Category Archives: premature burial

How to quickly sort the dead from the comatose

Founding exhibit of the National Museum of Kitsch

Looking for a plastic-cased alarm clock in the form of a mosque? There are, Dalrymple notes,

three colours to choose from: sky blue, apple green, and baby pink.

At the appointed time, Dalrymple explains,

a raucous muezzin begins to call, enough to waken the dead, let alone the sleeper. When I hear him—he switches suras if you allow him to go on long enough—I think of those Victorians who feared premature burial (I have a small collection of books on the subject).

These Victorians

invented many different methods of avoiding the terrible fate, including patent coffins with megaphones to alert passers-by to the presence of the living interred.

There were also

cords tied to the big toes of the pseudo-deceased, in the undertakers’ chapel of rest. The cords connected them to a bell, sensitive to the slightest movement, in the undertakers’ office — like the defunct servants’ call bells you sometimes see in old mansions.

But these methods, it seems to Dalrymple,

would quickly have been superseded by this mosque alarm clock.