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OUR SAD TIME: FIRM IN ARIZONA IS FREEZING HEADS OF DECEASED SEEKING IMMORTALITY

[Advisory: this article contains graphic descriptions that may be upsetting; please exercise discretion; we felt it had to be reported, dealing as it does with spirituality and death]

Oh, America, how far have ye -- have we -- fallen?

What do we allow?

What will we allow next?

O, Arizona!

Those who live there may already know about it, although perhaps not many details. To the rest of us, it is shocking. Without trespassing, sprinkle some blessed salt near this place.

If nothing else, this month of November -- of All Souls -- let us pray for those interred there in liquid nitrogen!

Is it really this creepy, is it really this macabre?

We speak here of a new book called Frozen: My Journey into the World of Cryonics, Deception, and Death. In it author Larry Johnson (with Scott Baldyga) makes incredible charges of bizarre behavior at a firm that uses "cryonic suspension" of the deceased in the wild hope of one day reviving them.

It's also called "suspended animation" (at other locales) and most of us have heard of it, but vaguely: how some rich people actually pay to have their bodies frozen at more than 300 degrees below zero so that -- theoretically -- one day there will be the technology to "reanimate" them: bring them back to life and cure whatever had ailed them (or download their brains into a computer).

No kidding. Folks believe this. Folks pay big bucks. Most of the clients are in Southern California.

We see the images in our minds: a body in a glasslike encasement, fogged with ice, the stuff of science fiction.

That's the image.

In reality, says Johnson -- who was once chief operating officer at Alcor Life Extension Foundation, one of the largest cryonics companies where he worked for seven months in 2003 -- most of those who are preserved have been decapitated. Their heads -- or "cephalons" -- are what they freeze unless a "patient" has opted for full-body suspension.

Grotesque it is: among the "heads" kept at his former company, charges Johnson, is that of famed baseball hero Ted Williams (even though, he says, Williams did not want such suspension, and even though his son wanted full-body suspension).

Are they really doing it?

Do we have firms in this country with detached heads wired for monitoring and staring into the nothingness of a box until they are placed in a larger container (with other heads) in hopes that someday they will be reattached to a new, cloned body, or their reanimated old one?

It is the ultimate in eccentricity and shows us how far scientism has gone in certain quarters that treat this whole thing like a religious cult -- showing, of course, an utter lack of knowledge and faith that at death the consciousness goes to a higher place.

We can't vouch for all of Johnson's charges. The company denies many of them [there is a full statement from them below]. But the details presented in the book are as compelling as they are enthralling and upsetting.

According to Johnson, the decapitations he witnessed were performed in amateur-like fashion as members of the organization (those who themselves one day want to be cryonically suspended) gleefully watch and scurry about taking cell-phone pictures in an "operating" room. Is this eccentricity, or the stuff of an asylum? Is there an exorcist in Scottsdale?

In one case, says Johnson, a technician who had set the head of Williams on a tuna can so it wouldn't stick to the equipment was trying to loosen the can from the head with a wrench when he missed and hit the head itself (sending particles flying).

"When I started working at Alcor in January 2003, there were fifty-something patients sliced and iced in Alcor's vaults, some with, some without their heads still attached," Johnson writes. "Alcor was founded in 1972. That makes an average of roughly two cryo-suspensions per year. Cryo-suspensions were a time of excitement around Alcor. This is what they lived for."

Unfortunately -- says the former employee -- the deceased often arrived in a state of incipient decomposition (with awful odors, raising the question of how that could ever be revivified), chemicals pumped through their brains and other tissues as the process began in earnest and often (allegedly) a frenzy.

They didn't call it death. They referred to it as "deanimation."

"The first protocol of this temporary surgical stop on the way to Scottsdale was to perform a femoral cutdown, slicing open the leg in two places," Johnson says. "A tube was slid into each opening, one in the femoral vein, one in the femoral artery. They approached a body as if it were a car radiator. The tube in the vein pumped cryonic preservative chemicals in, the one in the artery sucked the blood and chemical mixture out.

"What really shocked me was their attitude," continues the author, who has appeared on numerous national and local television shows to state his charges. "They were chatting, joking, and patting each other on the back. There was lots of laughter, giddy excitement in the air. Even more amazing to me, many of them had brought cameras and were snapping their own souvenir pictures of [a] corpse, taking turns posing around the body."

