While you may not have the medical skills to perform an emergency tracheotomy or deliver a baby, most of us would be fairly confident in our ability to tell “dead” from “alive.” And yet professionals the world over have been duped by sneaky little things like “no pulse,” “cold skin,” and “blue lips.” Check out some of the most egregious examples of counting someone out before their time was up.
1. A Case of Bad Timing
Walter Williams, a 78 year-old Mississippi resident, seemed definitively deceased when medical professionals reached him in February of 2014. So it was pretty surprising to the embalmer when the body bag began kicking. Inside was a very much alive Williams, who had not been breathing and had no pulse when examined hours earlier. Turns out everyone’s -- the docs, Walter, and the angel of death -- timing was just off, as Williams ended up passing away for good this time just two weeks later.
2. Late For Your Own Funeral
When 50 year-old Sharolyn Jackson went missing from her West Philadelphia home, police came upon a body they suspected was hers. Two of her children identified the remains and Jackson was pronounced dead. The local paper ran an obituary and a funeral service was held. The only problem was the body in the casket was not Jackson’s. She was discovered two weeks later in a mental health facility, very much alive and understandably surprised to read her own obit.
3. Honey, I’m Home
It’s one thing to be mistaken for dead because of an illness or medical mishap, it’s quite another when someone paid to make sure you didn’t see another day. A woman from Burundi -- whose husband was living in Australia -- walked out of her house one day and was kidnapped by men intent on killing her. At some point during the ordeal, the kidnappers had a change of heart and didn’t go through with it. The woman then learned her husband had hired the attackers and he believed she was murdered as per their agreement -- so it was quite a surprise when she arrived in Australia and crashed the funeral her duplicitous husband had organized to cover up the hit.
4. Next One’s On Him
The Russian people’s love of vodka is legendary, but even this takes it a little far. Way, way out in the Primorsky Krai region of Russia (just across from Japan on Russia’s eastern coast), a local paper recounted the story of a man who seemingly drank himself to death at a party on his national beverage. It was a shock to medical examiners (and him, too) when he awoke a few hours later in the morgue -- it was equally surprising when he returned to the party and joined friends who were drinking to his memory.
5. The Resemblance Was Uncanny
Even if you watch your health, stay safe, and aren’t married to a sociopath, you can find yourself stumbling into your own funeral. Such was the case of a 41-year-old Brazilian man named Gilberto Araujo who came home one day to find his family in the middle of his wake. It seems a body showed up at the local morgue and was misidentified as Araujo because the dead man resembled him and worked at the same car wash.
6. A Twisted, Firery Tale
The story of what happened to a Philadelphia toddler named Delimar Vera in 1997 is almost too unbelievable to be true. And yet, CNN reported that the Vera family thought their 10-day-old youngest daughter had perished in a house fire. Six years later, while attending a birthday party, Delimar’s mother, Luz Cuevas, noticed a girl who bore a shocking resemblance to her own children. Pretending the girl had gum in her hair, Cuevas plucked a strand of her hair and had it tested. It turns out the girl was Delimar, and the house fire was deliberately set to cover up a kidnapping.
7. Hitting the Snooze Button
You know things are bizarre when life starts to imitate classic Monty Python films:
A 91-year-old woman from Poland was declared dead by a medical examiner and spent 11 hours in cold storage before attendants noticed her bag was moving. They quickly unzipped and released the woman, who told them she “felt normal, fine” and went home to warm herself up with pancakes and soup.
8. Hey, Quit It
We’ve had a number of examples of people waking up to find themselves in body bags or on cold slabs, but the story of a Venezuelan man named Carlos Camejo takes it one chilling step further. Camejo was declared dead and was jolted awake not by the cold of a morgue but by the sharp end of an autopsy knife. It seems the medical examiners were concerned something was amiss when the body they were working on started bleeding as if the corpse’s heart was still beating. Which it was. “Close call” doesn’t begin to…wait for it…cut it.