Life Goes On
Editor's note: More than 1,500 letters and phone calls came in on New Times' recent article about Preserve A Life Inc. ("Forever Yours," Esteban Sauer, October 28).
First Bush wins the election, now this!: I just finished reading "Forever Yours," and I can only imagine the mountain of e-mails and letters you will be deluged with over this one. If ever we needed further proof of the moral decline of our nation, this article provides it.
What the Braswells and other families like them need is to take the ridiculous sums of money they spent on preserving their loved ones' corpses and get some psychiatric help. I'm sure there are some mental-health professionals out there who would concur that there is something wrong with having your loved one stuffed and mounted simply because you can't "let them go." Death is a natural part of the circle of life, and so is learning to let go of someone you love while keeping their memory alive in your heart. We honor those who have gone on before us with photographs and stories, not by preserving the shell their soul once inhabited in this world.
It figures that our Phoenix mayor [Phil Gordon] and Arizona governor [Janet Napolitano] were courting [Preserve A Life] to set up shop here, proving once again that it's more important to line the pockets of politicians and big business than to consider what's right. God help our country!
Jack Hickman, Phoenix
Exploiting the bereaved: This morbid exploitation of the bereaved by Preserve A Life is yet another example of how the funeral industry has completely moved beyond the humble motives we used to believe were at work by these folks.
Today they are motivated purely by greed.
Aside from members of the Addams Family, how many people in their right mind would keep a preserved corpse in their home, let alone pay the outrageous price associated with it? This [Braswell] family is made up of a bunch of crackpots.
Matt Heikes, via the Internet
Don't blame the messenger: Never in my life have I been as appalled as when I read your article "Forever Yours." I can't believe that this sort of practice is going on, and practically in my own backyard. I have never been so mad and upset about anything I have ever read in your magazine. I don't blame New Times, mind you. I probably wouldn't have even known about this if it hadn't been for your cover article.
How can people do this to their loved ones?
They are mounting heads like their newest trophy from a recent hunting trip. Must we now have a provision in our wills that "my dead corpse will not be stuffed and mounted for the continued companionship of my friends and family"?
What is wrong with this picture? I will tell you. Preserve A Life is preying on people in their most vulnerable state -- when they are in grief. Grief is a strong emotion, and clarity of mind is not always something that grieving people have. It looks like the people mentioned in your article are rationalizing away the fact that they are hanging out with dead corpses.
Grief is the normal process of letting go, and stuffing your loved one is definitely not letting go. It's a Band-Aid on a gaping wound, and the vultures are out there to help you with your most expensive Band-Aid. Yes, you, too, can have Granny stuffed and mounted, and when she's in the way, you can move her over to the hall closet where she can be stored without a problem.
Well, I have a problem with the whole thing. Where is the respect in the services that Preserve A Life provides? Having your relatives frozen or stuffed is horrific. The woman who had her child preserved is the saddest thing. It just blows me away.
If it was so important for the Braswells to have Granny Esther saved, then why didn't Mrs. Braswell miss her for a few days after she cleaned her carpet? The Braswells' dog running around with Granny Esther's leg is straight out of a horror movie, and skinning these bodies and placing them over a mannequin is like Ed Gein á la mode. Gein would be proud. I can't even wrap myself around the head mountings. Forget about it!
Oh, yes, stuffing the dead newlywed bride. What is he doing with her dead body in a negligee anyway? Isn't that illegal?
And I'm not buying the comparison to the Egyptians, okay? They were preparing their dead for a trip to the other side, not for hanging around with the living. I can't believe our governor and mayor didn't see anything wrong with this, and gave them this sweetheart deal. I tell you what, these Preserve A Life guys aren't my PALs, and if Granny Esther were in a coffin right now, she'd be rolling over.
Kimberly LaRowe, Phoenix
Blatant disregard: This latest fad exhibited by your Preserve A Life story only underscores an increasing disregard of the human body -- a logical development of legalized abortion.
Paul-Harvey Du Bois, Corbeil-Essonnes, France
Spooky and tasteless: I could not help but be especially disturbed at your article on Preserve A Life. So funeral homes aren't the only bloodsuckers benefiting off death?
I believe that we as a society have lost all respect for the deceased. To think that being able to keep a deceased loved one in your home will help with the mourning process is ridiculous. The soul has left, and the person is still dead!
