The original 1909 Ice House located just steps from the iconic Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, might not seem like much to the average sightseer. It would be easy enough to walk past the 600-square-foot outbuilding, its white clapboard exterior and humble French doors nearly imperceptible against the hotel’s Georgian Colonial Revival grandeur. The structure really isn’t remarkable in any way.

Except that it’s the new home of the world’s only museum dedicated to the science of human preservation—and of a frozen dead guy named Bredo Morstoel.

Opened this past December in partnership with Alcor, a nonprofit cryonics research organization based in Scottsdale, Arizona, the International Cryonics Museum’s mission is to educate people of all walks of life about the hard science of cryonic preservation. “Meaning long-term, ultra-cold storage of human remains for possible future organ banking and transplantation of viable organs, up to and including the brain,” says James Arrowood, Alcor’s co-chief executive officer.

And the Norwegian man known affectionately as “Grandpa Bredo” is helping achieve that.

The World's First Cryonics Museum Finds a Perfect Home in Estes Park, Colorado
The museum is housed in an obsolete building at the Stanley Hotel once used to store ice from a nearby pond to refrigerate the hotel’s food and beverage. Visit Estes Park

“Part of [exhibiting] a frozen dead guy was to educate the public in a fun and friendly way about a very difficult topic of death and organ donation,” Arrowood says.

Using subfreezing temperatures (lower than minus 130 degrees Celsius or minus 202 degrees Fahrenheit) to pause the dying process and preserve life, according to Alcor, the science originated in 1962 with the book The Prospect of Immortality, written by “Father of Cryonics” Robert Ettinger. The next 60-plus years of its history are documented in the museum, with stories about pioneers and displayed artifacts. One such object is a lid from a cylindrical steel chamber called a “dewar,” which acts like a thermos to preserve cryogenically frozen bodies in liquid nitrogen. Visitors can even step inside one for a unique photo opportunity.

But the museum’s main attraction rests prominently along the back wall behind an enclosure of wood and glass: a shiny silver dewar, an upright cylinder measuring roughly 3 feet wide by 10 feet tall. Flanked on either side by a Norwegian flag and a drawing of the man who’s housed inside, it is the new resting place for “Grandpa” Bredo Morstoel.

“That’s where ‘frozen dead guy’ comes in,” says John Cullen, owner of the Stanley Hotel. “That’s where Bredo becomes really important.”

The World's First Cryonics Museum Finds a Perfect Home in Estes Park, Colorado
The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park inspired Stephen King’s 1977 novel The Shining. Carol M. Highsmith/Library of Congress

Morstoel’s legend in Colorado began shortly after his 1989 death, when daughter Aud Morstoel and grandson Trygve Bauge, both cryonics advocates, packed Morstoel’s body in dry ice and shipped it from Norway to a cryogenics facility in California. His body would be stored there until 1993, when his family relocated him to a Tuff Shed near their home in Nederland, Colorado, about 40 miles south of Estes Park.

Word of the frozen dead man created a stir, triggering the town council to pass a new code that made it illegal to store a frozen human body at home. But Morstoel was, wait for it, “grandfathered” in, allowing his frozen body to remain in the Nederland Tuff Shed, packed in dry ice and undisturbed, for more than 30 years.

His story grew to such mythic proportions that it inspired one of Colorado’s most offbeat festivals: Frozen Dead Guy Days, celebrated in the town every March since 2002 (minus two pandemic years). Offering entertainment and live music, a coffin race and a polar plunge, the three-day event honoring Morstoel eventually outgrew the Town of Nederland. Attracting more than 22,000 revelers in 2022, town officials canceled the 2023 event.

The World's First Cryonics Museum Finds a Perfect Home in Estes Park, Colorado
The coffin race is a popular event at Frozen Dead Guy Days. Visit Estes Park

Cullen swooped in to buy the festival rights from organizers in December 2022 for $250,000, relocating the celebration to his hometown. Not only could Estes Park accommodate burgeoning festival crowds, he says, but the festival would also draw significant tourism revenue to local businesses during the dregs of winter.

