BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. — There’s a small Colorado town outside Boulder that is famous for a frozen corpse stored in a shed.
Nederland is a scenic base camp for many of the state’s best outdoor adventures.
It’s about 45 miles northwest of Denver and 15 miles west of Boulder.
And the annual Frozen Dead Guy Days festival pays homage to a Norwegian man who cryogenically frozen after his death and is still stored in the town to this day.
This story is part of our weekly 9Neighborhoods series, where we highlight what makes different towns and neighborhoods around our state unique. Join us Saturday on Instagram for a photo tour of Nederland.
A town of many names
The first homesteaders to arrive in what would eventually be Nederland called the area Dayton and then Brownsville.
When the first post office was established in 1871, the town’s name was officially changed to “Middle Boulder.”
The year was a busy one for the brand-new town.
The Caribou Mine, which was in the mountains above Nederland, was producing large amounts of silver. The owner of that mine decided to bring the ore into Middle Boulder for milling – a huge economic boost for the small community.
Boulder Canyon Road was also completed in 1871, connecting Boulder to Middle Boulder. However, the road was nearly impassable. The first automobile didn’t make the trip until 1910, almost 40 years later.
Over time, miners began referring to Middle Boulder as “the Netherlands,” meaning “low lands.”
In 1874, it was incorporated, and Nederland was chosen as the official name.
Booms and busts
Soon after Nederland’s incorporation, mining operations at Caribou began declining. By 1890, it was a ghost town.
It wouldn’t be long before Nederland’s second mining boom.
The same person who originally discovered silver in Caribou found tungsten, an ore valuable in steel-making, in the same area. The silver mill was converted, and tungsten processing began.
Nederland’s population boomed to nearly 3,000 people in 1916, its highest point ever.
But the demand was extremely short-lived and only four years later there were only about 200 people left living in Nederland. The town sustained itself on a tiny mining operation, farming and ranching and tourism.
There was one more small boom in the 1940s as the demand for tungsten rose during World War II. But when the war ended, so did the resurgence.
Finally, in the 1960s, Nederland began seeing steady and sustainable growth. It became known as a haven for vibrant music and a laid-back, hippie lifestyle.
Development and improvements to the downtown area also brought an increase in tourism. Today, just over 1,500 people live in Nederland, according to the most recent census data.
Frozen Dead Guy Days
Nederland is home to one of the quirkiest festivals in the country: Frozen Dead Guy Days.
The 3-day celebration features live music, a polar plunge, coffin races and more; all to honor a 110-year-old frozen man.
According to the event’s website, Bredo Morstoel was a Norwegian man who lived a normal life, by all accounts.
He died from a heart condition in 1989. But instead of burying him, his family decided to pursue cryonics or freezing his body with the hope he could be resuscitated in the future.
Morstoel was packed in dry ice and shipped to a cryonics facility in Oakland, California, where he was placed in liquid nitrogen for about four years.
Morstoel’s grandchildren lived in Nederland and were hoping to start their own cryonics facility in the town. In 1993, the brought his frozen body to their home and kept him frozen in a shed near the home.
Eventually, Morstoel’s grandson was deported for an expired visa and granddaughter was in the process of moving back to Norway after being evicted from her Nederland home.
City council got wind of the frozen body being kept in the town and passed a code making it illegal to store a frozen human in your home. However, Morstoel was already grandfathered in.
“Grandpa Bredo,” as he came to be known from then on, was an instant sensation.
The town “Ice Man”, and a group of volunteers, pack Grandpa Bredo with 1,600 pounds of dry ice every month. He is kept at a constant -60 degrees.
Frozen Dead Guy Days started 18 years ago as a celebration of the end of winter, the town’s general offbeat nature, and the legacy of Grandpa Bredo and cryonics in general.
This year, the festival will include live music throughout the weekend, craft beer, cocktails, local artisans, a coffin race, a polar plunge, human foosball, frozen turkey bowling, beard competitions and more.
The 2019 festival takes place March 8 – 10.
The Carousel of Happiness
One of the most unique attractions in Nederland is the Carousel of Happiness.
The carousel itself was built in 1910 for Saltair Park in Salt Lake City. It was in operation for 49 years before the park went bankrupt and the carousel was transferred to the state school in Utah where disabled residents used it until 1986.
The carousel was put up for auction, but only the animals sold.
The same year, Vietnam veteran and Nederland resident Scott Harrison had begun carving wooden animals. He spent more than 24 years carving the one-of-a-kind designs.
Harrison carved only one of each kind of animal. From a rabbit to peacock to a friendly gorilla, he wanted to put personality into each piece.
Harrison discovered that the carousel frame was still available, so he bought it, took it apart and brought it to Nederland.
The community came together and raised $700,000 to construct the building the carousel is housed in and the carousel opened in 2010.
There are more than 50 hand-carved animals, 35 of which can be ridden.
The Carousel of Happiness is a non-profit run mostly by volunteers. Rides cost $1 each and the proceeds are used to help people with special needs.
Spending time in town
Other than coming for the carousel or Frozen Dead Guy Days, many people visit Nederland to experience the outdoors surrounding the town.
The town is located along the Peak to Peak Highway, a scenic byway renowned for its stunning fall colors.
Nederland is also the closest town to Eldora Mountain Resort, which offers 680 skiable acres of alpine terrain, Nordic trails and snowshoeing in the winter and mountain biking in the summer.
The historic Caribou area has been transformed into a 2,151-acre open space with trails, wetlands, meadows and forests.
The town is also within easy access of the Indian Peaks Wilderness, Golden Gate Canyon State Park, Mud Lake Open Space, Brainard Lake Recreation Area and Rocky Mountain National Park.
Nederland is also home to two breweries, popular coffee shops, a pizzeria, an Indian restaurant, cafes, a mining museum, boutiques and more.
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