If you want to go laughing into that good night, Ross Hall has coffin for you.
He founded Dying Art, a New Zealand company that creates custom caskets designed to bring light into the darkest of days, in 2003. Sitting down to write his will, he pondered the merits of being cremated or buried in a coffin.
“There was no way I was going to go away in a brown box with chrome handles,” Hall told Inside Edition Digital. “I decided that I would have a red casket with bright yellow flames on it,” he said. “Because I think I know where I am heading.”
And that, he said, “was the birth of Dying Art.”
He has built final resting cases in the shape of a Lego block, a fire truck, a yacht and a chocolate bar. His company also makes coffins painted with flowers, sparkling with fake jewels and covered in images of a favorite vacation locale.
“My main goal for creating these caskets is to help families during probably one of the darkest days of their lives,” he said. “The letters and cards I receive back from families after the fact are so heartwarming, and the gratitude is off the scale.”
One of his more challenging concoctions was actually for his cousin, Phil McLean, who died in February at age 68 from stomach cancer.
When McLean’s casket was wheeled down the aisle at his packed funeral, there were twitters, a few gasps and a lot of laughter.
His remains were encased in a giant, cream-filled doughnut.
“The gentleman that requested it hailed himself as New Zealand’s best connoisseur of cream doughnuts,” Hall said.
The caskets also come with special effects. The fire engine, for example, comes with flashing lights and a ladder, and the yacht boasts a keel, rudder, mast, main sail and a jib.
Specialized coffins range in price from about $3,000 to $7,000, and a catalog can be found on Dying Art’s website.
His staff works closely with loved ones, who supply photographs and stories about the deceased, to create a theme embodying honor and humor.
“It’s funny, but at the end of designing a casket, we really feel that we have known that person throughout their whole life,” Hall said.
“Everyone mentions that it takes the sharp edge off a gloomy day,” he said. “To me, I feel like I am giving a little bit back to the world.”