It is like a cult, says Johnson -- who claims he has been threatened repeatedly for blowing the whistle on practices. He describes how once a head was removed, several holes were drilled into the skull and little microphones slid inside to rest on the brain and monitor cracks that occurred during the freezing process -- cracks they hope can be remedied by future doctors when the day comes, decades or centuries from now, when heads theoretically can be "reanimated."

Once wired with the microphones, the heads were balanced on top of the tuna can and placed upside down in a cooling machine, with a handle built into the base of the head, which eventually finds its way into a storage apparatus called a dewar (with those other "cephalons").

Is a spirit moving here that is reminiscent of that behind head-hunters? As one head was transferred, says Johnson, "I was shocked by the drawn, leathery appearance of the face, especially around the mouth. [The face] was pulled into a gruesome, permanent grin, revealing a full set of teeth."

Those with weak stomachs may want to skip the next two paragraphs.

One body -- that of an older woman -- was brought in a U-Haul. The decapitations were performed by a retired surgeon and if he wasn't available, a veterinarian -- or so Johnson alleges. "I was sickened by the method used [by the surgeon] to decapitate the elderly woman," he writes. "He used a common hammer and chisel and went at her like she was a diseased tree stump he wanted removed from his backyard. He bashed his way through her neck bones, hacked through her spinal cord, and finally wrenched off her head. By the time it was over, what was left looked awful. Then I watched him drill a hole into the woman's neck bone to insert the handle Alcor used to carry heads around, upside down. Bits of neck bone flew around the operating room."

A paramedic before working at Alcor, Johnson was so appalled by what he saw that he began working undercover. In the book he alleges that in at least a couple of cases, people were euthanized -- "put down" with drugs by persons associated with Alcor before they were actually dead. He gives dates. He names names. "We did not want anyone waking up and causing problems," a technician allegedly explained about the use of potassium chloride, which he reportedly said "was to kill them." Johnson has those words on tape.

There have been no recent charges against Alcor -- and so we must consider them innocent until charged and proven guilty. A former cop in California, where Alcor was once based, has also made allegations. But let us be fair. After a recent television appearance the company issued a statement saying:

"Last night, Larry Johnson appeared on ABCís Nightline to promote the sale of his book, Frozen: My Journey into Cryonics, Deception and Death. Mr. Johnson continues to violate legal agreements with Alcor and an Arizona Courtís judgment prohibiting him from engaging in such activities. It is inexcusable and indefensible that Mr. Johnson would invade the privacy of private individuals and continue his false allegations against Alcor and its members. Mr. Johnson has had numerous opportunities to defend his actions in a court of law Ė both in Arizona and New York. He has failed to appear in Court in both states and has taken extreme steps to avoid service of process, and yet has no problem appearing on national television to slander innocent people and attempt to defame a 40 year old nonprofit organization that has gained respect among many in the scientific and medical communities. Johnsonís blatant disrespect for the law is yet another example of his disregard for the interests and rights of any other than his own."

Is Johnson a whistleblower -- or out to make money?

Read the book and decide for yourself. He says he has been in hiding since leaving the outfit -- and that fanatical cryonicists have even tried to barge into his home.

He presents copies of threatening notes.

It is up to you to discern.

We certainly should hear all sides.

Are people really this deluded by science -- this faithless? Are there really things so awful but lawful? Some of those who worked in Arizona are now in Boynton Beach, Florida, while another firm dealing in this area of cryonic suspension is located in Clinton Township, Michigan.

We hate reporting on this kind of stuff. But it tells us something about the spiritual state of our nation.

"I was at Waco," says Johnson, recounting his days as a paramedic who responded to the crisis there in the 1990s. "When I say these Alcorians are cultlike fanatics, I am not exaggerating. They consider themselves the hope of mankind, the intellectual elite who deserve to be frozen into the coming millennia. I've seen them lord their delusions of godlike control over their frozen comrades, wielding power of what they believe is eternal life and death. I've seen them act completely without conscience, feeling justified in anything they do. I've watched them apathetically slaughter animals in experiments with no scientific value whatsoever."

One cryonic sect has stored supplies and is preparing for Armageddon (elsewhere in Arizona).

"As of July 2009 there are at least 888 active Alcorians who consider me a mortal enemy," states the author. "Some of them are worth millions, hundreds of millions, even billions of dollars. Some of them believe that I am a threat to their everlasting life."

Strong allegations.

We'll pray for all involved -- especially those in the cold loneliness of cryonic vaults.

