"To be buried while alive is, beyond question, the most terrific of these extremes which has ever fallen to the lot of mere mortality."
~ Edgar Allan Poe, 1850: "The Premature Burial"
He was an educated man, who had traveled the world. He received a Bachelor's degree from Middlebury College, and became a doctor upon graduating from the University of New York in 1855. He "worked as a teacher, clerk in the US Treasury Department and physician. He was a staff surgeon for the Russian Army from 1856 to 1857. Smith was US Consul in Odessa, Russia from 1861 to 1875, and Galatz, Romania from 1878 to 1883."
Dr. Smith suffered from Taphophobia, which means he was deeply fearful of being buried alive. More precisely, he feared being buried alive, as the result of obtaining some form of a sleeping sickness which would ultimately be falsely determined that he died.
|"The Raising of Lazarus" Rembrandt|
|odd nerdrum, buried alive|
For many during the Nineteenth Century, the fear of premature burial became an obsession, after several people were pronounced dead, and during their wake or funeral, suddenly returned to life from a comatose or unconscious state. These stories, were highly publicized in newspapers across the country, and the macabre Victorians took the only action they could - allowing bodies to stay lying in wait for days and even weeks on end - to ensure their death.
|"The Death of Albine", by John Coliier|
When one considers decomposition and gravity, much like the proverbial tree in the forest, the bell probably did ring, but would there be no one there to hear it?
Upon installing pipes that were concocted for the purpose of listening for any returning signs of life, the rich may have employed attendants to wait near the tombs, lest a bell would ring or a voice to be heard, so that they could run or call for help.
Others who were less fortuante, financially, had simpler means of assisting anyone who came back to life by placing shovels and/or crowbars in caskets.
I shudder to think of how a weakened body, most likely suffering from oxygen deprivation and dehydration, and at the discovery of being trapped in complete darkness - the extreme psychological fear that one would experience, how they could excavate themselves from under 6 feet of dirt, would indeed be indicative of Lazarus.
|Image (cropped) from roadtrippers.com|
|unknown source: google images|
According to my research the actual burial vault has an arched stairwell, that is covered with stone in the lower part of the mount. It leads to two rooms. One room for his beloved wife, and the other containing the remains of Timothy Clark Smith which was constructed with the "viewing window" at the top of the shaft.
Dr. Timothy Clark Smith's grave is located in the Evergreen Cemetery in New Haven, Vermont (near Middlebury).
|An example of a "Mortsafe"|
To read about how some graves were designed to keep bodies "in" the grave, you can read about the Mortsafe on Vermont DeadLine, here.