Former Alcor Employee Makes Harsh Allegations Against Cryonics Foundation

Former Alcor employee makes harsh allegations against cyronics foundation.

ByABC News
October 7, 2009, 12:53 PM

Oct. 7, 2009— -- It's a practice that appeals to some people but disturbs many others: freezing the deceased in the hope that science and medicine will progress to the point where it's possible to raise them from the dead. It's called cryonics, and the Alcor Life Extension Foundation is the world leader in the field, according to its Web site.

Larry Johnson worked at Alcor for eight months. Afterward, Johnson revealed to the world some rather unsettling news about the late, great U.S. icon Ted Williams, primarily about the preservation of his corpse, in two parts -- his body and his decapitated head.

Now, after six years of silence, Johnson has emerged with more accusations about the singularly strange world of cryonics at Alcor in his book, "Frozen: My Journey Into the World of Cryonics, Deception and Death." These accusations, Johnson claims, make him "cryonics enemy No. 1."

And for the last three months of his employment at Alcor, Johnson said, he secretly wore a wire to record his conversations, took photographs and collected scores of internal documents not only about Williams but also what he claims is evidence of careless and highly questionable behavior regarding cryonics at Alcor.

"This stuff was so weird, so outlandish, so unbelievable, and it's like, I wanted to know more. I got addicted to it," he said. "People need to know what the hell is going on there."

Alcor has declined to respond to specific questions for this story but, in a statement released this week, accused Johnson of "exaggerations and misrepresentations," and the company has twice gone to court in an attempt to silence Johnson, calling him a "profiteer in the most heinous sense" in papers filed this week.

UPDATE: Alcor's written response to last night's Nightline report can be found here:

Johnson said, "They know I've got them on tape. What they don't know is what I have on tape. ... I am a threat to their future. I am a person that they need to get out of the way."

For more than 30 years, the Alcor Life Extension Foundation of Scottsdale, Ariz., has been freezing the dead, preserving the bodies (or often just the heads of its members) at ultra-cold temperatures -- 321 degrees below zero. Someday, it believes, medical science will be able to cure what killed them, and they can be thawed and brought back to life. Throughout its history, the nonprofit company has largely been shunned by the medical community.

Johnson, a certified paramedic who claims more than two decades experience, said that as part of the medical community, "I was ... someone who could speak the lingo, so when they go into some of these hospitals to get some of their members out of there, they didn't come across as so odd."

He took a job at Alcor in 2003 -- six months earlier, the company had come under intense scrutiny during the public battle over the remains of Williams, the baseball Hall of Famer.

Within hours of Williams' death, his body was to be flown to Alcor's facility in Arizona to be frozen at the request of Williams' son, and over the objection of his oldest daughter, Barbara Joyce Ferrell.

When a body is brought into Alcor's facility, the patient's blood is pumped out and replaced with a chemical concoction to minimize freezing damage. In many cases, the head is separated from the body with the member's prior consent. Johnson said he began to grow uneasy about his new employer once he saw what went on in Alcor's operating room, where he witnessed three suspensions.

"It was barbaric ... the third suspension that I witnessed, they actually used a hammer and a chisel," he said. "I actually witnessed them remove her head with a chisel and a hammer."