Death in the Carlyle House


The body was laid out in a coffin and placed in the dining room so that friends and family could pay last respects. Evidently it was not uncommon in those days for people to be declared dead and buried a bit prematurely. A person might be in a coma and thus be buried while still alive. Slaves were commonly scheduled in rotating shifts over several days to look for signs of life prior to the burial. This is a wax figure of a slave keeping watch over the body.

On the 28th of October, the Carlyle House will perform a reenactment of the funeral of John Carlyle. I’ll be there!

11 Responses to Death in the Carlyle House

  1. krisz says:

    creepy, but some interesting facts.
    i wonder how many were burried prematurely..

  2. lavenderlady says:

    I didn’t know that! I thought it was a sign of respect when people sat with the dead. They used to that in my home town when I was a child. I remember thinking it was really scarey,

  3. Olivier says:

    les enterres vivants…..avant pour savoir si un quelqu’un etait mort on lui cramait les pieds, ou on mettait une cloche dans le cercueil, ou dans certain cas on jouait de la musique tres forte dans l’oreille du mort. ect..
    cette serie est très interresante. tu nous raconteras la reconstitution de l’enterrement

    bury alive ….. before knowing if a somebody had died one burned the feet to him, or one put a bell in the coffin, or in certain case one played of the very strong music in the ear of death. ect. this series is very interesting. you will tell us the reconstitution of the burial

  4. mariemcc says:

    Kris, I doubt anyone kept statistics. It must have happened often enough, though, because the docent said that George Washington was so terrified of being buried alive that he put it in his will that he was not to be buried for three days after his death. Embalming was not yet in practice, so if the person was really dead, I’m sure the sniff test would confirm that.

    Lavender, I had no idea why it was done, but this certainly makes sense.

    Olivier, bonne idee, la cloche! Oui, je vais surement racontenter tous a propos de funeraille. Le funeraille est le 28e, alors le reportage sera pour le 29th.

    The bell is a good idea! Yes, I’ll surely tell all about the funeral. The funeral will be on the 28th, so the funeral post will be on the 29th.

  5. Kate says:

    I definitely want a bell in MY coffin. But, wait, I’m going up in smoke. Hmmm! Perhaps that’s a little macabre. Interesting series, Marie!

  6. Zsolt72 says:

    its very interesting. And the photo with the dead body unter the sheet is brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr….

  7. Annie says:

    Like Kate I have a plan to prevent live burial – smoke for me, too.

  8. Helen says:

    Another vote for smoke!

    I remember when they waked people at home … and yes, someone, obviously not a slave, stayed with the body 24/7.

  9. mariemcc says:

    Kate, death is something we all think about at one time or another, so I don’t find it macabre, your going up in smoke. Human rituals are interesting, whether they be about death or anything else.

    Zsolt, glad you’re staying with me!

    Annie, I don’t worry about live burial. I think the coroners these days have evidence of death pretty well figured out! 🙂

    Helen, I’m also planning on cremation. If people hardly even have time to keep in touch via email, who’s going to have time to visit your grave once you’re gone?

  10. Natalie says:

    I’m glad that when I’m declared dead, it will be pretty certain that I am. Nothing ruins a funeral like not being dead.

  11. mariemcc says:

    Natalie, I so hate it when that happens.

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