If You Want a Simple Pine Box, This Coffin Maker Isn't for You

Ross Hall of New Zealand has an array of whimsical designs catered to individuals
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 20, 2021 9:03 AM CDT
If You Want to Go in Style, This Coffin Maker Is for You
This photo provided by Ross Hall shows a casket in the colors of the New Zealand Warriors rugby league team.   (Ross Hall via AP)

When the pallbearers brought Phil McLean's coffin into the chapel, there were gasps before a wave of laughter rippled through the hundreds of mourners, per the AP. The coffin was a giant cream donut. “It overshadowed the sadness and the hard times in the last few weeks,” said his widow, Debra. “The final memory in everyone's mind was of that donut, and Phil's sense of humor.” The donut was the latest creation by Phil's cousin, Ross Hall, who runs a business in Auckland, New Zealand, called Dying Art, which custom builds colorful coffins. Other creations by Hall include a sailboat, a firetruck, a chocolate bar, and Lego blocks. There have been glittering coffins covered in fake jewels, a casket inspired by the movie The Matrix, and plenty of coffins depicting people's favorite beaches and holiday spots.

“There are people who are happy with a brown mahogany box and that's great,” said Hall. “But if they want to shout it out, I'm here to do it for them.” The idea first came to Hall 15 years ago when he was writing a will and contemplating his own death. “How do I want to go out?” he thought. "So I put in my will that I want a red box with flames on it.” Six months later, Hall, whose other business is a signage and graphics company, decided to get serious. He approached a few funeral directors and, over time, the idea took hold. Hall begins with special-made blank coffins and uses fiberboard and plywood to add details. A latex digital printer is used for the designs. Some orders are particularly complex, like the sailboat, which included a keel and rudder, cabin, sails, even metal railings, and pulleys. Depending on the design, the coffins retail for between about $2,100 and $5,400.

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