Updating the Minnesota Iceman 2005
by Dmitri Bayanov, Moscow, Russia
(A compiled list of links on the Iceman below)
Both the Iceman and the movie are still officially believed to be fake. But if the film subject is taken now as real by the majority of bigfoot researchers, the Iceman is denied authenticity by most of them, in spite of the fact that the Iceman initially made a louder noise in science than the Bigfoot film. Here is a quote from the article by Magnus Linklater "Neanderthal Man?", published by The Sunday Times of London on March 23, 1969:
"A strange ape-like creature frozen in a block of ice is providing American anthropologists with one of the most intriguing questions they have faced in recent years. Is it a fraud, a freak, or is it a form of human being believed to have been extinct since prehistoric times? One thing is certain: it has two large bullet-holes in it. Just as a precaution the FBI have been called in..."
The concluding lines of the article ran as follows: "Whatever the explanation, a capital crime may have been committed. Accordingly the FBI has been informed. However fanciful all these suggestions, the anthropological world may be on the verge of one of the most exciting discoveries in the study of man. Dr. Heuvelmans's ape-man might just provide the evidence of a missing link in the evolution of man. Even if it doesn't it could become as great a cause celebre as the Piltdown Man."
The Iceman owes its "cause celebre" status to Bernard Heuvelmans and Ivan Sanderson, the founding fathers of cryptozoology, and in part to Boris Porshnev, the father of hominology. In February 1969, Heuvelmans published, in the Bulletin of the Royal Institute of Natural Sciences of Belgium, a paper entitled, "Notice on a specimen preserved in ice of an unknown form of living hominid: Homo pongoides." Later, in 1974, he devoted a voluminous book to the case, "L'Homme de Neanderthal est toujours vivant" (Neanderthal Man is still alive).
Sanderson committed his findings to paper in the report "Preliminary Description of the External Morphology of What Appears to be the Fresh Corpse of a Hitherto Unknown Form of Living Hominid" (Genus, Vol. XXV, N.1-4, 1969). Porshnev's role lies in the fact that Heuvelmans referred to Porshnev's ideas in claiming the present-day survival of Neanderthal man, supposedly evidenced by the Iceman. Porshnev in turn dwelt in length on the case in the Russian popular press and asked a very pertinent question: If the Iceman is a model, WHAT is it a model of?
The relevance of this question became especially clear with the publication in FATE (March 1982) of the piece, "The Iceman Goeth", in which debunkers referred to one Howard Ball, "who died several years ago" and who "made models for Disneyland." "He made (the Iceman) here in his studio in Torrance (Calif.)," Ball's widow Helen told Emery. "The man who commissioned it said he was going to encase it in ice and pass it off, I think, as a prehistoric man." Ball's son Kenneth helped his father build the figure.
He says its "skin" is half-inch-thick rubber. "We modeled it after an artist's conception of Cro-Magnon man and gave it a broken arm and a bashed-in skull with one eye popped out." (p.59).
"The reports published by Sanderson and Heuvelmans brought an incredible amount of attention Hansen's way, much to his anger because he had insisted on no publicity when he allowed them to examine the Iceman. He was particularly upset with Heuvelmans, whose report appeared first.
"According to Hansen, what does not appear in either scientist's report is just how they became convinced the Iceman was real. To get the best possible view of it they had hung bright lights over the glass under which it lay, and while Hansen was away from them for a moment one of them placed one of the hot lights directly on the ice-cold glass. It shattered, and a pungent odor like that of rotting flesh rose from the ice. This convinced them that an actual corpse, freshly killed, lay before them. Hansen will never forget what the distinguished scientists said when he reminded them of their promise not to publicize the story at that point. 'We are scientists first,' they told him, 'and gentlemen second.' (He doesn't say exactly which one of them said this.)" (p.144).
Ivan Sanderson, in his report, refers to this important incident in this way: "The corpse or whatever it is, is rotting. This could be detected by a strong stench -- typical of rotting mammalian flesh -- exuding from one of the corners of the insulation of the coffin. Whatever this corpse may be, it would seem to include flesh of some kind" (Genus, p.253).
Why did Hansen insist on no publicity when he allowed the two scientists to examine his exhibit? How could publicity from such examination harm his carnival sideshow business? And why did publication of the scientists' conclusion that the corpse was real cause the showman's anger? The answer is in Magnus Linklater's words cited above: "a capital crime may have been committed". This must have been the reason for Hansen's subsequent actions, maneuvers, and conflicting stories. Let us also note one of his recurring statements that was as little believed as all his other declarations, namely, that the Iceman did not belong to him but to a millionaire in California.
