Strange Story of the Minnesota Iceman
of the Iceman (Copyright Lee Krystek 1996.)
In 1968 two cryptozoologists, Ivan Sanderson,
a science writer, and Dr. Bernard Heuvelmans, a Belgian
naturalist, thought they'd made the find of the century.
Heuvelmans had been a house guest of Sanderson
when the two of them heard about creature, not quite human and
very hairy, that was preserved in a block of ice. The creature
had been shown in carnivals and fairs across the mid-western
United States. Its exhibitor, Frank Hansen, had claimed that
it was a "man left over from the Ice Age" and charged 25 cents
for a peek at the thing in its refrigerated, glass coffin.
Sanderson and Heuvelmans drove to Hansen's farm
where the thing had been stored for the winter. In a cramped
trailer they examined the creature and became convinced that
they had found a Neanderthal Man, Bigfoot or something similar.
After three days of study Heuvelmans believed
the beast was authentic. The doctor even smelled the putrefaction
where some of the flesh had been exposed from the melted ice.
They also discovered that the thing had apparently been shot
through the eye. Heuvelmans guessed that the creature had been
murdered in Vietnam during the war and smuggled into the United
States in a "body bag."
Heuvelmans wrote a paper about the beast for the
Institute of Natural Sciences in Belgium entitled, "Preliminary
Note on a Specimen Preserved in Ice; Unknown Living Hominid."
Sanderson wrote an article, called "Living Fossil," on the same
subject for Argosy Magazine.
The Smithsonian Institution got involved
when Sanderson approached Dr. John Napier about scientifically
examining the creature. The Smithsonian, though, found out about
the murder theory and asked the FBI to investigate. The head
of the agency, then J. Edgar Hoover, declined pointing
out there was no law violated if the beast was indeed a non-human.
(The incident did give Hansen the opportunity to add a sign
labeled "The near-Man ... Investigated by the FBI" when the
exhibit went back on the road.)
An additional twist to the murder story occurred
when the tabloid, the National Bulletin, ran a story
in which a woman, named Helen Westring, claimed she'd killed
the creature. According to the story Westring had been hunting
near Bemidji, Minnesota, in 1966 when the thing had attacked
her. She had dispatched it with a shot through the right eye.
At about the same time a Hollywood special effects
firm claimed that they had made the "Iceman" in 1967. Howard
Ball, who made figures for Disneyland with his son, Kenneth,
had modeled the fake in rubber trying to make it look like "an
artist's conception of Cro-Magnon man" with "a broken skull
with one eye popped out."
Hansen never clearly confirmed or denied that
the original creature was a model and, saying that the creature
was really owned by a mysterious millionaire, then declined
to have it examined further. The Smithsonian lost interest in
studying it as they became wary of looking like they had been
taken in by a hoax.
Sanderson and Heuvelmans, clearly embarrassed,
backed off from their original claims about the creature.
As for the "Iceman" himself, Hansen removed it
from exhibition for a while and even reported destroying it,
but rumors are it still shows up at carnivals every once in
Copyright Lee Krystek 1996.
All Rights Reserved.