Bill Edgar has, in his own words, “no respect for the living”. Instead, his loyalty is to the newly departed clients who hire Mr Edgar — known as “the coffin confessor” — to carry out their wishes from beyond the grave.
A special ABC report says Mr Edgar runs a business in which, for $10,000, he is engaged by people “knocking on death’s door” to go to their funerals or gravesides and reveal the secrets they want their loved ones to know.
Mr Edgar, a Gold Coast private investigator, said the idea for his graveside hustle came when he was working for a terminally ill man.
“We got on to the topic of dying and death and he said he’d like to do something,” Mr Edgar said.
“I said, ‘Well, I could always crash your funeral for you’,” and a few weeks later the man called and took Mr Edgar up on his offer and a business was born.
In almost two years he has “crashed” 22 funerals and graveside events, spilling the tightly-held secrets of his clients who pay a flat fee of $10,000 for his service.
Dressed in tailored pants and vest, Mr Edgar said he was very respectful in the way he carried out his job.
“I actually blend in with the mourners,” he said. “I sit with the family and friends. I sit in the middle with everybody.”
In the case of his very first client Mr Edgar said he was instructed to interrupt the man’s best friend when he was delivering the eulogy.
“I was to tell the best mate to sit down and shut up,” he said.
“He knew that he’d [the best mate] been trying to have an affair with his wife.
“I also had to ask three mourners to stand up and to please leave the service and if they didn’t I was to escort them out.
“My client didn’t want them at his funeral and, like he said, it is his funeral and he wants to leave how he wanted to leave, not on somebody else’s terms.”
Despite the confronting nature of his job, Mr Edgar said “once you get the crowd on your side, you’re pretty right” because mourners were keen to know what was left unsaid.
He said some clients never had the opportunity to reveal their secrets while they were alive.
“When people are knocking on death’s door, some of them are alone for six-to-12 months before they die and they never see anybody,” he said.
“The worst thing of all is the ones they thought loved them the most become the biggest vultures in their life.”
He said his most confronting job was telling mourners at a bikie’s funeral that his client was gay and his lover was in the audience.
“They took offence to it but there was a number there that already knew,” Mr Edgar said.
Mr Edgar said his arrogance was what made his job possible.
“I have been to a church service since where I actually had to ask the priest to sit down and be quiet because my client didn’t want a religious service,” he said.
“He was quite offended but at the same time he understood.”
Mr Edgar protects himself legally by recording his client’s confession and also provides them with a disclosure statement.
“Especially if I’m asked to go into a premises that the person used to own and get rid of some items that they don’t want their kids to find,” he said.
“So it could be sexual items, it could be pornography, it could be money, drugs, guns … the instructions are to basically destroy everything.”
Mr Edgar said, while some were “dismayed and disappointed” by his graveside revelations, many were often well-received.
“Most people are happy because they’ve heard from the actual person that they love,” he said.
The unusual nature of Mr Edgar’s job has caught the eye of the entertainment industry and he has signed a deal for it to be made into a movie or drama series.
He said his role could be played by either a man or a woman but “somebody with the voice of Russell Crowe would be perfect”.
Psychologist Shona Innes said enlisting the help of a person like Mr Edgar was the ultimate avoidance.
“It’s certainly not healthy,” she said.
“I think it’s better to resolve these things while you are alive.”
Ms Innes said paying a stranger to “drop a bombshell ” from the grave then leave a grieving family to deal with it could be very dangerous.
“Grief is complex enough but something like this can complicate the grieving process for family and friends, she said.
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