[see also: Alcor's restraining order, Alcor denies allegations, Video: the shocking claim on Ted Williams, Video: CBS report, Video: interview, and Johnson says he still fears for safety]

[resources: Prayer of the Warrior and Spiritual Warfare Prayers]

[Phoenix retreat: prophecy, afterlife, spiritual protection in special times]

[Alcor's response to ABC Nightline and Larry Johnson Allegations October 7, 2009:

Last night, Larry Johnson appeared on ABCís Nightline to promote the sale of his book, ďFrozen: My Journey into Cryonics, Deception and Death.Ē Mr. Johnson continues to violate legal agreements with Alcor and an Arizona Courtís judgment prohibiting him from engaging in such activities. It is inexcusable and indefensible that Mr. Johnson would invade the privacy of private individuals and continue his false allegations against Alcor and its members. Mr. Johnson has had numerous opportunities to defend his actions in a court of law Ė both in Arizona and New York. He has failed to appear in Court in both states and has taken extreme steps to avoid service of process, and yet has no problem appearing on national television to slander innocent people and attempt to defame a 40 year old nonprofit organization that has gained respect among many in the scientific and medical communities. Johnsonís blatant disrespect for the law is yet another example of his disregard for the interests and rights of any other than his own.

Nightline made some efforts to investigate Mr. Johnson's many fallacious claims. Mr. Johnson was caught in his own web of deceit when one of his claimed errors in the Ted Williams case was exposed as false. He was also forced to admit that he tried to profit from the death of baseball great, Ted Williams by charging visitors to his website $20 to view alleged photos of Mr. Williamsí cryopreserved head. Such photos, some of which are part of internal case documentation files, were removed from Alcor without authorization by Mr. Johnson. Since August of 2004, Mr. Johnson has refused to abide by a settlement agreement he signed, a formal settlement agreement ordered by the mediator and a Court order to return all audiotapes, photos and the many other illegally obtained documents he removed from Alcorís patient files. Sadly, this is just one of the many instances of Mr. Johnsonís shameless profiteering at the expense of the very people he was hired to protect.

While it is impossible to address all the false assertions in Mr. Johnsonís book in a brief statement, Alcor would like to set the record straight on some of the specifics addressed in the Nightline segment.

In his book and during the Nightline segment, Mr. Johnson claimed he witnessed Alcor staff striking Ted William's head with a wrench. Mr. Johnson, who was an executive with authority over the procedure in question, also claimed he said nothing about the purported incident when it allegedly occurred nor did he bring it to the attention of any other staff or board member. In fact, multiple individuals verified as documented witnesses to patient transfer procedures state without hesitation that Mr. Johnsonís claims are pure fabrication. Alcorís internal investigation did not reveal any reports or recollections of any Alcor patient ever being struck by a wrench or any other object, accidentally or otherwise. Yet this fictional and unsubstantiated report continues to echo, as if it is fact, over and over again in the media.

Johnsonís statements about tissue debris, tuna, and cats are fictionalized accounts crafted for maximum tabloid shock value, as is nearly the entirety of his book. Alcor denies exposing patients to any devices or equipment that are not appropriate for their function, clean, and sterile as required. Alcor condemns the gross insensitivity of news media in presenting Johnsonís stories as newsworthy, desecrating the memory of Ted Williams to the great upset of his youngest daughter, who was "horrified and shocked" in a New York courtroom on Monday when learning sales of Johnsonís book would go forward. This was particularly heinous since the publisher apparently knowingly accelerated release of the book in order to preclude the Temporary Restraining Order requested by Alcor and the Williams family. The situation sadly demonstrates how easy it is for one malicious individual to taint the memory of a great man, emotionally crush a family, and damage decades of work by others. That this is presented as wrong-doing on Alcorís part is incomprehensible.

Johnson also alleged that Ted Williamsí head was stored in an unsafe malfunctioning freezer. Patient confidentiality agreements limit Alcorís ability to discuss treatment of specific patients; however, we can confirm that in some instances, and for specific reasons, Alcor neuropatients have been stored for periods as long as one year in a type of low temperature freezer called a Cryostar at temperatures near -130˚C. This is done for purposes of relaxing thermal stress prior to final descent to -196˚C, the temperature of liquid nitrogen, to reduce the incidence of thermal stress fractures. This is very expensive, so it has only been done in cases where patients privately requested and paid for it, or on recommendation of scientific advisors for certain cases.

