Frozen Dead Guy Days
Every March the town of Nederland, Colorado hosts a festival known as Frozen Dead Guy Days. The festival lasts more than a full weekend and contains many events over the course of three days. Frozen Dead Guy Days began in March of 2002, but it stemmed from events that began much earlier. The "Frozen Dead Guy" honored during the festival is named Bredo Morstoel and he's been dead since 1989.
The Story of "Grandpa" Bredo Morstoel
Born on February 28, 1900, in Isfjorden, Romstel, Norway, Bredo Morstoel was an outdoorsman. This interest was reflected in both his hobbies (fishing, hiking, skating) and his job as head of Parks and Recreation. Morstoel passed away at the age of 89 on November 6, 1989.
Morstoel's grandson, Trygve Bauge, had his grandfather's body put on ice and shipped to the Trans Time Cryonics facility in San Leandro, California. Morstoel's body was kept there in a cryonic state until 1993 - that year, Trygve Bauge and his mother, Aud Morstoel, brought Bredo's frozen corpse to be kept at their home in Nederland, Colorado. Cryonics was an extension of Trygve's belief that cold temperatures can prolong life. Tyrgve had already founded a polar bear club years earlier in Boulder, Colorado and the story goes that he once broke a world record by immersing himself in ice water for more than an hour.
Trygve Bauge and his mother were in the process of building a house intended to be immune to various natural disasters and that would also act as a bomb shelter in the event of a nuclear war. Trygve and Aud kept Bredo Morstoel preserved in dry ice inside a garden shed near their home. Their intent was to build an entire cryonics facility of their own. They even landed a customer and for a short while Bredo had company inside his shed when he shared it with the body of Al Campbell from Chicago, Illinois.
In early 1994, Trygve Bauge was deported from the country. The grandson had previously had run-ins with the law for antics such as joking about hijacking a plane while in an airport and trespassing on the property of the president of Colorado University. He had also allowed his visa to expire. His mother remained behind, but not long after the shelter in which she was living was legally determined to be uninhabitable (It had no plumbing or electricity) and she was evicted. Worried about what would happen to the bodies in her care, Aud Morstoel contacted local press and they in turn contacted local government, who had been unaware of the homegrown cryonic project up until this point. Within days the story became international news.
Concerned over what might happen to his remains, the family of Al Campbell reclaimed his body and had it cremated. A legal battle over the future of Bredo Morstoel's body began. Eventually an agreement was reached that the body could be kept in its frozen state at the property. Local businesses appreciated the business that "Grandpa Bredo" brought to the town in the form of press and curious tourists. With the help of local businesses, the relatives of Bredo Morstoel have managed to have his body preserved and cared for. Ecology firm Delta Tech has the contract for maintaining Bredo and his shed. The company's CEO, Bo "Iceman" Shaffer, acts as the caretaker. On a monthly basis, Shaffer replenishes the dry ice that surrounds Bredo's steel coffin. After the shed housing the body got blown apart by severe winds, it was replaced by donations from Denver radio station KRFX (103.5 "The Fox") that got to advertise on the side of the shed.
The Chamber of Commerce for Nederland came up with an idea for a yearly winter festival based around their famous frigidly-frozen foreigner. The weekend of March 8 - 10, 2002 was the first time that the Frozen Dead Guy Days festival was held. The festival proved to be a success and it continues to draw in larger crowds each year.
There are a number of events that occur during the course of the three-day festival, with some events apparently being particular to a given year and other events being annual traditions. The Cryonics Parade is an annual event that features participants wearing grim, whimsical or just plain silly costumes and Grandpa Bredo himself as well as vintage hearses. The parade also features the costumed teams and decorated coffins from the annual coffin race. The Tuff Shed Coffin Race (named for the brand of shed Bredo Morstoel is kept in) has teams of costumed pallbearers carrying a teammate in a cardboard coffin through an obstacle course (including mud hazards and playground slides). Participants in the festival can also emulate Bredo's grandson Trygve by taking part in the polar plunge - where costumed participants take a frigid dip in a very icy pond for charity. Another annual aspect of the festival is a Grandpa Bredo look-a-like contest - the winner of which gets to be the official Grandpa Bredo for that year's festival and preside over a number of events throughout the weekend. There is an annual masquerade party called the "Ice Blue Ball", featuring live music and entertainment as well as crowning an "Ice Princess."
Competitions are a regular aspect of the festival. Besides the contests already mentioned there a large number of other competitions that test creativity, endurance, and eating abilities. Food contests held in the past have included one where participants risked brain freeze while rapidly downing Slurpees and another contest to see who could eat the most Rocky Mountain oysters (deep-fried bull testicles) in an alloted time. Not all of the food contests have involved eating; there has been bowling with frozen turkeys and competition to see who can throw a frozen pizza the furthest distance. Other contests have included a "Frozen to the Bonz" contest where participants competed for who had the most frozen-looking legs, a frozen T-shirt contest and another one where contestants find out which one of them can pack the most snow inside their pants.
The Frozen Dead Guy Days have also been known to include snow sculptures, pancake breakfasts, sideshows, burlesque performances, free Popsicles, and beers with names like "Dead Guy Ale" and "6 Feet Under." There have also been gatherings where ghost stories are told and poetry recited. There is festival foods, beer tents, pub crawls and merchants selling commemorative merchandise.
Tours of Grandpa Bredo's shed are available through his caretaker, including a midnight visit complete with champagne. At times psychics have been brought out during festivals to communicate with Bredo and find out how he's doing - reportedly, he's amused by the attention.
One of the other aspects of the festival is ecology - not surprising considering that Grandpa Bredo is being cared for by an ecologist in the employ of Bredo's relatives. The festival prides itself in being a sustainable event. Public transportation is encouraged, recycling is heavily practiced and renewable energy is used during the event. Frozen Dead Guy Days also has been used as a chance to educate others about things that can be done to help the environment. Bredo Morstoel's suspended animation has become a symbol for environmental sustainability.
Grandpa's in the Tuff Shed
Kept in dry ice, Bredo Morstoel is not being kept at the extremely low temperatures normally provided by a cryonics facility using liquid nitrogen. Reportedly, Bredo's body has accidentally been allowed to thaw at least partially on a few occasions. Still, Bredo's relatives and neighbors remain optimistic for his eventual return to the world of the living. A slice of cake from his 101st birthday party has been placed with his body for him to enjoy upon his resurrection.
Bredo has been the subject of a song, Grandpa's in the Tuff Shed (by Chip and the Chowderheads) and two short documentaries; Grandpa's in the Tuff Shed (1998) and Grandpa's Still in the Tuff Shed (2003). The documentaries have been shown during past festivals. Chip and the Chowderheads have also been known to perform their musical tribute to Grandpa Bredo at festivals as well.
Visiting Grandpa Bredo
Anyone interested in attending Frozen Dead Guy Days should check Nederland's Chamber of Commerce web site for dates and details. It is possible to visit Bredo Morstoel throughout the year - not just at festival time. Arrangements for private tours can be made through the Frozen Dead Guy web site maintained by Bo "The Iceman" Schaffer. Both Web sites are listed below.