Swedish surround-sound coffin set to entertain the dead

Putting the life back into death.

New Statesman
A comfortable afterlife: Archie Miller drinking a cup of tea in the solid oak coffin he bought to ensure he would leave this world in real style, June 1958. (Getty Images)

A Swedish designer has created a surround-sound coffin linked to a music playlist that can be updated by the living.

Music and video equipment stores owner Fredrik Hjelmquist said his hi-tech coffin would entertain the dead and provide solace for grieving friends and relatives.

The £20,000 Catacombos feature a custom built amplifier, 4G connection, an LCD to display the current song, plus a cooling system.

When asked whether a belief in life after death would encourage someone to buy his coffin, Hjelmquist told Reuters television:

We don’t know, right? But then people believe in different ways in different parts of the world. In Sweden perhaps we don’t believe in it but in many parts of the world people believe in a different way.

The Catacombo is new development in a long chain of elaborate burial practices. Neanderthal sites from 130,000 years ago were sprinkled with red ochre and offerings of food, tools and fresh flowers. The Egyptians buried their pharaohs with gold and cats. Mingqui - “spirit utensils” depicting dancers, beasts and every day objects - accompanied the deceased in early China. Vikings were buried with weapons, tools and a meal for the trip to Valhalla.

A retainer sacrifice, where the dead are buried with loved ones and slaves (ometimes by force, sometimes voluntarily), were common across many early traditions.

Fast forward a millennium, and many of us are still trying to go out in style.

Frank Sinatra was buried with a flask of Jack Daniels whiskey, Princess Diana with a set of rosary beads given to her by Mother Teresa and Dracula actor Bela Lugosi with his cape. In 1977 Californian socialite Sandra Ilene West was buried in her powder-blue Ferrari.

“I love livin’ but this makes the alternative look pretty damn good” Gene Simmons quipped when the controversial “KISS Kasket”, emblazoned with the KISS logo and pictures of the band members, was released in 2001.

Last January, the Southbank Centre, London, hosted a “Death: A Festival for the Living”. It included an exhibition of coffins both from the Ghanaian Paa Joe workshop, where death is openly celebrated, and from Nottingham company Crazy Coffins that scraps the image of the sombre British bereaved. Their designs included a ballet shoe, an electric guitar a Viking ship, an egg and a lion.

“I don’t think it’s macabre,” said Crazy Coffins director, David Crampton. “Most of the time it’s people saying ‘This is me, this is my life and I want to celebrate it.’”

Hjelmquist has of yet not sold any coffins, but there have been many inquiries from the United States, Canada and Taiwan.

He added: “Ozzy Osbourne should buy one I think, or Keith Richards. Somebody ought to do it because it is really rock n’ roll... but at the same time it’s beautiful.”

Back to our Swedish designer: he plans to be buried in one of his coffins and be serenaded in the afterlife by opera.