THE COFFIN GLASS

$ 275.00

(THE GROUP IS STANDING AROUND A GRAVE. THE LEADER IS STANDING IN THE CENTER OF ONE SIDE. HE ADDRESS THE GROUP WHILE HOLDING THE COFFIN GLASS BOX BUT WITHOUT CALLING ATTENTION TO IT FOR THE MOMENT)

Let's talk for a few minutes about Taphephobia. 

In fact, perhaps YOU are a Taphephobiac even if you are totally unfamiliar with the term. 

"Taphephobia" is derived from the Greek "taphos" meaning "grave" and "phobia" from the Greek "phobos" meaning "fear"."  A Taphephobiac has fear of the grave, or more specifically, a Taphephobiac is a person with an unnatural fear of being put in the grave... ALIVE!

Do YOU have that fear?  Well, this is the perfect place to discuss your fear, isn't it?

Actually, there are far fewer Taphephobiacs today because corpses are routinely embalmed before burial... a process that completely eliminates any possibility of a premature burial. However the fear was widespread, worldwide in fact, in the mid 1800's, before corpses were embalmed. Then the fear of being buried while alive preyed on most peoples minds. It is understandable.

Suppose a presumed dead person were buried and he or she later revived from a coma only to find him or herself confined within a coffin buried under six feet of soil. Unable to escape you would die a horrible, lingering and unbelievably frightening death.

The very thought of this possibility drove people to devise methods that, hopefully, would prevent this possibility.  Some requested that their body be pierced through the heart or beheaded. Others insisted on not being buried until decomposition of their corpse began.

Other ingenious methods were to have a tube leading from the buried casket to the surface. This would allow air into the casket and the person inside could shout through the tube that he or she was alive. Other methods had a string running up the tube. The string was attached to the corpse's wrist and to a bell or flag on the surface. If the corpse so much as moved its arm the signal of life would be transmitted to faithful watchers above.  I've heard tell that even today hard core Taphephobiacs insist on having a cell phone in their coffin... just in case.

One of the oddest methods ever devised to prove that the "corpse" was indeed dead was the Coffin Glass. This is something that we can experiment with this evening, in fact.  I have a replica of a Coffin Glass in this wooden box which you will notice has holes in the bottom.

(BOX IS DISPLAYED AND THE HOLES ARE SHOWN, BUT THE BOX IS NOT OPENED YET.)

I made this box early in my cemetery investigations.  Once I learned of the Coffin Glass I devised an experiment to demonstrate how it works.  A real Coffin Glass would be made of heavy plate glass. My replica is made of clear plastic which is far less fragile.

(BOX IS OPENED AND THE CLEAR PLASTIC SHEET IS REMOVED AND SHOWN)

It is not important whether glass or plastic is used. Glass was the original because, of course, plastic had not been invented. Had it been I am sure it would have been the better choice.  What is important is how this glass, and this plastic, has been chemically treated.

A solution of Silver Nitrate was used to print the word "DEAD" on the glass. I have done this with this sheet of plastic. You will notice that you cannot see this writing, but I assure you that it is there.

Now for my experiment which will actually be a demonstration... a rather creepy demonstration as you shall see.

(PLASTIC IS RETURNED TO THE BOX AND THE BOX IS SET IN THE CENTER OF THE GRAVE ON THE GROUND)

Originally a Coffin Glass was embedded in the top of a coffin. No, it was not meant to be a window to view the corpse. In fact all one could see through the window was the cloth lining of the coffin.  What was its purpose then?  Chemistry!

The coffin would be held for a few days before burial. Not being embalmed the body, if it were truly dead, would begin to putrefy. This would give off a variety of gasses, one or more of which would react with the Silver Nitrate on the Coffin Glass.  Ah, now you understand.  Once the word "DEAD" appeared as white letters on the glass the coffin could be safely buried knowing its inhabitant was truly dead.  Clever, no?

(ATTENTION IS CALLED TO THE BOX LAYING ON THE GRAVE)

But, getting back to embalming.  The embalming process assures us that the person is indeed dead, however embalming does not prevent the decomposition of the body, it simply slows it down.

It is likely that the body in this grave we stand around is still in the process of returning to its elements. And here is a pleasant thought for you... perhaps enough gas remains to affect the Silver Nitrate on our replica Coffin Glass.  Do you believe that is possible?  Do we dare look?

(THE BOX IS LIFTED AND OPENED SO THE PERFORMER IS THE ONLY ONE ABLE TO SEE INSIDE. HE WAITS A BEAT.  LOOKS UP AND SLOWLY AROUND THE GROUP. HE REMOVES THE PLASTIC AND HOLDS IT SO EVERYONE SEES THE WORD "DEAD" ON IT THEN HE DROPS IT BACK IN THE BOX AND SHUTS IT)

So now you know what a Coffin Glass was and how it worked. 

(PERFORMER GLANCES TOWARD THE HEADSTONE ON THE GRAVE AND SMILES...)

And thank you (NAME ON GRAVESTONE) for assisting me with our lesson.

Let us move on....


I place the box on a spectator's outstretched palm and the 'writing' appears while the box is in her hands. It can easily stand alone, but when I use this in the context of 'The Death Act' it frequently elicits screams when my hapless helper opens the box which they have been holding throughout the demonstration.

Related Products