While filming the sci-fi adventure ‘Alien’ in England, thinking about the face hugger that kept John Hurt, breathless while the Alien laid its egg in him. I read a comprehensive history of India for the nineteenth century, an account will be found of the feat of Sadhu Haridas, who permitted himself to be buried alive underground for forty days, in 1837, in order to demonstrate his powers over the life forces of the body.
The idea about oxygen came to me while I saw John Hurt being outfitted for the face hugger.
This feat took place at the court of the Maharaja of the Punjab, Ranjeet Singh, at Lahore, India. Haridas allowed himself to be interred in the presence of the Maharaja, his whole court, and a number of French and English doctors who were present for the occasion.
The Sadhu placed himself in a sitting posture, and was then covered over and sewn up in cere-cloth, somewhat after the manner of an Egyptian mummy. He was then placed inside a large wooden case, which was strongly riveted down, and the Maharaja’s own seal was put upon several parts. The case was then lowered down into a brick vault, previously made for the purpose. Earth was then piled upon the case, after the manner of an ordinary grave. Corn was then sown in the earth, which sprang up during the period of Sadhu’s interment. A procedure it is said to be practiced by Chinese faith healers to discover the rise of the Chiang Shi Vampire.
An entire battalion was placed in charge, four sentries mounting guard over it by day, and eight by night.. At the expiration of forty days, the Sadhu was disinterred in the presence of the Maharaja, his court, and the French and English doctors who had been previously present at his interment. The following account, which appeared in "The Word" for May, 1911, is given by an English eye-witness from his own experience and observation at the time of the disinterment.
"On the approach of the appointed time, and according to invitation, I accompanied Runjeet Singh to the spot where the Fakir had been buried. It was in a square building called a barra-durra in the middle of one of the gardens adjoining the palace at Lahore, with an open veranda all around, having an enclosed room in the center. On arriving there, Runjeet Singh, who was attended by the whole of his court, dismounting from his elephant, asked me to join him in examining the building to satisfy himself that it was closed as he had left it. We did so; there had been a door on each of the four sides of the room, three of which were perfectly closed with brick and mortar, the fourth had a strong door, which was also closed up with mud up to the padlock, which was sealed with the private seal of Runjeet Singh in his own presence when the Fakir was interred. Indeed, the exterior of the building presented no aperture by which air could be admitted, nor any communication held, by which food could be conveyed to the Fakir. The walls also closing the doorway bore no mark whatever of having been recently disturbed or removed.
"Runjeet Singh recognized the seal as the one which he had affixed, and as he was as skeptical as any European could be of the success of such an enterprise, to guard as far as possible against any collusion, he had placed two companies from his own personal escort near the building, from which four sentries were furnished and relieved every two hours, night and day, to guard the building from intrusion. At the same time, he ordered one of the principal officers of his court to visit the place occasionally and to report the result of his inspection to him, while he himself or his minister kept the seal which closed the hole of the padlock and the latter received the report, morning and evening, from the officer on guard.
The Faqirs were wandering Dervishes teaching Islam and living on alms.
"Runjeet Singh and myself then descended into the cell, which was so small that we were only able to sit on the ground in front of the body, and so close to it as to touch it with our hands and knees.
"The servant then began pouring warm water over the figure; but as my object was to see if any fraudulent practices could be detected, I proposed to Runjeet Singh to tear open the bag and have a perfect view of the body before any means of resuscitation were employed. I accordingly did so, and may here remark that the bag when first seen by us looked mildewed, as if it had been buried some time. The legs and arms of the body were shriveled and stiff, the face full, the head reclining on the shoulder like that of a corpse. I then called to the medical gentleman who was attending me to come down and inspect the body, which he did, but could discover no pulsation of the heart, the temples or the arm. There was, however, a heat about the region of the brain, which no other part of the body exhibited.
The expression of fakir can also be used pejoratively, to refer to a common street beggar who chants holy names, scriptures or verses.
"The servant then recommended bathing him in hot water, and gradually relaxing his arms and legs from the rigid state in which they were contracted. Runjeet Singh taking his right and I his left leg, to aid by friction in restoring them to proper action; during which time the servant placed a hot wheaten cake, about an inch thick on the top of the head,—a process which he twice or thrice renewed. He then pulled out of his nostrils and ears the wax and cotton with which they were stopped; and after great exertion opened his mouth by inserting the point of a knife between his teeth, and while holding the jaws open with his left hand, drew the tongue forward with his right,—in the course of which the tongue flew back several times to its curved position upward, in which it had originally been, so as to close the gullet.
"He then rubbed his eyelids with ghee (or clarified butter) for some seconds, until he succeeded in opening them, when the eyes appeared quite motionless and glazed. After the hot cakes had been applied for the third time to the top of his head, the body was violently convulsed, the nostrils became inflated, respiration ensued and the limbs began to assume a natural fullness; but the pulsation was still faintly perceptible. The servant then put some of the ghee on his tongue, and made him swallow it. A few minutes afterwards the eyeballs became dilated, and recovering their natural color, when the Fakir, recognizing Runjeet Singh sitting close to him, articulated, in a low sepulchral tone, scarcely audible, ‘Do you believe me now?’ Runjeet Singh replied in the affirmative, and invested the Fakir with a pearl necklace and superb pair of gold bracelets, and pieces of silk and muslin and forming what is termed a Khelat, such as is usually conferred by the Princes of India on persons of distinction.
"From the time of the box being opened to the recovery of the voice, not more than half an hour could have elapsed; and in another half hour, the Fakir talked with myself and those about him freely, though feebly, like a sick person. Then we left him, convinced that there had been no fraud or collusion in the exhibition we had witnessed.
"I share entirely in the apparent incredulity of the fact of a man’s being buried alive and surviving the trial for various periods of duration; but, however incompatible without knowledge of physiology, in the absence of any visible proof to the contrary, I was bound to declare my belief in the facts which I have represented, however impossible their existence may appear to others."
But as Yaphet Kotto said about Yogi’s in an interview after United Artists’ Shark's Treasure, an underwater adventure. "it's because of the Yogi's of India why Alan Bodner was inspired to invent his underwater miracle that can keep a human being breathing underwater for indeterminate hours."body. (read more)