"The Earth is suffocating. Swear to cut me open, so that I will not be buried alive."
The villain has the hero incapacitated. Does the bad guy shoot the good guy in the head
? Cut his throat? Decapitate him?
Stick him in an elaborate, above ground Death Trap
? Nope. He's got something far worse planned: he's going to bury the hero. Alive.
Sometimes, he'll tie the hero up before dumping him/her in the coffin. If the villain's a sporting sort of fellow, he'll provide a flashlight or an air canister. If he's even more sadistic than usual, he may force them to dig the hole themselves
. Regardless, the villain is going to kill the hero in one of the most appalling ways imaginable.
There's a wide range of reasons a bad guy does this. He might be righteously angry at the hero
and is intent on making him suffer for past mis-deeds. ("37 years ago you stole my Froot Loops at recess. Now, it's payback time!")
It could be a matter of security; there's no murder weapon and you don't have to worry about disposing of the body, since, hey, you just did. Often, however, it's just a matter of the villain being a sadistic prick.
Of course, as with most forms of killing the hero that favor cruelty over efficiency
, the hero manages to dig their way out, or a sidekick will pop out of the bushes and dig him up the moment the villain leaves.
Heroes generally don't do this, even to bad guys. It's a pretty awful thing to do to another human being, no matter how evil they are. The exception to that comes when the hero blows up an ancient building or tomb while the villain remains inside. If the bad guy survives the blast and falling debris, he is technically buried alive. Usually this is a Sealed Evil in a Can
situation. Another exception is when the villain has already done the same kind of thing to the hero or one of his friends, in that case it can be a form of Karmic Death
Very popular because it really does touch on something that just creeps the living hell out of human beings
. Claustrophobia is widespread, and the specific fear of being buried alive is just slightly less so.
Occasionally, cases like these will actually pop up in real life
, though obviously not with the same frequency as they do in fiction. In the days before modern medicine, it would happen accidentally when the doctors made a mistake about whether someone was really dead.
Overlaps with Sealed Room in the Middle of Nowhere
, and sometimes with Quicksand Sucks
. A beautiful example of Nightmare Fuel
. If this is done to a character because he can't
be killed, it's And I Must Scream
. This isn't restricted to horror, as you can see in the examples.
A close cousin of this is the "Sand Neck Tie," where a character is buried up to their neck in sand, with the intention of death from the incoming tide, dehydration or nasty animal-related death.
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Anime & Manga
- Mazinger Z: The Dragon and Two-Faced Cyborg Baron Ashura were two persons buried alive for trying to break their Star-Crossed Lovers destinies. One half of each body was destroyed, so he stitched them together to create Ashura. In Shin Mazinger Zero, we learn who these lovers were. Tristan and Isolde. Yes, THOSE Tristan and Isolde.
- A filler episode has a villain who isn't satisfied just doing this — he holds a funeral where all the attendants have to just stand there while the guy in the casket is screaming his lungs out and pleading for his life. Raiga would recall the "good memories" they shared and "forgive" them for betraying his trust... before proceeding with the burial.
- Gaara tried to do this to Kimimaro. It didn't take.
- Later on, in the second season, Shikamaru uses explosives to dismember Hidan and then buries him in the middle of a forest. Because Hidan's special power is immortality, his head is cursing Shikamaru as it's buried. Kishimoto swings back and forth over whether he's truly immortal or if he'll eventually die, but either way, he's out of the picture.
- In Mirai Nikki (Diary of the Future), this trope is combined with Drowning Pit when Yuki's friends, in their effort to rescue Yuki from Yuno's lair, where she has him chained up, find themselves in a Death Trap room that's slowly filling with liquid concrete.
- Happens to Sango in her first appearance on, though not on purpose. She claws her way out by herself like the Badass that she is, though it certainly helped that is was a rather shallow grave because she was buried en masse with a bunch of slaughtered villagers.
- Being through it as a Human Sacrifice is what drove Saint Hakushin to fall in despair and then to join Naraku
- Ranma ˝:
- Happōsai one time chained Ranma up, sealed him in concrete, and then buried him in the backyard. But it takes more than that to stop Ranma.
- Ryōga tried to do this to an ensorcelled Ranma-chan after drugging her with sleeping powder. She woke up just as he was digging the grave, though.
- In Hell Girl, this is how Ai Enma and her parents died. More exactly, Ai once was chosen to to be a Human Sacrifice but managed to escape, and when the villagers found out they captured her and her parents and then buried the three alive.
- One later chapter/episode of Cardcaptor Sakura has Sakura trapped in the bottom of a magically-sealed pit (so no-one else can get to her). Then, plush sheep start to fill in the pit form above, threatening to bury her alive. Thinking quickly, Sakura escapes the trap with relative ease by adapting the Erase card to remove the sheep. It was all just another test to hone her magic skills and help her adapt more Clow Cards into Sakura Cards.
- In the manga Goth, one of the chapters has a murderer who buries his victims alive in his backyard with a bamboo pole connecting the coffin to the air above. Afer keeping them alive for a little while, he sticks a hose into the pole and floods the coffin, drowning the person below. As seen by the number of poles sticking out of the ground in his backyard, you can be sure he's been doing this for a while.
- Dr. Sasaki in Rainbow is brought out to a beach and buried up to his neck in sand, not long before the tide comes in. The boys dig him out after he admits his crimes into a tape recorder.
- The Grand Finale of We're Alive features Burt doing this to Scratch. He even made sure to reinforce the concrete around the coffin so it wouldn't crush her and installed a small ventilation fan to supply oxygen. Burt wanted Scratch to starve the way she starved him during his months of captivity.
Films — Animation
- This almost happened in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs; the Queen figured that once Snow White was apparently dead, her protectors, the dwarves would accidentally ensure her real death by burying her alive. Fortunately, they didn't have the heart to do so.
- The title character of Tim Burton's Vincent, in the throes of one of his Vincent Price/Roger Corman/Poe fantasies, believes he's buried his wife alive, and digs up his mother's flower bed trying to "retrieve" her.
Films — Live-Action
- Pretty much the whole point of the movie The Vanishing, and its Dutch original film and book, which are Spoorloos and Het Gouden Ei, respectively.
- Possibly one of the most disturbing invocations of this trope in Megan is Missing. Amy is promised by her captor to be released and reunited with her family, only to be stuffed into a barrel with the corpse of her decomposing best friend, taken out into the woods, thrown in a hole and buried alive, all while she screams and pleads for her life. She's 14.
- Budd does this to the Bride in Kill Bill: Volume 2. She escapes, though not without difficulty. What makes it really creepy, however, is that the entire Buried Alive scene is shown from the The Bride's POV. Which means that several minutes of the movie consists of heavy breathing, the sound of sand falling onto the coffin, and total darkness. Interestingly, Budd gives her a flashlight when he does so, as both a sign of respect and knowing it could help her escape.
- Roger Corman's film adaptations of Poe's stories often played with this trope. His version of The Fall of the House of Usher had Roderick bury his sister alive, to keep her from marrying and perpetuating their cursed, criminal family line. Corman's version of The Pit and the Pendulum featured a character driven mad by the idea that he may have buried his wife alive accidentally. And his take on The Premature Burial ends with the main character seeing his worst fears realized.
- In the film The Serpent and the Rainbow, an anthropologist goes to Haiti to explore the phenomenon of real-life "zombies": people who have been drugged into catatonic states, buried, and then resurrected to work as slaves. He gets an uncomfortably up-close and personal lesson on what the experience is like.
- In Romeo Is Bleeding, this is the fate of the mob boss. He's also forced to dig his own grave.
- In The Prestige Robert Angier does this to Alfred Borden's assistant both for revenge and to keep him busy digging, instead of going after him.
- There were two Buried Alive movies, each one beginning with one spouse near-death by poisoning. A subsequent rushed funeral apparently skips autopsy and embalming. Later, the intended victim wakes up, digs their way out, and plots elaborate revenge.
