Ready for an early Halloween story, of sorts?
So I’m sitting in the office a week or so ago, and the phone rings. It’s local funnyman Craig Bielik, stand-up comedian and all-around good egg. When Craig tells you something is funny, you can bet the farm it’ll make you bust a gut.
And Craig was calling to say that he’d found something funny.
“Saal,” he said, calling me from his cellphone on the way home from work. “You’ve got to get up here to Harrison Boulevard, just south of Ogden High School. You’ll never guess what they’re selling at a yard sale.”
“Yards?” I ventured. (Hey, I took a shot.)
“Naw, they’ve got a coffin for sale. An actual, honest-to-goodness coffin. It has one of your humor columns written all over it.”
One of my columns? Why? Because it’s big, boxy and empty, and reeks of death and sadness?
Still, never one to pass up an opportunity to see a coffin at a yard sale, I raced up to Harrison Boulevard for a gander.
OK, so technically — as I would learn later — it was a casket, not a coffin. See, a coffin is an eight-sided box that resembles one of those “mummy” sleeping bags: wider at the shoulders, narrower at the feet and head. A casket, on the other hand, has six sides — basically, it’s like a really big, elaborate shoebox.
And we’re not just talking plain pine box here, either. This particular casket had a polished exterior, handles on the sides, satiny soft interior liner, the whole nine yards.
Although technically, the casket wasn’t at a yard sale. It was more of a parking-lot sale, set up outside a thrift store.
But the owner of the casket, Albert Gooch of South Ogden, says he found it at a yard sale in Kaysville.
“The guy I bought it from originally had 15 of them,” Gooch explained. “I think they were factory seconds. His son took 13 of them, but he kept two as props for Halloween.”
And what props they turned out to be. On Halloween night, the Kaysville man would put one of the caskets in the yard and lie in it. Then, as unsuspecting trick-or-treaters walked by the casket on their way to the house, the man would suddenly sit up.
“He said one lady peed her pants right there,” Gooch laughed.
Oh, Gooch. You had me at “peed her pants.” Because admittedly, as he’s telling me this story, I’m picturing my terror-filled Farmington trick-or-treaters, and getting ready to write out the check right then and there.
Curiously, when Gooch bought the casket, it wasn’t a practical joke he was thinking of. He was simply being practical.
Seriously. Have you priced caskets lately? I have, and let me tell you, they don’t give those things away.
So Gooch bought the casket at the Kaysville yard sale, and called his wife to break the good news. Then, as he was leaving the yard sale, Gooch spied the second casket in the man’s garage and asked if he would be willing to part with that one, too.
He would, and he did.
“I called Abby, my wife, and said, ‘Hon, we got it covered. I bought that other casket, so now we have one for you and one for me.’ ”
The news didn’t exactly elicit the enthusiastic response Gooch was expecting from the missus. Her answer? I’m paraphrasing here, but it was basically an emphatic “Over my dead body!”
Gooch quickly came to realize that not only was his wife not going to agree to be buried in a factory-second casket, she wasn’t about to bury her significant other in one, either. And once he’d resigned himself to the fact that nobody in the family was going to be buried in a hand-me-down box, Gooch decided to sell.
Well, Albert Gooch’s loss is someone else’s gain. He priced the casket at a relatively reasonable $750, “knowing that there are a couple of scratches on it.” Scratches, we should point out, that are on the outside of the casket, not the inside. (Scratch marks on the inside would have made this an entirely different story, and would have easily doubled the asking price.)
Not only that, but Gooch said if he’s able to sell this casket, he’ll probably sell the other one, too — although, in the interest of full disclosure, the other one isn’t in as good shape.
Whatever its shape, the first casket was certainly turning heads on Harrison Boulevard the day I dropped by. Gooch said folks had been eyeing it all day, including three adult sisters who came and looked at it, then said, giggling, “Let’s go home and measure Dad.”
And the photographs? “A guy earlier today climbed inside, and his wife took a picture of him,” Gooch said.
Although it hadn’t sold when last I talked to him, Gooch suspected the casket was priced right, and that it would eventually sell. After all, nobody seems shocked at the price tag.
“They’re not buckin’ at $750,” he pointed out.
And if it doesn’t sell?
“Well, if we don’t sell it,” Gooch said, “we’ll just rent it out for Halloween.”
In which case, fair warning to my Farmington neighbors: Stock up on adult diapers.
For Halloween, Mark Saal is dressing up as the most frightening thing he could imagine: a Mitt Romney campaign strategist. Contact him at 801-625-4272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.