Keep death under wraps be a mummy Pharaohs don't have all the fun

October 17, 1993|By Phoenix Gazette

Mummy master Summum Bonum Amon Ra -- Corky for short -- can't guarantee he will get you where you want to go, but he can promise to get you there in style.

And, in a marked improvement over the ancient Egyptians whose craft he follows, he doesn't have to pull your brains out through your nose to do it.

For a minimum of $32,000, Mr. Ra will mummify your mortal remains and send you off into eternity like a pharaoh, nestled in a bronze sarcophagus bearing your likeness.

Can't bear to consign Fido or Puff to the cold, cold ground? Mr. Ra will do your dog and cat, too, for $4,200 and up. "There are a lot of people out there who don't like the idea of being stuck in the ground and decomposing," said Mr. Ra, founder of the Summum Corp. of Salt Lake City.

"They're not necessarily vain, but they find the idea of being preserved for all eternity very appealing."

Working with a Salt Lake City mortician, Mr. Ra -- who changed his name from Claude Nowell and named himself after the Egyptian sun god -- has developed a patented mummification process.

His clients, he said, range in age from the 20s to the 50s.

"We've got 137 people signed up for mummification," said Mr. Ra, who runs a winery when he's not pushing mummies. "We've got a doctor, an attorney, several radio talk show hosts, nurses and a lot of celebrities. Some of our clients are agnostics; others are deeply religious."

The ancient Egyptians preserved the bodies of humans and animals by dehydration, using salts and resins. But Mr. Ra figured the idea of becoming a desiccated stiff wouldn't appeal to his clientele.

Instead, after the departed have enjoyed a traditional viewing, they are shipped to a facility in Boca Raton, Fla. There, licensed specialists perform the mummification using equipment that includes hieroglyphic-covered vats, scalpels, germ-proof suits and genetically engineered preservatives.

The method borrows heavily from the art of the ancient Egyptians, except for the part about removing the brain through the nostrils and storing bodily organs in special jars.

Instead, Mr. Ra injects a chemical preservative into a client's skull, converting the brain into a plastic-like lump.

Clients also are immersed in a giant vat of liquid preservative and pickled for 30 to 60 days.

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