George Washington was afraid of being buried alive. Of all of the things he could have possibly been scared of, it was to be interred while his heart was still beating. Just think about it for a moment and I het it doesn’t seem that odd a phobia.
What’s your greatest fear? Is it a fear of spiders, dogs, or as was the case with Thomas Edison, a fear of the dark? Just about everyone has some kind of irrational fear, even people many regard as born leaders and heroes. Even George Washington was afraid of being buried alive. But in all honesty, even though it’s a completely irrational fear, it would be an utterly horrible experience. But it turns out that he’s not alone with this phobia either.
A fear of dogs, spiders and the dark are among the most common fears people have and will openly discuss. Another very common fear, and one that very few will openly talk about due to a taboo subject such as death is being buried alive. It’s actually one of the most common and widespread fears that people have. The fear isn’t that irrational either.
Rare instances of people being declared dead and being buried, or nearly buried alive have occurred from time to time. In many of these cases the person was woken from their premature death, or deep slumber, by either being jostled somehow, for example bumping a wall or dropping the coffin, or brought back at the outset of an autopsy. It must be remembered that these cases are extreme rare, but still occur from time to time.
George Washington was afraid of being buried alive, but why?
In reality it’s not a hard phobia to explain, but just like the chances of being bitten by a deadly spider are low, being buried alive are pretty slim also, even rarer in fact. The big difference is the pure lack of control we have if it happens.
Going back to George Washington’s time ,not as much was known about human anatomy, and people were far more superstitious than they are today. The process of declaring a death was far less intensive than it is today, usually focusing on whether or not the subject was drawing breath. There may have been many cases through history where a person was actually still barely alive and was mistakenly buried. Add to this a massive series of Chinese whispers, as very few people could actually read at the time, and all of a sudden a rare event could have appeared to be common place. To combat this fear several measures were introduced. One was running a string to an external bell from inside the coffin. The idea was that if you were to wake up and realize that you had been accidentally buried, you could alert someone and be rescued to live another day. Another method used was the wake, where people would wait for the deceased to wake and make a miraculous recovery. This was in some way Washington’s solution.
As George Washington was afraid of being buried alive, during his final moments on this earth, he left explicit instructions for his servants. He demanded that his body be left for two days before burial just in case he wasn’t dead. He reasoned that two days was plenty of time to come back to life again.
It was very common for people to suffer from sever tooth decay in his day, and as a result George Washington had false teeth. While it is true he had false teeth, they were often poorly fitted and were actually made out of hippopotamus and elephant ivory, and the teeth were sometimes set in gold.