- In the movie Dirty Harry, Scorpio demands ransom from the city of San Francisco after he kidnaps a teenage girl. He claims his prisoner only has enough air to last until 3:00 a.m. the following morning. When he gets the ransom, he says "I changed my mind. I'm going to let her die." When Harry Callahan catches up to Scorpio on a football field, he uses the Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique to make him give up the girl's location, but when the police dig her up, it turns out the poor girl's already dead.
- The movie Ghost Story begins with characters telling a scary story about a man buried alive and scratching at the inside of his coffin, yelling out "Still aliiiive...".
- In The Burrowers, the title monsters paralyze their victims and bury them up to their noses in dirt.
- Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: "I've done far worse than kill you. I've hurt you. And I wish to go on hurting you. I shall leave you, as you left me... as you left her. Marooned for all eternity in the center of a dead planet — buried alive!" Little does Khan know that Kirk is playing him and that leaving him there is the best way to guarantee that Kirk survives.
- The Val Lewton Film Isle of the Dead. There's a character who's greatest fear is being buried alive. At the end of the film, while she's in a cataleptic trance and is mistaken for dead, someone seals her in a coffin and sets it in an empty room. The camera pans away.
- At the end of The Candy Snatchers, a woman is buried alive... and a child with Down's Syndrome accidentally shoots her captors before they can either dig her up or inform anyone of where she is. Then the child walks away, quickly forgetting what just happened, condemning her to death. A rare effective Diabolus ex Machina.
- In the movie Oxygen a kidnapper (played by Adrien Brody) buries a rich woman alive and demands ransom from her husband within 24 hours.
- In Blood Simple, Ray does this to Marty, more out of panic, he's discovered that Marty's still alive, after assuming Abby shot him to death than sadism.
- In Casino, Frank Marino and company do this to Dominic and Nicky after beating them senseless with baseball bats.
- The '70s Made-for-TV Movie The Screaming Woman concerned a wealthy woman who hears screams emanating from beneath the grounds of her estate and realizes someone has been buried alive there, but cannot get anyone to believe her.
- Ashley Judd's duplicitous husband does this to her in Double Jeopardy. As she tries to follow her "son" through a cemetery, her husband comes up behind her, knocks her out, and drags her into a mausoleum. When she comes to, she is horrified to realize that she's been placed in a coffin.
- The entire point of the film Buried, in which Ryan Reynolds plays a civilian contractor in Iraq who has been kidnapped by insurgents and, well, buried. The film follows his various attempts to secure a rescue via a cell phone with a dwindling battery.
- Hellraiser: Hellworld A vengeful father has dosed the party-goers with a powerful hypnotic, and buried them in a row of coffins. He leaves them ventilation tubes so he can influence and listen in on their nightmarish hallucinations.
- In the film Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, Celliers is buried up to his neck in sand as a method of execution.
- One of the victims in Uncle Sam is knocked unconscious with spray paint, has his leg broken, and is knocked into an empty grave, which is then filled in.
- Imhotep was wrapped up and buried alive in The Mummy (1932) for attempting to raise the dead Anck-Su-Namun. The remake ups the ante by burying him alive with flesh-eating scarabs.
- This accidentally happens to the doctor's wife in Tremors when one of the Graboids drags the car she is hiding in underground.
- This is averted in What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?. Captain Cash is mistaken for a German Colonel who is believed to be dead, and while he is unconscious, he is put in a coffin for burial. But when the Germans bury the coffin, it falls through into the catacombs beneath the city, the coffin breaks, and Captain Cash wakes up and climbs out unharmed.
- Rawley, the main villain of Lone Wolf McQuade, orders his mooks to bury the badly beaten main character alive, using his own truck as his coffin. But McQuade manages to escape his earthly prison by showering himself with bear and engaging the Nitro Boost in his car.
- Played entirely for laughs in the South Korean romantic comedy My Sassy Girl. When Gyeon-Woo mentions that Koreans like melodramas and brings up the classic short story "Sonagi" ("Rain Shower"), the girl comments that "the ending sucked" and suggests her own. In the original story, the female lover requests to be buried in the dress reminiscent of her love. In the girl's version, she requests to be buried "with her loving friend," and we are then treated to a scene in which the male lover is carried, kicking and screaming, to the grave before he's thrown on top of the coffin. His attempts to crawl out are met with a shovel to the face. Can be seen here.
- The Big Bad in the movie Gunmen (played by Patrick Stewart) is shown having a woman buried alive at the beginning of the film, and he meets the same fate halfway through.
- In 1990, Universal produced the made-for-TV movie Buried Alive, in which Clint Goodman (Tim Matheson of Animal House fame) is imperfectly murdered by his wife (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and her doctor lover (Ghostbusters' William Atherton) and... He claws his way out of his coffin, only to turn the tables on her, by burying her alive with her dead lover in his own grave. The film was successful enough to inspire a gender-flipped remake, Buried Alive II (1997) with Ally Sheedy as the unfortunate not-quite-a-corpse and Matheson both directing and reprising his role as Clint Goodman.
- In Highlander III: The Sorcerer, the villain Kane and his two immortal companions are buried inside Nakano's cave when it collapses after his death, with only Connor escaping. Since they're immortal they don't die however, and are incredibly pissed off when they are released centuries later.
- In Cabin By The Lake, the serial killer in the movie who drowned numerous women escapes the authorities unpunished for his crimes and implies that he wants to start another murder spree where he buries women alive. In the sequel Return to Cabin by the Lake, he buries the director Mike Helton in a coffin six feet under while he relaxes in a chair seated on the ground on top of his victim while lighting some fireworks.
- In Book 15 of the Lone Wolf series, The Darke Crusade, High Warlord Magnaarn traps Lone Wolf inside an underground temple, which he then brings down on the hero. Lone Wolf isn't killed by the collapse but is buried alive and has to tunnel a way out during sixteen days with only the food and water he was carrying. He still survives thanks to his Magnakai powers and determination, but is severely weakened by the ordeal.
- Edgar Allan Poe was fond of this:
- "The Premature Burial", for one, published back in 1850. In fact, it was so common in the bad horror literature of the time that this story is actually a parody. It ends with the reveal that the narrator freaks out over waking up in a confined shipboard bunk, then stops reading horror stories "such as this" and gets a life. His catalepsy turns out to be all in his head.
- "The Fall of the House of Usher", which had the insane Roderick Usher accidentally entombing his sister alive in the family vaults.
- "A Cask of Amontillado", in which the narrator uses this method to exact a Disproportionate Retribution upon Fortunato.
- "Berenice", in which burial alive is not the worst thing which happens to the title character... considering she is dug out and found to be alive, not consecutively.
- In the second novel of The Shadow, one of The Shadow's helpers is buried alive by the villains despite the fact that the villains have killed and buried all previous visitors to their house. Harry is rescued by The Shadow, who tunnels sideways into the grave from a nearby tomb.
- David Eddings had his sorcerer Belgarath do this, near the end of the The Belgariad: Zedar the apostate was Buried Alive for eternity in the center of the earth for a millennia-long life of crimes, the last one being the brutal murder of Belgarath's daughter's beloved mate Durnik. Belgarath later said "Whenever I wonder if I went too far with him, I remember what that bastard did to Queen Ilessa of Nyissa".what he did
- Jack Vance's Dying Earth novels mention the Spell of Forlorn Encystment, which keeps its victims alive indefinitely inside solid rock some sixty kilometers underground. A few victims are accidentally released and found to be in near-catatonic states.
- Exploited in the third Artemis Fowl book. Mulch Diggums, a dwarf whose entire race can dig through the dirt using only their jaws and hands and breathe while doing so, convinces two dumb henchmen to do this to him. Needless to say, he has a good laugh about it afterwards. Hell, he has a good laugh during the burial, which he passes off as "shaking in fear". Right, Mulch.
