The Minnesota Iceman hoax
Hoaxes abound in the efforts of evolutionists to provide proof of the alleged molecules-to-man evolutionary scenario.1 They are also plentiful in show business. One of the more bizarre episodes, involving both these aspects, is the Minnesota Iceman mystery, which occurred in the U.S.A. during the late 1960s and early 1970s.2
In December 1968, Dr Bernard Heuvelmans, a Belgian cryptozoologist visiting the U.S.A.,3 and Ivan T. Sanderson, an American zoologist, heard of an exhibit which had been shown on the U.S. carnival circuit in 1967–68, claimed by its showman, a Mr Frank Hansen, to be the ‘missing link’ between humans and apes. On December 17, 1968 the two zoologists inspected the exhibit in a trailer-truck at Hansen’s home at Rollingstone, Minnesota.
The object appeared to be a large human-like corpse, preserved in a block of ice (some of it transparent, some frosted, some opaque) under a plate-glass lid in an insulated refrigerated coffin. For three days, the two scientists photographed and made drawings of the creature as best they could through the glass and the block of ice.
It was male, about 1.8 metres (six feet) tall, and covered in thick long brown hair. The shoulders were very wide, ‘constructed like those of a powerful human wrestler’. The torso was barrel-shaped, tapering to narrow hips. One arm was thrown up over the face and appeared to be badly fractured. The hands were huge. The legs were ‘about the standard length for a six-foot man’, but the arms were ‘longer than the average’. The feet were ‘more than ten inches [25 centimetres] wide measured across the toes’, with the big toe lying ‘beside the next one as does a man’s, and not opposed to the other toes, as does an ape’s.’4
The nose was ‘like that of a Pekingese dog—but not like that of a gorilla’. It appeared to have been shot in the head, as one eye socket was empty and the eyeball of the other was lying on the cheekbone, while the back of the head was shattered. ‘A considerable amount of blood [had] diffused from the sockets through the ice.’ As well, ‘the appalling stench of rotting flesh’ exuded from a point in the insulation of the coffin.4
Hansen initially claimed that Russian sealers had found the creature floating in a 2½-tonne (6,000-pound) block of sea ice off the coast of eastern Siberia. (Another version involved Japanese whalers.) It had somehow turned up in Hong Kong, ‘still in some 6,000 pounds of ice’.4 Here it had been purchased from a ‘dealer’ by an anonymous American millionaire, from whom Hansen had rented it for exhibition in America at 35 cents a look.
In 1969 a young woman, Helen Westring, claimed that she had shot the creature in ‘avenging her honour’ after it had allegedly assaulted her in the woods near Bemidji, Minnesota. Her story appeared in the National Bulletin of June 30, 1969.5 In 1970, Hansen claimed, in Saga magazine, that he had shot the creature in the woods of Minnesota in 1960. The ice-block-in-the-sea story was mere showman’s patter to pull in customers, he said.
Heuvelmans sent his notes to the Belgium Royal Museum in January 1969, and confidently named the creature Homo pongoides. As the pongids are the anthropoid apes, this evolutionist scientist was thereby claiming that this unauthenticated creature was a new species, an ape-like man. The museum published his material in the prestigious Bulletin of the Royal Institute of Natural Sciences of Belgium.6
On March 11, 1969, a Belgian newspaper published the first press report, and soon journalists from all over the world sought information, much to the consternation of Hansen, who wanted neither this much publicity nor an in-depth investigation.7 Why would a showman shun free publicity, unless he knew the whole thing was a fake?
On March 13, 1969, the Smithsonian Institution requested permission from Hansen to inspect and x-ray the specimen. Hansen refused and stated in a letter that the original specimen had been removed by the owner, that it would never again be exhibited, and that it would be replaced by a man-made model for the coming show season. Hansen and the exhibit then disappeared.
The zoologist Sanderson wrote a report in the trilingual Italian scientific journal Genus,8 and a popular summary entitled ‘The Missing Link’, which appeared in Argosy, May 1969, pp. 23–31, illustrated by Heuvelmans’ excellent photographs.
After about a month’s ‘vacation’, Hansen reappeared with what he said was a model of the original, which he claimed to have returned to the mysterious Californian millionaire ‘owner’. He continued to exhibit this ‘new’ object at showgrounds and shopping malls.
So what was it?
