Feb. 12, 2023

The Minnesota Iceman // 150 // Cryptid // Part 1

The Minnesota Iceman // 150 // Cryptid // Part 1

The Minnesota Iceman has been described as a male, human-like creature that is tall, hairy, with large hands and feet, and a flattened nose.  Cryptozoologists Bernard Heuvelmans and Ivan Sanderson studied the specimen for 3 days and they believed it was the real deal.  The Iceman was shown as an exhibit in a block of ice for several years.  Could this be the "missing link" between man and Neanderthals?  Or was it a hoax?  That's for you to decide.

Website: https://www.drinkingthecoolaid.com/



The story we’re discussing today is very controversial. Could the Iceman truly exist? The story begins in New Jersey, when Bernard Heuvelmans (Hoo-vel-mans) and Ivan Sanderson first heard about the frozen corpse. They drove to Minnesota to look, and they attempted to obtain permission to examine the specimen. They could have never realized that the origin of the specimen would catapult them into a bizarre adventure that involved the Mafia, the Vietnam War, and drug smuggling.  Whether you believe this story is real or fake, it doesn’t matter, it’s a fantastic story either way. 


Bernard Heuvelmans was a professional scientist known as the “Father of Cryptozoology”. He wrote two of the most significant works in the field, “On the Track of Unknown Animals” and “In the Wake of the Sea-Serpents.” He was a pioneer in cryptid investigation who earned his PhD in Zoology from the Free University of Brussels. He was committed to advancing cryptozoological study and established the Center for Cryptozoology, which houses his library. He served as the first president of both the International Society of Cryptozoology and the Centre for Fortean Zoology. He donated over 50,000 documents, specimens, and photos to the Museum of Zoology in Switzerland. 


Bernard credited Ivan T. Sanderson’s 1948 article, “There Could be Dinosaurs” with influencing him to launch his cryptid research and Ivan Sanderson originated the term “cryptozoology” in 1947. He was one of the first in the scientific community to treat Bigfoot as a serious phenomenon. He founded the Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained to delve into phenomena disregarded by traditional scientists. Together, Bernard and Ivan share the title, “Godfathers of Cryptozoology.”  


Ivan Sanderson hosted the world’s first color television program, and he was the first person to bring animals on talks shows. He was the “Animal Man” for the Garry Moore Show and The Today Show. He was an inspiration and mentor to anyone in cryptozoology and he hosted the Belgian-French zoologist at his home. 


On December 9th of 1968, Ivan received a call from Mr. Terry Cullen who was a herpetologist and owner of a vivarium in Milwaukee, where he dealt with reptiles and amphibians. He was particularly interested in the articles written about the Abominable Snowman. This is the reason Terry Cullen was interested in speaking with Ivan about the exhibition, the previous August of 1967, at the Wisconsin State Fair. The creature had been shown again at the International Cattle Fair in Chicago, and one of his friends had seen it only three days prior.  


The creature was embedded in a block of ice and looked like a rather hairy human being. According to the description, it was between 5’0” to 5.5 feet tall, entirely covered by long dark brown hair, had a saggital (soj-it-el) crest on top of its head, but no prominent canines and no opposable big toe. The frozen creature had a broken skull and its brains were oozing out at the back. The corpse was shown to the public and it had been preserved in ice for centuries, so it made you feel as if there was a prehistoric origin. 


People were told that the body had been found floating off Kamchatka by a Soviet trawler. The captain of the ship thought that the ice contained a seal that was accidentally frozen. As the ice melted, the shape was clearly not a seal. So, the trawler was forced to head into a Chinese port and the cargo was confiscated by the harbor authorities. Once the shipload was seized, the mysterious ice block disappeared for months, and it resurfaced as a contraband article in Hong Kong. 


On December 11th, Ivan Sanderson located the man who was showing the frozen corpse, Frank D. Hansen, of Crestview Acres, in Rollingstone, Winona County, Minnesota. Ivan sent this man a telegram asking him to call him for professional reasons. Frank called him the next day and agreed to meet him and Bernard Heuvelmans. 


Bernard and Ivan arrived at Frank’s farm, and he explained that the ice block had been fished up by Japanese whalers, who sold it legally to a Hong Kong merchant, then Frank had acquired it. An agent of the Californian film industry had spotted the ice block during a trip to the Orient and he was the one who gave Frank the funds to purchase the ice block so they could exploit it for their mutual benefit. 


