The Minnesota Iceman was the alleged carcass of a crypto-hominid displayed as a carnival exhibit at shopping malls, fairs, and other public events in North America (U.S. and Canada).
The exhibit toured in the 1960s and 1970s under the supervision of Frank D. Hansen. He claimed the display showed an evolutionary “missing link” between humans and apes.
However, scientists eventually debunked the claims.
The Minnesota Iceman exhibit consisted of the carcass of an alleged hominid creature preserved in a block of ice.
Frank Hansen claimed Minnesota Iceman was the ‘missing link’
Frank Hansen, the promoter of the Minnesota Iceman, claimed the exhibit showed a hominid ancestor of humans. He sometimes claimed it was a missing link between humans and apes, but other times said it was the missing link between modern humans (Homo sapiens) and Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis).
The exhibit featured a male human-like creature about 6 feet tall (1.8 meters). The specimen was thickset and hairy (hirsute), with dark brown hair. It was barrel-chested and thick-necked. It had big feet, hands, long tapering digits, and human-like nails.
Minnesota Iceman may have died from a gunshot wound
The creature had a broad and flattened humanoid face but prominent brow-ridges. The nose was flattened and upturned. The eyeball hung out from the socket.
Hansen claimed the dislodged eyeball was due to a bullet that killed the creature. The bullet allegedly hit it in the back of the head and exited the skull through the eye socket.
Cryptozoologist Ivan T. Sanderson, who examined the specimen in 1968, noted several details about the creature:
It appeared to have suffered an injury to the forearm. According to Sanderson and Huevlmans, the radius and ulna were fractured.
Sanderson also noted that the nails looked manicured. The skin on the outer edge of the palm was thick, suggesting that despite appearing to have an upright posture, the creature might have frequently walked on all fours.
The cryptozoologists also reported that while examining the creature from behind a glass case, they sensed the foul odor of decomposing flesh seeping through a crack in the glass.
Hansen’s conflicting origin stories
According to Hansen, the creature originated from Siberia, thus the name Siberskoye Creature under which the exhibit traveled across North America in the late 1960s.
Hansen explained that it belonged to a Californian millionaire who granted permission to tour with it. Although Hansen did not name the alleged “eccentric” millionaire who owned the exhibit, there were rumors that it belonged to the actor Jimmy Stewart (1908-1997).
Hansen promoted multiple backstories to explain the origin of the carcass. On one occasion, he said that the crew of a Russian vessel hunting seals found it preserved off the coast of Siberia (Darren Naish, 2017).
He later changed his story, claiming a Japanese whaling ship found the body. He also claimed that someone stumbled upon it in a freezer facility in Hongkong.
During another event, he claimed someone shot it while hunting around the Whiteface Reservoir in Minnesota.
Another story claimed the body originated from Vietnam. Cryptozoologist Heuvelmans suggested the Minnesota Iceman was the same as an alleged monster ape shot in Da Nang, Vietnam, in 1966.
Sightings and Tales
Cryptozoologists Sanderson and Heuvelmans investigated
According to Daren Naish in an article for Scientific American in 2017, Terry Cullen (see video below) drew the attention of cryptozoologists Ivan Terence Sanderson and Bernard Heuvelmans to the Minnesota Iceman exhibit.
Cullen had seen the Iceman at the International Livestock Exposition annual fair in Chicago and wanted the famous cryptozoologists to investigate the claims.
Hansen allowed Sanderson and Heuvelmans to examine the Iceman exhibit at his home in December 1968.
The cryptozoologists believed the specimen was genuine and started promoting it for detailed scientific studies.
Sanderson wrote an article for Argosy magazine in April 1969 under the headline: Is this the missing link between man and the apes?
He promoted the alleged specimen in media interviews and tried to convince science experts and organizations, such as the primatologist John Napier and the Smithsonian Institution, to investigate.
In March 1969, Heuvelmans published an article about the Minnesota Iceman in a Belgian scientific journal (The Bulletin of the Royal Institute of Natural Science).
