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The Exploding Coffin - The Weekly Holler #20

September 4 · Issue #20 · View online
American Mythology
Welcome to The Weekly Holler. This newsletter is published by Luke Bauserman. Luke grew up in the Appalachian foothills of southeastern Ohio. As a young adult, he worked in a nursing home while studying history in college. During this time, he made friends with and heard many stories from the “old-timers” of his community. Shortly before graduating, Luke won the Randolph Stone Award for Historical Writing from Ohio University. Luke is working on his first novel, an Appalachian folklore fantasy (updates forthcoming). 

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The Exploding Coffin
A lead casket being advertised as the best option to keep the dead safe.
A lead casket being advertised as the best option to keep the dead safe.
The following story comes from the The Meridian Daily Republican, July 21, 1890:
A most singular burial took place at Springfolk, Missouri on Saturday. Among the early settlers of this county were a young German named John N. Peterson and his wife. Last Thursday, Mrs. Peterson died of dropsy. At the time of her death she was a remarkably large woman, weighing nearly three hundred pounds. 
Immediately after Mrs. Peterson died, arrangements were made for the funeral. The largest casket to be procured in this city was the exact measurement required at the time of death, but as it was not delivered until Friday morning, the body had swollen so much that it was crowded into the casket with much difficulty. The lid was then screwed down, and the body was left in that condition for burial. Ice could not be procured. 
The funeral services were set for Saturday afternoon, and as is customary, a number of neighbors acted as watchers Friday night. 
At midnight, the watchers were startled by a loud report in the room where the coffin had been placed. It was found that the gases of the body had accumulated within the casket until their force burst the glass over the face of Mrs. Peterson. So great was the force of the explosion that the body was shot forward and upward, the head protruding from the coffin. 
A consultation was held and it was decided that, owing to the condition of the body, the burial should take place at once. The grave having been prepared, the coffin was carried to the burial place and strong ropes were placed under the casket. 
Just as the coffin was being lowered, one of the assistants let go of his end of the rope. This threw the weight to the head of the coffin and the ropes were jerked from the hands of the men stationed there. The coffin fell with great force, head down, and burst in pieces. 
Another consultation was held, and it was decided to fill up the grave at once, without waiting for another casket. 
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