- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 10, 2002

Nearly 50 people are frozen in a small office in Scottsdale, Ariz., where the body of Hall of Fame baseball player Ted Williams reportedly awaits its fate.

While no one is confirming precisely where Mr. Williams' body lies members of Mr. Williams' family are battling over its final destination reports indicate it was sent to the Scottsdale headquarters of Alcor Life Extension Foundation, the nation's biggest provider of cryonic freezing. Excluding Mr. Williams, 49 bodies now lie suspended, or frozen, at Alcor, and 580 clients have signed up with the hope that future scientific advancements will revive them.

Alcor did not return repeated calls yesterday, but information available about the company indicated that of the five cryonics firms in the United States, it is the largest, one of the most expensive and arguably the most technologically advanced. Anyone wishing to be frozen after death must pay $120,000, plus $398 per year. Freezing of the head only, known as neuro-suspension, costs $50,000.

"They cost more than some, but they are probably the most technologically advanced at the moment," said Edgar Swank, president of the American Cryonics Society, a San Jose, Calif., cryonics provider. Mr. Swank's organization charges between $50,000 and $135,000 for a full-body suspension, depending on the facility used. Other companies, including the Cryonics Institute in Detroit, charge as little as $28,000.

The process of cryonic freezing begins with the draining of the blood from the body. Then a glycerol liquid is pumped into the body to prevent some of the damage caused by freezing. The body is immersed in cold silicone oil and dry ice at about 160 degrees below zero, then finally wrapped in a sleeping bag or blanket and placed in a steel vat of liquid nitrogen. There, it rests at 320 degrees below zero. Full bodies are often placed in vats together. Heads being frozen alone are placed into smaller vats the size of large cooking pots.

Many of Alcor's members choose to have only their head frozen, in the hope that it will later be attached to a cloned body. It is also less expensive and the technology to allow for more rapid and less damaging freezing is currently effective on the head, but not yet the body.

Mr. Williams' son, John Henry, reportedly took his father's body to Alcor after he died last week. The younger Mr. Williams moved to Florida with his father in 1991, and was criticized by his father's friends and former Red Sox teammates for limiting access to the Hall of Fame player. His half-sister, Bobby-Jo Ferrell, said her father wished to be cremated, and a lawyer who has seen his will said the same yesterday.

Alcor was founded in Riverdale, Calif., in 1972 as the Alcor Society of Solid State Hypothermia, and performed its first suspension in 1976. By the early 1990s, it had nearly 300 members and moved to its current facility in 1994. Now headed by Jerry Lemler, a psychiatrist and former administrator of a mental health hospital in Tennessee, Alcor employs 15 workers, all of whom are members willing to be cryonically frozen when they die.

All members wear stainless steel bracelets, similar to those with epilepsy or allergies to penicillin, to indicate they wish to be frozen when they die.

Notable people frozen at Alcor include Richard Jones, best known as Dick Clair, the producer and author of several hit television shows including "The Facts of Life" and "It's a Living;" James Bedford, a psychology professor and the first person ever frozen; and a lawyer who committed suicide. Walt Disney was not frozen, contrary to popular belief.

Cryonic freezing is controversial. Most scientists and doctors dismiss the practice as fantasy, and religious leaders have argued it amounts to playing God. In addition, Alcor has been involved in several court battles that underscore the complicated nature of making plans for death.

Mr. Jones, the former TV producer, died in 1987 of a AIDS-related illness and had originally agreed to give 90 percent of his estate nearly $10 million to Alcor. But two days before his death, he revised his will to give just half of his estate to the company. Alcor contested the revised will, arguing that Mr. Jones was not mentally competent when he signed it, and won in court.

Alcor also nearly had to defend itself against homicide charges in 1988, after freezing the head of an 83-year-old woman who prosecutors said had been administered a lethal dose of barbiturates. Prosecutors asked Alcor to thaw the head so it could be examined, but the Superior Court in California ruled that thawing the head would be an infringement of the woman's constitutional right to choose how to dispose of her remains. All charges in the case were eventually dropped for lack of evidence.



Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide