Police in the Greek town of Peraia, near Thessaloniki in the north of the country, said they will investigate a report of a woman attempting to escape from her coffin, shortly after her funeral Thursday. Approximately one hour after being buried at a local cemetery, the 45-year-old women, who had died of cancer, was heard screaming and banging on the inside of her coffin. Several visitors reported hearing the noises and cemetery workers scrambled desperately to dig through the freshly-filled grave in an attempt to release the woman.
When they finally managed to dig up the coffin and open it, the woman was dead. Local media reported that the woman had suffocated before rescuers were able to free her.
A local doctor, however, has dismissed claims that the women had been buried alive. Chrissi Matsikoudi said that the women had actually been dead for hours and that it would not have been possible for her to have been trying to escape from her coffin. “I just don’t believe it, ” she said, according to a report on the BBC’s European news site. “We did several tests including one for heart failure on the body.”
Relatives of the woman are apparently considering filing a formal complaint against doctors who had pronounced her dead, prior to the funeral. Greek police have made no further statements, regarding the incident.
A coroner will now be conducted a second autopsy on the woman’s body, to finally determine the time and manner of her death. Matsikoudi, who was present when the body was unearthed, stated that, due to the state of rigor mortis, the woman could not possibly have been calling for help or attempting to escape the coffin. The mother of two, whose name has not been released, was undergoing treatment for cancer at a private clinic and was pronounced dead Thursday morning.
The story, which has been picked by several British newspapers, has left the police with a puzzle: More than one visitor to the cemetery – as well as a worker at the site – claims to have heard the woman’s muffled cries for help and banging from inside the coffin, apparently ruling out a cruel hoax. On the other hand, medical personnel appear to have followed correct procedure in pronouncing the woman dead and also assert that, upon examination of the exhumed body, it is clear that she had, indeed, been deceased for several hours prior to the funeral.
There have been numerous stories of people being buried alive or mistakenly pronounced dead. Many of these stories were reported prior to medical advances of the twentieth century; thus, it seems possible that such incidents may have occurred. More recent incidents of the living being mistakenly buried are not known, although, according to the website snopes, an 86-year-old woman once spent around ninety minutes in a body bag in an Albany, NY morgue before an attendant noticed that she was moving. This happened in 1994. Mildred Clarke had collapsed in her home and appeared have died. Following her revival at the morgue, Clarke lived for an other week.
Graham J Noble