I think Margaret Singer is fooling herself. And to allow New Times to publish pictures of her preserved son on display in her home is not only spooky but completely tasteless. Let the deceased rest in peace.
Kristin Bouck, Gilbert
A true Halloween horror: "Forever Yours" was the most disgusting, disturbing and deplorable article I have ever read. If it's not a most completely contrived Halloween hoax, then it sure as hell should be. How frightening to think this society has plummeted to such depths. It scared the crap out of me this Halloween! Bring back the mother ship, I want out of here!
Dr. Cynthia Conrad, Glendale
An un-bright idea: Okay, first of all, when someone dies, their mouth doesn't fall open. Rigor mortis locks up the muscles nice and tight.
Secondly, I do not believe that anyone would want their dead loved one sitting around the house all day long. So tell me, whose un-bright idea was this? Only a sick, warped mind could possibly come up with such an unbelievable piece of junk so close to October 31st.
I sure hope that you pay your writers a goodly sum to make up for the junk they write!
Carmen Autera, Dewey
The role Joe was born to play: At last we have proof positive that the world may be coming to an end.
After witnessing the Boston Red Sox win the World Series, I was concerned that the raging fires and swarms of locusts were imminent, but now with the arrival of Preserve A Life in Phoenix, it may be well in order to actually at least show up near a church on Sundays!
The customers who retained the services of Preserve A Life should have instead invested that money in psychiatric care, or maybe a new Porsche and a road trip/drug run to the Mexican border.
Preserve A Life is nothing more than a company profiting off people's guilt and remorse, just as The 700 Club and the psychic hot lines do. This is almost as entertaining as the old Charlton Heston movie Soylent Green.
Here's an even more surreal idea: We could make a movie here about Preserve A Life, and Sheriff Joe could play the lead as CEO Bryce Cunningham. I smell some Oscar buzz here -- I'm calling my people in L.A.
Roy Dale Hester, Scottsdale
Sick and twisted: Please tell me that this was just some sick, twisted Halloween prank! I know that losing a loved one is difficult, and we never want a loved one to leave us, but this Preserve A Life story was the sickest thing I have ever heard of.
It would break my heart to look at that kid on the scooter every day in the middle of my house.
Please fess up . . . this has to be a hoax. This was truly disgusting. Sleeping with your dead wife's body, and a pillow made of [your loved one's] skin. I hope to be able to say that the writer was just really imaginative and that people aren't this sick for real.
Debbie Cano, Glendale
Nonbeliever: No way! I refuse to believe this story was anything more than a hoax. A stench patrol? An epidermis repair kit? And I simply cannot bring myself to believe that woman propped up her taxidermied son and let the neighborhood kids chuck curve balls at him. Please let it be a joke!
Patrick Van Zanen, Phoenix
Mental abuse: Your "humidermy" article started off with a very disturbing reaction of a child on his birthday having to share that time with his dead grandmother who sat at the table next to him wearing a birthday hat. His comment displayed a child who very strongly resented sharing his life with the dead.
Are they going to bring Grandma to his graduation, too? What must his friends think? This is a form of mental abuse to a child. It's ghoulish! It brought to mind Nazi Germany and lamp shades made from human flesh.
Name withheld by request
Lower than low: This is perhaps the most bizarre thing I have ever seen! Why would anyone want to have their departed loved ones' lifeless shells adorning their home?! I'm shocked!
Are these people for real? Is this article a sick joke?
Are the people mentioned necrophiliacs, or do they just have no respect or reverence for the dead? It horrifies me to think of the precious bodies [of loved ones] being displayed anywhere, much less leaned up against the back of my house under a tarpaulin!
May God help this society and protect us from further insanity such as has been displayed by these families [in the article]! To the company providing these services: You are worse than the lowest snake-oil salesman!
Steve McVey, Phoenix
Repugnant and fascinating: I found your article on Preserve A Life simultaneously repugnant and fascinating.
It reminded me of an old episode of Rod Serling's Night Gallery called "A Death in the Family," in which a lonely mortician secretly turns some of his corpses into the family he never had. When an escaped convict who stumbles onto his mortuary asks him why he's got a dead man sitting in a room all dressed up for a party, he replies, "Beats lying in a box underground, doesn't it?"