A second episode indicating the Iceman's reality happened in July 1969 when, after a tour of Canada with his exhibit, Hansen was held up by US customs officials at a border post in North Dakota. The episode was related by Sanderson to Heuvelmans and is mentioned in the latter's book (pp.283-84). Customs demanded from Hansen special permission by the US Surgeon General for carrying the corpse of a "humanoid creature". Hansen argued that it was not a real corpse but a "fabricated illusion" made of latex rubber and offered documents of its fabrication. That did not impress the officials, who demanded that a piece of the Iceman be taken for examination. Hansen protested, saying this would damage the exhibit.
In desperation he even phoned Sanderson and asked for advice. The latter, thinking that this time Hansen toured the model, advised that the customs x-ray the exhibit, to which suggestion Hansen cried out: "Impossible! The owner will never allow this!" (My translation from the French. - D.B.).(Heuvelmans remarks in brackets that there was no need to inform and ask the owner because x-rays leave no traces). Hansen then sought by phone the help of the Iceman's owner in California, as well as that of his own Senator in Washington, Walter F. Mondale, subsequently US Vice-President in Carter's Administration. Twenty-four hours later Hansen was released with the Iceman unchecked.
To quote Mike Quast again: "Some call the Iceman by the name 'Bozo', a carnival clown, nothing more. To most serious investigators now that's all he was -- a phony, no more real than a mannequin. He has, for the most part, been written off as a big joke. But the joke is on them, because the Iceman was real." (p.143). "At the 1967 Arizona State Fair he (Hansen) met a man who to this day he will not name, but he says 'It was a name I recognized immediately,' and that it was someone connected to the entertainment industry. The man said he had a very interesting specimen in storage in California and asked Hansen to consider taking it on a carnival tour. Shortly thereafter, in Long Beach, Hansen first laid eyes on the Iceman.
"The man explained that an agent of his had discovered the creature in its frozen state in a refrigeration plant in Hong Kong and that it had originally been found floating in the sea by Chinese fishermen in a 6,000-pound ice block. He was a deeply religious man, Hansen explained, and he thought this creature seemed to go against the theory of creation as told in the Bible, thus he wanted no connection to it. Hansen agreed to display it, but first the ice was temporarily shaved down for his benefit and he saw that it was indeed a real corpse, not a fake.
"Hansen was given permission to use whatever phony advertising he wished in order to draw crowds. Stories about 'Bigfoot' in the news at that time helped as well, and the display was very popular. (...) After some time, however, Hansen began to worry that he might get into serious legal trouble if what he had turned out to be a human corpse. So, returning to California, he had a replica manufactured from latex rubber and hair, intending to switch it with the original if he ever had to."(pp.143-44).
In 1994, Quast got a surprise when Hansen himself gave him a call. "But the biggest surprise came when he said that he had recently heard from the real owner of the Iceman, who he had not talked to in a long time and didn't even know if the man was still living. He still wouldn't name him, of course, but he said the owner claimed to still be in possession of the original Iceman and that it was still frozen and in good condition. Also, he might (just might) consider presenting it to the public once again in the near future. Well, that was a couple of years ago. No word yet. (...) The last word, however, belongs to that anonymous owner, who once stated to Hansen that if he was ever identified he would dump the Iceman in the Pacific Ocean." (p.146).
Having read all that, I contacted Mike Quast in 2002 and in April received a letter from him, with the last paragraph reading as follows: "I have had one theory - and that is all it is - about who the anonymous owner of the Iceman might have been. I am not saying that I necessarily believe it as fact, but the only name that comes to mind is the late actor Jimmy Stewart. Hansen said it was someone in the entertainment industry and that when he met him it was a name he 'recognized immediately', and that the man did not want to be publicly identified with the Iceman because of his strong religious beliefs. I believe Stewart was known as being rather religious was a world traveler, and he did have some interest in such subjects as he was involved with Peter Byrne and Tom Slick in getting a yeti hand smuggled out of Nepal (according to Loren Coleman's book on Tom Slick). Stewart was still alive when Hansen told me he had just been in touch with the owner, but died a couple of years later. That is the only idea I have come up with ... If investigators visit Hansen today, they might try mentioning this theory to him and just studying what his reaction is to the name."
