From History, Mystery, and Hauntings of Southern Illinois by Bruce Cline.
Henry Blakley (1860-1912) had mastered the art of hypnotism. His talent made him very well known throughout southern Illinois and the surrounding area. Mr. Blakley believed that he could communicate with people beyond the grave. He would light candles and place them in the center of a table to conduct séances.
Once the atmosphere was suitable for conducting the spirits he would blow out the kerosene lamp and have everyone sit around the table gazing into the lit candles. The table would jump and make all manner of sounds as Blakley asked questions about dead friends and relatives.
Mr. Blakley was such a powerful hypnotist that he feared that he might accidentally hypnotize himself and be mistaken for dead and his family would accidentally bury him alive. He instructed his family that when he died, he wanted a 2-inch pipe run from the top of the ground down into his casket, so he could breathe. Mr. Blakley further instructed his family that someone was to go to the cemetery each day for three days to be sure that he was dead. The family faithfully carried out his final wishes. It seems that Mr. Blakley was really dead after all.
Many teenagers would venture to the grave late at night and drop coins down the airshaft onto Mr. Blakely’s dead face. The air shaft to Mr. Blakely’s coffin was eventually capped off to prevent the emission of noxious fumes (corpse gas) from the body that was actually dead and decaying and not buried alive.
Premature burial alarms of the era consisted of a metal tube connecting the coffin to the above ground fresh air. This tube also contained a cable attached to a bell that a person who was unfortunate enough to be buried alive would tug on to attract the attention of the graveyard caretaker (this is the origin of the term “Graveyard Shift”).
Copyright Bruce L. Cline, 2014. You do not have permission to copy this post.