- This happens to the main character of What Happened to Cassie McBride, though if it is meant to kill her or torture her is up to reader interpretation.
- The protagonist of the Stephen King story Dolan's Cadillac (found in Nightmares and Dreamscapes) does this to the title character as revenge for the murder of the protagonist's wife. Directly inspired by Poe's A Cask of Amontillado, to the point that the antagonist breaks down screaming "For the love of God!", which the protagonist then quietly repeats. Dolan, however, is far more deserving of his fate than Fortunato.
- In Tanya Huff's Blood Books series, vampire Henry Fitzroy started his unlife buried alive for three days before his sire could dig him up. Several hundred years later, this is still a Very Unpleasant Memory.
- In The Sharing Knife: Horizon, Fawn Bluefield is buried alive when the talisman that protects her from malices burns through so much of her life energy that she appears dead to anyone without groundsense. (Less traumatic than most instances, since she's unconscious the whole time.) However, one person with groundsense may have realized she was alive and allowed her to be buried out of jealousy. The others were just trying to give her a proper burial.
- In Les Misérables, Jean Valjean arranges for himself to be buried alive in order to get out of the convent in which he's hiding. Due to unforeseen circumstances, it doesn't go as smoothly as planned; he passes out from lack of air and freaks out the gardener who's agreed to dig him up.
- In David Gemmell's The Swords of Night and Day, Queen Jianna buries an advisor alive inside a large stone chamber after he speaks his mind too freely. She later decides to reverse the decision, but by the time he's dug up he'd found a way to hang himself.
- The short story The Extension dealt with a man who was so afraid of being Buried Alive that his funeral arrangements include a phone line to his crypt in case the coroner misdiagnosed him. His worst fear comes true, and the whole story has him desperately calling everyone, trying in vain to convince them that he's Not Quite Dead. Ultimately, Fridge Logic hits and he asks the operator how long they'll keep the line connected, and is assured the service will remain indefinitely. He realises this is probably his personal Hell, but also that he's got to keep calling and trying to get out...
- An interesting take on this trope came from The Count of Monte Cristo when Edmond makes his escape from the prison. He plans to switch places with the body of his friend and mentor and once he is buried in the shallow grave, dig himself out. He has to change his plans rather quickly when, instead of burying him, the guards proceed to chuck him over a cliff into the ocean.
- Part of the backstory of The Hollow Man/The Three Coffins by John Dickson Carr was a jailbreak by Buried Alive. There was a plague epidemic going on in that prison, and the escaper counted on the burial detail being in too big a hurry for little details like nailing the coffin lid tightly or shoveling very much dirt on top.
- The Criminal Minds book Killer Profile mentions a serial killer whose MO was burying his victims in homemade coffins, which had pipes leading to the surface, so they could breathe. The guy also enjoyed giving his victims false hope by leaving them with a bit of water and hammer they could try and escape with.
- Used in the Mary Higgins Clark book Moonlight Becomes You, which starts out with the protagonist buried alive and desperately pulling one of the aforementioned bells to signal for help. The story then flashes between the present and to several weeks earlier, showing how she came to this fate and leaving the reader to decipher who her would-be killer is, all the while inserting her frantic efforts to remain conscious until help arrives, which it does at the last minute.
- Dutch novel The Golden Egg has a girl undergo this treatment when travelling Europe. Her boyfriend spends the rest of the novel trying to find out where she is until at the end he meets his girlfriend's killer, and says he'd do anything to find out what happens to her. The killer proceeds to drug him and bury him as well.
- In The Girl Who Played with Fire, this happens to Lisbeth Salander, after she was shot in the head. She digs her way out with a cigarette case and then shoves an axe through the face of the man who put her there.
- In Michael Crichton's The Great Train Robbery, the characters exploit the fear of being buried alive for their benefit. Because it was a serious concern at the time, coffins were rigged with bells and escape latches and such which would pop open if the person moved around inside the coffin. They fake a dead body and have the coffin open on the platform, grossing out the police inspector who otherwise would have searched it and found the hidden man.
- In one Stephanie Plum book, Stephanie is trapped in a coffin by the bad guy. The coffin isn't actually buried but Stephanie doesn't know that and reacts as such.
- Ambrosio keeps Antonia in a tomb for a while in The Monk to secret her away before he rapes her.
- The villain in the young adult novel The Executioner attempted this on the protagonist in revenge for his brother's death, but was stopped by his father before he could finish.
- In Völsunga saga, evil King Siggeir has Sigmund and Sinfjotli entombed alive in a gravemound.
- In Reprisal, Danny Gordon.
- It happens a few times in Galaxy of Fear. People are repeatedly killed in Eaten Alive by the ground swallowing them. In City of the Dead there's an interesting version of this trope - Dr. Evazam, experimenting with zombiemaking, injected a still very alive Zak with the revival serum and a poison designed to put him into a coma so deep it looked like death.
- 1066 and All That implies this happened somehow to Edward I, who "died of suffocation at a place called Burrow-in-the-Sands."
- Idlewild sees Maestro do this to Halloween. In Maestro's defense, he claimed that it was intended to break Halloween's problem with authority and that Maestro would release him later.
- In Rogue Male it looks as if this will be the fate of the hunter-turned-hunted protagonist when he is tracked down and trapped in the secret den he dug as a last refuge, scarcely bigger than a coffin.
- The "king" of Qarth in Game of Thrones gets this ending, at least in the show. He is locked in a rather spacious treasure vault with his girlfriend, and no food or water. This is a rare heroic version of it. To be fair, her totally deserved it. He sold out his honored guests to someone who not only killed the town leaders but tried to steal their dragons and either kill them or keep them there forever. He did all of this under the guise of trying to help them, when what he really wanted was money to put into said vault. Making this very much a Karmic Death.
- Walker, Texas Ranger: Several episodes have featured one of the main characters or an underage person, usually children buried by the villains, and Walker and the Rangers racing against time to stop the bad guys and locate the victim. Three such episodes aired within months of each other in 1996 alone:
- "Deadline": With the state facing a budget crisis, state senator vows to disband the Texas Rangers as a cost-cutting move... then won't allow Walker to help find his daughter when she is kidnapped and buried alive by a gang of bank robbers. Only when Walker does find her does the senator realize the value of the Rangers.
- "Miracle at Middle Creek": Walker and a young boy are trapped in an underground crevice forced there by a band of bank robbers. Why? To ensure cooperation by the boy's father when the heist does take place. This time, Trivette saves the day.
- "Cyclone": A sadistic extortionist and his band of thugs hijack a school bus full of children — the bus just happened to be driven by C.D., and Alex was the chaperone — after a trip to the museum. The bus is driven to a landfill, parked in a ditch and then buried with everyone inside in tons of dirt and fill. Walker and Trivette race against time and a threatening storm system to rescue the kids before the bus crumples under the weight of the fill and/or the air runs out.
- In an episode of Pacific Blue, one of the heroes is buried in an RV with a phone that can only take incoming calls, and a time bomb/escape-rigged gas canister.
- An episode of the Tales from the Crypt TV series, which was adapted from a comic, has a magician do this as his final trick. A doctor had transplanted into him the organ that gives cats nine lives, so he could die and just come back. After using this to make a small fortune at a sideshow, his final stunt was to be buried alive in front of hundreds of witnesses. Only once he's in the ground does he start reminiscing about what an interesting life he's had, before he realizes he didn't count the death of the cat among his lives. He's on his ninth, not his eight....
- Happens to Nick in CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. He is rescued, though not until he's suffered quite a lot.
- This happens to Monk on more than one occasion, with attendant freak-outs.
- This is darkly explored in The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes: The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax in which Holmes and Watson foil a con artist's attempts to bury a drugged woman alive. Unfortunately, the woman is so mentally scarred by the experience that she becomes a veritable vegetable.
