Frozen Dead Guy Days

Feb 9, 2010 by

Intro by Nederland resident Colin Huff

If you were suspended in air above the mountains west of Boulder, Colorado, you would see a network of empty two lane highways winding through ranges and mountain peaks, connecting the ex-mining towns that speckle the great divide like knots in a massive, squiggly net.  The irony of such a simile is, of course, that the people living in these relatively isolated towns (if you can even call them towns—there are a few with populations in the single digits) are people who would pick up on, and object to, the metaphoric implication of living under a net. Perhaps, then, like a child scribbling with a black and yellow crayon would be a more appropriate simile.

I always assumed people were just being ignorant when they sent me letters addressed to Neverland, Colorado. But perhaps there is more to that misspelling than I thought. There is, after all, a child-like naïveté running through the mess of weird people in Nederland.  Around the Fourth of July, an eccentric collection of bearded hippies and vagabonds calling them selves the ‘Rainbow People’ amass for a week.

Or maybe it’s a month.

A year?

They hitch into in the woods between Nederland and Ward and lounge about, creating bonfires and their hippie ideal society.  I’d like to think they choose that spot because they like being near a town that will not disapprove of such unadulterated idealism. Within the town proper, there is a healthy (but transitory) culture of unassociated hippie-vagrants, ersatz musicians, and outlaws that—apparently—drive around blind drunk with expired licenses, burned-out headlights and warrants out for their arrest.  These in-town transients, along with bears that have made a habit of breaking into people’s houses, make the police blotter in the local paper more entertaining (in my opinion) than the rest of the paper.  But the truly weird occupants of Nederland—the settled misfits and outcasts of regular society—are the permanent residents. And they sometimes get in the police blotter too.

Maybe, at first, we resisted Grandpa’s presence, which makes sense because it is a little weird, I guess. But by the time I was old enough to remember trips to the grocery store, we had come around to the appeal of having your town known as “Home of the Frozen Dead Guy.”  Even if the Morstol family had plans to tunnel out the hill behind their house and already had two dead people in his shed by the time anyone found out—which wouldn’t seem to reflect well upon the town—I think we “Ned Heads” are too deeply ingrained with the place we live to reject such a prime example of the freedom we enjoy in the mountains. Growing up, I remember donating to the “Keep Grandpa Frozen” change jar at the local grocery store.  Sadly, but tellingly—the March of Dimes and the “help dying kids with cancer” jars were woefully empty by comparison.

We know the real reason to celebrate a frozen dead guy is simple, that a frozen dead guy is worth celebrating, regardless of publicity.

Not to long ago, a psychic was brought in to communicate with Grandpa from beyond the grave…or should I say, “Between” the grave?  Bredo, it seems, was “mildly amused” by the attempts to save his body.  Personally, I was mildly amused by the idea of getting a psychic talking to a dead guy.  She should have asked how he felt about Frozen Dead Guy Days.  It would have been, I imagine, mildly amusing.

The first time I saw the house where Grandpa resides, I immediately realized that it is not very subtle. Whereas most houses in Nederland are wooden structures surrounded by pine trees, the Morstøl residence is a grey concrete, castle-looking thing in the middle of a bulldozed bit of brown dirt.  When I saw it, I got the feeling that I knew—for the first time—what a bomb, earthquake, fire, and flood proof house looked like.  I also got the feeling that the person that built it was a little bit crazy.

Sometimes, gut reactions turn out to be right.

In that moment, I think my gut realized an essential truth about life in these weird mountains, about the rocky mountain high character: no matter how weird you may be, however many grotesque mannequins you can fit in your front yard, (almost) no matter how loud you’re going to be, and no matter if you have a frozen dead guy in your shed beside your completely ridiculous house with no plumbing or electricity and scheme  to hollow out a mountain and fill it with frozen dead people—until you get deported, you have nothing to fear.  The feeling of…lifestyle freedom!

And at the end of it all, at least part of the success of Frozen Dead Guy Days has been from attracting only the sort of person that wants to celebrate a frozen dead guy.

Good folk.



  Taken from the Nederland Chamber of Commerce website


Grandpa Bredo is soon to be 109 years old. For years, he’s taken up residence in a Tuff Shed in the hills above Nederland, Colorado, where he remains very, very, very cold. More specifically, Grandpa is frozen in a state of suspended animation, awaiting the big thaw- the one that will bring him back to life. There is a good story behind this, one that stretches from Norway to California to Colorado, involving cryonics, deportation, psychics, celebrations, and a dedicated Ice Man. It’s a tale that has captured international attention and sparked a must-attend annual event called Frozen Dead Guy Days.

So how did all of this begin… and more importantly (particularly for Grandpa Bredo), how long will it last?


Life After Death


Before Grandpa Bredo Morstoel died from a heart condition in 1989, he enjoyed a comfortable life in Norway, where he was born and raised. He loved painting, fishing, skiing, and hiking in the mountains of his homeland. He was also the director of parks and recreation in Norway’s Baerum County for more than 30 years. After he died, things got really interesting. Instead of a burial, he was packed in dry ice and prepared for international travel. First, he was shipped to the Trans Time cryonics facility in Oakland, California, where he was placed in liquid nitrogen for almost four years. Then, he was moved to Colorado in 1993 to stay with his daughter Aud Morstoel and his grandson Trygve Bauge, both strong advocates for cryonics who hoped to start a facility of their own. There he stayed for years under cold cover, in a shed, near his grandson’s home, and about to be left on his own due to some pesky visa issues.


