Cryonics, family drama, and a ‘Frozen Head:’ ‘Morbid’ hosts Ash Kelley and Alaina Urquhart detail Laurence Pilgeram’s case and quest to live again

True Crime January 26, 2023
Frozen Head
Listen to ‘Frozen Head’

In 2015, 90-year-old biochemist and professor Laurence Pilgeram died on the sidewalk in front of his condo in Santa Barbara, California. Before his death, Pilgeram had signed up to have his body frozen with hopes of being brought back to life in the future. This placed generations of Pilgeram’s family into a “cryonics soap opera” complete with family feuds, mystery packages, gold coins, dead pets, fights, baseball hall of famers, and plenty of frozen heads.

“Frozen Head” is co-hosted by “Morbid’s” Ash Kelley and Alaina Urquhart. Stream Wondery’s 6 episodes from the beginning to catch the whole story and hear about 2 different cases that happened decades apart. New episodes are available early for subscribers.

Pilgeram was greatly interested in Alcor Life Extension Foundation’s cryonics program based in Arizona and had lectured at cryonics conferences starting in the 1970s. This organization preserves people after they died until future medical technology is available to restore the person’s health and bring them back to life. Alcor offered full-body and head-only preservations in case science progressed to generate new bodies with possible tissue regeneration. Baseballer Ted Williams is also cryopreserved by Alcor.

After Pilgeram died, his body was stored in dry ice and brought to Alcor where his head was separated from his body and cryopreserved. His body was cremated, and the ashes were sent to his family, as Alcor claimed Pilgeram’s entire body could not be preserved because it was kept for two days in a medical examiner’s office.

Since then, Pilgeram’s head has been preserved in liquid nitrogen at Alcor in Arizona, but his sons say the company went against his father’s wishes of having his entire body preserved. Right before Pilgream passed away, he purchased an insurance policy to pay for Alcor’s services. His son Kurt filed a lawsuit saying that cremating the rest of Pilgeram’s body breached their contractual agreement – lacking the whole body to work with would possibility prevent him being brought back to life in the future, among other qualms.

Pilgeram’s scenario resulted in lawsuits, the sons’ requests to return their father’s head, and asks to release insurance money in escrow that was previously agreed to be held until things were settled. Alcor claimed the head was rightfully theirs, and the company filed a lawsuit in 2017. Later on, Alcor accused Kurt of fraud in his attempts to sweep up his father’s money, and Kurt claimed Alcor was preserving a wax replica instead of his dad’s actual head.

Learn more Pilgeram’s saga about other drama pertaining to this case as detailed on “Frozen Head.”

Listen to ‘Frozen Head’

New shows we love...

Join Our Newsletter

The best podcasts to listen to next, delivered right to your inbox every week.

By clicking Submit, you acknowledge you have read and agree to our Website and Digital Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.