Bernard Heuvelmans, the most pre-eminent zoologist involved, always maintained that the first object he and Sanderson examined was ‘the fresh remains of a neanderthaloid human’.8
Ivan Sanderson, also an evolution-believing scientist, dissociated himself from Heuvelmans’ term Homo pongoides and the suggestion that it was a Neandertal. His cautiously worded conclusion stated that it was ‘some form of primate . . . an anthropoid, but whether it is a hominid, a pongid, or a representative of some other previously unsuspected branch of that super-family we are not prepared to say or even speculate’.8
Frank Hansen, when asked by a journalist whether the original iceman was real, replied: ‘I never did find out. I just knew, whatever it was, it was just the greatest exhibit possible . . . I didn’t want to ask.’ And did the original still exist? ‘Oh yes, the owner’s still got it on ice in California.’9
John Napier, curator of the primate collections at the Smithsonian Institution, has the most plausible explanation. He regarded it ‘as a problem for a detective agency rather than for a biologist.’ He concluded that Hansen was a clever showman who conceived the idea of exhibiting a monster in ice (‘which serves both to heighten the illusion and prevent too close an inspection’). After a couple of years, to increase public interest, Hansen leaked information which reached Sanderson and, by chance, the international expert, Heuvelmans. Huge and embarrassing publicity resulted, when newspapers all over the world carried the story. ‘The unexpected had happened. Science was taking the story seriously.’ To keep scientists at bay and to deepen the mystery, Hansen substituted the ‘original’ with a ‘model’. According to Napier, this model was, in fact, the original, defrosted and slightly rearranged in posture, and then refrozen, all of which could have been done during Hansen’s vacation in March–April, 1969. Napier concluded: ‘ . . . if there is a Barnum Award, my vote would go to Frank D. Hansen.’10
Of course, had the ‘original’ really been genuine, the owner could have gained a huge financial reward by selling it to a museum. He never did, even after the exhibit had run its course on the carnival circuit. Already in 1969, rumours had begun to circulate that the iceman was nothing more than a model made from latex rubber and bear hair in a Hollywood monster factory, in April 1967, by a Mr Pete Correll.11
The Minnesota Iceman was clearly a gigantic hoax. But how could experienced zoologists and scientific journals have got themselves so much ‘out on a limb’ over this alleged ‘missing link’?
Answer: All claims about alleged ‘missing links’ have in common the desire on the part of the researcher to find anything which would substantiate the molecules-to-man myth. This can blind even the most pre-eminent scientists to reality. Sadly, for some years, tens of thousands of people in the USA had belief in evolution reinforced, and consequently belief in the Bible discredited, by this ‘ape-man’, which was nothing more than another hoax.
The information upon which this article was based was kindly supplied by Mr Ron Calais of Lafayette, LA, USA.
References and notes
- Some of the better known ones are Haeckel’s fraudulent drawings of animal stages in human embryos, Germany, 1868; Haeckel’s non-existent ‘Speechless Apeman’, 1890s; and the Piltdown Hoax, England, 1912–1953 to name but a few. Return to text.
- References used in the preparation of this article include I.T. Sanderson, ‘The Missing Link’, Argosy, May, 1969, pp. 23–31; articles by Sanderson and others in Pursuit, 2(3), 3(4), 8(2), 8(3), 1969–1975; Michael D. Olier, The Human Myth, Harper & Row, New York, 1978; Ian Simmons, ‘The Abominable Showman’, Fortean Times, 83:34–37, 1995; John Napier, Bigfoot, Berkeley Medallion, New York, 1972. Return to text.
- A cryptozoologist studies mystery animals. Heuvelman’s credentials are impressive: D.Sc. Brussels University; F.Z.S. London; Collaborateur Scientifique, Royal Institute of Natural Sciences, Belgium; International Institute of Sociology, Rome; International Union for the Protection of Nature and Natural Resources. Return to text.
- From I.T. Sanderson’s description in ‘The Missing Link’, Argosy, pp. 23–31, May 1969. Return to text.
- Source: John Napier, Bigfoot, Berkeley Medallion, New York, p. 111, 1972. Return to text.
- 45(4), February 10, 1969. The title (trans.): ‘Notice on a specimen preserved in ice of an unknown form of living hominid: Homo pongoides’, source: ref. 5, p. 98. Return to text.
- If it should be suggested that he may have feared a police probe into the shooting of the creature now that Heuvelmans had given it man-like status, Sanderson had already contacted the FBI about this on January 18, but nothing had come of it, presumably because no homicide of a genuine Homo sapiens was involved. Return to text.
- I.T. Sanderson, ‘Preliminary description of the external morphology of what appeared to be the fresh corpse of a hitherto unknown form of living hominid’, Genus (the publication of the Comitato Italiano per lo Studio dei Problemi della Popolazione of Rome, Italy), Vol. XXV, N. 1–4, 1969, which was reprinted with this title in Pursuit (J. of Situ), 8(2):41–47, April 1975, and 8(3): 62–67, July 1975. Return to text.
- Ian Simmonds, ‘The Abominable Showman’, Fortean Times, 83:37, October–November 1995. Return to text.
- Adapted from ref. 5, pp. 97–113. Return to text.
- Ref. 5, pp. 105–6. Return to text.