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Dying in America–Part One May 24, 2006

Posted by dr. gonzo in Miscellaneous.

I have broken this up into a couple parts. Part One is done. Read on.

Death is big business in America. Take, for example, crypt costs near Rosa Parks. Or the company in Georgia caught with hundreds of bodies on site.

The ways you can be interred, or your body dealt with after you die are numerous. When I worked at the Star I assigned a story about death and some of the oddities you can find when looking for options, the story never really developed like I thought it would. Everyone knows about cremation and burial.

But what about mummification? What about caskets, how much are they these days? What about having your carbon remains turned into a diamond?

Whoa. Craziness.


Summum, the home of modern mummification since 1975 will mummify your physical being for a small price. Well it’s not small at all actually. The process starts at about $67,000 and includes additional fees. “Artistic Mummiforms vary widely in cost, from tens of thousands of dollars to well over a hundred thousand dollars depending on how elaborate it is.” The mummiform costs are in addition to the mummification costs, which also vary depending on circumstances, i.e. larger bodied people.

So mummifying your mortal remains isn’t something for everybody.

I had a couple of beefs with this “company” after I examined their web site.

First of all they are tax exempt organization, they claim religious precepts to their mummification and transference process. They even have a copy of the IRS letter ruling, in 1986, that the practice of mummification would not jeopradize their status as tax exempt and it also states they are classified as a church. Church, cult, whatever.

>”You have indicated you will not charge for these rites.” The IRS letter says in reference to the mummification and transference.

But from none other than Summum themselves:

Mummification costs are integrated into at-need or pre-need arrangements.

  • Mummification: The current costs for Mummification services are $67,000* within the continental United States.
  • Mummiform/Burial Casket: You have the option of choosing an artistic Mummiform, or a capsule Mummiform along with a full couch burial casket. Artistic Mummiforms vary widely in cost, from tens of thousands of dollars to well over a hundred thousand dollars depending on how elaborate it is.

Of course, they call this comparable to a donation. And the IRS letter mentions an insurance policy with Summum as the beneficiary. The letter goes on to say that Summum has stated they will perform the rites whether this insurance policy is purchased or not, as it is not mandatory. Wonder how many unpaid mummifications they have performed.

The group’s own destricption of its beginnings (empahsis added):

“In 1975, Amen Ra (Founder), an administrative manager for a large Salt Lake City supply company, began to receive a series of “visits” from advanced living beings. His first reactions of shock and disbelief lead him to a period of seclusion.

Yet the visits continued. The beauty and purity of the concepts that these individuals brought to him were changing his life dramatically. He was instructed to write a book in order to make this information available to those who are ready to hear it. The book was written, and the teachings are now available through the publication.”

“Visits from advanced living beings?” What the hell is this? Oh wait, he wrote a book, available for purchase or download. It’s weird stuff. Aliens and what not.

The other thing I was perturbed about when it comes to Summum and its wackiness is this media agreement form they require all media representatives to agree to before they allow them to pursue coverage. They basically require positive coverage, despite the weirdness of their practices they don’t want it to be portaryed in a macabre light. Critical press need not apply.

All this makes the company seem a bit suspicious but Corky Ra (wonder if she’s related to Amen, almost certainly) at Summum tried to alleviate my fears. (Emphasis added)

“Mummification – Transference is a religious process and you will have to work with a local funeral home because of State laws. We do the Mummification-Transference for just what it costs us for the materials, the actual work is done for free.

You can work out an economical program with you local funeral home and they will call us if you are interested in going through this religious

-Corky Ra, Summum

So it appears the materials for modern mummification are about $67,000. Heck, you could get a nice crypt next to Rosa Parks for that kind of money. Do you think the Egyptians spent that much on mummies?

Stay tuned, after my vacation there will be more on death and businesses surrounding it.


1. Mac - May 24, 2006

This is good work, Doc Gonz… enjoy your vacation but I look forward to your continuance of this investigative reporting.

2. yinn - May 27, 2006

Jessica Mitford originally wrote The American Way of Death in 1963. I believe I read the 1978 version in the early 80s & it was a real eye-opener for me. How’s that for a summer reading recommendation?!

3. dr. gonzo - June 5, 2006

I will check it out. Might I recommend (not on topic) any of the following: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Rum Diary, American Gods, Night, and All Quiet on the Western Front.

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