Frank explained that he had absolutely no idea what the exact nature of the specimen was. For all he knew, it could be a hoax. He didn’t want to know anything about it, “so that he could in all honesty continue to present it to the public as a total mystery.” He planned to show it off for as long as possible. Once he was unable to preserve it correctly, he would offer it to a scientific institution so it could be properly examined. Frank claimed that he did submit a few hairs and a blood sample to various experts. 



Before viewing the specimen Frank made Ivan give his word that he wouldn’t publish anything about it, and he agreed. He led them to a trailer parked near the house. They spent 3 days studying, photographing, and sketching the specimen. Inside the glass box, was a tall, muscled man, a little over 6 ft tall and full of hair. He was lying flat on his back, his head was tilted back, his left arm raised over his head, his right hand was over his lower belly. His head was stained with blood and his eye sockets were hollow and bloody. His left arm was curved and broken halfway between the wrist and elbow where a bone was sticking out of an open wound. His right foot was bent upwards and the knee was bent in an abnormal position. The corpse was embedded in a rectangular block of ice. Every inch of his body, except for his face, the palms of his hands, the soles of his feet, and his genitals, were completely covered with dark-brown hair. The hair was long and was roughly 6 inches in some areas, especially on the back. 



The face was mostly hairless, but there was some hair in the nostrils, thin eyebrows, and some eyelashes. There were a few random hairs on the cheeks that seemed to be arranged like cat whiskers. There was a ridge of short hair along the septum of the nose, from the base to the upper end. There was some longer hair along the chin and sides of the lower jaw. The chest is partially bare which is something seen in apes. The hair is bent sideways on either side of the sternum and the tops of the feet were also covered in thick hair and this is not a trait observed in apes, they have nearly naked feet. 



The throat was swollen which could be the presence of a vocal sac, which is found in the orangutang or the siamang (see-a-mong) gibbon. The chest bulged more than a human and the collar bones were curved. The chest blended into the abdomen, giving the trunk a barrel shape, which is somewhat like anthropoid apes. The rosy nipples were similar to a human. The penis was thin and pointed, similar to a chimpanzee, but the scrotum was small. 



The hands were very large, about 10.2 inches long and 4.7 inches wide. The feet couldn’t be accurately determined, but it’s estimated that they were about 10 inches in length and 6 inches wide. The width is fairly disproportionate. The second and third toes were the longest and they were all bent down, and the smallest toe was folded towards the inside. The structure is similar to a great ape. The toenails were very thick and yellow.   The thumbs were very long and didn’t appear to be completely opposable. Our thumbs should flatten towards the end, allowing your fingers to grasp things easily, but the specimen’s thumbs were long and narrow. The fingernails were thick and yellow, much thicker than a typical human fingernail.    



The nose was very unique. It was extremely wide, but upturned. It was similar to the Rhinopithecus (Rhino-pith-a-kiss) or snub-nosed monkey. The lower surface of the nasal organ featured two gaping circular nostrils opening forward. The mouth is straight and wide, but has no lips. The mouth was slightly open, and a yellowish tooth could be seen, but it doesn’t stick out beyond the row of other teeth like it would for monkeys.  



According to Frank, the ice block was initially 9 feet in length and 4 feet wide, weighing more than 6,000 pounds. To make the creature as visible as possible, the ice block had been reduced. The specimen appeared to be preserved, but he was in ice, and you needed a flashlight to see through some of the frosty spots. Initially, the two men believed that the specimen was well preserved in the ice, but after spending so much time analyzing it, they realized that wasn’t the case. From the corner of the icy coffin, closest to the left foot, there was the nauseating smell of death. The seals in that corner weren’t airtight and the fifth toe of the right foot had turned a grey color. Frank had the idea that he would be able to show the specimen off for many years, but they wondered if he’d get that kind of time out of it. It was highly possible that it could putrefy to a degree that would make it impossible to do an in-depth analysis of the tissues to determine even the blood type. The most important thing they needed to do was perform a blood precipitation experiment with specific antibodies so they could determine the specimen’s relationship with other creatures. 



