It’s everybody’s worst nightmare. We fear it even more than we fear death itself. It’s a thought that can strike terror in the hearts of even the bravest people. What if we are declared dead when we are actually still alive?
It’s the basis for countless horror books, movies, and campfire stories. A man wakes up after being declared dead, only to find himself buried alive, with no way of calling for help and zero chance of rescue. In the 18th and 19th century people feared this so much that dozens of safety coffins were patented – all designed to alert people that the person was alive and needed help. Many of these designs included a mechanism with a bell which could be rung to alert graveyard staff, hence the expression, “saved by the bell”.
With advancements in medical treatment and observation, the chances of this happening today are very slim, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen. Doctors refer to it as Lazarus Syndrome or auto-resuscitation; where there is a spontaneous return of circulation after life-saving techniques have failed. Since 1982 there have been at least 38 incidents attributed to Lazarus Syndrome.
It’s terrifying for everyone involved when someone who is presumed dead suddenly returns to life, especially in the morgue or at their own funeral. Here are 15 stories guaranteed to give you sleepless nights…
15. Grandmother Returns From The Dead – And Cooks Lunch
The death of a grandmother is always sad and the last thing you expect is to find her cooking in the kitchen a week later. But this really happened to one Chinese family.
Their grandmother, Li Xiufeng (95), had an accident which caused a severe head injury and her family thought that she was dead. They placed her in an unsealed coffin and held an in-home wake for her as they planned her funeral.
But on the day of her funeral, six days later, they went into the room where the coffin was only to find it empty. Moments later they heard noises from the kitchen and went in to find Li sitting on a stool cooking food. She later told the villagers, “I slept for a long time. After waking up, I felt so hungry, and wanted to cook something to eat”.
14. Baby Survives The Night In The Morgue
In China, a new father was anxious to take his new baby home after the child, who had been born prematurely, had spent 23 days in an incubator. But just a few days later he rushed it back to the hospital unresponsive and showing signs of discoloration. The doctors found that the baby’s heart had stopped beating and he was declared dead.
Before being sent to the mortuary the heartbroken father wrapped the baby in two blankets. Fifteen hours later the morgue staff went to prepare the body for cremation, but to their amazement, they found the baby crying and moving. “I thought I heard noises so I opened the container and saw him moving,” a morgue worker said. The doctors declared that it was a miracle and added that the baby only survived because he was wrapped up warmly in the blankets.
13. Russian Woman Dies At Her Own Funeral
Fagilyu Mukhametzyanov, a 49-year-old woman from Kazan, was rushed to the hospital after she complained of chest pains and collapsed. When they arrived at the hospital, doctors examined her but determined that she had passed away from a heart attack.
At her funeral mourners were filing past her coffin, paying their last respects when suddenly Fagilyu woke up and started screaming. Obviously, the realization that she was in a coffin at her own funeral and about to be buried alive was just terrifying. Her family rushed her back to the hospital, but she died shortly afterward, this time from a heart attack brought on by shock.
12. Back From The Dead
Doctors from West Virginia did everything they could to try and save Val Thomas. She suffered two heart attacks and was in a critical condition when her family rushed her to West Virginia hospital. There, doctors put her on a special machine which lowered her body temperature, hoping that this would buy her some time but after the procedure, her heart stopped again. For 17 hours she displayed no neurological function. Her heart stopped and a ventilator kept her breathing.
Her family was called to say their last goodbyes, but Val was kept on the ventilator a little while longer. Astonishingly, ten minutes later she woke up and started talking.
But that isn’t the end of this amazing story. When heart specialists checked Val out they found that the blockage that had caused the heart attack had also disappeared. Doctors called it a medical miracle.
11. Frozen To Death In A Body Bag
Losing a loved one is always painful, but for the family of 80-year-old Maria de Jesus Arroyo it was the beginning of a nightmare.
Maria, a resident of California, was rushed to hospital in 2010 after suffering a heart attack. When she arrived, she was examined and declared dead. She was placed face up inside a body bag and stored inside the morgue’s freezer compartment.
But when the funeral home arrived to collect her body, they found that the bag was half open and that Maria was face down. She had cuts all over her face and a broken nose. Her family believes that she was actually placed in the freezer alive and froze to death while trying to escape the body bag. They are suing the hospital.
10. Two-Year-Old Sits Up During His Own Wake
Kelvin Santos, a two-year-old boy from Brazil, was rushed to the hospital by his parents when he suddenly fell ill. While receiving treatment for a severe case of pneumonia Kelvin tragically passed away. He was declared dead on a Friday evening and his body was handed over to his grieving family in a large plastic bag. They took him home and laid his body in an open coffin and his relatives held a wake for him throughout the night.
But an hour before his funeral was set to take place Kelvin sat up in his coffin and said, “Daddy, can I have some water?” and then lay back down again. His frightened relatives screamed in horror and Kelvin’s father grabbed the boy and rushed back to the hospital. Doctors examined the boy but found that he showed no signs of life. They couldn’t explain how he had woken up. The toddler was buried the following day.
9. Surviving A Weekend In The Morgue
Lyudmila Steblitskaya was hospitalized in 2011 after her health rapidly deteriorated. The following day was Friday and her daughter phoned the hospital to check on her, but they informed her that sadly her mother had passed away. The funeral was scheduled for Monday and Lyudmila’s body was taken to the hospital morgue.
