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Her son called the GP, who decided that she had suffered a stroke and was dead.
The undertakers were about to put her in a hearse when a policeman noticed her leg twitch and at once performed heart massage.
Straining every muscle, she eventually burst it open.
It transpired that the doctor who had certified her death had much to gain by her demise, having twice tried to kill Mary’s adoptive mother — perhaps in an attempt to get his hands on her money — which was why she had fled India. Horrifying as her fate was, in Victorian times — and before — it was not as unusual as one might imagine.
It’s based on something that really happened to American tourists Tom and Eileen Lonergan, who were left behind by a diving company off the Great Barrier Reef.
By the time the mistake was realized two days later, it was too late, and they were never seen again.
The girl’s skeleton was half in, half out of the coffin, and the right side of her skull bore a large, ugly fracture.
The family tried to reassure the hysterical woman but to no avail, so they eventually had the body disinterred.
Intriguingly, there are several cases of dogs saving their masters by barking at the coffin or attacking the pallbearers, forcing them to set the coffin down and open it up to find the occupant alive.
Her body was laid out in preparation for burial and left in a locked room for the night.
Similarly, in 1903, a 14-year-old boy was buried in France, having been forcibly removed from his mother who protested that he was not dead.
The day after his funeral she was found digging in the earth with her bare hands, trying to reach the coffin.
There was even a speaking tube so that the awakened corpse could cry for help.