Can the dead send texts? It's not really a question many of us have to ask, but when the family of the late Lesley Emerson began to receive messages from the mobile phone which was buried with their late gran, they were baffled as to what other explanation there could possibly be.
When alive, Lesley Emerson was a person who loved to send her nearest and dearest affectionate text messages. So when the 59-year-old died from bowel cancer, her grieving family took comfort in the fact that alongside some of her other favorite things, she was buried with her mobile phone.
The Mirror reports that the buried mobile provided a means for family members to cope with their grief by continuing to "contact" the dead grandma via SMS.
Grandaughter Sheri Emerson was in regular touch with her grandma via text messages. Something both she, her father John, 42, and uncle Graham, found to be a source of comfort. Yet to her great shock, one day Sheri received a message back.
The reply said, "I'm watching over you, and it's all going to get better. Just push through."
Sheri's shock was absolute. Initially her senses were reeling, her mind in turmoil and she didn't know what to believe.
"Nan got bowel cancer and died very quickly, she was only diagnosed in October 2010 and died the following June. It came so suddenly and none of us could quite get our heads around what had happened.
"It helped to text her, that was the way we were always in touch every day when she was alive. I texted her at least once a week for three years until last week I suddenly got a reply.
"I stared at my phone and the message was written as though it was from her, it was so strange, I went cold and shaky.
"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".
As much as they would have like to believe the messages were from their dead relative, the family began to sense it was the handiwork of a cruel prankster. Their suspicions were confirmed when several more messages were sent to Sheri out of the blue.
When one simply told Sheri "not to worry," she fired off a text demanding to know who was sending her messages. The bizarre reply simply read, "A disturbing vegetarian."
Sheri's family decided enough was enough and made the decision to ring their dead relative's number. The culprit responsible answered and was deeply apologetic. He said he had been given the number in all innocence by phone giants O2, and he believed the texts had been friends simply winding him up, so he thought he'd play along.
Sheri's Uncle Graham was devastated that his mum's number was sold on after he specifically asked O2 to not re-use the number.
"After my mum died I rang O2 and said can I pay to ensure they did not use the number. They said there was no need as they would disconnect it and it would be hers.
"We are a big family of texters, if we ever fell out or had something to say, we'd always just send a message, that's why we buried her with her phone.
"So to think someone else now has our mum's number is just awful, we can't believe O2 has done this.
"I can't bear to visit mum's graveside. For me that was a way to still feel connected to her".
O2 have confirmed that Lesley's number was sold on to phone company giffgaff. They are currently in the process of trying to retrieve it for the Emerson family.