Of Bygone Frogs
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It's a good thing Charles Platt has a sense of humor:
Further Tales of Ted Williams's Head

It's a good thing our friend Charles Platt has a sense of humor. Resurrection you want? says the Deity reaching for a thunderbolt. Then He thinks better of it and sends Sports Illustrated instead. Yes, a plague of sports writers. That would be better.

From USA Today:

Sports Illustrated reported this week that Ted Williams was decapitated by surgeons at the cryonics company where his body is suspended in liquid nitrogen, and several samples of his DNA are missing.

The magazine's report, appearing in the issue that hit newsstands Wednesday, is based on internal documents, e-mails, photographs and tape recordings supplied by a former employee of Alcor Life Extension Foundation.

On Wednesday, science fiction writer Charles Platt \ an Alcor consultant \ disputed the Sports Illustrated report and company director Carlos Mondragon described the magazine's source as a disgruntled former employee.

Platt said the samples can't be missing because, "I can say with total certainty that Alcor has never taken a DNA sample of anyone."

Meanwhile, Buzz Hamon, a former director of the Ted Williams Museum in Hernando, Fla., has asked Arizona's attorney general to investigate Phoenix-based Alcor and the condition of Williams' body. Dianna Jennings, a spokeswoman for Arizona Attorney General, said the office cannot comment on ongoing investigations.

Last I remember about Charles and the subject of cryonics was his account of attending the Timothy Leary deathwatch, waiting to freeze Leary's head. Toward the end, Leary decided not to have his head frozen, but the deathwatch had been a long, strange trip nonetheless.

The Ted Williams situation promises to be a longer, stranger and probably much more unpleasant trip. Here is Charles's public statement:

Please feel free to forward the following text to any news group or discussion list.


As Alcor CEO Dr. Jerry Lemler remarked in one of the many interviews he has given to refute the allegations made by a one-time friend of Ted Williams, the Alcor patient care bay and cooldown bay were undergoing renovation until a couple of weeks ago, which may explain the reference to disorderly conditions. On the other hand, during my years as a technical journalist I visited many laboratories, and to an outsider who lacks comparable experience, any place where experimental work is done might look "disorderly."

I am not aware of any "unsanitary" conditons, and I walk through the patient cooldown area almost every day when I am at Alcor.

Regarding liquid nitrogen levels, they are checked regularly, as they always have been. Alcor maintains a reservoir of liquid nitrogen which feeds the Dewars containing patients. The reservoir is refilled via regular deliveries.

Each Dewar has a gauge mounted on it, displaying the level of liquid inside. My guess is that the uninformed visitor saw two of the gauges with their needles in the red zone, and assumed correctly that this indicated a lack of liquid inside the Dewars. If he had asked why, we could have told him that those two Dewars are empty and are being held in reserve, in expectation of future cryopatients.

So far as I know, Alcor has never experienced any incident in which liquid nitrogen levels were allowed to fall below normal levels, in Dewars containing patients, pets, or tissue samples.

The ironic part of all this is that no one has ever confirmed that Ted Williams resides in an Alcor Dewar. Alcor has refused to comment on this case, and still refuses to comment. Therefore, in addition to being inaccurate, the news story was based on a supposition which has never been validated. If I had turned in a story like that in the years when I contributed frequently to magazines such as Wired, the story would never have made it past the fact-checking department.

--Charles Platt
Director of Suspension Services, Alcor Foundation
(Speaking primarily for myself, rather than Alcor.)