The Death Of Elisabeth Tetley

Continuing with my collection of 19th century tales concerning people who my have endured the horror of being buried alive, I would like to bring you case from 1888, the year of the Jack the Ripper crimes.

On Monday the 12th of March, 1888, The Magnet featured the following article:-


At Leeds, the coroner, Mr. Malcolm held an inquiry, upon the initiation of the Home Secretary, Sir Henry Matthews, with a view to ascertaining whether Arabella Elisabeth Tetley, the wife of a schoolmaster at Beckwithshaw, near Harrogate, had died from natural ceases, as had already been attested, or had died after her interment on the 17th February in Woodhouse Cemetery, Leeds.


On that date a gravedigger named Posey had given the alarm to other workpeople at the cemetery that he had heard a strange knocking and creaking, while he was filling up the grave.

This got rumoured about, and the other night a question was put in the House of Commons, to the Home Secretary, Sir Henry Mathews, on the subject.


The Coroner had ordered the exhumation of the body of Mrs. Tetley, and its removal to the mortuary in Leeds, where, in the presence of Mr. Scattergood, Dean of the Faculty of the Medical Department of the Yorkshire College, the coffin was opened.


The gravedigger was the first witness called before the Coroner and jury, and substantially all that he could be got to say was that he had heard noises such as in all his 24 years’ experience he had never heard before.

He did not know what noises they seemed to be; nor was he made afraid by them.

It had been stated that at the time in question he reported that he had seen an upheaval of two or three feet deep of soil which by that time had been filled in, but in reply to the Coroner he denied that he had made such an assertion.

He admitted that detectives had been to see him with reference to the matter, but he had never said that he heard a distinct knocking in the coffin.

The other men, he said, assured him that the noise he had heard was the giving way of some earth, through the frost, with which he completed the tilling up of the grave.


Sykes Shepherd, a mason employed at the cemetery, said that the last witness reported to him he had heard unusual noises, but he told him it was only his superstition, and he went immediately himself to the grave and listened for a quarter of an hour and could hear nothing.


Mr. Scattergood’s evidence entirely set at rest any painful apprehensions as to the circumstances of the interment. He had found the body exactly in the position those who put it in the coffin were likely to have placed it in. It was absolutely undisturbed, and the shroud, flowers, wreaths, and hands were exactly as they ought to be.

A verdict was returned of “Died from natural causes.”