Does a stroll through a museum's Egyptian wing put a spring in your step? Are you seeking a more creative post-mortem procedure than cremation or boring old burial? Perhaps modern mummification is for you.
Inside an orange pyramid in Salt Lake City, right beside the Lincoln Highway, is a religious group willing to mummify your corpse. The religion, Summum, was founded in 1975 by Claude Nowell, who claimed to have been visited by advanced beings who revealed to him the nature of creation.
Transfixed by the encounter, Nowell, who came to be known as Corky Ra, felt the need to share his new knowledge in a new venue. In 1977, he and a group of volunteers built the pyramid. It has since served as a teaching space and production center for Summum's nectars — concoctions designed to induce spiritual awakening, inner peace, and sexual ecstasy.
But back to the mummies. According to Summum philosophy, death does not snuff out a person's awareness or ability to feel. Though bereft of a body, our consciousness, or essence, sticks around — and gets thoroughly confused by the change in circumstances.
"Most people are buried or cremated," the Summum website states, "and this places their essence in less than favorable circumstances leaving it to fend for itself."
The solution: mummification. By preserving your body, Summum provides a "home base" for your essence post-death. Secure in this wrapped-up, chemically preserved corpse, your essence can safely communicate and make plans to move on to its next destination.
Summum's mummification process begins with a bathing and cleansing of the body. The internal organs are removed via a neat incision, cleansed, and put back. Then the whole body is immersed in a baptismal font filled with a preservative liquid, the exact composition of which is a secret. After a nice long soak, the body is wrapped in cotton gauze, encased in a polyurethane membrane, and covered in layers of fiberglass and resin.
The final step is to be hermetically sealed in a sarcophagus, or "mummiform." Summum offers lots of customization options for your mummiform. You can go with a traditional golden Egyptian look featuring ankhs and scarabs, or you can choose a simple, streamlined capsule. Regardless of what design you choose, Summum is happy to incorporate symbols from your personal philosophies and religion, whether that be Christianity, Buddhism, or Islam.
The entire mummification process takes four to eight months. As you might expect, it does not come cheap: Summum's quoted price for mummifying a human — excluding the cost of the mummiform, funeral, and transport of the body — is $67,000. For a cheaper option, you could always preserve the family pet. Cats and dogs under 15 pounds can be mummified for $4,000.
Corky Ra himself became the first Summum mummy following his death in 2008. His mummiform, and that of his cat, Oscar, is on display at the pyramid. If you'd like to see it you can attend one of Summum's publicly accessible Wednesday evening philosophy sessions.
More marvelous mummies:
View Summum in a larger map