Improbable Resurrections: 5 Real Cases
Stained glass depicts Jesus at St. John the Baptist's Anglican Church, Ashfield, New South Wales.
AP/WIDE WORLD PHOTOS
Long History The Shroud of Turin is is believed to be the burial cloth of Jesus, revealing the face of Christ as it was impressed in a strip of linen. The first documented reference of the shroud dates to 1357, when the linen was displayed in a church in Lirey, France. Believers contend that the shroud is the "cloth with an image on it," reported by the early Christian historian Eusebius to have been given to the Christian King Abgar V of Edessa in 30 A.D. According to this account, the cloth, known as the Mandylion of Edessa, was taken to Constantinople in 944. It disappeared in 1204 during the Fourth Crusade.
AP Photo/Mauro Pilone
First Showing This image, incised on copper, dating back to 1578, represents a public showing of the Holy Shroud in Turin in 1578. First recorded as being in the possession of Geoffrey de Charny, a French soldier who died at the battle of Poitiers in 1356, the shroud changed hands until it was acquired in 1453 by the royal Italian House of Savoy. It was then relocated to Chambery, France, where it was damaged by a fire in 1532. In 1578 it was moved to Turin in northern Italy, where it was frequently paraded through the streets.
First Photo In 1898, a lawyer named Secondo Pia took the first known photograph of the shroud, shown here.
Rossella Lorenzi/Giulio Fanti
The Face Secondo Pia's negative of the first image of the Shroud of Turin reveals what many see as the outline of the face and body of a crucified man. Scientific interest in the 14-foot-long linen cloth followed.
First Television Appearance In 1973, the shroud was shown for the first time on television, with an introduction by Pope Paul VI. Also in 1973, the shroud was secretly examined by a commission of experts, who took cloth and surface dust samples. The results of the investigation, published three years later, pointed to the presence of pollen from plants unique to Israel and Turkey. This suggested the linen had been exposed to the air in these countries.
(c)1978 Barrie M. Schwortz
First Examinations In 1978, the shroud underwent a five-day examination. The linen was submitted to photographic floodlighting, low-power X-rays and narrow-band ultraviolet light. Dozens of pieces of sticky tape were pressed onto its surface and removed. A side edge was unstitched and an apparatus inserted between the shroud and its backing cloth to examine the underside. The bottom edge was also unstitched and examined.
(c)1978 Barrie M. Schwortz
More Scrutiny Barrie Schwortz, the photographer for the 1978 investigations, told Discovery News, "We used X-rays, ultra-violet and spectral imaging and photographed every inch of it in the most minute detail, but we still couldn't come up with the answer to the single question we had come to ask: 'How was the image formed?'"
"The Shroud of Turin is Medieval" In 1988, a sample of the shroud was removed for radiocarbon testing. Three laboratories carried out the tests. In 1989, the results, published in the journal Nature, held that the radiocarbon tests show "the linen of the Shroud of Turin is medieval." One of the researchers, Edward Hall, told journalists, "Someone just got a bit of linen, faked it up and flogged it."
The Fire In 1997, a fire broke out in Turin's Guarini Chapel, which housed the shroud. Fireman Mario Trematore used a sledgehammer to break open the shroud’s case, and it was taken temporarily to Cardinal Saldarini's residence. The linen was completely unaffected by the fire.
Victor Boswell/National Geographic/Getty Imag
The Shroud, Enhanced A computer-enhanced image of the face on the Shroud. In 2002, textile experts, headed by Mechtild Fleury-Lemberg of Switzerland, performed a dramatic and radical restoration of the shroud with the full permission of the Vatican. They removed 30 patches sewn into the cloth by nuns in 1534 to repair burn holes. They removed the backing cloth that was sewn onto the back of the shroud in 1534 and photographed the hidden back side of the cloth.
Rossella Lorenzi/Giulio Fanti
New Face? Photos of the back side of the shroud allowed new investigations. Indeed, in 2004, Giulio Fanti and Roberto Maggiolo of the University of Padua in Italy, reported finding a faint second face on the backside of the linen. They published their findings in the Journal of Optics A: Pure and Applied Optics.
Thread Thread extracted from the shroud by G. Riggi di Numana. The thread was taken from an area near where the 1988 radiocarbon test was performed. In 2005, researchers M. Sue Benford and Joseph Marino suggested that the shroud had been expertly rewoven in the precise location from which the carbon-14 sample was taken. In a peer-reviewed paper, chemist Raymond Rogers supported the finding, saying, "As unlikely as it seems, the sample used to test the age of the Shroud of Turin in 1988 was taken from a rewoven area of the shroud...The radiocarbon date was thus not valid for determining the true age of the shroud."
Reconstructing the Body A computer reconstruction of the body's outline is shown at left. To the right is a 3-D reconstruction. Various computer simulations have tried to reconstruct the body impressed on the shroud, but nobody has been able to explain how the image was formed.
Now in High-Tech In 2008 the shroud was photographed and filmed for the first time in high definition, producing a huge 12.8 billion-pixel image. Technicians from HAL9000, a company specializing in art photography, stitched together 1,600 shots, each the size of a credit card, to create a huge photo which is almost 1,300 times stronger than a picture taken with a 10 million pixel camera. "It is like looking at the shroud through a microscope," Mauro Gavinelli, technical supervisor at HALL9000, told Discovery News. "You can see the threads, the fibers that make these threads, the damage that the shroud has suffered over the years."
