont medical doctor born in 1821, has one of those wacky graves people will rave about in the years to come.

(Though late Irish actor, Spike Milligan, surely takes the top prize with his headstone that reads: "I told you I was ill.")

According to Find A Grave, Dr. Smith first received his bachelor's degree in 1842, before completing his medical degree in New York City some 13 years later.

He led a colorful life - having worked as a teacher, a clerk in the US Treasury Department, and as a physician.

Smith also worked as a surgeon for the Russian Army, as well as the US Consulate in both Russia and Romania. However, the most interesting thing about him - that will continue to live on for decades - was his intense fear of being buried alive, something he literally took to his grave upon his death in 1893.

Check out this visit to Smith's grave below:

For the time period, however, this wouldn't have been so irrational, given the high instances of live burials during the 17th century. In fact, medical sources have shown 149 cases of premature burial, 10 cases where bodies were accidentally dissected prior to death, and 2 cases where embalming was performed prematurely, per Vermonter.

One can only believe that these stories would have continued to emanate as urban legends throughout the following decades to Smith's lifetime.

wp-image-1263176411 size-full
Credit: YouTube.com

A local newspaper article from the time Dr. Smith died wrote that he "died suddenly on Saturday morning at the Logan House (hotel) where he had been living. After breakfast, he walked out into the office and stood by the stove when stricken."

Upon burial, the doctor's grave was installed with a 6-foot tube and 14"x14" glass panel so that anyone visiting his grave would be able to see if he'd accidentally been buried alive.

The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry has since published an article about his unique burial, writing: "There are other legends about the tomb. One is that Smith had it outfitted with 'tools for his escape.' Although condensation and plant growth inside the shaft now block one’s view, residents in years past claimed to see the tools along with Smith’s bones."

"Said one, 'You can see the face of the skeleton down there with a hammer and chisel crossed on the ground next to it.'

Another source claims that when Smith was interred, "in the corpse's hand they placed a bell that he could ring should he wake up and find himself the victim of a premature burial,'" the article continued.

Well, I guess we know where those sayings your mom always uses - "saved by the bell" and "dead ringer" - come from!

Featured image credit: CBW / Alamy