"Retired Boston Lawyer Fears Premature Burial" (1901)

Retired Boston Lawyer Fears Premature Burial
Special Correspondence of The Sunday Republic.
     Boston, Mass., Mar. 14. – Alfred E. Giles, A.B., LL.B., a retired lawyer, who practiced in this city for twenty-five years, has made provision to guard against premature burial.
     Mr. Giles resides at No. 265 Fairmount avenue, Hyde Park. His home stands on top of a high hill, amid pleasant surroundings. A shed runs at right angles from the main building, and therein he has prepared a room, furnished it, and in this apartment, whenever the time may come, his spirit will disengage itself from the body.
     Mr. Giles believes that real death works gradually; never instantaneously. The death of the body is the birth of the spirit. The death trance continues at times for days, even for weeks. The lungs then cease to breathe, the heart to act; the corpse-like face, glazed eyes, absence of sensation and intelligence, rigidness and coldness of the body-not one nor even all of these appearances are conclusive that the person is really dead. The only sign of death which is sure both to manifest itself in due time, and to be absolutely conclusive and undeniable, is the development of a sufficient degree of putrefaction.
     He doesn’t intend to rely upon the doctors to determine when he is dead.
     Mr. Giles concluded the interview thus: ‘The practical deductions from the proved facts are that a person is not to be interred or cremated as dead until his body plainly manifests visible and offensive evidences of putridity and decay, even a delay of ten, twenty, or forty or more days intervene before those proofs appear. Let not the body be chilled by ice nor touched by the surgeon’s knife. Let it be tenderly cared for by friends, with further assistance as may be necessary, but not by an undertaker alone. Let not the coffin (if one be used) compress the limbs nor its cover be closed; let it remain in the home and in some safe and convenient room  till the body decomposes. Let the religious exercises, if there are any, be held at the grave, at the crematory, or at some convenient time and place in the interval between the apparent and the real death. Such procedure, though not so floral and ceremonial as certain existing modes of speeding a body to its last resting place, would be more considerate and beneficent.’
     In exhibiting this room Mr. Giles threw open a door and disclosed what appeared to be a closet with clothes hooks. But the back of this closet formed a second door. This, too, he opened and there in sight was the private mortuary. The old bare walls of the end of the shed have been plastered and are white and clean. The little rafters are painted blue. The room now is furnished like an ordinary apartment, with single bed, washstand, mirror, a picture or two, knicknacks and a chair. An exit at the rear leads directly out into the open air, where lattice-work bars the entrusting of wandering men, women and children.”

From: The St. Louis Republic, (St. Louis, MO); March 17, 1901.