I heartily thanked Mike Quast for the information in his book and the theory in his letter, and proposed to Alan Berry to try and verify that theory with a visit to Hansen and one more interview. Alan was too busy to go to Minnesota, but interviewed Hansen by phone on April 7, 2002. Here are some excerpts from that interview:
Berry: What do you think the Iceman represented?
In September, 2002, Dr. Peter Rubec talked to Hansen on the phone. Here's a quote from Rubec's email to me: "I did ask Hansen about Jimmy Stewart. There was a fairly long pause, but all he would say is that the owner of the real Iceman (he was fairly emphatic there was a real one) was in the movie industry and had died. But he would not reveal who it was."
I then discussed the matter with Loren Coleman who, when writing his book about Tom Slick, had contact with Stewart. Loren confirmed to me that the latter was very religious and referred to the opinion of Mark Hall, who had two separate interviews with Frank Hansen in the 1990s: "It appeared the owner did not value it (the Iceman) in the way many of us would... The true owner of the Iceman did not want to be the one who presented the 'missing link' that would undercut the truth of Biblical creation. The owner was interested in seeing people's reaction to the 'missing link' and so allowed the Iceman to be displayed" (Living Fossils, 1999, p.85)."Mark Hall senses,” wrote Loren to me, “that the mysterious owner was a pro-creationist."
I then addressed Peter Byrne, saying that I've been trying to crack the Iceman riddle in recent years, urging Krantz, Greenwell and others to do so while Hansen was alive, and continued, in part: "When I read "The Sasquatch in Minnesota" by your friend and follower Mike Quast I asked him to help. And he did by supplying information about Hansen which is not in the book. In his letter he shared with me his opinion and hypothesis regarding Jimmy Stewart. So the credit for it goes to him."
Peter Byrne wrote back on August 30, 2003: "Your hypothesis [I had told him it was not mine - D.B.] concerning an Iceman connection with Jimmy Stewart is very interesting and indeed is one that has surfaced previously, mainly because of my connection with him going back to Yeti and Himalayan days. So, let me talk with some family members and what they have to contribute to it and then I will get back to you."
His email of September 4 added this: "In the matter of the Iceman these leads definitely need to be examined and followed up; as you say, anything is possible and actually there is a faint but persistent rumor in entertainment circles that Jimmy Stewart did have an association of some kind with some large and mysterious animal." The email of October 30 said the following: "As of now I do not have a lot to report. There are, as I said previously, grounds to believe that Jimmy Stewart was definitely connected/associated to/with a large animal of some kind; however there are conflicting reports on exactly what it was. This (confliction) of course could be part of a cover up; it is my finding that in many cases families of people who have these associations like to have them brushed under the carpet, so to speak, after they (the finders or investigators) pass away. This was indeed the case with Tom Slick whose family, after he died, seem to have destroyed all of the evidence that he gathered on the Bigfoot mystery and whose foundation, the South West Research Institute of San Antonio, Texas, now state that they had nothing to do with his BF research when in fact some of the expense and salary checks that I received when I ran the first northern California Bigfoot project were on the institute's bank account. So it may be the same thing with the Stewart family."
As of today, I have not heard from Peter Byrne anything more on the Jimmy Stewart connection.
The latest information on the Iceman that reached me comes from Curt Nelson who on
April 11, 2005 emailed me the following:
I went out into the parking lot of the bank and called Mrs. Hansen (Irene) using my cell phone, and I reached her. She was not enthusiastic about talking about The Iceman but she did speak to me for about 5 minutes. (...) She said her husband died with the secret as to the true story on the Iceman, that even she didn't know it. She seemed to think that was quite appropriate and she seemed sincere about it. And at least twice she said, in reference to the secrecy surrounding the Iceman, that it was 'to protect the innocent ones.'
"The son is an attorney and I reached him at work just after speaking to his mother. He was in a bad mood in the first place, I would say, and was just barely polite to me on the subject of his father's iceman. (I'm sure the Hansen family has been bothered plenty about it over the years.) He told me the second body, the one widely thought to have been an obvious fake, was gone. That it had been cleared out long ago.
"I called Mrs. Hansen back again while driving home to ask for a clarification on something (can't recall what just now), and she asked me if I knew Roger Patterson. She said she and her husband visited Patterson in California. She just volunteered that, seemingly just to make conversation. She didn't remember anything about the meeting, but it tells me Frank Hansen had an interest in bigfoot. I find that interesting -- that the carnival man showing off The Iceman would look up a man who claimed to have filmed a bigfoot, a man thousands of miles away in California. It suggests to me that Frank Hansen believed what he had might be a bigfoot. (If Hansen's body was a fake why would he be interested in bigfoot?)
