Cryogenics non-profit opens ‘world’s first’ human preservation museum in Estes Park

· Dec. 29, 2023, 4:00 am
Visitors explore the International Cryonics Museum in Estes Park.Visitors explore the International Cryonics Museum in Estes Park.(John Berry/Courtesy of Visit Estes Park)
Visitors explore the International Cryonics Museum in Estes Park.

There’s a new permanent resident of the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. 

Bredo Morstol, the patron saint of the annual Frozen Dead Guy Days Festival, has moved in, along with a new museum dedicated to the science of long-term human tissue preservation. 

The International Cryonics Museum opened this month in the hotel’s ice house, a building that once stored ice harvested from the property’s adjoining pond. The hotel and Alcor, a non-profit cryonics research organization, partnered on the project. 

(John Berry/Courtesy of Visit Estes Park)

Visitors can expect to learn about the history and science of cryonics and hear about “Grandpa” Morstol and other stories of human preservation, said James Arrowood, president of Alcor. 

“You won’t actually see a body or anything because it’s in a steel tank that is large and not see-through,” Arrowood said. “But you’ll see actual tanks and learn about the amazing engineering components that go into our work.” 

Cryonics is defined as the practice of preserving humans and animals at super cold temperatures, with the hope that future science can restore them to a healthy living condition. Currently, cryonics are only allowed to be performed after pronouncement of legal death, according to the National Library of Medicine. 

Alcor stores human remains at its headquarters in Arizona. The field has been considered a niche area of science for decades, and it has its fair share of critics. But non-profits like Alcor have worked to advance public awareness and support of the practice. 

The new museum is an extension of that work, Arrowood said. 

(John Berry/Courtesy of Visit Estes Park)

“There's no question that people might find this weird,” he said. “It's similar in its weirdness in that many emerging technologies are very, very weird at the outset. But the potential for human organ and tissue transplants are tremendous.”

The partnership between Alcor and Colorado’s beloved Frozen Dead Guy Days festival began in 1989. 

“Grandpa Bredo”, a lifelong resident of Norway, died that year from a heart condition. His family shipped his body to a cryonics facility in California, where he stayed for several years after his death, according to the festival’s website.

In 1993, Morstol’s family in Nederland, Colorado had him shipped closer to their home, where they hoped to start a cryonics facility of their own. That dream was never realized, and Morstol remained frozen on dry ice in a shed for decades. 

Controversy around his storage drew media attention, as well as a devoted fandom that grew into the modern day festival, which takes place every March. A transfer of ownership after the COVID-19 pandemic brought the event to Estes Park in 2023. 

In early 2022, the longtime caretaker for Morstol reached out to Alcor and the Stanley Hotel to propose a permanent storage site for him, which kickstarted the idea for the museum, Arrowood said. 

“We put together our team that goes around the world to collect patient bodies to come out to Colorado to move Bredo’s body,” he said. “We had our team of nurses, and former military special forces transport his body from the ice house to a storage tank at the Stanley.” 

The museum offers 60 minute tours, and tickets are available online. Visitors can stop by from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day of the week. 

The next Frozen Dead Guy Days festival is scheduled to take place from March 15-17, 2024 in Estes Park.

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