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Did this grandmother really text her family from beyond the grave?
It’s time to play a little game I like to call “What’s the Oddest Part of This British Tabloid Story?”
It’s time to play a little game I like to call “What’s the Oddest Part of This British Tabloid Story?” Today’s article, which appears in the Mirror, is appropriately Halloween-themed: “Family who sent texts to mobile buried with late gran get replies ‘from beyond grave.’”
That’s a lot to unpack! Could a grandma’s buried cellphone really send messages from six feet under? Clearly not. Let’s dive in.
The actual facts: Relatives of Lesley Emerson, a grandmother who passed away from bowel cancer in 2011, love texting so much that they chose to bury her with her phone, and periodically send her fond messages. For this reason, they sought and obtained assurances from service provider O2 that Emerson’s number wouldn’t be recycled into their system and given to another customer. But then she started texting back. (Cue horror movie music.)
O2 had of course turned around and sold Emerson’s number to a phone company called giffgaff at their earliest convenience, and it went to a man who assumed that the texts intended for Emerson were a prank played by his friends. So he started replying as if from a comfortable perch in heaven: “I’m watching over you, and it’s all going to get better. Just push through.” When asked who he was, he replied, “A disturbing vegetarian.” Which is… not a joke?
Emerson’s granddaughter, Sheri Emerson, gives an amazing quote about the whole thing.
I sent the text to gran talking about what I had been doing, just as I always did. When the reply came through at lunchtime the following day I felt sick. Crazy stuff was flashing through my mind like ‘Is she still alive?’ Then I started getting horrible visions that someone might have dug up her grave and taken her phone, my mind was full of all sorts of really unpleasant possibilities. The person who was texting me was apologetic when we actually rang the number and said he thought his friends had been winding him up.
Now O2 is in the process of addressing their mistake, but we, the readers, are left with more questions than answers. Such as, “Wouldn’t it be easier to just email your deceased family members?” and “How is it a prank to communicate with someone like they’re your departed grandmother?” and “Is this really a world in which it’s halfway plausible that someone would dig up a coffin, steal the phone that inexplicably lay inside, and start using it themselves?”
Doesn’t matter. Everyone involved here is a total weirdo, and they’re going to keep on being weird. Just be glad you got to feel like a rational, high-functioning human by comparison.
Miles Klee is a novelist and web culture reporter. The former editor of the Daily Dot’s Unclick section, Klee’s essays, satire, and fiction have appeared in Lapham’s Quarterly, Vanity Fair, 3:AM, Salon, the Awl, the New York Observer, the Millions, and the Village Voice. He's the author of two odd books of fiction, 'Ivyland' and 'True False.'