During the 16th century LEAD CUPS were used to drink ale or whiskey. Sometimes the lead would leak into the drink. The combination would sometimes knock out the person for a couple of days. If these people fell along the road, for example, they might be taken for dead. they would be preparied for burial.

People wanted to be sure that the person was not actually dead ( medical practices were primitive in those days, and perhaps most people had no notion of heartbeats--or were unskilled in taking a pulse.In any case, the pulse was weak in that unconscious state). The so -called deceased person would be laid out on a table for a couple of days. The family would gather around, eat and drink, to see whether the person would WAKE up. This practice came to be known as a "WAKE."

England at that time was mostly rural. Local folks started running out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a "bone-house," then reuse the grave. They noticed that some of the coffins had scratch marks inside indicating, most horribly, that some of these people were buried alive. The practice then was instituted of attaching bells to the person's wrist. This took place if the person did not wake up during THE WAKE. Someone was assigned to sit by the graveside to listen for a bell. If the presumably dead person were actually still alive, the bell would ring. The person would be dug up--This person was "saved by the bell." The person who was saved was a sort of "dead ringer."--He or she really did resemble a dead person.