Rectangular illustration capturing the eerie atmosphere of the described events. The focal point is a dimly lit underground vault with LN Dewar capsules. Some capsules are opened, revealing frozen bodies in various states, while others are sealed. There's a hint of frost and vapor in the air. In the background, a mortician and another figure are seen working, trying to arrange the bodies. The scene is bathed in cold blue and gray tones, conveying the chilling and somber mood of the narrative.


Eventually, the mortician was not pleased with the other bodies sitting around on beds of ice, so a LN Dewar capsule was secured for the remaining three. Another man was already frozen and sealed inside the capsule, so it was opened, and he was removed. Nelson and the mortician then spent the entire night figuring out how to jam four people — who may or may not have suffered thaw damage — into the capsule. The arrangement of bodies in different orientations was described as a “puzzle.” After finding an arrangement that worked, the resealed capsule was lowered into an underground vault at the cemetery. Nelson claimed to have refilled it sporadically for about a year before he stopped receiving money from the relatives. After a while, he let the bodies thaw out inside the capsule and left the whole thing festering in his vault.

Another group of three, including an eight-year-old girl, was packed into a second capsule in the Chatsworth vault. The LN system of this capsule subsequently failed without Nelson noticing. Upon checking one day, he saw that everyone inside had long thawed out. The fate of these ruined bodies is unclear, but they might have been refrozen for several more years.

Nelson froze a six-year-old boy in 1974. The capsule itself was well maintained by the boy’s father, but when it was opened, the boy’s body was found to be cracked. The cracking could have occurred if the body was frozen too quickly by the LN. The boy was then thawed, embalmed, and buried. Now that there was a vacancy, a different man was placed into the leftover capsule, but ten months had elapsed between his death and freezing, so his body was in rotten shape — no pun intended — from the get-go and was eventually thawed.


The worst fates of all occurred at a similar underground vault that stored bodies at a cemetery in Butler, New Jersey. The storage Dewar was poorly designed, with uninsulated pipes. This led to a series of incidents, at least one of which was failure of the vacuum jacket insulating the inside. The bodies in the container partially thawed, moved, and then froze again — stuck to the capsule like a child’s tongue to a cold lamp post. Eventually the bodies had to be entirely thawed to unstick, then re-frozen and put back in. A year later, the Dewar failed again, and the bodies decomposed into “a plug of fluids” in the bottom of the capsule. The decision was finally made to thaw the entire contraption, scrape out the remains, and bury them. The men who performed this unfortunate task had to wear a breathing apparatus.

Source: Big Think

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