Category: Weird Articles
Published on Monday, 03 March 2014 00:00
If you have ever thought to yourself, “Man, I wish I could be mummified after death so that my body will forever remain in a grotesquely rigid position” then you are in luck! Summum Mummification Services
is the first and only company in the world that specializes in perfectly preserving human and animal bodies after death. You can have your dead ancestors' bodies propped up in your living room as a testament to their legacies and they also can be used as a door-stop! Versatility!
The unusual company situated in Salt Lake City, Utah, with its building constructed like an Egyptian pyramid, was established by Claude Nowell. “We’re the only ones worldwide who do modern mummification,” he boasted.
Summum's mummification method differs a lot from the ancient Egyptians' procedure and is obviously a lot more advanced, taking only 90 days for the entire process to complete. Firstly, the blood is entirely drained out of the body and the organs are taken out and cleansed. Then the body is hydrated for over 70 days in a tank full of chemicals that Nowell refers to as his “secret formula”.
After the body has been done soaking for enough time, it is taken out of the chemical bath and doused with lanolin and wax then covered in layers of cotton gauze. The wrapped body is then coated with a dozen coats of polyurethane rubber which when dried becomes as tough as a tire. After which, layers of fiberglass bandages is constructed around the body which sets it in the desired position. Once the mummy is ready, it is encased in a bronze or steel casket.
“The chemicals we use are so permeable that if a drop was put on the hand, just seconds later it can be tasted in the mouth,” said Ron Temu, a counsellor at Summum. “The olden day mummies look very dry and that’s because it was believed the best way to preserve them for the afterlife was to completely dehydrate them. We do the opposite and believe that hydrating the body fully is the best way to preserve it. That’s why the bodies will still look like the day they died, even thousands of years later.”
Nowell started practicing and perfecting his mummification techniques in the 1970s, honing his skills on 30 cadavers contributed by a local medical school. Initially with his first few mummies, he had to open the shell they were preserved in after 18 months to check on their progress. And according to state law, he had to incarcerate the bodies, once opened. After years of practice, he got a patent for his procedure and showed off his first creation at a national funeral directors’ convention in Las Vegas in 1985. However, their reactions were not what he was hoping for.
“Getting a funeral director to do something different is like moving a mountain,” Nowell said. “And this is really different.” But like every other successful self-made man out there, he persisted and the attitude towards his work gradually began to change, especially when cloning became a reality. Nowell claims that it is feasible for DNA to be removed from his mummies at a later date by drilling into the casket.
“Being able to take out DNA at a later date has real appeal for people. People started looking at it differently, especially in the funeral industry, to the extent that we have a lot of people calling us now saying, ‘Hey, maybe I can have my DNA preserved.’ People like the idea of being able to clone themselves,” Nowell explained.
Business for Nowell is indeed booming. Summum has had over 25,000 inquiries and 1,5000 have signed up for their mummification service. It is not limited to just humans, Summum is happy to accept animals as well – dogs, cats, finches, peacocks and even rats.
“As we have clients from all around the world, if a pet dies, then a vet packs it in ice and it is transported to us straight away,” said Temu. “Some people do like having their mummified pets in their own homes – even animals as small as a rat or a finch. What is amazing is that these animals, like everything else we mummify, looks exactly like the day it died. We test some of the pets after they have been mummified for years and they are perfect,” he proudly added.
Temu also mentioned that a lot of people who signed up in their 30s and 40s to have themselves mummified after death are now in their 50s and 60s, so there is a lot of work for Summum to do in the near future. According to Nowell's wife, Gracey, “The people that consider being mummified do it for a lot of different reasons. Some of them do it because they don’t like options. Some do it because they think they’ve done something so important in life they want to leave a monument of their accomplishments.” While others like the Nowell family believe that the mummification ceremony helps ease the spirit's transition into afterlife.
Hell, during my grandfather's funeral, a Taoist priest was called down to guide my grandfather's spirit from the human world to the spirit world. The priest slammed a live chicken and a duck into some rotating rack and then he got my father (who is the oldest son in the family) to chase after the chicken and catch it claiming my grandfather's soul was in it, and if the chicken was caught, my grandfather's soul would be released or something like that. Apparently they did it all wrong! Mummification is definitely the way to go in asking a spirit to GTFO of the land of the living!
There are also those who sign up without really giving it much thought. Like Sue Menu, who runs a meditation class. “It just felt like it was what I wanted to have done,” she said. “To be honest, I hadn’t really thought that much about it because I was fairly young and I hadn’t really even thought about death.”
However if you want to engage Summum's services, you got to be rolling in some dough for you to do that. Their service does not come cheap – it costs US$6,000 to preserve just one cat, and then it escalates to US$25,000 for one dog. Human mummification starts around US$40,000 but could cost more for “larger adults”, so if you are Yao Ming and you want to become a mummy when you die, then woe on you and your bank account. But then again, if you are Yao Ming, you play in the NBA so that amount of money will probably seem like peanuts to you.
Even at such an exorbitant price, non-NBA players, basically normal people who earns an average income, are not deterred by it. And it seems like signing a contract with Summum could be the secret of immortality. “People always ask, ‘When is your first person going to die so you can mummify them?’ All of our people are in really good health. I don’t know anybody even near death,” said Nowell.
Check out the short video documentary below of Claude Nowell explaining what inspired him to set up Summum.