Planking, Hospitals For The Dead, And The Creepy Origins Of “Saved By The Bell”

Published March 30, 2015
Updated August 15, 2019
Pictures Of Catalepsy

Source: Wikimedia

Thanks to modern medical technology and the pervading cultural ideal that doctors should be formally educated and trained, we no longer have to worry about being buried alive. For much of history, however, it was actually a legitimate concern for a person to have, particularly if they suffered from episodes or “attacks” of a condition called catalepsy.

Similar to narcolepsy, catalepsy (not to be confused with cataplexy) is a state of uncontrolled muscle rigidity and unresponsiveness that is often linked to episodes of catatonia.

Often seen in schizophrenia patients, catatonic states have been part of the human condition for centuries, but only relatively recently has medicine been able to identify and separate the event from clinical death. Thus why vivisepulture–the act of burying someone alive–was such an issue.

Catalepsy Standing Girl

Source: Wikimedia

Edgar Allan Poe, his generation’s Stephen King-esque master of horror, helped create a lot of drama and deeply-rooted social angst around the prospect of being buried alive.

It became a terrifyingly routine finding in newspapers, and many made a mad dash to develop a counteraction against the mistake. You know, instead of requiring doctors to actually be educated enough in medicine to know when someone is dead and not sleeping.

Abby Norman
Abby Norman is a writer based in New England . Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Independent, Bustle, Mental Floss, Atlas Obscura, and Quartz.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
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Norman, Abby. "Planking, Hospitals For The Dead, And The Creepy Origins Of “Saved By The Bell”.", March 30, 2015, Accessed June 24, 2024.