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Summum Mummification Services – Who Needs Coffins When You Can Spend Eternity as a Mummy?

If the mummies of ancient Egypt fascinate you, then you are going to love this – you can sign up to be a mummified too. Summum Mummification Services is the only company of its kind in the world, perfectly preserving human and animal bodies after death.

The company, based in Salt Lake City, Utah, was set up in 1975 by Claude Nowell. He now goes by Summum Bonum Amon Ra, or Corky Ra, for short. “We’re the only ones worldwide who do modern mummification,” he said. Summum’s mummification method is actually a lot more advanced than the ancient Egyptians’, taking only 90 days to complete. First, the blood is 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 Corky Ra calls his ‘secret formula’.

After the soaking is complete, the body is doused in lanolin and wax, and covered in layers of cotton gauze. About a dozen coats of polyurethane rubber are put on, which dry as tough as a tire. Then come the layers of fiberglass bandages, which set the body in the desired position. Once the mummy is ready, it is encased in a bronze or steel casket.

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

“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.”

Corky Ra began practicing and perfecting his mummification techniques in the ‘70s, practicing on 30 cadavers contributed by a local medical school. At first, he had to open the mummified humans 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. Their reactions were not what he was hoping for.

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

“Getting a funeral director to do something different is like moving a mountain,” said Ra. “And this is really different.” But he persisted and the attitude towards his work gradually began to change, especially when cloning became a reality. Ra 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.”

Looks like it’s true, given the fact that Summum has had over 25,000 inquiries and 1,500 have signed up for the service. It’s not just humans, Summum mummifies people’s pets 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 added.

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Photo: Summum

Temu also said that a lot of people who signed up in their 30s and 40s are now in their 50s and 60s so there’s a lot of work for Summum to do. According to Gracey Ra, Corky’s wife, “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.” Others, like the Ras, believe that the mummification ceremony helps ease the spirit’s transition into afterlife.

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.”

But Summum’s mummification services aren’t exactly cheap, so you wouldn’t make a hasty decision unless you were rolling in some cash. It costs US $6,000 to preserve just one cat, while dogs are done for $25,000. Human mummification starts from $40,000, but could cost more for ‘larger adults’.

 

It seems like the costs haven’t kept customers away, though. And it does seem like people who sign a contract seem to live forever. “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 Ra.

Would you be willing to shell out so much money just for the chance of having your clone walk around in the future?

Sources: Daily Mail, LA Times