He claimed that the Minnesota Iceman was a previously unknown species of the genus Homo. He christened it Homo pongoides (meaning “ape-like man.”) but later changed his mind, saying it was only a surviving variety of Neanderthal man (Homo neanderthalensis).
In 1974, he co-authored a book about the creature with the Russian crypto-hominid researcher Boris Fyodorovich Porshnev.
Primatologist John Napier and the Smithsonian Institution
After Sanderson examined the Minnesota Iceman exhibit and decided it was genuine, he got in touch with the British primatologist and paleoanthropologist John Napier (1917-1987) and requested his expert opinion on the status of the specimen.
Napier had done previous notable work on hominid evolution and taxonomy. He had also researched early hominids, such as Homo habilis. He was famous for his interest in crypto-hominids, such as Bigfoot.
In collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution, Napier investigated the Minnesota Iceman and concluded it was a hoax.
According to Napier, the Iceman was a latex model that a company created for Hansen in 1967. The Smithsonian Institution supported Napier’s conclusion, saying it was only a carnival exhibit made from latex.
Hanson responded, saying that what Napier examined was a latex model of the original. He claimed he had stopped displaying the original model before Napier looked at it. According to Hansen, he withdrew the original exhibit at the insistence of the alleged owner.
Was the Minnesota Iceman a murder victim?
Hansen claimed that the decision to withdraw the original Minnesota Iceman exhibit was due to concerns that the authorities might prosecute him for displaying the cadaver of a murder victim.
Sanderson and Heuvelmans had observed that the Minnesota Iceman might have died from a bullet wound to the head. The specimen had one eye dislodged from the socket. It appeared that a bullet had hit him in the back of the head and exited the skull through the eye socket.
People who examined the exhibit also noted the creature had a broken arm raised in a posture that suggested it was trying to defend itself or protect its head from injury when it died (Daegling, 2004).
Minnesota Iceman was a hoax
Hansen once told his audience that he or another person shot the Iceman during an encounter in remote Minnesota woods.
Hansen’s story led to concerns that the Minnesota Iceman might be the cadaver of a murder victim. The Canadian authorities reportedly once detained Hansen over such suspicions.
The federal authorities also considered the possibility that it was a murder victim, but they did not act because they believed it was only a hoax.
Such hoaxes were common in the 20th century when there was considerable public interest in human evolutionary ancestors and crypto-hominids.
However, Napier did not believe the story that Hanson switched the original for a latex model. The primatologist insisted that based on the evidence his investigation gathered, all existing Minnesota Iceman exhibits were latex models and that there was no genuine specimen.
2013 eBay sale
Steve Busti, who owned the Museum of the Weird in Austin, Texas, purchased the original Minnesota Iceman exhibit in February 2013.
Someone reportedly auctioned it on eBay under a description that said it was an elaborate hoax by a mid-20th-century showman.
|Other Name/s||Siberskoye Creature, Homo pongoides|
|Location||Canada, United States,|
Where to find
Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology, Eberhart, George M. (2002).
Neanderthal: the Strange Saga of the Minnesota Iceman, Bernard Heuvelmans (2016).
The Cryptozoology A to Z: The Encyclopedia of Loch Monsters, Sasquatch, Chupacabras, and Other Authentic Mysteries of Nature: Loren Coleman and Jerome Clark (2013).
https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/tetrapod-zoology/the-strange-case-of-the-minnesota-iceman/, “The Strange Case of the Minnesota Iceman,” accessed on March 9, 2023.
https://books.google.ca/books? “Bigfoot Exposed: An Anthropologist Examines America’s Enduring Legend by David J. Daegling (2004), accessed on March 9, 2023.
https://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/49390, “Curse of the Minnesota Ice Man,” accessed on March 9, 2023.
Bigfoot: The Yeti and Sasquatch in Myth and Reality, John Russell Napier, 1973.
Hunting Monsters, Darren Naish, 2016.
Still Living?: Yeti, Sasquatch, and the Neanderthal Enigma, Myra L. Shackley, 1983.
Featured Image: The Minnesota Iceman was the alleged carcass of a humanoid creature preserved in a box of ice. Pic credit: Wikimedia/Public Domain.