- Pretty Little Liars: This is how Alison was murdered (the incident that kick-starts the series). And beaten up with a hockey stick before that. Someone really did not like her.
- Although it's revealed that she is still alive in season 4.
- In "X-Ray", Psycho Lesbian Tina Greer does this to Lana. Clark frees her after she passes out.
- In "Obscura", Chloe is also buried alive, but Clark manages to rescue her. She is later shown to be traumatized by the event. The man who did it, was a cop who wanted the credit of finding her. Whether he would have done so before or after she died is unclear.
- In "Harvest", an angry mob of crazed villagers do this to Clark, who has lost his powers from blue kryptonite exposure. Fortunately, the soil shields him enough from the kryptonite to give him back some of his strength, allowing him to break free.
- Big Wolf on Campus. When Merton discovers that Corey Haim is a real vampire, Corey knocks him out and buries him. Merton phones Tommy, whose werewolf senses are sharp enough to pick up where he is.
- In an episode of Good vs. Evil, Chandler is buried alive by Morlocks, and spends most of the episode talking to Henry on his cell, going over the details of the previous night, hoping to figure out where he is. He's being used as a hostage, so that the Corps will release a Morlock prisoner: Emmanuel Lewis.
- In the final episode, Sloane, who has become somewhat immortal due to a Rambaldi thingy, has this happen to him. He's trapped in a cave with his legs pinned after Jack (a good guy) blows himself up.
- Sydney herself had this happen to her as well in a previous episode, leaving Marshall to find out her location before she suffocates.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Season 1 episode "Nightmares". Rumor has it that this trope is one of Sarah Michelle Gellar's greatest fears. Apparently, Joss Whedon does not settle for merely tormenting his characters. He had her claw her way out of her grave in the Season 6 premiere. Bastard.
- This was done to a previous occupant of Cordelia's apartment. In the apartment walls!
- Connor welds Angel into a metal box and drops him to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean at the end of season 3. This doesn't kill Angel, since he's immortal and doesn't need to breathe, but instead makes him weak and insane from hunger. Which was kind of the point.
- In The Incredible Hulk, David Banner faced one of his most horrific situations when he is confused for a lookalike gangster and rival gangsters capture him, ignore his protests that they have the wrong man and take him to a construction site. There, they force him into a shallow grave, put a sheet of clear plastic on him and pour concrete on him to bury him alive. When you see that kind of murder method, you're on the edge of your seat until the very last image of Banner just before his head is covered is his eyes going green to start his change into the Hulk.
- They checked out if surviving this was possible and deemed it Busted. First, they found that human beings couldn't punch their way out of a cheap pine casket, much less a top of the line one. They found that even if a human could break out, there was no way a human being could dig their way up through six feet of dirt, especially within the half hour or so they'd have before they ran out of air. Basically, anyone buried alive would be crushed by the weight of the dirt or suffocate.
- A much earlier episode highlights how unlikely this is to occur accidentally. Undertaking practices include draining all of the blood from the deceased, ensuring that if you weren't dead when you came in, you most certainly were by the time you were buried.
- During a Dream Sequence in the "Doppelganger" episode of Stargate Atlantis, Sheppard begins to bury Ronon alive. Ronon wakes up at that point.
- In a rare example of a hero doing this, Hiro assures the other heroes that the immortal Adam Monroe will never hurt another person. Cut to Adam screaming in a coffin, buried in the same cemetery where Hiro's father who Adam killed, was interred.
- Also, as retribution for all the crimes he had committed against not just the world, but Parkman's wife only minutes before, Parkman locks Sylar in his own mind, alone and powerless. Not only that, to prevent anyone from finding him and trying to help, he seals Sylar up behind a wall in his basement. Not only THAT, while Sylar was trapped in his own mind doomed to wander New York City alone forever, his super fast brain had an increased perception of time, making every second he spent in reality feel like days. Even though he got better and was really only buried alive for about half an hour, over three years had passed in his mind.
- In the final seasons, Samuel buries Claire and Noah together in an RV underground, so that Claire can watch Noah suffocate and die.
- In Being Human, being buried alive is used as a form of punishment for vampires. Their nature means they won't suffocate or be crushed by the soil, but they will grow very weak and slowly go insane from hunger. Suren was buried alive for over 80 years, and Season 2 ends with Aidan buried alive.
- The original series really takes this up to eleven. Ghost Alex is trapped in her own coffin by [ The Devil and buried alive as the cliff-hanger to the final episode. However, as it's her own coffin, she is trapped in their with her own body, which is in the state you'd expect given she died a year ago. Yikes.
- Temperance Brennan and Jack Hodgins are buried alive in a car by a kidnapper/serial killer called the Gravedigger.
- They'd previously helped identify the remains of twin boys who'd died after the Gravedigger left them buried alive inside a metal tank. As the name implies, this villain's M.O. was to subject victims to this trope, then demand a ransom in return for information on where they were buried.
- In The Vampire Diaries, similarly to the Angel example above, Silas locks Stefan in a safe and dumps him down a river. His lungs explode but, being a vampire, they regenerate... so that they can explode again. He remains dying and regenerating for three months before he's rescued by Qetsiyah.
- Criminal Minds:
- In the episode "Scared to Death", there was a killer who, under guise of "getting you over your phobia," trapped you in your worst fear and then waited until you scared yourself to death. The final victim was a bit more direct cause of near-death — and this was the trope to do it, too. Instead of the usual way of doing it (in a grave), he drops the victim down a shaft and then pours bags of potting soil down it. The soil eventually went over her head, leading to this.
- In the episode "Revelations", the killer forced Reid to start digging his own grave so he could bury him alive. The BAU saves the day, though.
- In the finale episode of series two, Jack's brother Gray has Jack buried alive sans coffin; bear in mind Jack can't die. Or rather, he does die, but returns to life a few minutes later. So Jack spends 2000 years choking to death on soil over and over again!.
- It sorta happens again in the Children of Earth story. Under orders to neutralize Jack, and after proving he can survive being blown to smithereens, an arm of the government encases him in extremely quick-drying cement, where he presumably suffocates over and over again. Luckily, his team manages to rescue him before the day is out.
- A couple of implied instances in Highlander:
- Nefertiri took poison and was mummified after the death of Cleopatra. As far as the audience knows, she stayed unconscious for all 2000 years until set free by Duncan MacLeod.
- Quentin Barnes was executed for murder 30 years ago and was accidentally freed by a construction project. It turns out Barnes was the split personality of Duncan's friend Michael Moore. Moore experienced those years as a nightmare.
- Another Immortal was wrapped in chains and tossed into a river during World War II. It took him 50 some years to free himself and come back for revenge.
- Due to the nature of the show, there are several more where someone "died" and was buried, only to recover once they're in the ground.
- Recently done in EastEnders. There were widespread complaints due to this going out pre-Watershed, which were upheld by Ofcom.
- On LOST, Nikki and Paolo are buried alive, but it's because the Losties think they're dead after being paralyzed by a poison.
- Happens to Dean, although to be fair, he was dead when they buried him. It being Supernatural, though, he didn't stay that way.
- Dean and Sam also earlier do this to an immortal murderer. He's also chained into his coffin.
- In Roswell, this happens to Laurie Dupree. Luckily for her, the attacker specifically wanted to keep her alive, so set it up that she could breathe.
- One episode of Crossing Jordan involved a serial killer who buries his victims alive — with a walkie-talkie so he can hear their dying pleas. Shudder.
- Cold Case had a similar episode where a teenage boy had been buried alive. The killer in question walks into the station 20-something years later to confess to the murder—and reveal that he has just buried another victim. The episode is spent trying to determine his motives for both attacks and find the second victim before he suffocates (fortunately, they find him).
