When most people see a hearse — an elongated vehicle traditionally used for carrying coffins — they get the shivers.
But the members of the Western Washington-based Anubis Hearse Club are not most people.
Instead of a frightening symbol of death, they see a passionate hobby; an opportunity for theatrical expression; and maybe, most of all, an emblem of friendship.
Ronda Connelly was the first one in the group to get a hearse.
“My dad found out he had mesothelioma,” Connelly said, while she and several other members of the club sat around a table at Putter’s in Bremerton. “He was getting compensation death benefit checks. ‘Sorry-we-killed-you money,’ was how he put it.”
Connelly’s father asked her to use that money to purchase an old hearse he had seen for sale from a friend.
“I’m like, ‘Oh, dear God, Dad, really?’” she said. The car was beat up — “a rusty piece of crap,” she called it. But her father insisted.
“It’s got cancer. I’ve got cancer. We can fix the car,” he told her.
So, they bought the hearse now known as Anaya, a 1975 Cadillac Superior. Connelly, her father, and their friends spent hours in the shop, restoring the engine and fixing up the car.
“Everybody loved my dad,” Connelly said. “He just got a kick out of seeing us (in the hearse) in parades and having a good time.”
When Connelly’s father passed away in 2012, he was carried to the cemetery in the very hearse he helped to restore. After that, Connelly bought a second hearse — and her friends started following suit.
“We all just bought hearses because we’re friends. We’re just a group of friends who bought matching cars,” Connelly explained.
Surprisingly, those matching cars have nothing to do with the members’ real-life careers. No one in the group is a mortician. No one works at a cemetery, although Connelly lives across the street from one. Connelly is a home healthcare provider, but said she does use Anaya for ceremonial purposes. “I have my reverend’s license,” she said. “I can marry you or bury you. Just pick one.”
But other than the occasional side hustle or somber trip to the cemetery, the hearses are strictly for fun.
Anubis members (the name refers to the Egyptian god associated with the dead) participate in traditional car-enthusiast events — parades, car shows, photo shoots, birthday parties, and charity events. They also participate in some other, more nontraditional events like Seattle’s Crypticon, or “trunk or treats” — during which kids dress up in Halloween costumes and collect candy from the back of the hearses.
As you might expect, the members of the Anubis Hearse Club adore Halloween.
“We don’t stick out this time of year,” Connelly said. “We seem normal.”
If there’s a moral to this story, it should probably be to never judge a car by its boxy, coffin-like shape. That, and, in the words of the Anubis Hearse Club motto, to “never let your first ride be your last.”