. . . so that in the event the deceased was merely comatose, not dead, and happened to awaken, the movement would cause ringing, giving us the expressions “dead ringer” and “saved by the bell.”
I’d been meaning to get to this one (“I’m not dead yet!”) for some time, but Susan Smyer’s forwarding of this article from George Mason University’s website, cited below, cinched it for this, the week of Halloween.
“One of the most characteristically Victorian fixations was the fear of premature burial. . . Accounts of this horrifying yet fascinating fear commonly describe the “escape coffins” reportedly sold in the nineteenth century to allow those mistakenly declared dead to save themselves at the last moment. The most popular of these, it is often said, was the cheap and simple “Bateson’s Belfry,” a bell mounted on top of a casket with a string running to the corpse’s hand…
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