- Alfred Hitchcock Presents:
- The classic episode, "Breakdown", has Joseph Cotton paralyzed in a car accident and taken for dead. He is saved at the last minute when an alert coroner notices a tear glimmering in his eye.
- The Eighties version of the show had an episode where a woman tried to escape from prison by hiding in the coffin the next time someone at the prison dies. Unfortunately, the next to die is the man who was supposed to dig her up. Worse yet, she doesn't find out until after they're buried. This one is a remake of an episode from the original series, with Roddy McDowall as the prisoner.
- One episode of Carnivŕle has this happen to Ben after he is robbed by some backwoods hicks who turn out to be his cousins. They hastily dig him up after realizing their error.
- Law & Order: Special Victims Unit:
- A copycat serial killer kidnaps the only surviving victim of the original killer. He locks her in an old fridge with an air tank and holds her for his bargaining chip when the detectives finally caught him.
- In another episode, a pedophile buries the little girl he has kidnapped just before the SVU investigators catch up with him. They dig her up just in time.
- Dark Shadows:
- Friendly Neighborhood Vampire Barnabas Collins bricks the witch-hunter Reverend Trask up in a wall a la The Cask of Amontillado. This comes back to haunt him (literally) a century later when his ghost breaks free.
- Barnabas himself was trapped in his chained-shut coffin back in colonial times by his father, who couldn't bring himself to drive a stake through his vampiric son's heart. Presumably Barnabas wasn't conscious during the intervening centuries, as he isn't a raving basket case when a would-be tomb robber unchains him.
- The X-Files:
- "Apocrypha". A Body Surf alien uses Alex Krychek to get back to its spacecraft which has been left in an abandoned missile silo. The episode ends with Krychek locked inside the silo eighty stories down, hammering on the door and screaming to be let out.
- Also happens in the end of the episode "Fresh Bones" to an evil Marine sergeant in charge of a Haitian refugee camp, who turns out to be using the Haitian's native Voodoo to incapacitate/kill whistleblowers who were going to expose his ordered abuse of the refugees.
- And technically, even Mulder himself was buried alive during the episode "Deadalive".
- In the British sci-fi drama Misfits, we have a rare case of this trope being played (mostly) for laughs. And it happens to the main character, no less. Nathan, after suffering a brutal death some days before, turns out to have the power of Resurrection. He's thrilled to find himself alive and starts gloating ridiculously about his newfound power, actually uttering the phrase: "Who's laughing now?!" When it sinks in that he's buried alive (yes, he's a bit of a dumbass) he gets furious and starts hurling hilariously futile abuse at no-one in particular. Then he just lies back and begins casually listening to his ipod. And this happened in the season 1 finale. In the second season opener a telepath visiting his grave overhears him masturbating and arranges for him to be exhumed.
- In the America soap opera Days of Our Lives, some 16 years ago, crazy Vivian hated Carly so much she injected Carly with some Chinese herbs, forcing her into a seemly dead state, had an open casket funeral with all Carly's loved ones, buried her with a radio to taunt her, some water and enough oxygen to prolong the slow torture and the rolled over her grave, laughing. Carly was saved just in time, though she seems quite traumatized by it all to this day. Not that we can blame her.
- This trope is often seen on soap operas. Several examples have the villain trapping his or victim in certain situations — a building collapse, a cave-in — rather than using a coffin.
- General Hospital: Ryan Chamberlain faked his death to escape from the asylum.
- Passions: Sheridan Crane's death was faked (to escape criminals who were pursuing her) and she was buried to continue the ruse. Unfortunately, plans to rescue her immediately were hindered when the criminals in question kidnapped her would-be saviors, leaving her in considerable peril (Sheridan's claustrophobia didn't help matters much). Although she was ultimately rescued at the end of the "day", the scenes played out for over a month.
- A rather gruesome example on All My Children, which had the evil Dr.Madden buried alive while the voice of his unseen abductor tormented him, refusing to release him until he revealed the location of a missing child. This went on for several days before the man finally drowned when a rainstorm flooded the vent that had been providing him with oxygen.
- In The League of Gentlemen, Herr Lipp buried Justin to stop him telling anyone about his peculiar habits. Don't worry, he left him a straw.
- One episode of Boomtown featured the body of a dead gangbanger wrapped in plastic and hidden within the walls of a house. Investigation of former friends eventually reveals that he was knocked out dead during a hazing ritual and his freaked-out friends wrapped the body in plastic and hid him inside the walls. Only near the end of the episode is the awful truth revealed: The gangbanger was alive when they hid him inside the walls and the last shot of the episode shows a flashback from the gangbanger's POV, waking up inside the walls, wrapped in plastic and unable to have his screams heard because of the loud rap music
- There was an especially vindictive instance of this in Oz, where the preacher for the Christians was beaten, tied up, sealed behind a brick wall in the cafeteria and then there was an industrial sized freezer placed in front of it, and the whole deal was orchestrated by his former second in command. After being freed after an explosion (though as a charred, barely alive husk) he was shown to have stood up, as if rising from his grave, still covered in 3rd degree burns, after seemingly appearing to other inmates and making them try to kill the one responsible, and then he disappeared. Guess where they found him a few episodes later? Sealed behind another wall, only this time dead for real.
- Are You Afraid of the Dark?: "Tale of the Dream Machine" features this happening to one of the characters.
- The Pretender used this twice.
- The victim in "Back From the Dead Again" was buried alive.
- In "Red Rock Jarod", the villain of the episode buries a hostage alive in a remote location — with an air pump, but if he doesn't get what he wants before the pump runs out of fuel...
- 1000 Ways to Die: In "Dung For", this accidentally happens to a farm hand after he is caught having sex with the Farmer's Daughter.
- Parker did this to herself once as a child to cure herself of a fear. She thought it was a normal thing to do. The team told her it was not.
- Then in the season 4 episode, "The Grave Danger Job," as the Leverage crew investigates an embezzling funeral director, Hardison is buried alive in a cemetery by a Mexican drug cartel to whom the funeral director has been selling ID information stolen from the deceased who go through her funeral parlor.
- JAG: Mentioned in the 3rd season episode "Vanished". The villain orders one of his underlings to kill the hostage and bury them in the woods. The underling seems to interpret this literally by asking if they are to be buried alive. The villain replies by saying he’s not heartless and he can shoot them first.
- The victim in the NCIS episode "Left For Dead" was buried alive.
- NCIS: Los Angeles had Sam being buried alive in a prior mission, alongside with a partner of his, by Croatian soldiers. He was the only one who survived the event. Because of this, when a girl was buried alive by two boys whose uncle was an ex-con, Sam took up the mission without hesitation, focused on it with resolution like no other, and was fully ready to beat them up when demanding where she was, due to this being a very personal traumatic experience and a very huge Berserk Button for him. Luckily, she managed to be digged up before she ran out of air.
- True Blood:
- Russell Edgington is sealed in concrete at the season 3 finale and is dug up in the season 5 premiere.
- Five years of live burial is also a punishment dished out by the magister to vampires who kill their own species although he can sometimes be more creative.
- The Following: In the penultimate season 1 episode, Debra Parker is tied up and thrown in a coffin by a couple of cultists, who proceed to bury it while she screams for help.
- Done of a sort in Metallica — the game has a giant Hammer that hits captured pinballs into a coffin beneath the playfield.
- Though it isn't buried, the Attic in Gottlieb's Haunted House has a Coffin with a person (or a ghost?) sleeping inside, stretching awake.
- WWE wrestler The Undertaker has fought in several Buried Alive matches, where a grave site is created near the stage area of the arena, and the objective is to bury one's opponent alive. Usually these end with Undertaker buried, and disappearing for several months, only to come Back from the Dead (hey, he's practically The Grim Reaper; he can do that) with a new look, thirsting for revenge.
