Bigfoot Encounters

More on Frank Hansen and the "Minnesota Iceman"...

Minnesota Iceman Or Murder?
By Odette Tchernine

While I was halfway through this ultra-zoological survey, during the spring of 1969, the showman, Frank Hansen of U.S.A., produced a mystery creature a dead one. Hansen stated that the mysterious hairy body had been found preserved in a lump of ice in the Bering Straits. On a subsequent occasion came a statement that the specimen had been bought in Hong Kong, with no reason given for this contradiction in terms.

Doctor Bernard Heuvelmans, the Belgian scientist, and author-scientist Ivan Sanderson examined the remains through glass. Other scientists were alerted, among them Dr John Napier who had taken part in the Californian Bigfoot television documentary some time earlier. Once more since the Bigfoot incident (which will figure in a later chapter) anthropologists were faced with a problem. Was the somewhat apelike, hirsute, ice-encased specimen, which showed signs of modem injury, a sample of prehistory as claimed at first by the showman, and how had it got into the ice? Was this a hoax, or was it crime?

America’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was alleged to be watching. Ivan Sanderson and Bernard Heuvelmans pressed on in their enquiries, and some very curious facts came to light. For a start, Heuvelmans had written a paper on the case for the Bulletin of the Royal Institute of Natural Sciences of Belgium, several months before the mystery of the "Iceman" became more known. He called his thesis "Preliminary Note on a Specimen preserved in the ice; an unknown Living hominid" and I suggest that by the term "living" Dr Heuvelmans means a specimen that could be equated with a currently recognized type of man.

American opinion does not consider this specimen entirely an Abominable Snowman type, though this is open to query.

The feature which amazes the investigators is that this thing from the ice has been on exhibition in carnivals and fairs for two years, during which thousands of people have seen it, paying twenty-five cents for the viewing, but nobody, save one person questioned its nature.

The notice against its showcase stated: Possibly a mediaeval man left over from the ice age. Note the contradictory terms, which show a definite lack of interest in accuracy.

Hansen asked Doctor Heuvelmans and Ivan Sanderson to keep quiet on whatever it was they discovered about the specimen until the owner gave permission for them to speak out. The owner was supposed to be a prominent and eccentric rich man living in California. Heuvelmans, and Sanderson would not promise, and, according to Sanderson, the owner, or owners, of the Iceman refused to answer any questions on its origin and history.

In spite of their non-cooperation, Heuvelmans circulated his thesis among leading anthropologists. All agreed that the specimen was an authentic type of man. What type?

It was then that the matter was referred to the American authorities. They put the same question to Hansen, who was probably the person who had first leaked the news of the Iceman's discovery. Again he refused to reply. But when these official enquiries began, the owner came to Minnesota where his "property" lay in storage, and took it away in a refrigerated truck. He left behind a sort of duplicate of the figure made out of wax.

The reason for official alerting was because by now suspicions were aroused. In all probability the Iceman might have been a human primitive whom someone had confronted in one of the wildest parts of the American mountains. The mystery of the whole affair might have begun just there, as a trick by a person or persons to dispose of an incriminating corpse. Signs of modern injuries had been discovered on the remains, and such evidence could indicate such a crime.

Then the investigators found that the specimen had been hidden for a year, even before its ice-bound travels around the show-grounds, and that when the eccentric owner first obtained it he went to great lengths to hide it. Of all the hundreds of people who saw the specimen when it was on show, there was only one interested onlooker, Perry Cullen, a herpetologist and naturalist from Milwaukee. It was he who drew the attention of Sanderson and his colleagues. Sanderson later stated that when "Bozo", as he nicknamed the Iceman, has been sorted out, it would be useless to argue against the Darwinian theory. He made cryptic references to the Old Testament and said that the best guide to a new understanding of mankind would be to re-read it, preferably in an edition as near as possible to the original old Hebraic or Aramaic. If one looked back to "this ancient pragmatic exercise in clear thinking" one would get an explanation of "just what poor Bozo most likely is".

Genesis Chapter Six refers to a race of giants who "married the daughters of men". In the Hebrew language these giants were known as the "Nephilim", which means a race of big people. Genesis One in that chapter states: "And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them." Genesis Two continues: "That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair, and they took them wives of all which they chose". And continuing — "There were giants on the earth in those days, and also after that when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown ...."

Could that strange Transatlantic search for the truth about Bozo be explained by reading between the lines of these ancient words? Could part of the answer to other human or semi- human riddles, with which the Iceman mystery might be associated, begin just here too?

