Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Thinking outside the box with crazy coffins

A Skateboard Coffin A Wicket Coffin

An Egg Coffin A Kite Coffin

LONDON - Fancy rolling up the aisle in a Rolls-Royce? Maybe it's time to skip off in a pink ballet shoe?

In the weird and wonderful world of crazy coffins, getting buried has never been so much fun in Britain.

For coffin-makers Vic Fearn & Company Limited are now doing a roaring trade in customized caskets for people who want to go out in style.

The coffins, ranging from a giant electric guitar to a sports bag, have proved so popular that they even go out on tour to "Crazy Coffin" exhibitions around European art galleries.

The coffin-makers first took the zany path to death when a woman fan of the Red Arrows, the Royal Air Force's aerial acrobatics team, asked to be buried in a model fighter.

"So we constructed this plane with folding wings like they have on aircraft carriers. The cockpit of a plane is more or less coffin-shaped so that made life easier," said David Crampton, director of the 160-year-old company based in the central England town of Nottingham.

Next came a man who couldn't afford to buy a canal long boat so wanted to be buried in a model one. "That caused friction with his wife so we had to build one for her as well," he told Reuters Life! in an interview.

The business has snowballed from there -- and the coffin-makers are thrilled to ring the changes after grinding out 20,000 conventional coffins a year.

"Making an unusual crazy coffin is great for the staff. It gives them a chance to test their skills and joinery expertise. It can create some fun in the shop," he said.

Currently being crafted is a scaled-down model of a 1913 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost. It even has wheels so they pall-bearers can push it along.

A hospice nurse is off to meet her maker in a huge pink ballet shoe that will be lowered by satin ropes into her last resting place.

A town crier famed for yelling "Oyez Oyez" to his fellow citizens is to be buried in a bell-shaped coffin. "He wants to go out with a bong," Crampton said.

Reflecting on how quirky British humor has helped change his business, Crampton said: "We are less lugubrious nowadays. It is a changing profession and I like to believe we are fashion-driven."

He said the most popular song played at funerals nowadays is Meat Loaf's "Bat Out Of Hell" followed by Frank Sinatra's "My Way."

So how will the 63-year-old Crampton bow out?

"I adore playing bowls so I would love a coffin shaped like a jack (the white ball at the center of the game). Then my friends really could roll me up the aisle."

Vic Fearn & Company Website -

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