"The Death of Alexander Jordan" is set in the mid-Twentieth century, but it is rooted in the fear of premature burial that was prevalent in Europe and America in the Victorian era. When this story first aired on the radio in 1944 on Creeps by Night, there would have been many listeners old enough to have heard the macabre Victorian tales of premature burial referred to in this story.
This episode begins with a man named Ramsey and his wife Martha. They work on the farm of his uncle, Alexander Jordon. Ramsey is a brute and Martha is long suffering. Uncle Alexander, at age 82, is now on his deathbed and he admits that he is haunted by the stories he heard in his childhood about people being buried alive. He asks that his coffin be equipped inside with an electric buzzer. Should he awake, the buzzer will ring a bell back at the farmhouse.
Shortly afterwards, Uncle Alex does die and before the first night is over, the bell does go off. Ramsey goes down to the family crypt to see if Uncle Alex has returned from the dead. Not because he loves his uncle, but because he is determined to sell the farm and move back to the city as soon as possible.
The electric buzzer in the coffin is a modern twist on the "safety coffin" of the 19th century. These special caskets were equipped with gadgets that worked as alarms in case of premature burial. One of the more notable safety coffins from the Victorian era was the Bateson Belfry Coffin. This casket was outfitted with a bell on its top, above the head of the deceased. A cord placed in the hand of the deceased connected to the bell. Caskets with similar safety features are still manufactured.
Although the announcer states that the radioplay for "The Death of Alexander Jordan" was written by Hector Chevigny for Suspense, it first appeared on the short-lived 1944 radio show Creeps by Night under the title "The Strange Death of Alexander Jordan." This episode starred Connie Lempke, William Mason, Paul McGrath and Edgar Stelhi. It aired on September 2, 1962.
Here is another show from the 1940's about a safety coffin from the series Murder at Midnight. This story, "The Line is Dead," is about a man who has already been buried alive once, so he puts a telephone in his coffin in case it happens again.