- In the Vampire: The Masquerade, the Sabbat use this as part of their embracing ritual when there's a need for a large surge of Sabbat shock troopers. They beat the would-be vampire senseless, turn them, bury them alive en masse with other candidates, and see which ones come up. The ones that don't? No need to waste time digging them back up, they weren't even worth the blood to embrace. A popular Sabbat pastime is to go out, find a grave with a failed inductee, dig them up and try to kill them. Since the released vampire is both insane and probably in frenzy, this is not a safe form of entertainment.
- Dungeons & Dragons:
- The "Imprisonment" spell, which was inspired by Jack Vance's "Spell of Forlorn Encystment" (see above). It bury a victim in suspended animation deep below the surface.
- This is how a Living Wall comes into being in the Ravenloft campaign; when an evil person walls up a victim and leaves him to die in such a manner, and the victim curses the one responsible in such a way that the Dark Powers hear him and respond, then when the victim dies, his spirit merges with the wall itself, turning it into an abomination that assimilates the bodies and souls of anyone who comes near.
- A non-official sourcebook introduced the "Entombment" spell, which bury alive a creature on the spot. If a saving throw is passed, the subject is only buried to the waist... but if the spellcaster memorized the spell twice and casts it a second time, then the victim no longer has a saving throw.
- Geist The Sin Eaters:
- There's mention of a geist, the Gravedigger, who in life did this to his murder victims (hit them with a shovel, bury them alive, listen to them scream). He met his end when he didn't hit one hard enough — the man woke up, retrieved the shovel, knocked the Gravedigger out and buried him alive (upside down, to boot). Fortunately for everyone, although the Gravedigger came back as a geist and hooked up with a miner who'd eaten his coworkers to survive a cave-in, the first krewe they met instantly pegged them as bad news and destroyed them.
- This is also what's necessary to activate the Oracle Manifestation using the Grave-Dirt Key. It allows the user to astrally project, but they need to effectively be suffocating from their burial. Once they get back into their body, however, they erupt spectacularly from the ground with all the damage from suffocation healed up. At the highest understanding of the Oracle, a Sin-Eater can effectively wander freely as long as they want; the corebook makes reference to an urban legend amongst the Bound about a Mafioso who was buried in wet cement while knocked unconscious and has been using the Oracle for decades to keep his body in suspended animation.
- Older Than Feudalism: According to Sophocles' Antigone, the eponymous heroine was walled up in a crypt to die after being sentenced to death. Her crime? Burying her dead brother so his soul could have an afterlife instead of suffering eternal unrest. Creon's a Jerkass like that.
- In The Mikado, this is the punishment for women whose husbands are beheaded. (It's such a stuffy death!)
- The Allied ending of Command & Conquer: Red Alert had Stavros bury Josef Stalin in the rubble of his ruined Kremlin, after gagging him.
- In Tomb Raider and its remake, Natla is locked up and buried underground by the other two Atlantean rulers, Tihocan and Qualopec, as punishment for her betrayal. The events of the game are kicked off when a nuclear test unearths the pod, releasing her.
- In Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation, this occurs when Werner Von Croy attempts to steal the Isis and its death trap mechanism activates. An unspecified amount of time later he manages to escape with his prize and a leg injury. At the end of the game, Lara herself gets buried under the collapsing Tomb of Horus, leading to her memorial service in the sequel and her hardened personality in Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness.
- In the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas mission "Deconstruction," you have to stop a nearby construction company from screwing with your newfound gains. Smashing up their portables would have been plenty, but C.J. goes the extra mile by also trapping the foreman in a porta-potty, pushing it into a hole, and filling it up with concrete, all while listening to him scream "OH GOD WHY!" Stone. Cold. And the reason C.J. did this? The guys who were working for the man called Kendl, C.J.'s sister, a hooker, and C.J. wanted to teach them some respect.
- Baldur's Gate II:
- There's an optional subplot about finding some evil criminals who are robbing guys and burying them alive.
- Not to mention the Protagonist is threatened with a magical version of his by a loony Harper — Imprisonment is a spell which basically traps a person underneath the earth and rendered immortal during this time.
- And the various demiliches, mages and superpowered imps who show up in the expansion or as Bonus Bosses and who have "Imprisonment" as an at-will ability. Whack 'em quick, or you've got a 1 in 6 chance of an instant game over per round.
- "Premature entombment of a non-dead individual" happens to Stan in Monkey Island 2, where Guybrush has to get Stan to jump into one of his own coffins and nail the lid shut so he can steal a key from his office. Stan subsequently stays shut in the coffin until the sequel, where Guybrush can finally open Stan's casket after the two are shut in the same crypt together.
- Dwarves in Dwarf Fortress have an amusing tendency to do this to themselves. Due to a quirk in how they build walls, they will always prefer to build them from the west side. This occasionally results in them walling themselves into an enclosed area and dying of dehydration.
- Eternal Darkness:
- The game has the quicksand variant as a hallucination effect — every so often, your character will sink into the ground, whether it's sand, dirt, or solid concrete!
- On a more serious note, Roberto Bianchi is commissioned to aid in the construction of a monument. At the end of the chapter, he and several other architects are chucked down into an oubliette-styled hole. And then the concrete pours in. The end of the chapter's final shot is Roberto's face and body as he tried, in futility, to escape his end.
- That's one of the ways to die in Lode Runner. To be buried alive inside bricks.
- You survive this at the start of Fallout: New Vegas thanks to a certain robot.
- The "Buried Alive model" of Pokémon creepypasta fame. According to one site, "the Buried Alive model appears to be a decaying human corpse attempting to crawl out of the ground". Even scarier? You're SUPPOSED to lose to this guy. And when he does, he EATS you, and every time you turn on the Game Boy, the screen jumps to the scene of Buried Alive eating you. That's OK, I wasn't planning on sleeping, anyway.
- Saints Row 2: After making the MASSIVE mistake of picking a fight with Gat during Aisha's funeral, Ronin leader Shogo is given an utter ass beating by Gat. Gat then drags him to a coffin, dumps out the corpse already in it, and tosses Shogo inside, burying him alive, as he screams for mercy. Even The Boss is unnerved by this.
- Though this never happens in-game, the Nameless One in Planescape: Torment is warned by one of his past incarnations of the extreme danger that being buried (alive or dead) held for him. Given his immortal nature, he would be doomed to an eternity of terror, suffocation and amnesiac reawakening.
- Heiankyo Alien revolves around digging holes to trap aliens in. Once an alien is trapped, the hole has to be filled back in.
- If you pursue the Light Fingers ambition in Fallen London, a villain will eventually threaten to do this to you if you continue, if you get caught continuing you will in fact end up buried alive in 'a small velvet lined box' from which the only escape is usually to kill yourself (but Death Is Cheap so it's just a temporary inconvenience).
- Pirate101 has a rare case of a hero doing this to a villain, although by accident. El Toro buries Captain Blood he thinks that he had killed him in a duel. The problem was the "dead" man had literally cheated death and become immortal. This resulted in a an accidental creation of a Sealed Evil in a Can that gets opened many years later when the clockwork armada tries digging up the grave looking for a key that might be on the body. The broken bodies surrounding the now open grave indicate they did not expect to be greeted by a angry, powerful, and very much alive pirate.
- A mild example happens in Dragon Quest V when Bianca Whitaker is kidnapped by skeleton ghosts and is stuffed inside the queen's grave during your exploration at the Uptaten Tower. She's quickly freed and doesn't seem to be bothered at all.
- Clive Barker's Undying: An ancient warrior is buried alive at the Standing Stones to seal the Undying King. Also, Lizbeth.
- Red vs. Blue:
- Sarge once allowed himself to be buried for his funeral when his obsessive dedication to orders caused him to think he'd died and been replaced. He survived due to the ground giving out beneath him and landing him in an underground cavern before he ran out of air.
- This happened earlier to him in an April Fool's Day episode when Grif mistook him for dead in a Warthog explosion. He survived because, as he put it, "I ate my way out! The soft earth was like a delicious butterscotch brownie to me."