Was the unusual discovery genuine; was it after all a remnant of pre-history, or some freakishly hirsute being of the present age that had suffered an extraordinary fate? Or was this a drifted specimen illustrating the vexed Snowman/Almas question.

Much of Bernard Heuvelman's current views tally with the first Iceman factors, but there were new and recent details which justified a re-examination of the case. Perry Cullen alerted the experts, and the additional factors stemmed from there.

After referring to the fairground showings for the benefit of a French enquiry, Heuvelmans recalled how the Iceman [aka Minnesota Iceman] had been allegedly found in the floating block of ice.

In view of the geographical location of the find, I have wondered if the creature might perhaps have been of Ainu origin; a postulation afterwards recorded having been put forward by one of the scientists interviewed.

French sources stated that a Soviet ship found the body and was forced to put in at a Chinese port where their cargo, including the ice-cased specimen was confiscated. Bozo vanished for several months, to re-appear as a piece of contraband curiosity in Hong Kong. This was said to be where its anonymous owner had first acquired it. Mr. Cullen's secretary had tried diligently to discover the name and address of the unknown purchaser, but failed. The only news available had been what my own enquiries had extricated, that he had been in Minnesota, and then disappeared.

It was at this point that Frank Hansen agreed to see Heuvelmans and Sanderson. The interview took place on 17 December 1968, producing a variation of information. A different version of the finding of the Iceman was that Japanese whalers had fished it out of the sea. Hansen then said that the owner, who had bought Bozo, was a film tycoon, a Californian traveling around in the East searching for interesting curios to use for scenic effects.

This man must have been the anonymous personage whose name Hansen had been enjoined to keep secret, and who had rewarded him financially for putting the Iceman on show. They were supposed to have shared the profits of this peep show.

The foregone has a slightly Munchausen flavor, but one must remember that the unknown Californian was reputed to be eccentric as well as rich.

Doctor Heuvelmans gave an amplified description of the icebound thing. It was displayed on a sort of trailer, this in its turn supporting a huge refrigerated coffin, measuring 2.20 metres (7.2 ft) in length by 20 centimetres (8 in) in width. Fluorescent tubes lighted from the container within. A large layer of thick glass acted as lid.

Hansen told Heuvelmans and Sanderson that the ice block itself at the time of acquisition measured approximately 2.75 metres (9 ft) long, by 1.50 metres (4.9 ft) wide, and 1.20 metres (3.9 ft) in height. It weighed some 2,700 kilos (5952 lbs). To ensure the best visibility the ice block had been substantially reduced.

"The specimen resembled a man, yet, seemed "non-human" because it did not correspond entirely to man's actual definitions. To add to the mystery, this specimen, which was nearer to Neanderthal specifications, had been killed by a firearm.

The Belgian professor's analysis after having examined it through the glass carries value in view of his reputation in the fields of anthropological and allied sciences: He said:

"The specimen at first sight is representative of man or preferably, the description at the first stage could be an adult human of masculine sex. Height 1 metre 80 centimetres (5.9 ft). Of fairly normal proportions, but excessively hairy. Except for the face, the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, the penis and testicles, the creature is entirely covered with very dark brown hair, of seven to ten centimetres long. His skin is of the wax-like color characteristic of corpses of men of white race when not tanned by the sun.

"This is detectable over the whole body, more particularly outside the frankly hairless zones, such as the chest center, and the knees. Hairs were more separated on other body parts. Altogether, the hair situation reminds one of a chimpanzee's fur and not for instance, the dense fur of a bear.

"The damage to the occiput [back of the head], and the fact that the eyeballs had been ejected from their sockets, one having completely disappeared, suggests that the creature had been shot in the face by several large-caliber bullets. One bullet must have penetrated the cubitus [forearm] when he tried to protect himself. A second bullet pierced the right eye, destroying it, and causing the other to start out of its cavity. This caused the much larger cavity at the back of the cranium, producing immediate death."

Hansen had shown the Iceman at fairgrounds since the third of May 1967. As the specimen was decomposing in parts, he had intended showing it for only one more year before authorizing an autopsy. This is a peculiar report in view of the first Iceman news suggesting that there might be suspicion of foul play, and that the authorities might in any case wish to examine the mystery. If this occurred, it would take place with or without permission of the man in charge.

Immediately Hansen's plan was known, Heuvelmans and Sanderson proposed to purchase the specimen. Negotiations were in progress when the new sensation of the Iceman vanishing frustrated their aims.

Reports of the curious story increased in several countries. One foreign report gave a variation of the ice block's world travels that it had been sold to an unknown party who had removed it to an unknown destination. Yet another version of previous reports.

