Dying to Be Frozen

Tony Reno of Pepperell doesn't buy the skepticism about cryonics — freezing a body so it can be brought back to life one day. “I want to live forever,” Reno says, “and cryonics is the only way.”

He's one of a number of Massachusetts residents who have signed up to have their bodies frozen at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Arizona, where Ted Williams's body now hangs in liquid nitrogen at 320 degrees below zero. It's not cheap: Alcor charges $150 to sign up, $400 a year thereafter, and $120,000 upon death.

Roughly 1,000 people around the world have contracted with Alcor or the Cryonics Institute in Michigan, the only two U.S. groups accepting new members. Combined, they've frozen about 90 heads and bodies of people betting scientists will one day figure out how to bring them back.

“Not a chance,” says Dr. Kenneth Iserson, professor of emergency medicine at the University of Arizona in Tucson and author of Death to Dust: What Happens to Dead Bodies? “Can you bring a steak back to life? A complex microcellular mammal? No.”

Reno refuses to lose hope. He could dunk a basketball as a teenager, but now, at 42, he can't even touch the rim, he says. He thinks science will have him dunking again one day. “I love hanging up there, floating through the air,” says the former executive of a wireless company.

Another Alcor member, a Billerica software engineer named Mark Kaminsky, has skied the Alps and trekked through Yellowstone. “I like the opening of Star Trek, seeing all the planets whiz by,” he says. He wants to come back to experience it.

Adds Reno: “You don't get much better than 22. If you could take the wisdom of an 80-year-old and the body of a 22-year-old, you'd have it made.”