The Grandfather Clause

If you peruse the laws of Nederland, you’ll discover that it’s illegal to store a frozen human or animal (or any body part thereof) in your home. We have Grandpa Bredo to thank for this. When grandson Trygve was deported in the mid-90s because of an expired visa, Bredo’s daughter stepped in to take care of the household – including keeping her father on ice. Soon, Aud was evicted for living in a house with no electricity or plumbing and was about to head back to Norway. This meant that the family’s fledgling cryonics facility was destined to come to a halt. Worried that her father would thaw out before his time, she spoke to a local reporter, who spoke to the Nederland city council, who passed Section 7-34 of the municipal code regarding the “keeping of bodies.” Luckily for Bredo, he was grandfathered in and allowed to stay. Suddenly, he was a worldwide media sensation. And he has been well cared for by his family and community ever since.


The Iceman Cometh, Monthly

Bo Shaffer saw an intriguing want ad on the Internet in 1995 posted by Trygve. He applied for the one-of-a-kind job, got it, and is now known as the “Ice Man.” Every month, Shaffer and a team of volunteers delivers 1,600 pounds of dry ice and packs it around Grandpa Bredo in his sarcophagus, surrounded by foam padding, a tarp, and blankets. As Cryonicist-in-Charge, Shaffer keeps Grandpa at a steady -60 degrees Fahrenheit. He also gives tours to investigators, filmmakers, local volunteers, and even psychics who have purported to communicate with the dearly departed (by one account, Bredo is amused by the fuss but doing fine). Shaffer feels the weight of this responsibility, knowing how much has been invested in keeping Grandpa in his cryonic state. Now frozen for 20 years, he is keeping the hope alive for his family and their faith in cryonics, as well as spurring an annual festival in Nederland that has grown into a full-fledged winter celebration.


It’s a Dead Man’s Party

For a town like Nederland that thrives on the colorful, the offbeat, and the weird, Frozen Dead Guy Days is a fitting way to end the short days of winter and head into the melting snows of spring. Trygve Bauge calls it “Cryonics’ first Mardi Gras.” The community experiences a new burst of life with the festival’s creative contests, icy events (including coffin racing, polar plunging, frozen salmon tossing) basically if it is fun and can be done in the cold, it goes! People come from around the world every March to experience the legacy of Grandpa Bredo – even representatives of cryonics organizations who want share the science behind this unique story. Nowadays, when Grandpa Bredo celebrates, he doesn’t celebrate alone. Every year, loyal souls go to the Tuff Shed on the hill to have a drink with Colorado’s best-known corpse, marking the passage of years.


20 years on ice,,,,,

This year marked Bredo’s twentieth on ice and the festival now going into its eight year is never short on intrigue, controversy and just plain fun!

Named by the Chicago Tribune in 2007 as one the country’s top 100 festivals not to be missed. Video footage of the FDGD has graced the networks on many broadcasts including Bill Guiest’s segment on the CBS Sunday Morning Show, the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, CNN, ABC news, PBS features, the Game Show Network and a Belgium Realty Show (who came and filmed a full episode at FDGD). The festival has also been “immortalized” by two international award-winning documentaries, “Grandpa’s In The Tuff Shed” and “Grandpa’s Still In The Tuff Shed” by the Beeck Sisters. Media coverage has been and continues to be extensive and world wide.

Friday, March 5

3:00pm– 7:00pm ReAnimate Yourself Beer Tent
$5 entry fee (wristband good for entire weekend) 12 and under free.
4:00pm – 5:00pm  Onda (Latin Dance Band)
5:00pm -7:00pm  Psychadelic Sausage (Rock and Roll)
8:00pm – 12:00am 2010 Space Oddity Blue Ball with Alien Ice Queen & Grandpa look a like contests at the Black Forest Restaurant, Nederland, COMusic by a Very Special Guest – TBA. 10:00pm – 10:30pm Grandpa Look-alike and Ice Queen costume contests. $15 Entry Fee.
1st Prize – Mont Bell down jacket
Runners up – $50 Mont Bell gift certificate
until 2:00am LIVE MUSIC – area restaurants and bars. Bands and schedule coming soon.
 Saturday, March 6

11:00am – 7:00pm ReAnimate Yourself Beer Tent
$5 entry fee (wristband good for entire weekend) 12 and under free.
11:30am – 12:30pm   Black Dog
1:00pm – 2:00pm   MileMarkers
3:30pm – 4:30pm   Ground Up
5:00pm – 6:00pm   Phat Rabbit
6:30pm – 8:00pm  Elephant Revival
6:30pm – 1:00am GRANDPA’S PUB CRAWL at the following venues:
(more information coming soon)
Sunday, March 7

11:00am – 4:00pm ReAnimate Yourself Beer Tent
$5 entry fee (wristband good for entire weekend) 12 and under free.
11:00am -12:00pm TBD
1:30pm – 2:00pm Seismic Shift
2:30pm – 4:00pm Mountain Standard Tim

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