With only 93 days remaining to plan the event, organizers set a break-even goal of 3,000 attendees. They more than doubled that number, welcoming 6,600 visitors to Estes Park in March 2023 and netting the town a half-million dollars in revenue. This year, Cullen is hoping to top 10,000 partygoers. The four-day schedule of frigid fun begins on Thursday, March 14, with a zombie bar crawl. It continues Friday night at the Stanley Hotel with its signature kickoff event, the Royal Blue Ball, featuring live music and Bredo Morstoel lookalike contests. Estes Park will host a polar plunge, live performances and other events through Sunday, March 17.

Cullen was thrilled with the success of what he describes as a frozen Burning Man. But last year’s festival was missing a key element.

“We have to control the destiny of Bredo, because if something were to happen, how do we have a Frozen Dead Guy Festival without the frozen dead guy?” Cullen says. “It’s not quite the same fun festival if I don’t protect Grandpa.”

The World's First Cryonics Museum Finds a Perfect Home in Estes Park, Colorado
Like in past years, this year's festival will include live music. Visit Estes Park

Morstoel’s family long ago retuned to Norway; Bauge was deported in 1994 after his visa expired, and his mom eventually followed. But they didn’t leave before hiring caretaker Brad Wickham, better known as the “Ice Man,” who was tasked with keeping Morstoel’s body chilled.

For nearly two decades, Wickham drove to Denver every two weeks to buy dry ice, purchasing more than half a ton of blocks to drive to the shed, located on the family’s property, and place on Morstoel’s metal casket (now displayed in the museum).

But Cullen knew the process was unsustainable, plus he had the perfect residence for Morstoel: an obsolete building once used to store ice from the nearby pond to refrigerate the hotel’s food and beverage.

“By putting him into the original 1909 empty Stanley Ice House, it’s too much coincidence for this to be just coincidence,” he says.

After hopping on a plane to Norway to get the family’s blessing, Cullen launched his plan to create a museum where Morstoel would take center stage.

The World's First Cryonics Museum Finds a Perfect Home in Estes Park, Colorado
On Friday, March 15, the festival's signature kickoff event, the Royal Blue Ball, at the Stanley Hotel will feature Grandpa Bredo lookalike contests. Visit Estes Park

Alcor was skeptical at first about the partnership, Arrowood says.

“My initial reaction to that was, ‘Don’t do it,’” he says. “I said, ‘I don’t want anything to do with this.’”

But once Morstoel’s body was discovered to be in good condition, Alcor quickly planned the August 2023 rescue mission. Descending on the Tuff Shed under the cover of 3:30 a.m. darkness to avoid onlookers, Alcor’s team of military and first responder experts removed Morstoel from his icy tomb in just ten minutes. Some two hours later, he was submerged in liquid nitrogen in the modern dewar that Alcor scientists monitor remotely.

The museum is the perfect vehicle to spread the word about cryogenics, which studies materials and their behavior at very low temperatures, Arrowood says. That includes revolutionary applications that extend beyond cryonics and freezing billionaires who want the chance to live forever.

“That’s not what it’s about,” he says. “Our members choose cryogenic freezing for a variety of reasons, and all we’re here to do is the hard science. I guess that’s a long way of saying that we’re not a bunch of wacky people.”

From physics and biochemistry to mechanical and thermodynamic engineering, Arrowood says, Alcor’s researchers strive to advance the use of cryogenics in curing diseases like Alzheimer’s and improving trauma medicine and organ transplants. The science may also aid in preserving near-extinct animal species in the future.

“Alcor could preserve their organs well enough in their DNA that, quite possibly, they can be revived when technology allows for that DNA to be replicated in a meaningful way,” he says.

The World's First Cryonics Museum Finds a Perfect Home in Estes Park, Colorado
Estes Park will host a polar plunge. Visit Estes Park

Cullen believes it was no accident his hotel, the one that inspired Stephen King’s 1977 novel The Shining, is helping preserve Morstoel’s legacy.

“Remember the scene toward the end of the movie?” Cullen asks.

You know, the one where Jack Nicholson’s character freezes to death in the maze during a blizzard, he says, showing him as a frozen dead guy? The museum is a convergence of it all, he says, from the movie to the festival, even relocating Morstoel in a former ice house.

“We took him full circle,” he says. “There’s so much coincidence and convergence here, it just can’t be accidental.”

The International Cryonics Museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. A 60-minute Frozen Dead Guy Tour costs $20 per person.

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