It is claimed that some Victorian-era coffins were enclosed in cages to prevent zombies from escaping. Is this real or a hoax?
This claim is false.
First, let’s take a look a what is being asserted.
This is a grave from the Victorian age when a fear of zombies and vampires was prevalent. The cage was intended to trap the undead just in case the corpse reanimated.
These cages were known as mortsafes, and were designed to prevent grave robbers who supplied corpses to medical students, not to prevent the undead from escaping.
The contraption was invented in the early 1800s in response to a growing problem of grave robbing as a means to supply corpses to medical students for dissection. This primarily occurred in Scotland and the problem was compounded by a lack of government intervention. The cages were composed of varying materials, typically iron or stone. They were not typically meant to house the coffin permanently, but to allow for sufficient decomposition of the body which would render it useless to medical students. Because installing and removing mortsafes could be a laborious task, some were left in place, and many of those can still be seen today.
In addition to mortsafes, watch groups were set up to monitor graveyards in order to prevent grave robbers.
Here are additional photos of mortsafes:
The cages seen surrounding Victorian era caskets were to prevent grave robbing, not to trap zombies. Read about more Victorian era customs involving death here.
Updated April 30, 2015
Originally published April 2013