The town of Nederland, Colo. had its annual Frozen Dead Guy Days festival this month, celebrating the corpse of a guy whose family froze him after his 1989 death with the hope he might be revived in the future.
We spoke to a planetary ecologist named
Bo Shaffer — affectionately dubbed “Ice Man” — who tended to the frozen corpse of Bredo Morstoel for 18 years in the family’s absence.
Shaffer’s connection with the frozen man began when Morstoel’s grandson Trygve Bauge was deported from the U.S. to his native Norway in the mid-90s, forcing him to search for a caretaker to ensure Morstoel remained frozen. Shaffer, who lives 45 miles outside Nederland, first made contact with Morstoel’s grandson based on a shared interest in cryonics, and Bauge offered Shaffer the job of preserving his deceased grandfather’s corpse.
For the next 18 years, Shaffer transported 1,600 to 1,800 pounds of dry ice a month to a hilltop shed housing the preserved corpse. There, he packed the dry ice into a homemade freezer box made from plywood and styrofoam, which encased the metal sarcophagus holding Morstoel’s corpse.
After installing the dry ice each month, Shaffer took photos of the freezer box and recorded its temperature, anywhere between minus 60 and minus 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Shaffer found the work tedious and recruited a small team of helpers, students from the University of Colorado Boulder who were intrigued with the novelty of the strange job.
“There’s a certain Tom Sawyer aspect of it, like painting the fence,” Shaffer told Business Insider, in reference to his ability to attract enthusiastic helpers.
Shaffer performed that job dutifully, recalling only one serious mishap when the homemade freezer box broke open between his monthly trips, warming the corpse. Shaffer repaired and bolstered the box’s insulation before Morstoel could thaw out.
Shaffer says he eventually gave up the job and the keys to the shed in 2012 after a dispute with Trygve. Shaffer still attends the yearly Frozen Dead Guy Festival, where r
evelers commemorate the legacy of the now 109-year-old Morstoel with winter-themed contests and events, such as coffin races, polar plunges, and frozen salmon tosses.
He is amused that no one recognises him, even though his 18 years as Morstoel’s caretaker has earned him the nickname “Ice Man” among festival-goers. “Everybody knows who the Ice Man was, especially out there at the festival and all over the place, but no one knows who I am,” he said.
“I like to stand around people and chat with them about it and they don’t know who I am,” he said. “I fill them with details they have never heard before, and sometimes at the very end I’ll tell them who I am.”
After posing for photos with fans of the Ice Man at the Frozen Dead Guy Days festival, Shaffer said they often ask what Morstoel looks like after so many years encased in ice. Shaffer tells them he has no idea, because he has never actually opened the sarcophagus.
While he’s no longer involved in preserving Morstoel’s body, he still holds Nederland’s honorable distinction of caring for its precious frozen corpse for the better part of two decades.
“What a long, strange trip it’s been,” he said.
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