You've got mail - from beyond the grave
When Tim Hart received an email from a dead man, the only thing he could think of doing was to send a reply. He hasn’t heard anything back, writes BRIAN BOYD
A FEW MONTHS AGO, Tim Hart received an email from his best friend, Jack Froese. The two, both from Pennsylvania in the US, had been having a running mock argument about the dirt and mess that had accumulated in Hart’s attic. Froese’s email from last November to his friend read: “Did you hear me? I’m at your home. Clean your f***ing attic!!”.
Upon receipt of the email, Hart suddenly felt very sick and turned ghost white. Froese had died suddenly five months before the email was sent.
“I was sitting on my couch and going through emails on my phone and it popped up as sender Jack Froese,” Hart told BBC News. “I read it – it was very quick and short but to a point that only Jack and I could relate to”.
When he calmed down enough after receiving the email from a dead friend, the only thing Hart could think of doing was to send a reply. He still hasn’t heard anything back.
Two other friends and Froese’s cousin, Jimmy McGraw, also reported receiving emails from beyond the grave. With emotions ranging from anger and shock to an eerie feeling that somehow their friend was still watching them, they got in touch with Froese’s family to tell them what had happened.
Froese’s family haven’t received any emails – they were sent only to the dead man’s two close friends and his cousin. His mother, Patty, said she realised the emails “made some people happy, but they upset some people”.
Froese was just 32 when he died suddenly from heart arrhythmia. His friends could only conclude that someone had hacked into Froese’s email account to send the messages – as some sort of bizarre prank. But whoever did this – or simply just knew the password that Froese used – would have to have known some very personal details that were referred to in the mystery emails — and Froese’s friends say this is impossible.
It is remarkably easy to send emails when you’re dead. There’s a service called Dead Man’s Switch ( deadmansswitch.net) which allows you to send a series of staggered messages for months after your death.
You write them up beforehand and then a programme allows your email account to send them out at intervals of one week/one month/three months, etc.
However, if you don’t tell people that you have registered with the site and that they will be receiving emails from you after your death, the effect can be a little disconcerting.
As the Dead Man’s Switch page explains to potential users: “Bad things happen. Sometimes they happen to you. If something does happen, you might wish there was something you had told the people around you . . .
“You write a few emails and choose the recipients. These emails are stored securely, so no one except the intended recipient will ever read them.”
The site gets in touch with users every so often “to make sure you are fine”. If they don’t receive a reply from you after 60 days, they start sending out your “dead” emails at the time intervals you previously specified.
Case closed then it seems for the mysterious emails from beyond the grave incident in Pennsylvania. Froese could have been a user of the Dead Man’s Switch or another similar site, but neglected to tell his best friends that they would be receiving emails from him after his death.
But in the spirit of the great TV detective Lieutenant Columbo — there’s just one more thing. Froese’s cousin, Jimmy McGraw, says one of the emails he received read: “Hey Jim, how ya doing? I knew you were gonna break your ankle, tried to warn you. Gotta be careful.”
But McGraw broke his ankle five months after the death of his cousin.