AP Photo/Luca Bruno
The Church and the Shroud Pope John Paul II prays before the Shroud of Turin, in Turin's cathedral Sunday, May 24, 1998. The shroud has been on display only five times in the past century. It is one of the most venerated objects in the Roman Catholic Church. When it last went on display in 2000, more than three million people saw it. Many more are expected to see it when it next goes on show in 2025. The Catholic Church has remained agnostic on the authenticity of the shroud, and has made no official pronouncements. When John Paul II visited the relic in 1998, he says, "As it is not a matter of faith, the Church has no specific competence to pronounce itself on these questions. It entrusts the task of research to scientists, to arrive at appropriate answers for questions related to this cloth."
On Easter Sunday, Christians around the world will celebrate Jesus Christ's resurrection, in which he is said to have risen from the dead three days after his crucifixion, according to the New Testament.
Biblical miracles aside, the secular world is replete with stories of recoveries from near-certain death. Over the years, people have survived everything from brain-eating amoebas to comas, and lived to tell the tale.
Here, we bring you true accounts of some of the most improbable resurrections in medical history. [The 10 Most Controversial Miracles]
Hollywood movies make it seem like comas are nothing more than a light sleep, but the reality is, a person doesn't always awaken from a coma, which is defined as a state of deep unconsciousness that persists for an indefinite period of time. But in rare cases, people have been known to rouse from coma states even after many years.
A woman named Patricia White Bull entered a type of coma called a persistent vegetative state — in which the patient is awake but not responsive — while giving birth to her son, the LA Times reported. White Bull lay in a near-coma for 16 years, when one day in 1999, as a nurse was rearranging her blankets, she reportedly sat up and said, "Don't do that!" Other coma cases of severely brain-damaged patients have been reported, but in most of these, patients either wake up within a few days or weeks, or remain in a coma state for the rest of their lives.
Shot in head
Few injuries can be as instantly fatal as being shot in the head. But on occasion, people have been known to survive the brutal trauma of a bullet to the brain.
In January 2011, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona was shot in the head in an apparent assassination attempt, during a shooting that left six other people dead. Giffords was in critical condition. Doctors removed part of her skull during surgery to prevent damage from brain swelling, and placed her in a medically induced coma, according to CNN.
The bullet passed through Giffords' skull front-to-back, causing less damage than a shot passing from one hemisphere to the other would have done. Giffords recovered, but she still has difficulty speaking and walking and her right arm is paralyzed.
Everyone's familiar with the image of a rabid dog, mouth frothing and ready to deliver a fatal bite. The rabies virus attacks the central nervous system, causing brain disease and death within days of the onset of symptoms.
Usually transmitted to humans by bites from wild animals such as raccoons, skunks, bats and foxes, the rabies disease is preventable if treated by vaccination before symptoms begin. But after symptoms occur, survival is rare — there have been fewer than 10 documented cases of human survival from rabies, and only two of these patients had not received preventative drugs, according to the CDC.
Stained glass depicts Jesus at St. John the Baptist's Anglican Church, Ashfield, New South Wales. Toby Hudson
Jeanna Giese is the first person known to have survived rabies without receiving a vaccine, Scientific American reported. When she was 15, Giese was infected by a bite from a rabid bat in Fond du Lac, Wisc. Doctors put Giese in an induced coma to allow her immune system enough time to develop antibodies to the virus, and gave her antiviral drugs. Giese survived and recovered most of her cognitive abilities within a few months. Others have since been treated successfully using the same protocol.
The 1990 film "Awakenings," starring Robert De Niro and Robin Williams, is the true story of how a doctor revived a group of catatonic patients who survived an encephalitis epidemic in the 1920s.
The film is based on the 1973 memoir by neurologist and author Oliver Sacks, who treated patients who survived a form of encephalitis called encephalitis lethargica. The disease can trigger delayed physical and mental responses and lethargy, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Sacks administered the then-experimental drug L-Dopa, which increases levels of the brain chemical dopamine and is used to treat Parkinson's disease. The treatment "awakened" many of Sacks' patients from their catatonia, hence the name of the film.
One of the more miraculous medical recoveries in recent years have been from infections with the "brain-eating" amoeba Naegleria fowleri. The parasite, which lives in warm bodies of freshwater, enters through the nose and eats its way along the nerves to the brain, where it munches away at brain cells. The infection is almost always fatal, but a few people have survived. [Infographic: Brain-Eating Amoeba’s Life Cycle]
In August 2013, 12-year-old Kali Hardig of Arkansas became the third person to survive an infection of the brain-eating amoeba. Hardig contracted the parasite at a water park. Doctors gave her a cocktail of antifungal medications that were used to treat two other people successfully in 1978 and 2003, as well as an experimental drug developed for breast cancer. They also cooled down her body to prevent brain damage, a procedure sometimes used to treat traumatic brain injury. Hardig recovered, and is currently attending school.
As far as crucifixion is concerned, it may be possible to survive for a short period of time (indeed, some people take part in non-lethal crucifixion as a devotional practice.) But that's another story.
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This story originally appeared on LiveScience.com.
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