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hat happens when ‘dead’ people come back to ‘life’? This is the true, gruesome, and fascinating story about ‘dead’ people coming back to ‘life’ not as zombies but as mummies. The set for this horror tale is not Cairo, Egypt but Guanajuato, Mexico. Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night sweaty and in a state of panic because of a nightmare you had of being buried alive? Throughout history, there have been accounts of this worst-nightmare scenario becoming a reality. The screaming Guanajuato Mummies are a visual testimony of your worst nightmare, showing the aftermath of what happens when ‘dead’ people come back to ‘life,’ 6 feet under. Not a good situation to be in.

How the Screaming Guanajuato Mummies re-surfaced

The Screaming Guanajuato Mummies re-surfaced – Source Wikipedia Commons

Guanajuato is a small town in Mexico. The year is 1833. Cholera is ravaging the town killing a huge chunk of the people living there. As the corpses piled up, the fit and abled people buried the dead in mass graves as quickly as possible to prevent the spread of the disease.

As time passes cholera cases started to subside leaving the people who managed to survive the nasty disease to get on with their life. In the year 1870, the local government imposed a tax on anyone who wanted to continue the perpetual care for the graves of their relatives buried in the mass graves. Refusing to pay this tax, would result in the bodies being exhumed and stored in a warehouse.

Benjamin Franklin was right when he said, “nothing is certain except death and taxes” and both are equally hated I shall add. This tax was very unpopular with the residents in Guanajuato who collectively and conveniently forgot to pay the taxman. As promised, the local government proceeded to exhume the bodies. What they discovered shocked them. The bodies were remarkably well preserved they had in fact been mummified.

Scientists determined that the unique soil composition, arid, low-humidity weather, and 6000 feet above sea level the town kept the bodies from decomposition. But the creepiest and most horrific discovery was when the townspeople looked at the expressions on the faces of the mummies. Many of them had expressions showing the terror they felt when they awoke in the coffin to realize that they had been buried alive.

The Screaming Guanajuato Mummies. Source Wikipedia Commons

A legitimate question to ask ourselves is where this theory of ‘dead’ people coming back to ‘life’ comes from. Could there be another explanation for those horrific screaming expressions? Maybe, but the theory of ‘dead-coming-back-to-life-6 feet under’ found more credence after the discovery of the body of Ignacia Aguilar who suffered from a strange sickness that caused her heart to beat so slowly that it appeared that it stopped.

Her family had to deal with this strange disease several times before without too much drama as her heart started finding its normal beat again after a short while, but one day Ignacia’s heart stopped beating for more than a day. Her relatives decided to bury her the day after. In 1870, when the bodies were exhumed, it was noticed that she was facing down biting her arm and that there was a lot of blood in her mouth. It didn’t take too much imagination before people concluded that Ignacia was one of those poor souls who died, and came back to life to realize with horror that she was buried 6 feet under.

The Science that explains the Screaming Guanajuato Mummies

Let’s step away from this horror story for a minute or two and look to science for a rational explanation as to how someone can be misdiagnosed as dead whilst in fact alive?! One possible explanation could be that the Guanajuato Mummies suffered from Lazarus syndrome which is defined as the delayed return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC) after CPR. Patients who are pronounced dead after cardiac arrest experience an impromptu return of cardiac activity. The syndrome is named after Lazarus of Bethany, who – according to the New Testament of the Bible – was brought back to life by Jesus Christ 4 days after his death.

A mother’s hand. Source Wikipedia Commons

Since 1982, when the Lazarus phenomenon was first described in medical literature, there have been at least 38 reported cases, including a case in 2014 of an 80-year-old woman who had been ‘frozen alive’ in a hospital morgue after being wrongly pronounced dead.

There are two types of death: clinical death and biological death. Clinical death is defined as the absence of a pulse, heartbeat, and breathing, while biological death is defined as the absence of brain activity. Based on this definition you might think that it would be easy to declare a person dead, but it is not so simple. There are a number of medical conditions that can make an individual appear dead whilst they are not, namely Hyperthermia (where the body experience a sudden drop in temperature caused by prolonged exposure to cold), catalepsy (trance-like state such as epilepsy) and locked-in syndrome (complete paralysis of voluntary muscle).

The smallest Mummy. Source Wikipedia Commons

Coming back to our horror story, Guanajuato hosts a whole bunch of mummies with expressions of utter anguish and pure terror.  Death doesn’t look pretty but those facial expressions are not normal, they are too agitated and expressive for a dead person. The screaming Guanajuato mummies are no doubt a visual testimony of your worst nightmare.

On 1& 2 November Mexico is celebrating Dia De Los Muertos The Day of the Dead where families welcome back the souls of their deceased relatives for a brief reunion that includes food, drinks, music, and celebration.   

Happy Dia De los Muertos!

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