You may be wondering why the team didn’t just take some photos so we could all see this creature for ourselves. They DID take photos, but they’re not necessarily helpful. Some photos were taken in color, some are black-and-white. The body had to be kept in a specific environment that always kept the temperature cool and the lights were dim and neon, so they had to use a lamp backed by a reflector to take the pictures. Then, they were getting reflections off the ice, so they needed a polarizing filter, and the trailer had a low ceiling, so there was no way to view the entire body from above and the wide-angle lens just distorted things. 



Many people may believe that this must be a hoax, but this theory was rejected right away as the men were studying the ice man. How could someone fake the skin or the crazy fine details such as skin pores, joints, wrinkles, and veins. It would take forever to place each hair on the body. Also, there was a smell of rotting flesh.   



Could this be a prehistoric man or perhaps ape-man that was preserved in ice? Not likely. Ice will slow down the decomposition, but it doesn’t prevent it. Also, this creature couldn’t have been in a block of ice for thousands of years, it would eventually thaw. There were countless strings of bubbles scattered across the surface of the frozen corpse, meaning the body had been frozen artificially, not by accident. In nature, if a being is frozen in the water, it all begins at the skin, and the layer of ice formed there would gradually expel outward any gases dissolved in the surrounding liquid.  


In a freezer, the opposite happens. Ice begins to form at the surface of the freezing elements, which are usually on the sides of the freezer, and at any air water interface. The gases dissolved in the freezing water escape into the remaining liquid and that produces bubbles. Ice cubes are clear and transparent on the outside, but opaque in the middle. If a foreign body is immersed in a freezer full of water, the bubbles would accumulate all over the surface of the body, which is exactly what happened here. 



The Iceman had been placed on ice in a freezer and judging by his wounds, he had most likely been shot in the face. The bullet would have gone through and destroyed the right eye, and the shock wave had blown the other eye out of its socket and left a large hole at the back of his skull. The Iceman had an injury to the right leg, so you could assume that he had been shot there first. It’s believed that he may have been kept somewhere for a while, perhaps he was held captive and that could explain the abnormal skin appearance and fingernail length. 



Both Ivan and Bernard say that Frank Hansen had very odd behavior when it came to the iceman. He contradicted himself and disputed things that they were seeing. He changed the story on the history of the iceman and started trying to convince the two men that it was just a clever fake, and it was totally worthless. He said that someone else was the real owner of the iceman, but he refused to reveal the name of this person. After studying the iceman for 3 days, Ivan and Bernard were absolutely convinced that they were looking at the real deal and this needed to be submitted for scientific tests as quickly as possible. They believed in this so much that they were going to try to raise money to buy the iceman, but Frank refused the offer.  



He said he charged .35 cents a person and made about $50k a year to show the iceman off. Ivan and Bernard said that he could get up to 4 times that amount if he chose to sell. Frank claimed he would forward the offer to the real owner, but later claimed that the owner would not sell for any amount. Why would he be so adamant if it was only a fake? Frank stated to Marlene Simons of the London Times, that the mysterious owner was very wealthy, and they wanted “to own something very rare, something that nobody else had.” 


Ivan went back to Frank’s farm later to address some of the discrepancies in the story he was told. He had been told two different origin stories, one was about a Soviet trawler and the other involved a Japanese whaler. Frank confessed that neither story was true. He said he heard about the ice man from some old buddies. He followed their directions to Hong Kong and visited a Chinese merchant with a British passport, an import-export specialist. He went to a commercial cold room and the iceman was in an enormous bag of heavy plastic and he made an offer. He didn’t have the funds himself, so he found someone who could make the purchase for him. He pretty much shut down access to the iceman at this point. Frank told Ivan that there would be no x-rays and no articles. 


Frank said that they had created an “illusion show” that would “look very much like the specimen photographed by Dr. Heuvelmans”, but he couldn’t be sure if “the original exhibit would ever again be shown to the public.” This brought the FBI to his door because you can’t exhibit something for money under false pretenses. If it was real, possession of a human corpse must be immediately declared to the law. Transporting a corpse across the state lines without appropriate documentation is a federal crime. The Smithsonian Institution officially asked J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the FBI, for help locating and potentially seizing the iceman. 


