Patents are usually not very exciting. In these legal documents, the government outlines the rights a person has over his invention, while the inventor discloses how his invention works. Patent no. 268,693 from 5 December 1882, however, shown here in its original form, is a lot of fun. It concerns a “Device for Indicating Life in Buried Persons,” which was filed under “Coffins: Life Signals” (see the red stamp). Yes, it’s a machine that shouts “Help, I’m not dead!” for you when you are prematurely placed six feet under. The accompanying description, obtained via Google Patents, explains how it works:
“If the person buried should come to life, a motion of his hands will turn the branches of the T-shaped pipe B, upon or near which his hands are placed. […] The cover E will turn and the index will show on the scale that it has been turned. If the person should turn in the coffin or make a violent motion, he will push the pipe B upward and push the cover off the top of the box. A supply of air enters the coffin through the pipe and will keep him alive till help arrives.”
It’s simplicity itself: make a movement in your coffin and a pipe is pushed up, which lets in oxygen and moves a scale on the surface (“above the turf”) so that it indicates that you are, in fact, still alive. Best thing of all? It is recyclable. States the same description: “When the person has been buried a sufficiently long time to insure the certainty of death, the apparatus may be removed”.