Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Woman Buried Alive, Funeral Goers Hear Screams From The Grave...

The fear of being buried alive has been a real fear for centuries, in fact, the phobia even has a formal name; taphophobia. Before modern medicine this fear wasn't completely irrational. Before the 20th century, methods of determining death were far from reliable and cases of premature burial was not uncommon. Throughout history, there have been numerous cases of people being buried alive by accident. Because of this a large number of designs for safety coffins were patented during the 18th and 19th centuries. Safety coffins were fitted with a mechanism to allow the occupant to signal that he or she has been buried alive. On his deathbed in 1799, George Washington made his attendants promise not to bury him for two days. One of Edgar Allan Poe's horror stories, "The Premature Burial", is about a person suffering from taphophobia. Other Poe stories about premature burial are "The Fall of the House of Usher" and "The Cask of Amontillado"—and to a lesser extent, “The Black Cat." 

"In 1905, the English reformer William Tebb collected accounts of premature burial. He found 219 cases of near live burial, 149 actual live burials, 10 cases of live dissection and 2 cases of awakening while being embalmed." - The Corpse: A History 

You would think this fear would be something of the past, but just this month a 34 year old woman was buried alive. Unfortunately in her case it wasn't an accident. Now 8 News reported the Chicago modern day horror story; "A 34 year old woman in now recovering from a most bizarre scene, one you only hear about in the movies. A Chicago family was grieving the loss of their son, as they said their final goodbye’s at his funeral. Police say it was unlike anything they had ever seen before. Reports say that approximately 15 minutes after the body of the man was laid to rest, the family of the deceased began to hear screams. 

“We decided to stay for a bit after the funeral, to let it all sink in. When all of a sudden we heard screams, but we could not figure out where they were coming from,” said one family member who wished to stay anonymous. “We realized it was coming from under the grave where we just laid my brother. We ran and got help.” Police say when firefighters arrived, they received permission from the family to dig up the freshly dug grave. As they did, the screams became louder and louder. When they reached the coffin, they pried it open, to find 34 year old Linda Lynch inside. 

Police say it was a twisted plot. The coffin of the man, who was supposed to be buried, was wheeled to the back and his body was quickly removed after the service by the funeral director, Harold Lynch, at Thomas Hite Funeral Home, who had attempted to murder his 34 year old estranged wife. Lynch had drugged his wife with arsenic and hid her in the funeral home, perfectly timing it with the scheduled burial.  The young man who was scheduled to be buried was found wrapped in a blanket in the funeral home basement.

Lynch’s wife is currently hospitalized in stable condition undergoing an intense detoxification process. Lynch is being held on a $200,000 bond and faces attempted murder charges. The Chicago family has properly buried their son.

Whether accidental, or murder, the fear of being buried alive has found its way into our culture through scary movies, and literature. If for some reason you find yourself in this predicament, here are some steps on how to survive being buried alive in a coffin! You can also check these ones out from the worst case scenario website.

Have a fun and safe Halloween weekend! 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Online Funeral Planning - Should Funeral Homes Have To Post Prices Online?


Prices for the same funeral services in the same city can be double or triple those of a nearby funeral home. With that being the case, it is obviously in someone's best interest to comparison shop funeral homes to find the best price. But is that really what a loved one going through a difficult time wants to be doing?

Today almost everything can be purchased online, our bills, clothes, pets, the list is endless really. E-commerce appears to be the way of the future. However when the Funeral Consumers surveyed funeral home prices and disclosures in ten areas of the country, tracking down prices for 15 funeral homes in each area, including at least one part of a funeral home chain; the Alliance found 16% of the 150 funeral homes failed to disclose prices on a website, in response to an email or in response to a phone call. Not only that but Steve Brobeck, executive director of the Consumer Federation of America, found that in the same city there is a huge range in prices for essentially the same thing. Prices for the same funeral services within individual areas almost always varied by at least 100 percent and often varied by more than 200 percent. Direct cremation charges ranged from $455 to $3,390 in Seattle. Immediate burial charges ranged from $1,195 to $5,200 in Atlanta. And full-service funerals ranged in the District of Columbia ranged from $3,370 to $13,800.

“As an advocate who’s researched prices for consumer services for decades, I was stunned by the price differences. The huge price ranges for identical funeral services within individual areas indicate that these markets lack effective competition,” said CFA Executive Director Stephen Brobeck in a statement. “The lack of price competition is unfortunate given the relatively high cost of funeral services and the reluctance of many bereaved consumers to comparison shop for these services.”

Because of these wide gaps in price, thirty-one years after the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule intended to make funeral home pricing more transparent became law, consumer advocates are calling on the FTC to require funeral homes to post prices online.

The CFA found just 25 percent of funeral homes post prices on the Internet, largely because they don’t have to. "Federal law only requires funeral homes to provide prices by telephone or mail—antiquated relics, the CFA says, of 1980’s rulemaking." 

