No matter how remote the possibility, the thought of being buried alive is ghastly. It’s not so much the fear of death as it is the fear of waking up trapped in a grave. Once that fear takes hold of one’s consciousness, it can become an obsession. Taphephobia, as it is called, is not so rampant in the era of modern medical care, but for some folks in the past, it was terrifying. Hans Christian Andersen suffered from taphephobia, which only became worse when he fell ill.
According to his biographer Jackie Wullschlager, Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen was deathly afraid of being buried alive. He spent his final days at the home of his friends Dorothea and Moritz Melchior in Copenhagen, and as the end neared, begged Dorothea to cut his veins after he’d breathed what appeared to be his last breath. Dorothea “joked that he could do as he had often done, and leave a note saying ‘I only appear to be dead' beside him.”
The note was a fixture of Andersen’s bedside table—some say he even wore it around his neck. Andersen was more than a little neurotic, and being buried alive was far from his only fear. According to Wullschlager, he also traveled with a rope in his luggage because he was afraid of fire, was terrified of dogs, and refused to eat pork out of fear of trichinosis.
Andersen wasn't the only one concerned about premature burial. Read about others who expressed such fear in the article 10 Famous People Who Were Afraid They'd Be Buried Alive at mental_floss.