- Deus Ex Machina. Plague deliberately built a pipe to the surface so that he could still breath. He managed to stay down there for four days before he escaped. Lots of bad people died when he escaped.
- "Why there is no moloch13"
- Brock Samson from The Venture Bros., in the episode, "Dia de Los Dangerous!", is buried alive, after being shot with at least 20 apparently lethal tranquilizer darts and hit by a van, all while keeping a brutal death grip on a poor enemy soldier. Nonetheless, he still manages to dig himself out, with the only side effect of all of this being Brock's extreme rage and being really thirsty.
- Total Drama:
- Done to Gwen on Total Drama Island, as part of a challenge where the campers have to face their worst fears. Trent forgot to dig her up on schedule, causing a rift in their budding relationship.
- Chris, being the utter prick that he is, does it again in Total Drama: Revenge of the Island by having Gwen guest star and buried along with Sam as part of a challenge. Needless to say, she's not happy about this.
- The Simpsons:
- In episode "Make Room for Lisa", through a freak series of events, the sensory deprivation tank where Homer is floating is found by Flanders, who mistakes it for a coffin and buries it. Fortunately, it is right on top of a water pipe, and Homer's struggle causes it to fall through, being sucked into the sea and washing ashore.
- In "The Boys of Bummer", Bart asks Lisa if they're going to visit. his pet bunny Fluffy. Lisa tells him that he died and Homer buried him in the backyard ("though not in that order").
- A Freaky Stories plot involved a man who was deathly afraid of being buried alive, a fact his wife learned when he had a panic attack from the rice being thrown at their wedding. She promises him that if he died, she'd install a hot line phone that linked directly to the house, where she would wait for a year so he can call her to get him out if he's still alive. The rest of the plot involves her actually going through with this promise after her husband dies suddenly. Her friends finally convince her to go out for the evening on the 365th day. Just after she leaves, the phone rings.
- In an episode of Justice League, telepathic psychopath Dr. Destiny (John Dee) does this via a nightmare to Hawkgirl (she's claustrophobic) while her friends get visions related to Power Incontinence. While the others get over their fears, Hawkgirl doesn't and is rescued only when Batman kicks Dee's ass. Then again, you can't really blame her for being scared given the circumstances.
- In "The Boardwalk Booby Trap" episode of The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, the Ant Hill Mob buried Penelope in the sand at the beach. Unknown to any of them, the Hooded Claw had mixed cement into the sand, hoping that the Bully Brothers would flatten Penelope with a steamroller.
- An episode of Jimmy Two-Shoes, had Heloise about to do this to someone, only for her to be distracted by seeing Jimmy with Jez.
- General Fong of Avatar: The Last Airbender decides the best way to induce the Avatar State in Aang, to be used as a weapon against the Fire Nation, is to bury his friends and make him fight to save them. Instead, this induces the Avatar State as a weapon against the dumbass who thought this was a good idea.
- Villain Jambalaya Jake does this to Darkwing Duck at one point, using a box and lots of see-ment.
- Occurs in Thomas the Tank Engine, for some value of "alive". After Henry refuses to budge from a tunnel, he gets bricked into it "for always and always and always", a fate that the narrator encourages us to believe that he thoroughly deserves. Fortunately for him, "always and always" lasts only a few weeks.
- In Beware the Batman, Magpie does this Katana in the episode "Attraction".
- This was a very real fear in the 18th and 19th centuries. Back in those days, most civilizations had unreliable ways to identify death, and so stories of the recently buried screaming for help were not uncommon. We can't know how often people were in fact buried alive, but the sheer horrific quality of being buried prematurely led to the creation of Safety coffins, which were essentially coffins with a bell or flag stuck above ground to give the recently buried a method of communication with the outside. One of these can be seen in the movie The First Great Train Robbery.
- Mary Roach's Stiff includes a section on live burial, the bizarre methods doctors once used to try to distinguish death from mere unconsciousness (e.g. an automatic tongue-pulling device!), and so on. She notes that the "coffin bells" never once saved a person who'd been prematurely buried, although some were disinterred when the corpse's decomposition caused its weight to shift and sound a false alarm.
- These days, accidental live burial would only be possible if the person's body was neither autopsied nor embalmed. In most jurisdictions, one if not both procedures are required by law for the majority of human burials. If you were unlucky enough to get to the mortician or the coroner while still alive, the autopsy and/or embalming process will definitely kill you before you are buried.
- Alfred Nobel was so afraid of being buried alive that he left instructions that the doctor who pronounced him dead were to cut open his neck arteries as well, just to be safe.
- Real life example: Standard punishment for anyone who betrayed Ukrainian guerrilla fighters in '44.
- In 1968, the young heiress Barbara Jane Mackle was kidnapped, drugged, placed in a coffin and buried alive as her captors demanded for a $500,000 ransom from her family. After three days, she was found weakened yet still alive. She wrote a book about it named 83 Hours 'Til Dawn.
- A gang of kidnappers in the American Southwest actually did this to an entire school bus full of children. Thankfully, everyone escaped.
- On his deathbed, George Washington requested that his body be kept unburied for two days to make sure he was actually dead. This is actually still common practice in the form of the wake. A wake, for those who do not know, was when the family and friends of the deceased would place the corpse, in the coffin, in a prominent place in their home. The said family and friends would then sit up with the dead in case they woke up. This was done for 1 to 2 days before burial.
- Harry Houdini.
- He once tested an escape in which he was buried six feet deep without a coffin, and had to dig his way up. Once. He lost consciousness just after his hand broke the surface, and had to be pulled out.
- He also spent over an hour in a sealed, underwater coffin to demonstrate that it could be done, to disprove another performer who claimed to use mystical powers to accomplish the feat. There was another buried alive escape planned, but it's not clear if it was ever performed prior to his death. Although rather ghoulishly the coffin that was to be used in the escape was put to use transporting his remains.
- 33 Chilean miners buried alive for 69 days in 2010. Their rescue was watched by the world in awe at the things humans can achieve when properly motivated.
- Beaconsfield miners Todd Russell and Brant Webb did it first, gaining international fame after surviving for a month underground. There was a play planned for the event, A Symphony in a Flat Minor.
- The "Baby Jessica" incident, when 18-month-old Jessica McClure fell down a 22' deep, 8" wide well shaft in 1987. Three days' efforts to rescue her constituted one of the first major around-the-clock news stories covered by then-fledgling network CNN. Jessica survived the experience relatively unscathed, and recently received full control of the trust fund to which thousands of people sent donations after viewing the story.
- There's a Snopes article about it, which includes a story from 1994.
- In the wake of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 2001, a number of rescue personnel were trapped for days in the rubble of the fallen towers. The plight of two trapped Port Authority Police officers was portrayed in the Oliver Stone film World Trade Center.
- Subverted with Anthony Spilotro, on whom the character of Nicky Santoro from Casino was based (see the entry in Film above), and his brother Michael. While sand was allegedly found in their lungs, indicating live burial, it was confirmed years later that they had been murdered in a basement before being buried in the cornfield.
- In an interview, J. K. Rowling said that her own boggart would be her being buried alive.
- In Ancient Rome, supposedly the punishment for a Vestal Virgin that had broken her vow of chastity was being walled up in a crypt and left to die. This was because it was forbidden to spill the blood of a Vestal Virgin. Why they didn't just strangle them is their own secret. However, it was also used a kind of trial: they were left with a small amount of bread and water so that the goddess Vesta could save them if they were truly innocent.
In fact, one version of the story of Romulus and Remus claims that their mother was a Vestal Virgin seduced by Mars, and she was sentenced to this fate by her uncle, who also orders the death of the twins by exposure. Both means would avoid his direct blood-guilt, but her sons are luckier; the servant tasked with killing them can't bring himself to do so, and leaves them by the banks of the Thebes, where they are found by Lupa.