Price transparency aside, with a younger more tech savvy generation up next, wouldn't it make more sense to have some kind of online funeral planning available anyways? With the baby boomers coming up as the next senior population, the funeral industry is going to be hit with a lot more business, and it will undoubtedly shake things up for the old ways things have typically been done. What is the future for the funeral industry? I can't say but change seems to be imminent!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Families choose home funerals for their loved ones...

Sisters Rebecca, left, and Lacy Denboer spend a moment with their mother LuAnn Denboer at her casket during a home funeral.

Read more here:

Article originally appeared on Star Telegram

It had been a rough five years for Robert Denboer, who mourned the deaths of his mother, father, mother-in-law and several close friends in quick succession.

Then, in June, the cancer his wife had fought to a stalemate years ago returned vengefully. He knew he would be planning another funeral.

One day Denboer wandered onto a YouTube video of two women discussing home funerals — services conducted for loved ones, usually unembalmed, right in the living room or other part of the house.

“I got two impressions out of it,” said Denboer, 60, of Fort Worth. “One, that it was morose, even kind of gross, just too strange. But the other impression I got was that the two ladies talking about it were very sincere and felt it was the only way to fully experience that their loved one was gone and to be reconciled with that.”

He discussed having a home funeral with his wife, LuAnn, who liked the idea but didn’t want their adult daughters to be uncomfortable with it.

Rebecca and Lacy Denboer, who live at the family home, hesitated at first.

“It seemed a very foreign idea,” said Rebecca, 30. “My initial reaction was, ‘Is this going to be respectful enough?’ 

Home funerals are nothing new. In the pioneer days, families took care of their dead on their own. Funeral homes didn’t start springing up until embalming procedures were refined and became popular during the Civil War.

Home funerals are legal in all states, although 10 of them require the involvement of a licensed funeral director for some services.

Read more here:

Texas is not among those 10 states, although critics say some funeral directors don’t always make that clear to their grieving customers.

Bonnie Smith of Arlington, a nurse who had a home funeral for her husband in April, complains that many funeral directors push expensive, unnecessary services on families who may too be shellshocked with grief to make good decisions.

“Especially people who go into debt to pay for this and they don’t have the money. That’s terrible,” Smith said. “They don’t know what they’re getting into.”

Michael Land, past president of the 125-year-old Texas Funeral Directors Association, said the vast majority of funeral directors have the best interests of the families at heart. For those needing more incentive, the U.S. Trade Commission’s “Funeral Rule” has strict requirements for openness and fairness.

“When we sit down with a family, we have to disclose certain things — like embalming is not required by law and not all cemeteries require an outer burial container,” Land said. And they must go over a detailed price list with the family. “But when a family comes in to make arrangements, we don’t just sit down and say, ‘You know you can do this yourself.’ 

19,391 Number of funeral homes in the U.S. in 2015, down from 21,528 in 2004, according to the National Directory of Morticians
People like Elva Roy are working to spread the word that there are alternatives to full-service traditional funerals, also including green burials, in which all materials are completely biodegradable. Roy says more and more people are learning about their choices — certainly those in the audiences she speaks to as a board member of the advocacy group Funeral Consumers Alliance.

“We as Americans have been conditioned to fear death. It’s a taboo subject because we’re in denial that one day we’re going to die,” said Roy, who helped the Denboer family with their in-home service. “So it’s hard to even get a conversation going with family members.”

Home funerals are clearly less expensive than traditional funerals, which on average cost about $10,000 in the U.S., including a standard casket and cemetery vault, said Land, who has been director of Forest Ridge Funeral Home in Hurst since it was founded in 1997.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Documenting your Funeral with Videography

Documenting important events has been something we do for decades, and over the last several years videography for weddings, births, and even just family outings has become common place. But what about videography for your funeral? We have heard about live streaming your funeral, but actually making a video to remember the day and watch later?  

Professionally filming your funeral has become very popular in New Zealand, and videographer/editor Juliet Campbell makes a great point that it is a way for family and friends who live overseas or who can't attend to be able to see the funeral, commenting that they sends "heaps of DVDS overseas." Campbell brings up the fact that a lot of times family is going through such a hard time it can be hard for them to remember everything from the day, and having it documented in this way provides them the opportunity to go back if they want, adding that the video also acts as an archive for families for who was in attendance.

With funerals making a shift towards "celebrations of life" I guess it would make sense to document such an event, especially since they tend to be a family reunion of sorts. There is a joke in the pre-need funeral business that people spend so much money on a wedding when so many marriages aren't a guarantee. However, when the one guarantee in life is that you will one day pass, people don't want to spend money on their funerals.

Campbell reiterates that filming a funeral isn't a morbid thing, but like watching a biography of the persons life. In New Zealand, professional filming of your funeral has become a service offered by many funeral homes. Read more HERE.

With the younger generation documenting everything from what they had for lunch, to what they are wearing for the day, maybe this isn't such a weird idea after all. Funeral homes should take note of this new line of business that could prove to become common place in the funeral industry very soon!