WORRIED by worms? Frightened of flames? Want to arrive for the Day of Judgement in better shape? Look no further. Mummification is back, writes Angela Smyth.
Taking the lead from the ancient Egyptians, a company is marketing a complete mummification service. For a minimum payment of just over pounds 10,000, a body will be pickled in a patented marinade of preserving chemicals, guaranteed to keep it fresh and wholesome for at least a thousand years.
In America, 135 people aged between 30 and 55 have signed up for the service provided by Summum, a company named after the Egyptian god, and based in Salt Lake City, Utah.
None of Summum's customers has yet died, but several pets, including a Doberman, have been given the treatment after dying from natural causes, and have emerged from the preservation vats with shiny fur and bright eyes.
Summum claims that its chemical cocktail keeps a body looking healthy and robust long after death, unlike the preserving fluids used by the Egyptians, which left bodies looking shrivelled and discoloured. Once pickled, the corpse is treated with oils, wrapped in gauze and coated with polyurethane. It is finally sealed in a type of cement and placed in a custom-made 'mummiform', a hand-carved metal replica of the body.
Despite the cost, Summum's president, Corky Ra, believes that business will thrive in the body-conscious Nineties.
'What's the point in spending thousands of dollars in health club fees when you're alive, then letting everything go to pot when you die?' he asks.
Janet Greco, a nurse at the University of Utah Hospital, has taken out life insurance to cover the cost of mummification.
'I work out and eat right and take care of myself and to just discard the body seems silly,' she says.
Her husband has similar plans, but has budgeted an extra pounds 17,000, requesting a quarter-inch bronze mummiform decorated with images of the tools he has used throughout his career as a carpenter. Others have spent up to pounds 100,000 on mummiforms carved in precious metals.