All that remained was the evidence of Heuvelmans and Sanderson, arrived at on the spot, their photographs of the Iceman in his cold prison, and his reconstructed image drawn by Heuvelmans.

I believe my first report of the Iceman disappearing is the correct solution. Everything points to the purchaser being none other than the original owner himself.

Bernard Heuvelmans consulted Jack Arthur Ullrich of Westport, New Jersey, who is a geological specialist, a hydrologist, and glaciologist. Their conversation, according to the best of my inquiries on this complicated Snowman-homin related case, circled mostly on ice conditions relating to preservation. Asked how long he thought the specimen could have been preserved in natural ice, Ullrich said that the rapidity with which decomposition set in would depend on the current temperature.

Temperature can be lowered artificially, so that all putrefaction is practically arrested, but such intense cold is nonexistent on our planet. No animal such as a mammoth or any other prehistoric beast has ever been preserved naturally in ice. In Siberia, mammoths and woolly rhinocerii have been discovered in muddy swamp terrain. But this might be due to formation of tannic acid, which has the tendency to preserve from corruption. The temperature alone of natural ice can only retard the process of decay, but cannot prevent it eventually.

Opinion now was that the age of the Iceman specimen was only a few years.

Was the creature's present state the result of a natural accident after immersion in an icy sea, or was it refrigerated artificially after it had been dredged out? Ullrich thought that natural ice preservation in this case was extremely unlikely. For this to have occurred the corpse would have had to sink in the water without dropping immediately to the bottom of the sea bed, and for the water to congeal while enveloping the body, before the body was devoured by predators or decomposed by bacteria. A body thus congealing would accumulate over its whole surface a film of irregular ice layers. The present specimen being encased in very clear ice could not have become congealed in the sea, but was later refrigerated artificially.

Here was no fossil either. Mr. Ullrich's conjectures on the specimen's nature when alive discounted the proposition that Bozo was an ape-man conserved in natural ice down the ages. He suggested, as previously propounded, that it might have been a human individual, abnormal perhaps, but of our own species.

Could there be a connotation there after all with the Hairy Ainu, the specimen being a lost representative of that fast-disappearing but known race? On the other hand, does he indicate simply a "phony", a manufactured model, a composite thing, though this seems almost physically impossible.

To all questions, Bernard Heuvelmans' views seem rational enough, and others share them; that there might still be Neanderthal men, more ancient than all men, that live among us.

And one such Neanderthal man had been killed by shots from a gun, and at close range, It is possible that Heuvelmans' and Sanderson's current investigations have major interest, Somewhere on earth men-relics from the Neanderthal Age still exist, Somewhere these men coexist with ordinary human beings, one of whom either out of panic or sheer destructive instinct used a firearm. Somewhere? But where?

The northern Japanese Islands have been well scoured for one of the answers to such mysteries. In China there remain mysteries of unusual living beings in remote areas. But China would never have allowed a rare specimen like the Iceman to leave her territory knowingly.

Heuvelmans considers that if the creature that is still causing controversy in certain science circles in America was truthfully found floating in a block of ice in the Bering Straits or Sea, one must study any hypotheses on its origin. In addition to the remotely possible Ainu idea, it could have lived in British Columbia, in other far wilds of Northern Canada, in Alaska, or even in the back blocks of the United States. Hairy men have been reported from many parts of the world where a civilization has not yet encroached. Russia is another and important example. Doctor Boris Porshnev, the well-known Russian historian and scientist, has for years studied cases of small-lost groups in the Caucasus and Siberia.

The venerable Professor Rinchen of Mongolia has been studying the question of hominid-remnants for a lifetime.

Certain discoveries are bound to upset both proved and preconceived facts of knowledge; all that we believe we know.

Bernard Heuvelmans has said that this question might resolve into being the most important discovery of our times.

One must remember the timidity of many scientific experts. From a French viewpoint the question of mysterious, non-recognized creatures receives a cold reception in British scientific circles. But I do not think this is entirely true. Great caution does exist before a final commitment, but that is not exclusive to the official British attitude. This book will show how timidly, and often with hostility, other countries' "establishments" reacted for far longer than a mere one hundred years.

In my introduction I said how my work resolves into a wrestling match. Here are two bouts that must be added to this chapter, which came to light when the whole material was already in process of preparing for publication.