Personally, something like that wouldn't thrill me if I knew that someone in my family wanted to turn me into a moose head after I kicked the bucket, but that's my choice.
If the family of the deceased is comfortable with having a humidermied corpse sitting at the dinner table, then that's its business. Some people just don't say goodbye very well, and putting their loved ones through this process, on paper, at least, really is better than having them rot in a casket.
But more natural? Well, that would be in the eye of the beholder. As for me, I would rest more peacefully knowing that when I'm gone, I'm gone! Hey, isn't that what wills are for?
Darryl D. Brown, Phoenix
No law against it: Oh, sign me up for Preserve A Life. I want to be used as "Cold Ethyl" in Alice Cooper's concerts. I think Preserve A Life should add music to its home page like Alice's "I Love the Dead"!
Of course, there might be problems in California since Governor Arnold recently signed a bill making necrophilia illegal. Boy, about time, huh?!
But there should be no problem, as there is no law against looking at well-preserved dead people. Or dressing them up and putting them in a rocker. What a trend Norman Bates started! I haven't laughed this good in a long time.
Brenda Brubaker, Azusa, California
Morbid and hilarious: I just finished your story about Preserve A Life and found it morbid, tasteless and hilarious. It brought back images [from past New Times hoaxes] of football players saving turtles, people eating your paper for the alleged drugs in the ink, going to the mall to dig for gold, and so on.
You should take the entries from the contest [a drawing for one free future humidermy] and other correspondence and start a "Water Head File." It is my belief that this demographic would be of great commercial value. You know, bridges, lakefront property, etc. Keep it up! I need the laughs.
Jim Derby, Peoria
Truer words were never spoken: Here's some advice for Stephen Lemons: Stop writing. You're not funny.
It's bad enough that you have your own weekly column [Inferno] about you and your sidekick going to Valley clubs -- who cares?! But now you're getting to write a feature story? Yikes!
It appears as if all the other writers must have been on vacation so, in a pinch, the editor turned to you and said something along the lines of: "Yo, Kreme Dog, I need you to write something, and quick! We don't have a feature, and we have to get this to print by 4 p.m."
And you probably said, "What should I write about? More of my fat ass and my lesbo sidekick talking to morons at bars? That never gets old."
And then the editor must have said, "No, we don't want to give them too much of a good thing at once -- just make something up, instead."
That's the only conclusion I could come to, because I don't know how else any editor in his right mind would approve such a ridiculous and trite story.
Jeff Payne, Mesa
Laughing with us, not at us: A friend told me about this "Forever Yours" article the other night, so when I went to lunch at George and Dragon, I grabbed a copy. I seriously lost my appetite, but it was from laughter.
If this is a prank, as I'm hoping, I feel justified in laughing. If this is not an incredible Halloween prank, then I think my laughter is in shock and dismay at the state of our world today.
Here's to hoping this is not for real. Either way, solid paper you're running here in the Valley. Keep up the excellent work.
Lilli Eaves, Phoenix
Funny stuff: The "Forever Yours" article was the funniest Halloween joke I've ever seen! Thank you for the laugh. I even called the number in the ad to see if it was real, and the guy with the Vincent Price voice on the voice mail was classic. Very well done!
This was a joke, right? Please tell me this is a joke so I can continue believing in humanity! It's a joke, right?! Right?! Heh . . . right?! We're devolving.
Darren McKenna, via the Internet
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A big disappointment: I must say, upon picking up New Times, I was shocked to read the Preserve A life story. About the first page through, I said, "This has to be fake." But I continued to read. Finally, getting to the end, I was in a state of disbelief.
I posted the link on your Web site for some friends to read with the question, "Is this authentic?" Then, after a bit of research, I was disappointed to find the image [with the story] of the "freeze-drying machine" -- which is simply a Photoshopped image of an iron lung. How disappointing!
Now, I don't always turn to New Times for "fair and balanced" journalism. Come on, now, publishing a story of such bunkness on the cover absolutely removes any credibility you ever had, in my eyes. My only hope is that Esteban Sauer simply made a journalistic mistake and didn't research his story. Then again, that would be very sad.
Nonetheless, it was a fantastic work of fiction. In particular, the image of the woman with the "skin" on her pillow made my skin crawl.
Tony Tellez, via the Internet