Life is a highway, and death can be too if you are buried in a Cruisin Casket.
The Los Angeles based coffin company has developed a car-shaped coffin complete with side view mirrors, headlights, bumpers and whitewall tires with chrome rims. Unlatch the top, just as a regular coffin is opened, and there is space for a body. Presently, the company is only manufacturing 1950s style Mercury’s but they can customize other styles. Before you fill the coffin with a body, the company suggests, you can store other things in it, like beer. The cruising casket website features a man in dark shades and a shirt with flames kneeling beside a metallic blue Cruisin Casket that is filled with Heineken mini kegs. “One cool thing about this casket is when you preneed it, the family can take it home and use it for other things until it is needed at the time of death,” reads a funeral directors’ website that reviewed the product. “For example, the casket could be used as a huge cooler if the family also purchased the replaceable liner kit.”
In the United States the cruising casket may seem like a novelty but people in some parts of the world have been making personalized caskets for decades. In Ghana, the Ga people spend half a year’s salary on funerals. Rites include a procession of gyrating mourners and handcrafted caskets called fantasy coffins that can take the shape of anything from a passenger jet to a uterus. The coffins are crafted in open-air shops in Teshie-Nungua, a suburb of the capitol city of Accra but these local craftsmen are now placing orders around the world. Recent purchases include a Nokia phone and a Ferrari, both ordered by an art gallery in Moscow, a Teddy Bear, ordered by a Dutch web company, the Empire State Building, requested by a New York journalist and a Subaru Impreza, ordered by Top Gear, a British auto show. Other funeral shapes that have drawn attention include a carrot, a pineapple, okra, a pile of cloth, a machine gun barrel, a handsaw, a carpenter’s vice, a gas truck, a beer bottle and a cigarette.
U.S. coffins have not gotten this creative yet, although the Wisconsin based Signature Series, Inc. has started to decorate coffins with personalized paintjobs, anything from family portraits to photos of the deceased winning the Little League championships to a bald eagle or coat of arms. The Singapore based company Happy Coffins more follows the motto set by the fantasy coffin; people are different so why not craft a coffin to reflect these differences. The company paired local artists with hospice residents. The artists spent time with the residents’ and learned their stories then painted over coffins in a way that reflected the residents’ personalities and life stories. Shy and reserved Magdalene Koo, who was born with polio and lost her father at age six but later found happiness working as a missionary at the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in Southern France, will be buried in a coffin covered with pink roses. Kitty Fogh, a former teacher of gym, drama and dance will be buried in a coffin with whimsical balls and music notes floating through the sky. Elsie Chua, a former seamstress at the Singa Sewing Machine Company will be buried in a coffin that depicts a woman at work on a sewing machine and the celebrated photographer Gilles Massot will be buried in a coffin with a comely painting of a lone canoe at sunset juxtaposed next to one of swirling galaxies.
The makers of Happy Coffins have other batty death ideas they are trying to promote, experiences they term death-ventures. A page on their website called “Say It” allows you to draft sentimental or snarky messages to paste on your coffin for friends and family to see after you depart and a “Last Playlist” page allows you to create the perfect soundtrack for your funeral.
Ironically, British pop superstar Robbe Williams recently announced he has written his own funeral song, a classical piece of music called Mass for the Dead. When asked why, Williams explained: “People often assume I am only marginally involved in the making of my music, which makes me very sad.”