Professor Bernard Heuvelmans' conversations with Frank Hansen were now amplified. He met him again at Hansen's home in Rollingstone, Winona County, Minnesota, where Hansen repeated statements he had made, but now said he had no idea of the Iceman's nature. He said it was even possible that the specimen was only a clever oriental fabrication, like so-called mermaids sold in the main ports of the Indian Ocean as curiosities. They are generally the product of a very complicated assembly of a monkey's body or a lemur's, a fish tail, and the claws of a predatory bird. This last physical trait has never been attributed to the mermaid's legendary image. Probably the idea is to create something sensational. It could well be that whoever first saw the disputed ice specimen was looking for artificial "Monster" exhibits to commercialize in the U.S.A.

Perhaps the fact of Hansen now casting doubts on the macabre contents of his showcase having ever been genuine is an opting out of responsibility because he may think a showdown is inevitable. Such an assumption seems reasonable, especially as a slight scent of decay was beginning to escape from one corner of the coffin, even though it was closed. And one of the toes showed a change of color which Hansen himself admitted having noticed. He stated that he could continue showing the specimen for another year, but feared such a delay would cause decay beyond the point when a scientific study in depth could be applied.

Professor Heuvelmans pursued the case with several hypotheses. Firstly, he said the object could have been entirely artificial. But this he rejected as impossible. Next, it could be a composite assembly of spare parts taken from divers species. That too he rejected. Thirdly, it could be an individual belonging to some known race of Homo sapiens. There was doubt there too. Fourthly, it might be an abnormal human freak. The fifth suggestion was that the Iceman was of a race, or sub-race, of Man still unknown. The sixth hypothesis indicated an entirely different species of Man. Heuvelmans suggested that the theory of a specimen of an unknown race of Man was just possible. All races have thrown up freakishly hairy samples from time to time.

At this point the Professor quoted the American anthropologist, Carleton Coon. Apparently this scientist's book, Origin of Races (published in 1912), describes the Ainus "as hirsute as a hairy Scot or Jew". I cannot quite see why those two particular races were picked out as displaying extreme hairiness. Professor Heuvelmans, speaking in all seriousness, stated that the Iceman was much, much more hirsute! Still, there have been exceptionally hairy human beings known to medical history down the centuries. Such records appear in Les Velus ("The Hirsute Ones") a book written in 1912 by Doctors Le Double and Houssay.

With due respect to Professor Heuvelmans, the Iceman hypothesis of a fabricated specimen, which he rejected, is the one I have always been inclined to favour since the beginning of this strange story of a creature dredged up from ice.

The following final piece of information to reach me almost confirms my view.

Like many investigators, I play my hunches. One of these, some months ago, was that some Vancouver records would contain a clue to the mystery; so I wrote to find out. After some weeks, only a few days after receiving the amplified Heuvelmans data, I received a report from Mr. J. N. Lewis, of the Press Library, Vancouver. He had just discovered the clue, and it had appeared in the Vancouver Sun Newspaper on May l0, 1969. The implication was that the Iceman was a fake. That same month, the Smithsonian Institution of U.S.A. indicated that the specimen being exhibited up and down the United States was an artificial shape composed of latex rubber and hair.

George Berklacy of the Smithsonian stated that he had been in touch with a Californian wax museum owner who told him that one of his employees had worked on the Iceman in the spring of 1967 inserting hair into the latex rubber body. This tallies with the time Frank Hansen began showing his "prehistoric" specimen at fair grounds. The museum owner would not disclose the name of the man who had performed the exhausting task of covering the shape with millions of hairs. The indication of decay escaping from the Iceman's glass case does not constitute a contradiction. A non-human substance like rubber can be equally objectionable when deteriorating.

Dr. John Napier, was at the time, chief of the primatology department at the Smithsonian, and eminent in his field, but was curious. Frank Hansen refused to let him examine the exhibit closely, just as he had refused others.

Dr. Napier said that the chances now seem high that the Iceman was merely a fabricated model. But he is still interested and wishes he could have examined it. He added that it was difficult to believe that Heuvelmans could have been fooled so easily.

Though now it is practically certain that the Iceman is a piece of trickery, if one is bound to agree with John Napier.

And that is why this story of a probable hoax. Because, supposing there was one fragment of truth in this involved and often absurd story, some of its features do equate with this book's theme of the Snowman-plus-Neanderthal situation. And because if the Iceman is a complete hoax, as I am almost certain it is, fabrications of this nature must be exposed to prevent their perpetuation.

Finally, a closing statement.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, Washington, D.C. have been good enough to advise me that they have no information to send me regarding the "Iceman." Quote: "Nor has this Bureau taken any part in investigation in connection with this case." Unquote. The letter is written at the highest level, and the signature represents a living and legendary name.

© Odette Tchernine

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