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10 Weird Things that Happened at Funerals

funerals went wrong

Funerals are extremely quiet moments of sadness. People gather to mourn and pay their last respects to the deceased. In such critical circumstances, a simple error could appear like a blunder that can become highly embarrassing. Mistakes with anything else could be negligible, but there’s no toying around when it comes to the matter of death. Following is a list of 10 such funerals that went horribly wrong.

1. In 1915, a South Carolinian woman, Essie Dunbar, was found to be alive after her sister arrived late for her funeral. After reaching the funeral, she demanded to see her sister one last time. When they dug the supposedly dead Dunbar up, she sat up and smiled. The woman lived for another 47 years.

Essie Dunbar
Essie Dunbar (on the left), Image to the right is used for representational purposes only. Image credit: calebwilde.com, Shutterstock

It was during the summer of 1915 in Blackville that Dr. D. K. Briggs declared the 30-year-old Black woman dead. Dunbar had gone through an attack of epilepsy.

Following her death, the funeral was underway and the diseased was being buried. Dunbar’s sister arrived a few minutes late at the burial and requested the minister to dig up the coffin so that she could see her beloved sister one more time.

As soon as they unscrewed the coffin and opened the lid, Dunbar was found to be alive. Everyone, including Dunbar’s sister, believed it was a ghost; panic rose at the scene and the entire town.

For years, Dunbar was looked upon us with suspicion and rumors spread that she was a zombie returned from the dead.

The doctor who had mistakenly declared the woman dead died in 1955, years before she did. Essie Dunbar died, for real, on 22 May 1962. (Source)

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2. The staff at James L. Hawkins Funeral Home in Philadelphia accidentally switched the corpse of Kenneth Roberts with some other man. After witnessing that it wasn’t her husband, Roberts’ wife was taken aback. Also, two of the mourners had to be hospitalized because of seizures and asthma attacks.

Coffin- funerals went wrong
Image used for representational purposes. Image credit: Shutterstock

Mr. Roberts was a veteran and died in August 2009. A day before his funeral, his family members knew there was something wrong with the body and even mentioned it to the funeral director. Robert’s grandchildren recognized that the corpse wasn’t their grandfather’s body, but they were ignored.

A few moments before the funeral service began, one of the employees at the funeral service emerged and confessed that it wasn’t the right body. Expectedly so, everyone was shocked at the news, and they also had to wait for an hour and a half before the correct body was brought in.

To make things worse, Robert’s body was facing down and was hanging halfway out of the casket. A man and woman couldn’t handle the situation. They suffered from seizures and asthma respectively and were hospitalized. Considering the horrifying situation, the funeral was canceled and the family planned a small, private funeral. The funeral home had no explanation to offer in the defense of their blunder. (Source)

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3. Lord Timothy Dexter was an American businessman who faked his own death in the 18th century. He attended his own funeral, and when he saw his wife not crying, he revealed himself and caned her for not grieving hard enough.

Lord Timothy Dexter- funerals that went wrong
Lord Timothy Dexter (on the left), Lord Timothy Dexter’s Place (on the right). Image credit: medium.com, wikimedia.org

Dexter had gained fame because of his writing and eccentricity. He earned huge rewards as an entrepreneur using harebrained schemes. He self-proclaimed himself a philosopher and surprisingly enough, his poorly written books also became famous.

Despite his massive fame, he knew that his peers were not very fond of him and didn’t respect him. Dexter went on to fake his own death and hoped people would grieve excessively for the loss.

He appointed his most trusted men to plan his death prank and told them to spread the news of his death. His wife and his children were also involved in the scam and were expected to fake regret at the funeral, to which 3,000 people gathered.

His son was drunk and was weeping heavily. His daughter’s face was also buried in her hands all the time.

However, the man saw his wife sitting tearless and smiling, so he summoned her to the kitchen secretly and scolded her for not grieving hard enough. Other guests entered the room, so Dexter greeted them and finally revealed himself to everyone. He maintained his eccentricity when he acted as if nothing unusual happened. (1, 2)

4. During a traditional burial in the Chinese village of Yiliang County, the casket fell down a steep mountainside. It just crashed into people standing below, striking three of the pallbearers and causing minor to moderate injuries.

Broken Casket
Image is used for representational purposes only.

The casket weighed around 550 pounds and carried the remains of a 73-year-old elderly woman. The accident took place in the Dahe Village located in the southwestern province of Yunnan in October 2020.

The deceased was recognized as the mother of a resident of the village with the last name “Qui.” The customary procession was carried on, and the casket was being carried up a mountainous road. As the mourners attempted to hoist the casket above a steep hill, a rope snapped.

The broken rope caused the heavy casket to slip down the hill and land on three pallbearers. One of three unfortunates was pinned underneath the box. All of them were hospitalized, but none suffered life-threatening injuries.

Nonetheless, the footage of the upsetting incident was circulated on social media, especially the TikTok versions of apps in China namely, Weibo and Douyin. (Source)

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5. At a funeral in Mozambique in 2015, at least 69 people died and 196 were made ill because they consumed contaminated beer served during the occasion. The local drink, pombe, contained the toxic compound called “bongkrekic acid” which is found in crocodile bile.

Beer and crocodile
Image credit: Shutterstock, Pixabay

According to African traditions, when a crocodile is killed, its gallbladder is supposed to be buried in front of witnesses since the bile could be misused as poison. The health authorities said that the same toxic substance was found to be in the beer which caused the death of so many at the funeral in the Tete province of Mozambique.

The victims of the deadly beer were at the funeral of a newborn on 9 January 2015. The mother of the baby had brewed the pombe, a local beer, but she died too.

The group that drank the same beer in the morning showed no signs of a problem, but the ones who drank the pombe in the afternoon had to suffer the ill fate. They were rushed to local hospitals reporting diarrhea and muscle pain.

The culprit who poisoned the pombe remains unidentified, but at least clothing, food, and coffins were offered for the victims’ families. (Source)

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