"In summary here is what I took away from my conversations with Irene Hansen and her son: Nothing is final, it is still all a mystery. (...) The son is a lawyer and if there is a concern about legal issues (the creature might be considered human) he has certainly counseled his mother on how to answer questions -- with no real answers. It seems to me that the simplest truth behind this story would be that it was all a hoax perpetrated solely by Frank Hansen. If that were true why, decades later, wouldn't he and now his family just say, forget it, it was just a carnival trick!(?) (...) Please feel free to use what I've told you in any way you like."
Thank you very much, Curt Nelson, for your most important information. It is news to hominologists that Frank Hansen has died. Regrettably, the event passed unnoticed two years ago. I agree with your inferences and conclusions, especially the one concerning Hansen's visit to Patterson in California, which is a big surprise. The news should be verified and discussed with Patricia Patterson. You are right, if the Iceman was a fake why would Hansen be interested in Bigfoot? He must have been interested in Bigfoot because he was keenly interested in the exact nature of the carnival exhibit he displayed. Was it a human or non-human primate? The very legal status of the exhibit depended on the answer. The leading Bigfoot researchers, such as John Green and Grover Krantz, called Bigfoot an ape, a giant non-human primate. Was it not for this reason that Hansen for a time presented the Iceman as a bigfoot he himself killed during a hunt in Minnesota? The different signs he used for the exhibit in sideshows are also indicative in this connection: "What is it?", "Siberskoye Creature", "Found in the Woods of Minnesota", "Is it Prehistoric?"
The question "What is it?" must have been heavy on his mind when he allowed Sanderson and Heuvelmans to examine his exhibit and asked them not to publicize their findings. Heuvelmans's published conclusion that it was the corpse of a killed Neanderthal Man must have alarmed Hansen a lot. From his words to Alan Berry, "I don't associate it with Bigfoot" and "it might be some kind of early man", we can conclude that Heuvelmans's verdict stuck in Hansen's mind and determined his words and actions to the end.
Of special interest are Irene Hansen's words that the secrecy surrounding the Iceman serves "to protect the innocent ones". This brings up the question: And who are "the guilty ones"? They can well be inferred from Hansen's own words. First, the Iceman owner who smuggled a corpse into the U.S. and kept it illegally; second, Frank Hansen who displayed a smuggled dead body without permission; third, ex-Vice-President Walter Mondale through whom Customs got an order to let a cadaver across the US-Canada border.
And who are "the innocent ones"? Apparently the families of the guilty ones. They know the truth and for obvious reasons are determined to keep it secret, no matter what detriment to science.
Mike Quast again: "It is certainly a case that seems to deserve any researcher's undivided attention, for in it we supposedly have what Bigfoot people have sought for so many years: the actual corpse of a hair-covered humanoid" (p.137). I am convinced now that the words "we supposedly have" could be changed to "we do have" if not for the fact that the actual corpse is still out of our reach. As I wrote not so long ago, "The negative impact of indifference on one side, and hidden or open hostility on the other, leaves the tiny number of hominologists little chance to quickly obtain traditionally acceptable biological proof." The Iceman case illustrates this point with utmost clarity.
Let us note that after Sanderson and Heuvelmans the case was followed up and bits of truth gleaned and collected not by scientific institutions, such as the Smithsonian or the International Society of Cryptozoology, whose express task was to investigate such cases, but by private researchers, such as Mark Hall, Mike Quast, Alan Berry, & Curt Nelson. Well, long live private enterprise!I wish the Stewart connection would finally be established. I wish its confirmation for two reasons. First, to the usual question "Where is hard evidence?" we'd have a ready answer: "Ask the Stewart family." Second, I'd offer Hollywood a scenario of a film, based on facts stranger than fiction, from the scene of getting the body of an ape-man for a case of whisky to the final shots of dumping it in the Pacific Ocean. The story would be the opposite of the Piltdown Man. In the latter a fake was used to fool scientists. In my scenario a Hollywood pro-creationist film star makes the anthropological world on the verge of one of the most exciting discoveries in the study of man take a real "missing link" for a "fabricated illusion." The film would be titled, “The Carnival Cover-up.”
International Center of Hominology
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