Hospitality & Tourism  December 6, 2023

Cryonics museum at Stanley Hotel features Grandpa and more

ESTES PARK – Just three months ahead of Estes Park’s second annual quirky festival to honor him, Grandpa Bredo Morstoel has a cool new home.

The International Cryonics Museum has opened at the iconic Stanley Hotel, just the latest chapter in the Stanley’s drive to feed off its haunted history – including its role in the Stephen King novel and subsequent 1980 film “The Shining.” And Morstoel’s frozen presence there is the result of negotiations between Stanley owner John Cullen, Morstoel’s family in Norway, and the Scottsdale, Arizona, based nonprofit Alcor Life Extension Foundation.

“At The Stanley Hotel, we delve into the legacy of innovation, science and technology through our tours and offerings,” said Cullen, president of Grand Heritage Hotel Group, in a prepared statement.  “These topics are intimately tied to F.O. Stanley and his groundbreaking contributions, such as the invention of the steam engine. Now, we proudly host the first-ever International Cryonics Museum, seamlessly blending the past and future.”

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Cullen had purchased the Frozen Dead Guy Days festival in December 2022 for $250,000 from two women in Nederland who had run the event there until it outgrew the small Boulder County mountain town. The festival sprang from tales of Morstoel, who died in 1989 but was frozen by his family and shipped to the United States in hopes that someday the technology would be developed that could bring him back to life or create a younger genetic twin of him.

Tickets have gone on sale for Estes Park’s second year of hosting the festival, which will be staged March 15-17, and Visit Estes Park is using the opening of the museum to help promote it.

“Bredo’s family had been paying someone every two weeks to bring dry ice” up to a Tuff-Shed above Nederland where Morstoel’s remains were frozen, said Heidi Barfels, Visit Estes Park’s chief marketing officer. “Now he’s in a good place that’s dedicated to the science.”

Well, maybe it’s science. Some say it’s pseudoscience or even quackery.

Nevertheless, Alcor researches and advocates for cryonics, the freezing of human corpses and brains in liquid nitrogen after a person has died, with hopes of resurrecting them and restoring them to health in the future. As of Oct. 31,  Alcor had 1,927 members, including 222 who have died and whose corpses have been subject to cryonic processes; 116 bodies had only their heads preserved. Alcor also applies its cryonic process to the bodies of pets.

Morstoel’s frozen frame now resides in a new stainless-steel pod called a Dewar, which is filled with liquid nitrogen to preserve the body at minus 320 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Next to it,” Barfels said, “there’s an example tube you can stand in and have your picture taken.”

Tours last 60 minutes, and only those 12 or older are admitted.

The museum is located in the Stanley’s historic Ice House, a building that once stored ice harvested from the property’s adjoining pond in 1909. These chunks of ice were later used in

the coolers that became famous through King’s novel, which was inspired by the author’s visit to The Stanley Hotel.

“Cryonics is an important and emerging technology, and its story needs to be told,” said James Arrowood, co-CEO of Alcor. “As a nonprofit organization, Alcor is committed to advancing the mission of cryonics for the benefit of humanity, and the International Cryonics Museum will serve as a hub for education about the topic.”

The partnership with the Stanley Hotel is a significant milestone for Alcor, with the hotel providing the physical space for the International Cryonics Museum, which is the first of its kind globally.

The museum will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Besides seeing the Dewar, visitors can read stories of people who have dedicated their lives to cryonics.

One such pioneer is Trygve Bauge, an original driving force behind an annual New Year’s Day Polar Bear Plunge at Boulder Reservoir. Morstoel was his grandfather, and Bauge believed he could eventually be brought back to life through cryonics. He first shipped Morstoel’s body to Oakland, California, where it was preserved in liquid nitrogen for four years, then to Nederland in 1993 — and packed in dry ice in a Tuff-Shed in the hills outside of town.

Bauge’s dream of opening a cryonics facility melted away when he was deported in the mid-1990s after his visa expired. Soon thereafter, Morstoel’s daughter Aud was evicted for living in a house with no plumbing or electricity. But starting in 1995 with Bo Shaffer of Longmont and a team of volunteers, tons of dry ice were delivered and packed around Morstoel’s sarcophagus, surrounded by foam padding, a tarp and blankets, keeping the body at a steady 60 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.

Nederland does have a law against such things, but according to the festival’s early website, Morstoel was “grandfathered in.” Fueled by similar wordplay, the media attention the story drew gave birth to Frozen Dead Guy Days and its schedule of coffin races, a polar plunge, frozen turkey bowling, frozen T-shirt contests, a parade of hearses, snowy beach volleyball, a frozen salmon toss and dancing to live music at Grandpa’s Blue Ball.

Many of those events were, uh, revived when the festival was moved to Estes Park last year, and more will be added.

Again scheduled to take place at the Estes Park Events Complex and the Stanley over St. Patrick’s Day weekend, the festival will offer tickets beginning Friday at frozendeadguydays.com. Blue Ball tickets can be purchased at stanleyhotel.com.

“Our community came together in a big way to make the first Frozen Dead Guy Days held in Estes Park last year a great success,” said Kara Franker, CEO of Visit Estes Park. “In 2024, the event is shaping up to be bigger and better with even more events and experiences in the works.”

Highlights will include:

  • Coffin races, in which teams of “pallbearers” race head-to-head through a course full of obstacles, mud, snow, and drills in a grandstand setting.
  • The Blue Ball, featuring live music, dancing, DJs and more.
  • Polar Plunge, an immersive experience for participants dressed in their craziest costumes as they venture into the frigid waters of the Big Thompson River.
  • Deadman Fashion Show, in which competitors come dressed in their finest “dead guy” duds to win prizes.
  • Bands & Bloodys Brunch, with live music and themed brunch menus at restaurants around town.

The key to last year’s success, Franker said, was that themed events were spread out all over town instead of just at a main event site.

“This wasn’t a contained event,” Franker said. “This was a template for how we can spread the love throughout the community.”

As last year’s Frozen Dead Guys was wrapped up, Cullen estimated that the sales tax revenue in the town would be about a half million dollars, about 3% or 4% of total revenue for the whole year.

ESTES PARK – Just three months ahead of Estes Park’s second annual quirky festival to honor him, Grandpa Bredo Morstoel has a cool new home.

The International Cryonics Museum has opened at the iconic Stanley Hotel, just the latest chapter in the Stanley’s drive to feed off its haunted history – including its role in the Stephen King novel and subsequent 1980 film “The Shining.” And Morstoel’s frozen presence there is the result of negotiations between Stanley owner John Cullen, Morstoel’s family in Norway, and the Scottsdale, Arizona, based nonprofit Alcor Life Extension Foundation.

“At The Stanley Hotel, we delve into the…

Dallas Heltzell
With BizWest since 2012 and in Colorado since 1979, Dallas worked at the Longmont Times-Call, Colorado Springs Gazette, Denver Post and Public News Service. A Missouri native and Mizzou School of Journalism grad, Dallas started as a sports writer and outdoor columnist at the St. Charles (Mo.) Banner-News, then went to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch before fleeing the heat and humidity for the Rockies. He especially loves covering our mountain communities.
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