How One Colorado Town Honors a Corpse It Keeps on Ice


Corpses can be famous for a variety of reasons: their remarkable preservation, scientific value, tourist potential, legal drama, and/or communist kitsch quotient, for example. But only one individual corpse in the United States, as far as we know, gets its own annual festival: “Grandpa” Bredo Morstoel, who died in Norway in 1989 but has been cooling his heels in a Nederland, Colorado, Tuff Shed for the last two decades.

Bredo Morstoel is the victim, or lucky recipient—depending on your point of view—of a kind of DIY cryonic preservation that involves keeping his body encased in blocks of dry ice. While Morstoel never set foot in Nederland himself (and his views on cryonics aren’t immediately clear), both his daughter and grandson were passionate about a future in which Grandpa could be revived from his frozen state of “suspended animation.” (The science behind cryonics is still far from proven.)

While some towns might recoil in horror at the prospect of a corpse chilling in one of the local freezers, Nederland has embraced Grandpa with gusto. The Frozen Dead Guy Days festival, now in its 16th year, sees about 15,000 revelers descend on the tiny, beautiful Colorado town each spring for several days of live music, coffin racing, a hearse parade, ice turkey bowling, a “frozen t-shirt contest,” and other icy delights. In the new video from Atlas Obscura above, Dylan Thuras explains a little more about the story behind Grandpa’s strange fate and the origin of the festival, and goes along with the corpse’s current caretaker, Brad Wickham, to peek inside the Tuff Shed.

Header images via Kent Kanouse, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0