May 29

The Strange Case of the Minnesota Iceman

The Minnesota Iceman is a sideshow exhibit of a man-like creature frozen in a block of ice. It was displayed at shopping malls, state fairs, and carnivals in the United States and Canada in the 1960s and early 1970s and promoted as the “missing link” between man and Neanderthals. It was sold on eBay in 2013 and put on display in Austin, Texas.

Promoter and exhibitor Frank Hansen stated the Minnesota Iceman was discovered in the region of Siberia and that he was acting as its caretaker for an absentee owner he described as an “eccentric California millionaire”. Touring carnivals and fairs with the exhibit, Hansen was once reportedly detained by Canada Customs officials, who were concerned he was transporting a cadaver.

The specimen was brought to the attention of cryptozoologists Ivan T. Sanderson and Bernard Heuvelmans by aspiring naturalist Terry Cullen. Cullen had observed the carcass at the International Livestock Exposition’s annual fair in Chicago. Hansen claimed that he was only the temporary ward of the body and that it belonged to an undisclosed owner (widely rumoured to be actor Jimmy Stewart).

At one time Hansen claimed that the body had been discovered floating in a block of ice off the Siberian coast by a Russian seal-hunting vessel. Later, he said that a Japanese whaling ship found the body. Later still, he said that it had been found in a deepfreeze facility in Hong Kong (Heuvelmans 1969, Sanderson 1969, Napier 1973, Shackley 1983, Coleman & Clark 1999).

And later still it was said that the animal had been shot on a hunting trip in the Whiteface Reservoir region of Minnesota. For all these suggestions, the most popular idea about the body’s origin is that it was collected in Vietnam and flown to the United States in a body bag.

Heuvelmans connected it with the story of a ‘huge ape’ killed in Danang, Vietnam, in 1966, supposedly close to where Hansen had been stationed during the war.

Sanderson and Heuvelmans examined the iceman in December 1968 at Hansen’s home where it was being stored off-show for the winter. Both became convinced of its reality, so much so that they prepared detailed illustrations and planned to have the creature described in the technical literature. The body was that of a robust, barrel-chested male with a thick neck and large hands and feet.

Its face was broad, flattened and possessed a short, upturned nose and prominent brow-ridges. An eyeball dangled from one of the sockets, apparently resulting from a gunshot to the back of the head, and a bend in the forearm was interpreted as evidence for a fractured radius and ulna. Sanderson and Heuvelmans were intrigued by its enormous hands. Its thumb was slender, tapered and long, its nails were flat, yellow and of an appearance that almost looked manicured (Sanderson 1969), and a heel-like pad was present on the palm’s outer side, a feature suggested by Sanderson to be indicative of habitual quadrupedal behavior (Sanderson 1969).

At one point during the examination, the glass over its case cracked, releasing an odor described as that of decomposing flesh.

This object has been known ever since as the Minnesota iceman. Sanderson and Heuvelmans both spoke about it in the media, Sanderson making the unfortunate decision to refer to it as ‘Bozo’. This seems oddly unhelpful given his apparent belief that it was real.

Heuvelmans published a 1969 paper on it in a Belgian scientific journal, identifying it as a new species of the human genus that he named Homo pongoides, meaning ‘ape-like man’ (Heuvelmans 1969). He later modified this proposal, arguing that H. pongoides was a form of living Neanderthal. His ideas were explored in detail in his 1974 book L’Homme de Néanderthal est Toujours Vivant, co-authored with Russian historian, economist and cryptohominid expert Boris Porchnev.

John Napier, a primatologist at the Smithsonian Institution with a serious interest in cryptohominids, was invited to examine the iceman. He became sure that it was a latex model. Hansen’s dodge for this was that he had withdrawn the original, genuine specimen from display (mostly from fear of being found guilty of killing what might have been a form of human) and replaced it with a model. Sanderson supported this by saying that the specimen examined by Napier was obviously different from the original one he and Heuvelmans had examined.

Photos show that, over the years, the form of the face and body varied somewhat. In some photos, the mouth is closed, and in others it’s open, clearly revealing a complement of large teeth. Maybe there was more than one model, and some of the models looked more realistic than others, but it also seems possible that as the model used by Hansen was defrosted and frozen again for each annual outing, it would have taken on a slightly different pose and appearance each time.

The skeptical view of the Minnesota iceman has always been that it was a hoax – the latest in a long tradition of displaying enigmatic, memorable sideshow exhibits that are implied to be real. In 2013, what appears to be the original and genuine article was offered for sale online. Today, the Minnesota iceman is owned by Steve Busti of the Museum of the Weird in Austin, Texas.

2 Responses to “The Strange Case of the Minnesota Iceman”

  1. Paul N

    so which “iceman” is owned by Mr. Busti in Texas? Hmmmm… i saw one of them way back in the early ’70’s at a county fair or carnival in Oklahoma.

  2. Ron S

    The first version of the Iceman creature looked pretty legit, I’m guessing it probably smelled similar to what I got a whiff of a couple times as well.

    It’s unfortunate for me that in my two accounts the smell had unusual characteristics of being either confined inside what could be characterized as being in a definite bubble shape about 20 feet in diameter, or it was almost like a startling phantom smell that came and went abruptly.

    It would’ve been so much easier to wrap my head around if the darn thing was more like a stinky caveman 😝. Not so much.

    To add to the confusion the smell was also associated in both locations with something else really puzzling, and neither experience at the time was of an encounter I would associate directly with a Man-ape. Other various phenomena including man-ape/phantom things did happen alongside other instances at one of the smell locations several times over several years. And yeah, I just keep going back 😬… I have good memories and a love for that place that I hold on tighter to than the fear of going back.

    Now here’s the part where some are going to want to throw rotten tomatoes at me, oh well. Everyone has a right to their own opinion.

    My current thinking is that the monster I saw is probably the result caused by an energy I created in life with my own negative thinking or energy. If that is the case (and I dared to psychoanalyze my own life and situation as I did just a few days ago) the last time I saw a Sasquatch creature it was walking in crazy slow motion across a bridge with an amazing small blue light next to it.

    Now I probably have some people disagreeing with psychoanalysis… but, I’m still going to carry on.

    Makes sense to me now. It dawned on me that at that point my life I was beginning to be slowed dramatically by back pain (had to quit my job) which caused me to move more cautiously in life, I myself was also crossing a bridge so to speak getting closer to God, The Great Spirit, The Creator (whichever name you like or use). I think in some cases maybe all of them, we all make monsters or odd looking entities… maybe we are making light with positive actions.

    So at this point maybe you want to call me a Nutter Butter or Kookoo for Cocoa-Puffs, you won’t hurt my feelings it’s ok, I’m just dropping (what I perceive are) some gems for you… pick them up or walk on by, totally up to you.

    I believe it’s very possible that metaphysical and metaphorical things may be linked to physical things, (because after all the crazy crap the world seems to unveil, why not?) that living in good morals with our fellow men and women we can break the (curse?) and potential reality of making and leaving monsters, and start leaving and spreading light 💡.

    Yeah, I know it sounds wooey or whatever, it is what it is. So there you go. 🌞🙏🏼 Oh if you need the instruction manual you’ll find it in a little black colored book called the Holy Bible. Try looking at one of those to start your day instead of a cell phone, it worked wonders for me already… And if we go back to metaphors, nobody really wants to be in a cell anyway, do you?

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