Corpses on Ice: The Dangers of the Undertaker’s Ice-Box If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you may have read about the grim German waiting mortuaries, the dark side of those popular Fisk cast-iron burial caskets, people who asked to be stabbed to the heart after death to make sure they were really most sincerely dead, and about the Victorian fear—obsession, really—with being buried alive. It was difficult enough for 19th-century physicians to tell when someone was a lifeless corpse, given diseases like cholera that mimicked death and an apparent epidemic of catalepsy. Yet beyond doubtful diagnoses of death, there was another, lesser-known mortuary danger: the undertaker’s ice-box.
O, Death, Where Is Thy Bling? The Gilded Age was a golden age for the conspicuous consumption of coffins and other funerary goods, inspiring a kind of mortuary arms race. Keeping up with the Boneses…. Two Victorian examples.