“Every person on this planet has a skeleton in their closet, every person, so it’s just a matter of letting it out,” says Bill Edgar
Private eye Bill Edgar insists he was definitely joking when he suggested he could “crash” a client’s funeral to ensure his last wishes are shared with his family.
“Lo and behold, a few weeks later I got a text message from him and he said, ‘Look, I’m going to take your offer, Bill, and you’re going to crash my funeral for me.'”
The conversation led to a moment in February 2018 when Mr Edgar, a 53-year-old from Australia’s Gold Coast, nervously stood up at the funeral of his friend Graham with a mission.
“What I had to do was expose his best pal for trying to sleep with his wife while Graham was on his deathbed,” Mr Edgar said, adding that he had already used his detective skills to investigate Obtaining evidence that the alleged boyfriend was actually trying to get on with his wife.
Mr Edgar said this evidence strengthened his decision to stand up for his dying friend. He slipped into the funeral alongside other mourners, opened a letter and began to read:
“The letter begins by saying, ‘Brian, you’re not a very good friend of mine at all, you cheated on me, you tried to have sex with my wife while I’m on my deathbed, you’ve left now my funeral,’” Mr Edgar said, adding that this friend “snuck out very quickly”.
“The letter continued, ‘If my brother, sister-in-law and their daughter attend my funeral, they can fuck off too, because I haven’t seen them in 30 years. So why are you paying your respects here when you could have seen me when I was alive? And then he just carried on with the love he had for his wife and daughter and the people that were there.”
While Mr Edgar admits the situation was very challenging as people wondered what he was doing to interrupt the service, they soon began to tune into what he was saying. Demand grew quickly, allowing him to turn it into a business where he describes himself as a “coffin confessor”.
“Now I go in and say, ‘Excuse me, my name is Bill Edgar, I’m the coffin confessor. Sit down, be quiet or fuck off, the person in the coffin has something to say. This is your love if you want to listen to it, great. If you don’t and you don’t want to respect them, fuck off and the whole crowd will want to hear what their loved one has left unsaid.
Its service has now expanded to include “searches” of private homes to remove objectionable items before loved ones can reach them, which can happen when people are involved in accidents or are unable to return home from palliative care.
He previously removed a “sex dungeon” for an 88-year-old man, as well as items such as guns, cash, drug paraphernalia or lingerie.
He will also attend readings, wakes and funerals in his customs service, for which he charges between US$2,000 (£1,115) and US$10,000 (£5,755).
“‘I always say they don’t need the money where they’re going and I never get a complaint,'” he said.
One of the most common requests is for people to make sure their cell phone is buried with them, which makes up a “ridiculous” portion of his requests. This is to both ensure people can call for help when they “wake up” and prevent someone else going through this.
Many of his requests revolve around fears of being buried or cremated while alive, and Mr Edgar said his most confrontational request was to stab a body in such a way as to ensure the person is really gone.
Other requests include being buried with loved ones like a motorcycle, or ensuring people lie face down or vertically rather than on their backs. A London man asked if Mr Edgar would attend a private viewing of his body before his family strips him naked, lays him face down and writes the words “KISS THIS” on his bum.
“I’ve seen the good, the bad, the funny, the sad, I’ve seen everything,” he said, adding that the “most terrifying thing” is the “vultures in the family” that descend when a person is dying or dead.
“I didn’t realize there were vultures in every family. And I have to say, where there’s a will, there’s a relative. The vultures just come out as soon as someone dies, before they’re even dead, I saw a brother and sister fight over their mother’s car and that was while she was on her deathbed.”
While the Covid-19 pandemic led to restrictions on funerals, Mr Edgar said he had recently received requests to act as a suicide note – a request that initially worried him.
At first he thought he wouldn’t, but after thinking it over, he decided his ministry was “to lend my voice to those who go.”
“Death is all around me and I’m guessing there’s seven billion people on the planet and you know what? None of us will escape. We will all die. Every person on this planet has a skeleton in their closet, every person, so it’s just a matter of whether you want to let it out or not, and I guess they turn to me to help them let it out.”
His story has been told in a book and he has signed with Paramount to make a film starring a “young A-lister” whose identity he would not reveal other than to say it’s not Ryan Reynolds, as he has suggested. He said the film is due out late next year and he’s hoping to pull off a cameo.
Regarding feedback on his performance, Mr. Edgar said his interventions tend to be more of a “drop mic” situation, so he doesn’t often see the aftermath. However, he was inundated with over 100 emails a day, including inquiries from New Zealand, Poland, the UK, the US, Japan and China.
Ultimately, he is happy that death is less taboo, because “that’s where we all go”.
“Anyone on the planet can be a coffin confessor. If you’re at a funeral of a loved one, friend, family member, husband or wife, whoever it is, if you’re sitting there listening to absolute bullshit, stand up and interrupt and say, ‘hey, hey, hey, he wasn’t like that or she wasn’t like that, I’ll tell you the real story.”