Do you remember planking? If you”re like most people, you”ve probably tried to put the bizarre Internet fad out of your mind. Luckily, we”re here to dredge it up again, ViralNova style.
Planking was the act where people (usually inebriated college students) would lie stiffly across an object, making a “plank” with their bodies. Photos of planking were posted to Facebook and Twitter, and hilarity ensued–or at least, what passes for hilarity on social media. Yet planking actually has a much deeper and creepier history than anyone could have imagined.
The medical condition known as catalepsy (similar to narcolepsy) occurs when a person enters a catatonic state and their body becomes extremely rigid. The similarity between someone having a cataleptic episode and a dead body led to all kinds of complications, namely one where people would often be buried alive. Naturally, people were terrified at the prospect of waking up in a coffin, so measures were developed to prevent this from happening.
If you”re thinking it was some kind of medical training and research, think again. This is the Victorian age we”re talking about. Why would anything make sense or not be creepy?
The solution was to create “hospitals for the dead,” where people in a catatonic state could be kept under observation for a few days to see if they woke up–or started to smell. The “waiting mortuaries,” as they were known, were kept stocked with food and drink for the living.
In the meantime, people working at the hospitals liked to pose their catatonic patients in a variety of odd positions, like across the backs of two chairs, for what we can only assume are totally legitimate research purposes.
Other measures included basically abusing the patients to see if a little pain would snap them out of their state. Finally, as a last resort, doctors developed coffins with bells that could be rung by the person inside, in case they were actually just experiencing a long cataleptic state. It”s unclear whether or not these measures actually saved anyone, but they probably made people feel better.
(via All That Is Interesting)
Today, we can easily determine who is or is not alive thanks to our better understanding of the human body and advancements in medical technology. We also now know that catalepsy is actually not that uncommon, and happens most in people with schizophrenia or going through drug withdrawal. We now have medications and relaxation exercises that help diminish the symptoms and reduce seizures. So be thankful that you probably won”t wake up balanced between two chairsunless you”re in college, but that”s another issue.