- Lady with the Ring
The central feature of the story is that a woman is buried or entombed while wearing a valuable ring. Shortly after the burial, a grave robber (often a corrupt sexton) disinters the body with the intent of stealing the ring. The robber is unable to slide the ring off the woman's finger, so he prepares to cut off the finger with a knife. However, upon making the initial incision, the woman awakes, surprising the grave robber. The woman had not been dead at all, but had been the victim of premature burial.
The following details are included in some versions of the story:
- the grave robber instantly dies of fright after the woman awakes;
- the woman walks a considerable distance from her burial spot to her home;
- the woman's husband or other people at her house think that she is a ghost and refuse her entry into the house;
- the person refusing entry to the woman tells the woman that it would be as impossible for her to return from the dead as it would be for horses to leave their stable and run up the stairs in the house; immediately after making this comparison, two neighing horses are heard and seen with their heads emerging from the second-storey windows of the house; when this occurs, the person refusing entry realises that the woman is not a ghost
- the woman lives for many more years and gives birth to numerous children.
Versions of the story have been found to exist in almost every European country, including Germany, the Netherlands, France, Scandinavia, Italy, England, Scotland, and Ireland. The story is also told about a former resident of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada.
The most famous version of the story is from Cologne, where the woman has been popularly identified as Richmodis von Aducht, the wife of Menginus von Aducht. The incident was said to have occurred in 1357, though other versions claimed that it occurred in the 16th century. There is a street in Cologne named Richmodis-Strasse on which is the "Richmodis House", where legend states that the Aduchts lived. The heads of two sculpted horses look out from a second-story window the house onto the square below.
In 1920, an ethnologist determined that there were nineteen cities in Germany that claimed that a version of the Lady of the Ring occurred there, including Hamburg, Lübeck, Dresden, and Freiberg. In eleven of the cases, there were horse sculptures that commemorated the strange ending to the story.
In 18th-century England, the woman in the story was identified as Lady Emma Edgcumbe, wife of George Edgcumbe, 1st Earl of Mount Edgcumbe. However, the century before, Emma's ancestor Lady Anne Edgcumbe was commonly identified as the woman. In England, numerous other ladies with the ring have been identified, including Annot of Benallay, Lady Katherine Wyndham (wife of Sir Edward Wyndham, 2nd Baronet), Hannah Goodman, and Constance Whitney. In Scotland, the woman was identified as Marjorie Elphinstone (second wife of Robert Drummond of Carnock), or sometimes Margaret Halcrow Erskine. In Ireland, her name was Marjorie McCall.
An example: Marjorie McCall
In the early 18th century a Lurgan woman named Marjorie McCall lived with her family in Church Place. Her husband John, a doctor, was distraught when she died following a short illness. He became even more distressed when he was unable to remove the ring she always wore. During her wake mourners tried in vain to remove the valuable ring. Grave robbing was not uncommon at the time and relatives feared that her final resting place would be desecrated owing to the presence of the ring. Sure enough, her body was exhumed shortly after the burial. Unconcerned about mutilating the corpse, thieves set about hacking off the ring finger. However, Marjorie was not dead, and was brought out of a deep coma by the sharp pain. Seeing her start to stir, the thieves fled, leaving Marjorie to make her way home. Grieving family members were surprised to hear a familiar knock on the door. Opening the door late at night to find his wife dressed in her burial robes was too much for John McCall. He fell dead on the spot, Marjorie, however, lived on. When she finally died her body was returned to Lurgan's Shankill graveyard, where her headstone remains to this day inscribed with the words "Lived Once, Buried Twice".
- Jan Bondeson (2001). Buried Alive: The Terrifying History of Our Most Primal Fear (New York: W. W. Norton, ISBN 039304906X) pp. 35–50
- Rodney Davies (1998). The Lazarus Syndrome: Burial Alive and the Horrors of the Undead (New York: Barnes and Noble, ISBN 0760719225) pp. 150–151
- William Tebb & Edward Parry Vollum (1905). Premature Burial and How It May Be Prevented (London: Swan Sonnenschein) pp. 380–384
- Robert Wilkins (1991). The Bedside Book of Death: Macabre Tales of Our Final Passage (New York: Citadel, ISBN 0806512776) pp. 32–37
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