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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 March 2006, 07:10 GMT 08:10 UK
Handsets get taken to the grave
Mobile phone
'Hello? Could someone let me out?'
More people than ever are asking to be buried or cremated with their mobile phones when they die, say researchers.

The trend, which began in South Africa, has now spread to a number of countries, including Ireland, Australia, Ghana, and the US.

Martin Raymond, director of international trend-spotting think-tank, The Future Laboratory said that this had started off "in the realm of the urban myth", but was fast becoming fact.

"You hear about it, the idea that people are being buried with their mobile phones, but you can't really believe it," he told the BBC World Service's Culture Shock programme.

He explained that the first cases of people asking to be buried with their phone originated in Cape Town, where some people's belief in witchcraft meant they feared that "they could fall under a spell, be put to sleep and actually be buried.

"In fact, they were asking for the phones to be put into the coffins with them in case they woke up."

'Limelight funerals'

Mr Raymond said that in Australia the trend was more about affluence.

"People wanted to be buried with the totems that they felt represented their lifestyle," he explained.

Sarcophagus from BBC's Egypt: The Search For Tutankhamen
Ancient Egyptians were buried with goods for the next life
"We came across one guy who asked to be buried with his mobile phone and his Blackberry, and also with his laptop."

He added that in many cases, being buried with your phone is part of what he termed limelight funerals, people wanting to be buried like celebrities.

The phone is put in the coffin along with diamonds, jewellery, expensive suits, and gold watches.

In some places, however, the practice has parallels with a much more distant time, as being buried along with one's possessions can be traced to ancient Egypt.

In the days of Tutankhamen it was done because they believed literally that the objects would be available to them in the afterlife.

However, in modern times some people are finding they like the idea of being buried with the things that defined them while they were alive.

"When we looked at this in Chad and Ghana, there was part of that implicit in the burial service - that you were taking things with you that would be useful," Mr Raymond said.

"In Ireland, where we came across this, it was more to do with people being buried with things they liked. One guy we came across was buried with a pack of cigarettes and some matches.

"Another was buried with his favourite teddy bear, given to him by his girlfriend."

Spare battery

In some cases, they are even taking their mobiles into cremation.

Teddy bear
A beloved bear is one of the comforts taken to the grave
"We came across this in places like South Carolina in the US - people were being burned but unknown to the crematorium, they had left the phones in their jackets," Mr Raymond said.

"If you heat a mobile phone battery, it tends to explode, and the first reports were about explosions, and that's how they started noticing this trend."

Some funeral parlours will now arrange for the phone put into the box with the ashes following the cremation.

And one service in South Africa will put a number of batteries in the coffin just in case the dead person wakes up much later and finds their own battery has run out.

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