Catalepsy is a dysfunction of the nervous system that causes a slowing down of the bodies regulatory functions, so much so that to the untrained eye the person appears dead. Sufferers also lose voluntary muscle control, their bodies becoming rigid for sometimes days on end. They can see and hear but cannot move or speak. Most often, they were hastly buried in the next 24 hours before they had a chance to recover.
Because the fear of being buried alive was so great, some people went to great lengths to avoid it, stipulating in their wills to be laid out for three days to make sure they were really dead, not be buried until pronounced dead by a certified physician, to be exhumed three days after burial to make sure the body was dead, or some even had elaborate bell systems devised to ring on the surface if they moved their hand below.
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Origins of vampires