Back From the Dead: 8 Unbelievable Resurrections From History

Woodcut depicting the hanging of Anne Greene.

Anne Greene 1650

Anne Greene was born in 1628 in Oxfordshire. As a young woman of 22, she was employed as a scullery maid in the household of Sir Thomas Reade. While working as a maid she was raped by the teenage grandson of her employer. A pregnancy resulted and varying accounts put her going into labor either four or six months into the pregnancy. Her child was still born. This might have been the end of her tragic story had she been born in another time.

However, the year was 1650 and Anne was subjected to the Infanticide Act of 1624. Under this act, if a mother was unwed and gave birth to a stillborn child, she was required to produce a witness. If the unwed mother could not provide a witness to prove the child was dead at birth, she was presumed guilty. Anne miscarried while working and buried the tiny stillborn baby near a cesspit. Anne tried to move on but the body was discovered and she was put on trial. With no evidence to her innocence, she was found guilty and sentenced to hang.

On December 14, she was hanged. During this period hangings, often when wrong and people were left to suffer slow painful deaths. Sometimes a person would survive a hanging and then be need to be hanged again. So, Anne requested that her friends beat her and pull on her body to try speed up her demise. Finally, the young woman was deemed dead and was cut down. Her body was dispatched to a surgeon and researcher at Oxford for study. The following day the coffin was opened and the woman was found to be breathing.

The surgeon attempted to revive the woman with hot cordials and warm enemas. Within a few days, she fully recovered. During this time Thomas Reade, Anne Greene’s employer and the chief prosecutor had died. This left the surgeon with an opportunity to beseech the courts to spare the woman. He said that an examination proved the infant was too small to survive and even garnered a midwife to bear witness to the death. Therefore, Anne Greene was exonerated and went on to marry have three children before dying in childbirth in 1665. Her story became popularized as an act of God saving an innocent woman. The surgeon used the “resurrection” to bring attention and admiration to Oxford and their Experimentalist Club.