While reading Sarah Murray's excellent book, Making An Exit—a global travelogue that explores rituals of dying around the world—I learned that you can actually be mummified by a private company in Utah. They're called Summum, they're based in Salt Lake City, and their process is patented. It involves rubber.
Summum has been doing for this for well more than a decade, apparently, using an undisclosed, proprietary process that the L.A. Times described back in 2000 as a surreal example of "high-tech interment, a combination of ancient art and tomorrow's science—for a price."
The company is run by a man who changed his name to Summum Bonum Amon Ra—only then to shorten this, awesomely if inexplicably, to Corky.
Corky Ra's mummification process takes place, the L.A. Times reported, "in a warehouse behind the gleaming metal pyramid Summum uses for its services." There, inside the pyramid, "modern-day mummies are cleaned inside and out and drained of blood before being soaked for up to six months in a vat of preservation fluid that Ra calls his 'secret formula.' Afterward, the corpse is covered with lanolin and wrapped with gauze."
And it doesn't stop there. Instead, this turns into a kind of corporeal rubberization: "Then comes a dozen coats of polyurethane rubber," we read, "which dries as tough as a tire. Next are layers and layers of fiberglass bandages, which are used to set the body in the desired position. A bronze mummiform much like those found in the ancient pyramids provides the final layer of protection, and the body is sealed inside with a resin."
The company also runs a gift shop, although the online version is sadly empty, and you can still listen to a series of classes once held inside Summum's signature pyramid. This include such topics as "Mummification, Kung Fu, and Ale" (unfortunately, that one is text-only).
In any case, it's worth reading the L.A. Times piece in full, as it includes some extraordinary details, including the fact that Ra actually presented his patented mummification process to the national funeral directors' convention in 1985 (it didn't go well), and brief indications of Ra's Jurassic Park-like plans to extract DNA from ancient Egyptian mummies and... do what with it, it's not entirely clear.
Meanwhile, Ra and his Utah mummies only make a brief appearance in Sarah Murray's book, but it's also worth a read. If, like me, you are already at wit's end with this year's seemingly endless winter snow storms, and you feel compelled by internal depression to read about death and morbidity, Murray's book is a reliable next choice. [Summum]
Lead image courtesy Justin Sullivan/Getty Images