The scenario is frequently played for laughs in sitcoms and movies, but mistakenly being declared dead is a lot less funny in reality -- even if Balki is involved. You'd think that proving your own status as a living person would be a quick matter of showing up at the records building and not biting anybody in the brain. But no, it seems like trying to convince the world that you're still alive is almost worse than just rolling over, taking one for the team, and politely dying.
In 1937, 18-year-old Frenchman Angelo Hays suffered a serious head injury in a motorcycle accident, because that's what motorcycles are for: pullin' chicks and bashin' brains. When doctors examined Hays, he wasn't breathing, he didn't have a pulse, and he owned a motorcycle -- all signs that pointed to "dead." Hays was given a quickie funeral and buried. Mourners all agreed that "at least he went out awesome."
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The choir sang "Bat Out of Hell" at the gravesite.
Hays' case was immediately looked into by paranoid insurance investigators: An insurance policy worth 200,000 francs had been taken out on Hays' life shortly before his accident, so they suspected that he may have been the victim of a nefarious murder plot. The investigators decided to exhume Hays' body a mere two days after his burial to check for foul play ... and found him still alive. Just, you know, chillin' in the grave.
Luckily for your own impending nightmares, Hays wasn't awake and clawing at the lid or anything: The accident hadn't actually killed him, but instead left him in a very deep coma. Since his head injury greatly slowed down his metabolic activities, he required very little oxygen, and the loose soil in the ground allowed just enough to seep into the coffin to keep him alive.
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Worms crawled on his lips to hydrate him.
Hays went on to make a full recovery and live a long life. His story actually made him a bit of a celebrity in France, and he invented a contraption called a security coffin that came equipped with an oxygen supply, blankets, and alarm bells, just on the off chance that someone might find themselves buried alive (again). Most importantly, the security coffin also contained bottles of wine, because this is France we're talking about here. Seriously -- if there's ever an appropriate time for a drink, it's the day you wake up buried in your own coffin.
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In 1975, Lal Bihari, a farmer in India, wanted to apply for a bank loan, so he tapped the infinite well of saint-like patience we all have in reserve just in case we have to deal with bureaucracy and visited a government office to obtain proof of identity. Bihari received a very unpleasant surprise when he was shown some official records that listed him as dead.
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Marking the first time a government office actually found a guy's file.
This one wasn't a simple clerical error -- not in the incredibly corrupt den of thieves that was 1970s India. No, it turns out that Bihari's uncle had bribed a government official to legally declare his nephew dead so that he could inherit their family's ancestral land. Jesus, that sounds like the setup to a Steven Seagal movie (and you just know Seagal would spray-tan himself and put a racist dot on his forehead for his role in Legally Dead).
Bihari did manage to get himself legally declared alive again ... 19 goddamned years later. Government corruption is easy; it's getting the government to do something by the book that's hard. Bihari used every trick imaginable: He filed lawsuits, got himself arrested, and even ran for political office at one point, all for the sole purpose of getting his living ass out there on the public record. Bihari even tried to roll with it once and had his wife apply for widow's benefits. The government turned her down. "Hey, your husband is dead, but he ain't that dead."
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It didn't stop them from trying to grab his organs, though.
Bihari finally got the ruling reversed and officially rejoined the land of the living in 1994. He went on to form the Association of Dead People, which aims to help folks who were wrongly proclaimed dead by a corrupt government and is in no way an ominous front for the wights who secretly run India.
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It's a difficult job staying alive in America, seeing as how the Social Security Administration mistakenly declares an estimated 14,000 people dead every year. It's a hard enough trick resurrecting yourself at all (just ask Jesus -- dude managed it once and people still won't shut up about it), so spare a thought for Army veteran Jerry Miller, who has been among the ranks of the undead numerous times, according to the government.
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"We lost so many that we just declared all soldiers dead to save time."
Miller was a retired drill sergeant who lived in Florida on a government pension and Social Security payments. In July 2010, he was shocked to receive a letter addressed to his estate where the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs expressed their sympathies about his recent passing, which of course meant that his veteran's benefits would be cut off.
To get them restored, Miller was forced to prove that he was indeed still alive, which presumably meant going into the DVA, dousing his head in holy water, and cutting himself with silver. That should have been the end of it, but the department proceeded to send his family three more letters over the next few years, each expressing sympathy for their loss and cutting his payments.
But at least his kids got days off for four separate "dad's funeral"s.
Unfortunately, having to repeatedly prove he wasn't Das Wampyr was more than an inconvenience, since Miller's health problems meant that he kept falling behind on his bills and was in danger of losing his house. The icing on the incompetence cake: The DVA also requested that Miller pay back the $94,000 in checks that his corpse had been cashing over the years. Ugh, these lazy zombies are ruining our economy.
Miller has never received a reasonable explanation for his bureaucratic Highlanderism, but we wouldn't be surprised if there's another Jerry Miller out there somewhere who's been lying dead in his house the past three years while $94,000 worth of checks pile up in his mailbox.