Context: S is a Peruvian man in his early 60s. S spent around the first 13 years living inside of Peru before moving to Germany where he lived until his late 20s when he moved to California. Although having lived in California for most of his life now, he still has a close connection to Peru and Germany through his family. This piece was collected during a phone call.
Intv: “Can you think of any stories that came from somewhere local?”
S: “There was this one story about a guy who was buried alive.”
Intv: “Oh my gosh, like someone who you knew?”
S: “Not me personally, and I’m not really sure, I used to think it was someone my family knew, but I can’t be sure. Anyways, There was this guy, who was terrified of being buried alive.”
Intv: “I mean, I would be scared too if it had happened to me.”
S: “Oh yes, but for him, it just was all he thought about, he would wake up in the middle of the night because of nightmares about it. One day he decided he couldn’t take it anymore, and he went to his family with a series of rules and tests to make sure if he died, that he was dead. They were supposed to use a mirror to see if he was breathing, wait three days, and a number of different things. So of course all of his family promised him that they would do it, and make sure he was dead. But the man keeps wondering, what if, what if, so he decides to test it and fakes his death, with the plan to reveal himself before being buried. However, and this is what I can’t remember so well, but something happens, I believe the coffin lid closes on his head and knocks him out, and he ends up buried alive.”
Analysis: Being buried alive is likely something that everyone fears, making this story immediately relatable. I think that’s intentional as it’s trying to convey an important message, something that is behind a large number of folklore tales, like how the boy who cried wolf teaches one not to fib and lie. This story, however, is more like a long version of the phrase “curiosity killed the cat.” It’s a cautionary tale regarding unhealthy obsessive pursuits.