From all accounts, Norwegian Bredo Morstoel’s 1989 death from a heart condition wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. Bredo’s story certainly didn’t stay ordinary though. In fact, Morstoel ending up becoming a bit of a celebrity. Or rather, his body, which is packed in dry ice in a shed near Nederland, Colorado did.
Each year some 15,000 people flock to Nederland to celebrate Bredo’s life and death during the town’s legendary winter festival, Frozen Dead Guy Days. This year’s festival opens March 11th and goes through March 13th.
The festival features an amazing slate of activities ranging from live music to coffin racing to the Newly Dead Game®. But more on the festival events later. Let’s get back to how Bredo came to rest in Nederland and how he became known as The Frozen Dead Guy. [Go to Festival Info]
While it’s not clear how Bredo felt about cryogenics, his daughter (Aud Morstoel) and her son (Trygve Bauge) are big advocates of the practice. So big, in fact, that after Morstoel’s death they packed him in dry ice and flew him to California where his body was cryogenically preserved. He remained in California from 1990 to 1993 when Trygve moved him to his mother’s property in Colorado where the two planned to open a cryogenics facility.
After a series of unfortunate events, mainly Trygve’s deportation and Aud’s eviction from the property, it looked as though Bredo might be forced to thaw out and go below ground. The situation caused quite a stir since the local politicians, which had been unaware that frozen bodies were being kept on the property, weren’t too thrilled when they found out about it. But it was not an illegal practice at the time. Nevertheless, new regulations were quickly put in place and the keeping of corpses is no longer permitted. Bredo, however, was grandfathered in.
Even though Bredo could stay, Trygve still had the problem of caring for the corpse since he was being deported. Keeping the body in dry ice (and a lot of it) is no small effort. In stepped “The Iceman,” Bo Shaffer, CEO of Delta Tech, a local environmental company. Shaffer was a mutual fan of cryogenics and so he agreed to handle the ice. The local Tuff Shed supplier and a local radio station took care of building Bredo a new storage building. And so, Grandpa Bredo, aka The Frozen Dead Guy, as the locals came to call him, was safe.
Bo Shaffer cared for the body for the next 18 years. That meant transporting about 1,800 pounds of dry ice to the hilltop shed once a month. The ice was packed into a homemade freezer box that houses the metal sarcophagus that holds Morstoel’s corpse. In 2012, Schaffer and Trygve had a falling out (reportedly over money) and Schaffer gave up the job. The duties were passed on to a team of official caretakers and local volunteers. There has been some talk of moving The Frozen Dead Guy to a cryonics facility but, at least for the time being, he is resting in chilly peace on a hilltop Tuff Shed near Nederland.
Frozen Dead Guy Days (First Full Weekend in March)
In 2002, Nederland started an annual event, Frozen Dead Guy Days, to commemorate the cryogenic wonder that is/was Grandpa Bredo. Now in its 14th year, the three-day festival is packed with a non-stop array of live music and activities. It also provides a big boost to the economy as tourists flood in to take part in the festivities. Among the highlighted events are coffin racing and hearse parade, a costumed polar plunge, and a chance to play the Newly Dead Game®.
Since The Newly Dead Game® was introduced at the 2011 festival, it has become one of the weekend’s highlights. The brainchild of the “Doyenne of Death”, Gail Rubin, the game gives couples a chance to test their knowledge of their partner’s end of life wishes.
The Newly-Dead Game® was conceived as a way to help start funeral planning conversations in a fun, non-threatening way. Game creator Gail Rubin, author of A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die and The Family Plot Blog, sought a way to help families get past the fear of discussing funeral planning.
“Couples who have played this game often come away with a fresh appreciation of how much they still need to know about each other when it comes to funeral planning,” said Rubin. “Just as talking about sex won’t make you pregnant, talking about funerals won’t make you dead – and your family really does benefit from the conversation.”
When you’re done playing the game you can sample craft beers in the Brain Freeze Tent or play a game of Snowy Human Foosball. After that, head indoors and take in a screening of the 1998 documentary short film “Grandpa’s in the Tuff Shed”.
So if you’re free this weekend and you happen to find yourself near Nederland (about 17 miles southwest of Boulder, CO), drop by the festival. You never know, you might get to pop your head in the Tuff Shed and say hello to Grandpa Bredo.
The Frozen Dead Guy Resources
- Official Festival Page
- Colorado Legends–Grandpa Bredo (Link no longer available)
- Dead Guy Days ‘not for the faint of heart’
- Meet The Colorado Man Who Got Paid To Look After A Frozen Corpse For 18 Years (Link no longer available)
- Everything You Need to Know About Dead Guy Days
- Dead Guy Days: A Mountain Tradition
- Who is Bredo Morstoel? Colorado’s Coolest Grandpa (Link no longer available)