The Oddities in the News Page

On this month's Oddities in the News Page:

Woman about to be embalmed at a funeral home found to be alive


Time to Kill the Penny?
Circling Ships
Red Hair
Animals and Coronavirus
Dog Noses
Fisherman’s Unique Catch

funeral home


Paramedics Thought She Was Dead. Then She Woke Up at a Funeral Home.

ABC News and The New York Times, September 1, 2020 -- Timesha Beauchamp, 20, was taken to the funeral home in a body bag. When she arrived, a worker discovered her breathing with her eyes open.

The woman was declared dead after paramedics responded to a home in the Detroit suburb of Southfield around 7:34 a.m. on Sunday on a call of an unresponsive female, Chief Johnny L. Menifee of the Southfield Fire Department said in a statement.

Menifee said the woman was not breathing when paramedics arrived at her home.

"The paramedics performed CPR and other life-reviving methods for 30 minutes," Menifee said. "Given medical readings and the condition of the patient, it was determined at that time that she did not have signs of life."

In a second statement released on Monday, the fire department clarified that a local emergency department physician pronounced the woman dead based upon medical information provided by the Southfield Fire Department paramedics. The earlier statement from the Menifee inaccurately claimed the Oakland Medical Examiner's Office pronounced the woman dead.

Since there was no foul play involved, the Southfield Police Department notified the Oakland County Medical Examiner's Office of the findings and an on-duty forensic pathologist at the coroner's office released the body to the woman's family to make arrangements to have the body picked up by a funeral home of their choosing.

"The Southfield Fire and Police Departments followed all appropriate city, county and state protocols and procedures in this case," according to the statement, adding that the city of Southfield is conducting an internal investigation along with the Oakland County Medical Control Authority and that the findings of the probe will be turned over to the Michigan Bureau of EMS, Trauma and Preparedness.

But for Ms. Beauchamp’s family, it has been an agonizing couple of days. First they were told she had died, only to learn later that she was somehow still alive. On Tuesday, she was fighting for her life in a Detroit hospital. The ordeal prompted them to hire a lawyer to try to get to the bottom of how such a thing could have happened.

Around 7:30 a.m. on Sunday, paramedics responded to a call of an unresponsive woman at a home in Southfield, Mich., northwest of Detroit, Chief Johnny L. Menifee of the Southfield Fire Department said in a statement. Mr. Fieger said at a news conference on Tuesday that Ms. Beauchamp’s family had made the emergency call.

This does not appear to be the fault of the James H. Cole Funeral Home. "Upon her arrival at the funeral home, our staff confirmed she was breathing and called E.M.S.,” Ms. Cole said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with this young woman and her family.”

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Were people ever buried alive before the 1900s?


Animals or humans may have been buried alive accidentally on the mistaken assumption that they were dead, or intentionally as a form of torture, murder, or execution.

Because we cannot know for sure how many people have been buried alive, it's no surprise that premature burial was something of an obsession for people in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

While modern advances in medical expertise have largely eradicated that kind of mistake, three centuries ago, such was the threat from diseases like bubonic plague and cholera that hasty interrment was the norm.

Ascertaining death was an inexact science back then. Aside from the basic check for a heartbeat and breath, in the 18th century additional tests included whipping the corpse's skin with nettles, bellowing in the ear and sticking needles under the toenails to see if there were any reactions. But some methods to determine death back then would be considered to be severe malpractice today, such as putting a mirror underneath someone's nose to see if the mirror fogged with breath.

See more HERE

What was done to prevent live burial back then?

Cholera outbreaks, bacterial infections causing severe diarrhea and dehydration, were prevalent in the 18th and 19th centuries. They left not only the communities it impacted very ill, but also very fearful of being buried alive. It was during this time clever feats of engineering sought to comfort the panicked population. One such invention was the safety coffin. The safety coffin provided its occupants the ability to escape from their newly found entrapment and alert others above ground that they were indeed still alive. Many safety coffins included comfortable cotton padding, feeding tubes, intricate systems of cords attached to bells, and escape hatches. Unfortunately, most neglected methods for providing air.

An account from 1791 explains the death of a man from Manchester, Robert Robinson, and a prototype of a safety coffin. He was laid to rest in a mausoleum fitted with a special door that could be opened from the outside by the watchman on duty. Inside Robinson’s coffin was a removable glass panel. Before his death, Robinson had instructed his family to periodically check on the glass inserted in the coffin. If the pane of glass had indications of condensation from his breath, he was to be removed immediately. However, the first true recorded safety coffin was for Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick before his death in 1792. The coffin included an air tube, a lock to the coffin lid that corresponded with keys he kept in his pocket, and a window to allow light in.

1892 saw the rise of the bell system, created by Dr. Johann Gottfried Taberger. Bells housed above ground connected to strings attached to the body’s head, hands, and feet. If the bell rang, the cemetery watchman would insert a tube into the coffin and pump air using bellows until the person could be safely evacuated from their grave. However, due to the process of natural decay, a swelling corpse could activate the bell system leading to false beliefs those buried inside were alive. Despite its popular use, there is no record of a safety coffin saving anyone.

See more HERE

What are the odds of getting buried alive today?

Dr Kevin Fong, a consultant anaesthetist who has investigated bringing patients back from the dead for a BBC Horizon documentary said: "Cases of 'coming back to life' after death has been wrongly diagnosed - are vanishingly rare.

"Death is a process rather than a moment in time - it is a process, a transition, life ebbs away slowly. Identifying precisely when it has occurred can be difficult - especially in the heat of the moment. But the diagnosis itself is based upon strict criteria which have to be adhered to."

Naturally, it depends a lot on the person's condition or cause of death, and how long it had been before a doctor found them.

Joseph Sabato, Jr., MD, of emergency medical services and director of the Critical Decision Unit at UMass Memorial Medical Center, tells Refinery29 that "down time" plays a major role in how doctors determine signs of death. A person who passes away in their sleep, for example, may already show signs of rigor mortis, where the body stiffens in the hours after death. Dr. Sabato adds that it's also common for lividity, where a person's blood collects in the lowest points their body (say, their back if they're lying down), to set in if someone has been dead for several hours.

The process changes if the doctor is present when their patient starts to show signs of death. Then, it's common practice to check for a pulse, pupil response, and heart sounds, Dr. Sabato says. Using these three indicators will help the doctor decide whether the patient has any chance of survival. Of course, if the doctor or nurses tried resuscitating or reviving the patient, it's also important to note how long they tried and for how long the patient was unresponsive.