The Blue Plaque of Mrs Blunden - Atlas Obscura

The Blue Plaque of Mrs Blunden

Holy Ghost Cemetery

This plaque remembers a grave mistake that led to one local woman being buried alive.  


In 1674, Mrs. Blunden lived in Basingstoke along with her husband, a wealthy and respected merchant. 

One evening while her husband was away trading in London, she was accidentally given a large quantity of poppy water instead of her usual spirits. Poppy water was often administered to ease pain and aid sleep, but could be dangerous if too much was consumed. Shortly after drinking the concoction, Blunden fell unconscious. Her maids believed she was in a deep sleep, however, after waiting to see if she would come to, Blunden was declared dead by a physician. 

The following evening her body was interred in Holy Ghost Cemetery, not far from the Queens School. In the days following her burial, a pair of boys heard ghastly sounds coming from the newly dug grave. When other boys from the school had similar stories the coffin was exhumed.

Inside Mrs. Blunden was covered in bruises and self-inflicted wounds, leading many to believe that she was alive when buried and attempted to escape. Her body was then examined by three different doctors; at that point she was once again declared dead and placed back into the grave. 

From the 14th-century through the 17th- century, there was a real fear of being buried alive. This became such a present fear that bodies were often buried with a bell system attached above ground. In the event someone was mistaken as dead and buried, they could ring the bell to alert people above ground.

Today, a blue plaque found on a wall in the Holy Ghost Cemetery remembers this medical blunder. It also indicates that the town was fined for negligence by Parliament. 

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November 20, 2019
February 7, 2024

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