Eerie story behind unusual grave with a window

Brooke Rolfe
·News Reporter
·2-min read

The eerie reason behind an unusual grave design has resurfaced more than a century after the death of the man who was buried inside.

The peculiar grave in New Haven, in the US state of Vermont, houses the body of 19th century doctor Timothy Clark Smith and features a small window protruding above the ground, according to Burials and Beyond.

When Dr Smith died in 1893, his face, six feet below the ground, would have been clearly visible through the small horizontal glass window.

Grave with window on the top.
Timothy Clark Smith's grave features a window at the top so people could see if he was buried alive. Source: WCAX

Fear of being buried alive

The window was one of several features designed by Dr Smith in the rare event that he was mistakenly buried alive.

Due to the doctor suffering from taphephobia – the intense fear of being buried alive – he wanted to ensure he had an escape plan if his nightmare came true.

Dr Smith designed the intricate contraption to include a breathing tube, a bell, and a set of stairs he could use to climb out.

Attention was brought to the spooky grave in a recent TikTok video which highlighted how frightening it would have been for a cemetery worker to hear a bell ringing from one of the graves.

People buried alive in the 1800s

While uncommon in modern times, the fear wasn't entirely unjustified in the 1800s when people were sometimes mistaken for having died while in a coma.

There were several stories of coffins being exhumed and the bodies inside being flipped over, and covered in blood and cuts, while the interiors of the coffins would feature dents and scratches.

Such instances saw the production of "safety coffins" which featured bells and windows like Dr Smith, however not often did they have breathing tubes.

Dr Smith's efforts were never proven useful and he still remains buried next to his wife, who reportedly was buried in a second room within the burial crypt.

Visibility through the window however, has completely deteriorated over the years.

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