Joanna Karpowicz

Painter, illustrator and comic artist

The Desperate Case of Bateson George

Comic opening page. All pages designed by Cris Loghin

Comic opening page. All pages designed by Cris Loghin

“The Desperate Case of Bateson George” is a short story written by polish scriptwriter Mateusz Wiśniewski . This 6 page comic was made for The Silence 2013 – international silent comic competition (Ligatura comic festival). The idea behind the contest is to promote the comic book art form in which the only mode of narration is through images.

Here is how Mateusz introduces the plot of this wordless comic: “Taphephobia is the term for an irrational, paralyzing fear of being buried alive. But is anxiety of premature burial really just nonsensical? Aren’t we terrified by a vision of losing a free space or losing breath in everyday life? Such approach could change the way you think about the meaning of being placed in a grave while you are still alive”.

To add more about the subject I’ll quote a very interesting post from

“The fear of being buried alive even became a sales pitch for embalmers after the Civil War, when the process became common. If a person was not really dead, the strong chemicals used in embalming were sure to kill him. (Cremation works, too.) Victorian Americans in 1896 formed the Society for the Prevention of People Being Buried Alive to advocate for giving suspected dead bodies a chance to resurrect.  One publication at the time recommended burial only after the sight and smell of putrefaction were evident. But perhaps the most interesting manifestations of taphophobia are “safety coffins” or “escape coffins.” The simplest such coffin was “Bateson’s Belfry,” named after its Victorian-era creator George Bateson of England. It consisted of a bell on top of the ground above a buried casket with a rope that was attached to the deceased’s hand.  Dossey notes that Bateson was so afraid of being buried alive that “in 1886, driven mad by his dread, he committed suicide by dousing himself with linseed oil and setting himself on fire.”





Last minute update: I just found out our comic won 3rd place in Silence 2013! We are also the only polish team in the finals 🙂 Happy time!


8 comments on “The Desperate Case of Bateson George

  1. tootonesbored
    April 21, 2013

    …this is beautiful…wish my head worked like this!…

    • joannakarpowicz
      April 21, 2013

      I had a pretty high fever while doing this comic, so probably that added to the general mood of final effect 😉

      • tootonesbored
        April 22, 2013

        …ahhh….know where your coming from…illustrated a fever dream once… Me, riding at the the head of Ghengis’ hoards… dream way better than the finished article!!…

  2. aliciakhoo
    April 21, 2013

    This is great stuff!!

    • joannakarpowicz
      April 21, 2013

      Happy you like it! 🙂

  3. Richard Guest
    April 21, 2013

    Absolutely brilliant!

    • joannakarpowicz
      April 21, 2013

      Thanks man! 🙂

  4. Pingback: MYTH #130: People in the “olden days” were routinely buried with a string tied to their finger that ran aboveground to a bell . . . | History Myths Debunked

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This entry was posted on April 20, 2013 by in acrylic, art, comic and tagged , , .
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