Cryostar storage was not done at any risk to patients. Patients were protected from temperature fluctuations by thermal buffering provided by their containers and surrounding foam insulation. In addition, they were surrounded by dry ice. Furthermore, the entire Cryostar freezer was connected to battery-powered liquid nitrogen backup so that even total mechanical failure or power failure could not result in warming. Finally, frequent scheduled and documented human monitoring of Alcor storage facilities would result in rapid detection of any problems. Any statements made by individuals that the Cryostar was unsafe for interim storage were either misinformed, or assumed a freezer not equipped with thermal buffering or backup systems.

As to references to ďcrackingĒ in his book and media reports, as former Director of Clinical Services, Johnson knows full well that fracturing is expected in every cryopreservation and is an unavoidable result of cooling large volumes of tissue toward liquid nitrogen temperature. There is an entire essay on this subject and the role of -130˚C storage as it pertains to fracturing, on the Alcor website. Mr. Johnsonís representations of fracturing (as revealed by Alcorís careful monitoring and documentation of fracturing) as being the result of mishandling is deliberately misleading and crafted for shock value. This whole line of allegation is recycled from Mr. Johnsonís allegations in 2003 and has been previously dismissed.

The sensationalized reference to the use of a ďhammer and chiselĒ in a cryopreservation demonstrates either Mr. Johnsonís ignorance or an effort to hoodwink the public. In a surgical context, those instruments are called a ďmallet and osteotomeĒ commonly used by orthopedists for surgical procedures involving bone. In testimony before a hearing of the Arizona House of Representatives in 2004, Alcor in fact testified that these instruments are utilized in cryonics surgical procedures. Johnson is again recycling his tabloid-style 2003 allegations trying to manufacture scandal where there is none.

Johnson also offered audio tapes claimed to be discussions of the hastening of the death of an AIDS patient cryopreserved by Alcor in 1992, an allegation refuted by the patientís nurse on Nightline. These alleged recordings cannot be independently verified. To the extent the conversations were recorded illegally, taken out of context or edited by Mr. Johnson to suit his personal gain, we need to respect the rights of those individuals to take legal action against Mr. Johnson.

Alcor's operations are overseen by its Board of Directors, which meets on a monthly basis to review reports of Alcor's staff and management and to address other issues of significance to the organization. Alcor's management and its Board of Directors take seriously all reports or allegations of individual or institutional misconduct or other failings in the high operational standards to which Alcor holds itself. Notwithstanding the fact that Mr. Johnson's allegations were not raised to the Board or management at the time when he was an employee, and notwithstanding the six-year delay of some of these allegations and the for-profit format in which he has brought them, and notwithstanding the many allegations already determined to be factually incorrect, Alcor will continue to investigate each and every allegation in Mr. Johnsonís book in order to determine whether any internal corrections are warranted. The information collected will be valuable for ongoing and yet-to-be filed lawsuits against Johnson for violations of confidentiality, defamation, and other causes of action related to his prior employment at Alcor.

It is important to note that Mr. Johnson came to Alcor with supposed medical experience, and he was paid and entrusted to improve procedures and ensure the safety and privacy of Alcor members. In his short tenure, Mr. Johnson misappropriated Alcor property for his own financial gain; he invaded the privacy of private individuals by secretly recording their conversations; he absconded with medical records and technical photographs that were taken for documentation purposes and has presented these out of the context in which they were intended in order to make Alcor and its well-founded and documented procedures seem ghoulish in the eyes of the unsuspecting public. Mr. Johnsonís actions violated the trust of Alcor, breached the confidence of its members and damaged the reputation of the science of cryonics.

As Nightline asked in the lead-in to the segment, ďis this self-styled whistleblower just out to make money?Ē The answer is a resounding yes.

It is unexplainable and indefensible that Mr. Johnson would voice his allegations in a book for profit and continue these unauthorized disclosures in the press while thumbing his nose at the legal system. Alcor is a non-profit organization, a pioneer in the field of cryonics and categorically denies the false allegations contained in Mr. Johnsonís book. We are prepared to take any and all action available within the legal system to protect the rights and privacy of our members. Media exposure of Johnson's false allegations have created a difficult time for the members of Alcor, the families of our patients, and the private individuals who are attacked personally in Mr. Johnsonís book, but we have faith in the legal system and believe that, in time, Mr. Johnson will be brought to justice and Alcor will be fully vindicated.

Further information and supplementary documents to this statement are available on Alcorís website."

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