Dead Man Walking: South African Man Wakes Up in Morgue

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What a nightmare.

After a South African man stirred from a 21-hour slumber, he found himself in a morgue fridge, screamed for help and later asked the undertakers who pulled him out, “How did I get here?”

Good question. After the man, whose identity has not been released, suffered an asthma attack, he was presumed dead by family members and a local undertaker in a rural village in the Eastern Cape, the Associated Press reports.

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Clearly, the man’s extended shut-eye was of the living variety, as he awoke a full day later on a corpse trolley. Yet morgue owner Ayanda Maqolo, who had examined the “corpse” by checking for a pulse and searching for a heartbeat, told the AP, “There was nothing.”

The undead man was zipped up in a body bag and locked in a refrigerated compartment for one day before morgue staffers heard him shouting from his icy quarters. The staffers were terrified that the voice was a ghost and fled the building. “I couldn’t believe it!” said Maqolo. “I was also scared.” After they returned and called the police, they entered the fridge to find the man, a grandfather, alive, though shivering and shaken.

“He screamed for help and made an almighty din in the morgue,” said Eastern Cape health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo.

The man was treated for hypothermia and dehydration at a nearby hospital, and doctors later deemed him stable. He is recovering at home from the bizarre and traumatic experience.

Kupelo urged South Africans to not conclude on their own that a relative has passed. “You begin to ask yourself, How many other people have died like that in a morgue?” Kupelo told the BBC.

The man’s age is unknown, though some reports cite that he is in his 50s or 60s.

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Kai Ma is a contributor at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @Kai_Ma or on Google+. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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