Minnesota Iceman

Now widely considered to be a hoax created to make money at carnival sideshows, the Minnesota Iceman was a supposed man-beast, claimed to be a possible cross between a prehistoric human and an ape. The Iceman was so-called because he was frozen in a block of ice and exhibited during 1967 and 1968 at various carnivals held across the midwestern United States. The exhibitor, Frank Hansen, allowed people to look at the creature, which he kept in a refrigerated glass box, for a fee of twentyfive cents.

At a showing in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1967, this display was spotted by a University of Minnesota zoology major, Terry Cullen, who reported what he had seen to various scientists, including biologist and cryptozoologist Ivan T. Sanderson. Sanderson, who had written a book about the Abominable Snowman, along with naturalist and cryptozoologist Bernard Heuvelmans, subsequently arranged to see the Minnesota Iceman at Hansen’s farm in Rollingstone, Minnesota. There, they saw the decomposing remains of what they believed was a real creature, a male roughly 6 feet (1.8m) tall, which had been shot in the right eye and had a broken arm. Hansen told them that Russian seal hunters had found the creature in an ice floe in the Sea of Okhotsk. (Later he changed his story, saying instead that Japanese whalers had found it.) Hansen claimed that it had been purchased in Hong Kong by an eccentric millionaire who then allowed Hansen to put it on display.

After they left Hansen’s farm, Sanderson and Heuvelmans publicly declared the creature genuine and tried to convince the curator of the Smithsonian Institution’s primate collection, John Napier, to support their view, showing him their detailed notes and diagrams of the creature. Napier asked to see the Minnesota Iceman for himself, but at this point Hansen said that its owner had taken it away from him. Hansen then offered to let Napier look at a model of the creature which, he insisted, resembled it in almost every way. Based on his dealings with Hansen, Napier decided that what Sanderson and Heuvelmans had been shown was a fake. Then, in 1981 C. Eugene Emery of the Providence Journal-Bulletin of Rhode Island reported that the Minnesota Iceman had actually been the creation of sculptor Howard Ball, who had also created figures for Disneyland. By that time, Ball had died, but his widow told Emery that her husband had created the creature based on artists’ conceptions of the prehistoric human known as Cro-Magnon man. Hansen later admitted that Ball had indeed made a model for him, but he insisted that he had shown Sanderson and Heuvelmans a real specimen, not this model.

For their part, Sanderson and Heuvelmans, as well as Cullen— the student who had brought the Minnesota Iceman to their attention— continued to insist that what they had seen was not a model but a real creature. Heuvelmans eventually decided that what he had seen was a Neanderthal man, but cryptozoologist Mark Hall has suggested that what Heuvelmans saw might have been a different species of prehistoric hominid, Homo erectus. Both men, however, theorized that the creature was smuggled into the United States from the East, though there is no evidence to support this. In the 1990s Hansen said that he had allowed this creature to thaw and then disposed of it, fearing he would get in trouble for displaying a humanlike body, but these remains, if they indeed existed, were never found.

SEE ALSO:

  • man-beasts

SOURCE:

The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Paranormal Phenomena – written by Patricia D. Netzley © 2006 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning

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