Meet coffin confessor Bill Edgar, paid to share secrets from beyond the grave
There’s an evolutionary reason we keep our secrets so well, and there’s an even more interesting story behind why we so yearn to share them. According to anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar, secrets evolved as a way for early humans to gain a competitive advantage over their peers and increase their own chances of survival. They became part of an early social toolkit that allowed the more intelligent to interpret, predict and perhaps influence the behaviour of others.
The reason humans yearn to share their secrets, even if this means sending them to a stranger on a postcard or whispering them into a cave, harks back to that close-knit group too, and the vital nature of acceptance. The life-and-death implications of being or not being accepted are long gone, but the yearning to be part of the herd, for most humans, remains. Share a secret on the right platform, then, and you’ve found yourself that still-vital thing: a community.
All of which is interesting, but doesn’t really help explain a new and rather startling model for the sharing of secrets. In Australia, Bill Edgar, a former businessman and private investigator is now acting as a “coffin confessor”, paid by people to deliver their secrets once they are safely beyond the grave.
For three years, Edgar has been crashing funerals to reveal what his clients had kept to themselves until the end. A 47-year old biker and former sergeant-at-arms hired him to turn up and let members of his community and his family know that he had been gay. Another man wanted Edgar to let his gathered beloved know that he knew his best friend had been trying to seduce his wife while he was dying.
A millionaire who died in his 80s hired him to share with his children notes he had made on the secret to his wealth. He’d told his family for years that he worked in offshore deals and sales, but he’d actually won a lottery.
A book on his experiences, The Coffin Confessor, was released in July. Most of Edgar’s requests tend to involve secrets around sex, he says in the book, primarily affairs, incest, orientation, money and secret loves. Why would someone do this? Would you? And isn’t it strange, the world we live in, where the curtain only fully lifts after the end, if at all?