Cryonics: The Cold Facts

Feb 29, 2016 | 0 comments

If you’re in Nederland, Colorado during during Frozen Dead Guy Days festival March 11-13, stop by the Black Forest Restaurant to learn the strange but true story of how Bredo Morstoel from Norway came to be the celebrated Frozen Dead Guy of Nederland.

Grandpa Bredo Morstoel

Grandpa Bredo Morstoel

When you watch the documentary “Grandpa’s in the TUFF SHED,” you’ll get all the freezing fun facts about this cryonic misadventure. The 25-minute film will be shown continuously from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, along with humorous cryonic film clips from Sleeper and Futurama.

Is Grandpa Bredo’s celebrated on-ice existence in Nederland really sufficient to support an eventual revival? Here are some cold facts about cryonic preservation.

What is cryonics?

The concept of cryonics  was introduced in 1962 by Robert Ettinger in his landmark book, The Prospect of Immortality. Ettinger, considered “The Father of Cryonics,” founded the Cryonics Institute in 1976. Their first patient, Robert’s mother Rhea Ettinger, was preserved in 1977. Robert joined the more than 100 patients in cryostasis at the Institute’s facility in Clinton Township, Michigan in 2011.

According to the Cryonics Institute, “Cryonics is a technique intended to hopefully save lives and greatly extend lifespan. It involves cooling legally-dead people to liquid nitrogen temperature where physical decay essentially stops, in the hope that future scientific procedures will someday revive them and restore them to youth and good health. A person held in such a state is said to be a ‘cryopreserved patient,’ because we do not regard the cryopreserved person as being inevitably ‘dead’.”

The body must be chilled right after death.

Trygve Bauge

Trygve Bauge, Bredo’s grandson, in 1980s or 1990s.

To have a chance at revival, the body must be cooled down quickly right after expiring. After Grandpa Bredo died from a heart condition in Norway in 1989, his grandson Trygve had the body flown to California for cryonic treatment.

His trans-Atlantic transportation probably took at least a day after Grandpa’s death. Even when packed in dry ice, this time lapse does not bode well for maintaining the vital organs for later revival.

Cryonic preservation is really, really cold.

Grandpa’s body was first put into a cryonic deep freeze at Trans Time, a cryonic facility based in San Leandro, CA, in the San Francisco Bay area. He was immersed in liquid nitrogen at a temperature of approximately -196˚C/-321˚F and kept that way for almost four years.

His dry ice deep freeze in the TUFF SHED hovers in the range of -61˚F. As you’ll see in “Grandpa’s in the TUFF SHED,” he also had a close call with an episode of melting. This also does not bode well for Grandpa’s eventual reanimation.

It’s really vitrification, not freezing.

According to the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, which cryopreserved their first patient in 1967, “Adding high concentrations of chemicals called cryoprotectants to cells permits tissue to be cooled to very low temperatures with little or no ice formation. The state of no ice formation at temperatures below -120°C is called vitrification. It is now possible to physically vitrify organs as large as the human brain, achieving excellent structural preservation without freezing.”

Some cryonic outfits offer neurocryopreservation, which involves removing and preserving only the head of a person declared legally dead. The theory is that only the information contained in the brain is of any importance, and that a new body could be cloned or regenerated at some point in the future.

Aud and Trygve

Aud, Bredo’s daughter, and Trygve, her son, in 2014 – photo by Sidsel Hvaal

Given the way Bredo died and his condition during shipment to the U.S., this did not happen and his brain could be mush. Again, this does not bode well for later reanimation – but hope springs eternal. Bredo’s family sends money from Norway every month to keep the dry ice in the TUFF SHED replenished and Trygve’s cryonic life extension dreams alive.

Is cryonics ethical?

According to a 1995 paper by philosopher Charles Tandy, PhD, yes. He writes, “The assumption of the cryonicist is that future biomedicine may be more advanced (better able to reverse damage) than present biomedicine − and that cryonic hibernation may serve as a kind of ‘time machine’ to transport one to such a future. Thus, cryonic hibernation may be viewed as a radically conservative biomedical procedure − as compared to the alternative (e.g., burial or cremation).”

According to Tandy, there are four considerations, “when making an ethical biomedical decision. These four factors are: 1) respect for autonomy; 2) nonmaleficence; 3) beneficence; and, 4) justice. If the patient was competent and freely chose to undergo the biomedical procedure of cryonic hibernation, then the bioethical factor, respect for autonomy, produces a prima facie obligation for cryonic hibernation (and against burial or cremation) of the cryonics patient.”

Bredo’s grandson Trygve believes in cryonic hibernation and reanimation. We don’t really know if Grandpa wanted to be a poster child for the temporarily dead. Ethically, this situation is a bit dicey. Bredo may not have wanted to be reanimated.

The conditions of Grandpa Bredo’s long Nederland nap probably won’t foster a successful reanimation. But in the meantime, we celebrate his life on a grander scale as the Frozen Dead Guy than he would have received had he been buried or cremated in Norway.

The Newly-Dead Game TM logoWould you want to be cryonically preserved? Does your significant other know? Sign up to play The Newly-Dead Game® to test how well you know your partner’s last wishes in competition with three other couples. Win fun prizes and Internet fame with host Gail Rubin, The Doyenne of Death!

Games are scheduled for 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. Saturday and 1:00 p.m. Sunday at the Black Forest Restaurant. Sign up at the restaurant early in the day – slots will go fast! The showings of “Grandpa’s in the TUFF SHED” and The Newly-Dead Game are sponsored by Carroll-Lewellen Funeral & Cremation Services and

Gail Rubin, funeral expert and Celebrant

Gail Rubin, CT, The Doyenne of Death®

Gail Rubin, The Doyenne of Death, is creator of The Newly-Dead Game and author of the books A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die and Hail and Farewell: Cremation Ceremonies, Templates and Tips.

Download a free planning form and eBook about cremation ceremonies at


A Good Goodbye