Her daughter spent the weekend mourning her loss and planning her mother’s funeral. On Monday morning, she went to the hospital to collect the body. However, when she arrived at the hospital the doctors told her that her mother was alive. Lyudmila had somehow survived a weekend in the frigid morgue. “I have a vague recollection of real cold,” she said, “It’s a miracle I’m still here”. Her family was shocked by the turn of events but thrilled to have her back.
8. This Woman Has Woken Up In The Morgue Three Times
June Burchell suffers from a medical condition that causes her to periodically become paralyzed while still fully conscious. This is known as cataplexy and it is a symptom of narcolepsy, a sleep disorder that affects around one in every two thousand people. These episodes can be brought on by strong emotions, stress, or even laughter.
But it’s no laughing matter for June – this condition is the reason that she has woken up inside the morgue not once, not twice, but three times. The first time it happened June was in her teens. She collapsed and was rushed to the hospital, but to her horror, she was pronounced dead on arrival. She spent several hours in the morgue surrounded by bodies before she was able to recover enough to cry out. June says she doesn’t fear death – her biggest fear is being buried alive.
7. “Dead” Man Wakes Up During Autopsy
In 2007 a Venezuelan man named Carlos Camejo was involved in a serious car accident and when he arrived at the hospital he was declared dead. The doctors ordered an autopsy and Carlos was taken to the mortuary.
But when doctors began the autopsy by cutting the accident victim’s face they noticed something alarming. Carlos started to bleed, which is something that doesn’t happen when a person is dead. They rushed to stitch him up again. “I woke up because the pain was unbearable,” the 33-year-old said. When his wife arrived to identify his body, she was shocked to discover that her husband was actually still alive. Carlos now has the scar on his face and the written autopsy order to confirm his incredible story.
6. Hooker Shocks Hotel Guests By Coming Back From the Dead
A man from Zimbabwe who hired a prostitute got more than he bargained for when the woman collapsed during their romp in a hotel room. Convinced that she had died, he called the police who contacted paramedics to fetch the woman’s body.
But as they were loading her into the mortuary van the hooker suddenly woke up and started screaming hysterically, “You want to kill me, you want to kill me!” She leaped up from the trolley which sent hotel guests and staff who had gathered to watch the incident fleeing in terror. A bystander who later spoke to a local newspaper said, “It was like a movie. People were running away in different directions. It was a scary incident because we were all convinced that she had died because she was just cold. Miracles surely do happen”.
5. Suicide Victim Gets Another Chance After Being Declared Dead
After a heated argument with his father, 24-year-old Paul Mutora decided to take his own life. The young Kenyan drank insecticide, but was discovered soon afterward and rushed to the hospital. Doctors tried to save his life by giving him anti-poison drugs but to no avail. He was pronounced dead a short while later and taken to the mortuary.
Paul’s body was scheduled to be embalmed, but twenty hours later the morgue workers discovered something shocking. They heard scratching noises coming from inside the room where his body was being stored and went in to investigate. When they found Paul alive inside, they screamed and ran from the building. It seems that the drugs that the hospital administered could have slowed his heart rate to the point where he appeared dead.
4. Woman Found Her Mother Alive In The Mortuary
Rosangela Celestrino was devastated when her mother, 60-year-old Rosa Celestrino de Assis, was pronounced dead. She had been taken to hospital for pneumonia and pronounced dead when she displayed no vital signs.
Rosangela arrived two hours later and went to the mortuary to see her mother for the final time. But as she hugged her, she felt her mother breathing. “I went to give my mom one last hug, and I could feel that she was breathing. I screamed out – my mom is alive! And they all looked at me like I was crazy,” she told a local newspaper. “Not only did I have to go collect my mom from a cold storage drawer at the morgue, but when I got there, I find her still breathing”.
3. Man Wakes Up At His Own Funeral
Going to a funeral is never a happy affair, however, it is an important ritual for the loved ones to say their final goodbyes. Well, not exactly final in this case…
Brighton Dama Zanthe from Zimbabwe was just 34 years old when he died at home after a long struggle with illness. A few days later a funeral was held for him with an open casket so that mourners could pay their last respects. But when Brighton started to move the somber occasion descended into chaos as mourners screamed with terror and fled the church, fearing that he had come back to haunt them.
2. Morgue Workers Thought This Man Was A Ghost
I don’t know about you, but if I’m ever unlucky enough to wake up in the morgue I hope I will be able to do what this 50-year-old South African man did.
The man suffered from a severe asthma attack and his family thought that he was dead. His body was collected by a private mortuary. But almost a day after he had been put on ice the unthinkable happened.
Workers at the mortuary were terrified when they heard screaming coming from the fridges, and ran out into the street, believing that the building was haunted. They called the police who discovered that the man was still alive. He was rushed to a nearby hospital and released shortly afterward to his astounded family members and allowed to return home.
1. Night Of Heavy Drinking Ends With A Rude Awakening In The Morgue
We’ve all had those nights where the drinking got just a little out of hand but I bet you’ve never had a night like this guy.
Last year, a 25-year-old Polish man named Kamil decided to go out for the night with his friends. They were downing shots of vodka for hours before the unthinkable happened – Kamil had a heart attack and collapsed outside the pub. He was rushed to the hospital but announced dead on arrival. His body was moved to a morgue freezer to await collection by his relatives.
But several hours later a hospital guard heard strange noises coming from inside the freezer. He thought perhaps some children had broken in so he went to investigate (brave guy). There were no intruders inside, but he did find the naked Kamil, sitting up and asking for a blanket.