- And British statesman Lord Chesterfield wrote in Letters to His Son: "All I desire for my own burial is not to be buried alive; but how or where, I think must be entirely indifferent to every rational creature." (letter 311)
- In the First World War, the sheer ferocity of the artillery barrages was sufficient to dislodge large enough volumes of earth to cover over some of those it did not blow apart. Fortunately for quite a few soldiers thus buried, trench warfare being what it was meant that there was always an immediate and plentiful supply of willing hands to dig you out and shovels with which they could do so. Some people survived this treatment more than once.
- Then there was the underground war, where (predominantly but not exclusively) British and German diggers tunnelled under the battlefield to lay explosive charges and undermine each other's trenches. This sort of warfare was slow, laborious and terrifying, especially when Your Tunnel met Their Tunnel very suddenly.
"Sand Necktie" variation
Anime & Manga
- In Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, Count Herton gets this treatment from the Grandis Gang. Not to let him die, though, but just to teach him a lesson, as his madness was making him quite annoying.
- Several of Jagi's mooks from Fist of the North Star took to burying villagers up to their necks and forcing others to saw their heads off. Kenshiro promptly killed the mooks in question before burying the lead guy up to his neck and leaving him at the mercy of his victims.
- The Far Side
- One cartoon features two cowboys buried like this by Indians. One is gloating about the shadow cast by his partner's hat. "Sure is nice in the shade, yessiree."
- Another features two Indians dragging a cowboy overlooking several different anthills, each with neon signs advertising their cowboy-torturing skills.
- Another features two Indians having buried a cowboy up to his neck by an anthill, one of the Indians calling the other one an idiot because he brought mayonnaise instead of honey.
- And another featuring "Charlie Brown in Indian country."
Films — Live-Action
- The movie Caligula uses this as a form of execution, by chopping off peoples' heads with an Advancing Wall of Doom with lawnmower blades! Despite this, it's still disturbing to look at.
- In Shanghai Noon, Roy's gang does this to him in the middle of the desert where vultures pick at his exposed head. He somehow gets out of it using a pair of chopsticks.
- The anthology movie Creepshow has a segment all about the Sand Necktie variation. Leslie Nielsen plays a deranged millionaire who buries his wife and her lover, Ted Danson, in the sand at low tide. Then the tide comes in and they drown. Then they come back as undead and do the same thing to him.
"I can hold my breath for a long, looooooooooong time!"
- Happens to the title character (played by Dwayne Johnson) in The Scorpion King — next to a massive colony of inch-long fire ants. Apparently this is a standard method of executing criminals, as two thieves received the same fate. One of thieves, somehow, manages to free himself; but the Scorpion King himself needs to be rescued.
- In The Gods Must Be Crazy II, the male main white character is buried up to his neck in the Kalahari soil in order to save him from dehydration.
- In Jeremiah Johnson, this happens to a side character when he gets captured by hostile natives. Since he was bald, they decide that scalping him would be a waste of time.
"Say, you wouldn't have an extra hat on you, would you? Shade's getting' scarce in these parts."
- The Soviet Ostern movie White Sun of the Desert. Comrade Sukhov first meets his friend Sayid after rescuing him from the "sand necktie" in the desert.
- In the French movie Sur la piste du Marsupilami, this happens to both Dan and Pablito after they're captured by the Paya tribesmen. They're buried about a meter from each other, and spends most of their time bickering, blaming each other for their predicament. Pablito manages to catch a pebble in his mouth and spits it into Dan's face at one point. And then there's the incident with an amorous chihuahua....
- In the Spaghetti Western Death Rides a Horse, Bill is buried up to his neck in the square of a Mexican town, partly as torture and partly as a makeshift prison.
- Happens to the Lone Ranger and Tonto in The Lone Ranger. And, just when they think things can't get any worse, scorpions starts crawling out of the ground.
- In David Eddings' The Malloreon, the heroes come across a flock of vultures feeding on something on the ground. It turns out the bad guys have a habit of burying escaped slaves up to their necks in sand and leaving them. And this is in the middle of a desert.
- In Jerzy Kosinski's The Painted Bird, the main character is buried to his neck by superstitious peasants who wish to "cure" him of a fever. This leads to a flock of crows pecking at his head.
- The Dresden Files: Harry Dresden does this to a ghoul in the desert, and leaves a trail for fire ants to follow to it. He later gives it a Mercy Kill.
- In Soul Music, the Klatchian Foreign Legion once did this to Death, who'd enlisted in a vain attempt to forget his troubles. It was intended as a torturous form of discipline, but the Grim Reaper merely found it dull.
- One of the capital punishments from the days when Ankh-Morpork still had conventional laws was to be tied to one of the city bridge's pilings at low tide, then left there for 24 hours. As the Ankh, like the Thames in London, rises with the tides, this is functionally equivalent to the "sand necktie", as per the example below. Also possibly equivalent to conventional live burial, depending on whether the Ankh's toxic sludge really qualifies as "water".
- Happens to Nancy Drew in the 5th book in her Files series, although she's actually tied to a piling, not buried in sand, though the villain's intent — her drowning as the tide comes in — is the same.
- The ultimate fate of Ishido in Shogun. Throughout the novel, it's repeatedly mentioned that a (supposedly reliable) fortune teller told him that he would be both the most famous man in the land and very old when he died. After Toronaga defeats and captures him, "[he] ordered the Eta to bury Ishido up to his neck in the earth, and invite passers-by to saw at the most famous neck in the realm with a bamboo saw. Ishido lingered three days, and died very old."
- This one was confirmed as an effective Death Trap by the MythBusters. It took Tory 80 minutes to get out of dry sand and Grant gave up with wet sand after 10. Consider that neither was actually tied up.
- Red Dwarf, "Better than Life" — with ants. And jam smeared on their faces....
- In Boardwalk Empire, Gyp Rosetti does this to a subordinate for failing him. The subordinate's uncle pleads with Rosetti for mercy, which Rosetti provides by bashing the subordinate's head in with a shovel.
- In an episode of Knight Rider 2008, the bad guys capture Michael Knight and bury him to the neck in the desert. Then they start toying with him in a pair of sand buggies.
- In one scene of the music video for "If This Is It" by Huey Lewis and the News, this happens to the News.
- Thunderbirds: The Hood does this to Brains in the episode "Desperate Intruder". Partly subverted however since he does not do it with the intention of slowly killing Brains, but to torture Brains into revealing information about a treasure he, Tintin and a professor were looking for.
- The entirety of the Samuel Beckett play Happy Days is a woman buried up to her chest and later her neck. Somehow.
- On Flander's Company, in a flashback, environementalist Hero with an F in Good Recycle-Man is seen inflicting this on two people for three days, under the snow, to make them "feel how everything in nature is connected".
- In an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, one of the local residents is buried under the sand at the beach and promptly forgotten. Cue the incoming tide. He is seen later as a ghost.
- In one episode of Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers, Gadget suggests this to the Pi-Rats as a way of torturing a pair of recently captured enemies. This doesn't make sense as she's one of the captured enemies.
- On Jimmy Two-Shoes, this is Lucius' definition of grounding someone.
- On South Park, Cartman buries himself in snow this way in order to freeze himself to get a Nintendo Wii faster. It works, but too well.
- More fun for Darkwing Duck. The ones that come to mind are being planted/buried in the ground with an angry Bushroot coming at him with a lawnmower, and being encased in ice while under the second biggest duck-smasher he'd ever seen.
- An episode of Peter Pan & the Pirates has Captain Hook do this to Pan and another Lost Boy snooping on him as he buried a chest on the same beach. They escape by calling the mermaids for help.
- The protagonists of Team Galaxy gets this treatment from some Plant Aliens. In this case, though, the aim doesn't seem to be any kind of torture, but the primitive aliens actually thinking the humans would... germinate and grow.