We love to tell tales of folklore or ghost stories when we have friends visiting us here in Fernandina Beach. Describing the origin of terms like Dead Ringer, Saved by the Bell and Graveyard Shift to our company took on extra fun as our guests included two teenaged girls from England, who for the most part, think Americans are crazy anyway. Here is the story we shared:
Many years ago, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside. People realized they had been burying their loved ones alive. This was before the advent of modern medicine and the symptoms of many illnesses could resemble death to the untrained eye. Because of this, folks would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse and feed it through the coffin and up out of the ground and tie it off to a bell. Relatives would take shifts sitting out in the graveyard to listen for the bell (the graveyard shift). The person who may have been buried alive would come to ‚Äì and panic, causing the bell to ring (dead ringer). Quickly, the person would be dug up and pulled from the coffin and declared saved by the bell.