Frank Hansen was now dealing with the harassment from the media and the police were showing up and asking questions. He eventually told the Times of London that “because of the unfavorable publicity, from now on only a model will be shown to the public rather than the real creature.” They were like ok, but a model of what? Franks said, “We do not have a permit. The law forbids transportation or exportation of a corpse, but there is no law against transporting an ape. If it was truly of flesh and bone, who could say today whether it was a man or animal? Of course, the scientists will say it was a man, just to be able to take it away from us, but the owner has excellent lawyers and I believe he will take the case to court.”    



This is when the iceman disappeared. There couldn’t be a murder investigation when there wasn’t a body and there was the question as to whether this was even a person. The FBI started to believe that all this hoopla could be over a fake, so they dropped the case. The FBI told the Smithsonian that they couldn’t help with this case because it was beyond its jurisdiction. They couldn’t do anything until there was proof that a crime was committed.    


After the FBI dropped the case, Frank Hansen started inviting the press to his home to view the creature in his trailer, but he said this wasn’t the original, it was a man-made artifact, so they could take as many pictures as they wanted. At the beginning of May, George Berklacy, public relations for the Smithsonian, received a call from the director of the wax museum in California. He said that one of his employees had collaborated with Frank Hansen to fabricate the Iceman in April of 1967 and they made this from foam and rubber and the employee inserted the hair of a bear into it. Later, it was discovered that this was just a ploy to discourage the Smithsonian from having any interest in the Iceman. 


When Ivan had examined the Iceman, he made a comment that would come back to bite him and Bernard in the ass. Ivan fully believed that the Iceman was real, but he said he could make an exact replica. All that he required was the fresh corpse of a large pale-skinned chimpanzee. Then, he would stretch the body to give it more human proportions. The skin of the head would be fitted over a human skull and the skin for the hands and feet would be stretched and deformed with a glove-spreader. The iceman had clear skin and there are no clear-skinned large chimpanzees, but this really got into people’s heads. 


On May 8th, the Smithsonian put out a press release where they stated the following: 

“The Smithsonian Institution is no longer interested in what has been called the Minnesota Iceman because it is convinced that this creature is nothing, but a fairground fabrication made of foam rubber and hair. A reliable source, which the Smithsonian is not authorized to reveal, has provided information regarding the owner of the model as well as to the date and place of its fabrication. This information, together with some recent suggestions by Ivan T. Sanderson, the scientific writer and original discoverer of the iceman, on how to construct such a creature have convinced us beyond reasonable doubt that the “original” model and the alleged current “substitute” are one and the same. 

The director of the Primate Biology Program of the Smithsonian, Dr. John Napier, points out that this institution has always maintained an attitude of skepticism combined with an open mind, and that its only interest in this affair is to discover the truth, which it is reasonably certain is as stated above.” 


After this was released, Dr. John Napier also told some journalists that he was still personally interested in the iceman and was eager to examine it because, “It is difficult to believe that Dr. Heuvelmans would have been so easily fooled.” 


Following this press release, the press was saying that an autopsy of the specimen had been performed and the Iceman really was a rubber dummy and that’s when the Iceman turned into a hoax, and it turned the public away from the two discoverers, Ivan and Bernard. Frank sure didn’t make things better for them either. He started showing off the Iceman to the public in a commercial center in St. Paul, Minnesota. His trailer had a new sign that said  

Siberskoya (See-beer-ska) Creature (Siberian Creature) 

A Manufactured Illusion, as investigated by the F.B.I. 


Professor Murrill of the Anthropology Department of the University of Minnesota examined the Iceman himself and he was so impressed that he offered Frank a large sum of money to acquire it on behalf of the university, but Frank said no. It’s hard to understand exactly what was going on here. Frank either has the best damn hoax on his hands that very clearly duped many professionals, or he was swapping back and forth between a real and a fake depending on the show he was at. 


He showed the exhibit to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where a crew from Time-Life publications filmed it. John Napier from the Smithsonian noted that the Iceman was very different from the one he had studied in the original photographs. The mouth was now fully open and showed a row of upper and lower teeth and the big toe was further apart. Bernard wondered though, what if it was the same specimen, but it had been altered? The coating of ice that covered the Iceman appeared to be completely new and more transparent in certain areas. He speculated that the Iceman had been thawed out, the position of the mouth and other body parts had been slightly moved, and he was frozen again with distilled or boiled water to eliminate bubbles.  


When Bernard viewed the Iceman that was supposed to be the “hoax” he noticed that many imperfections in the skin, such as scratches or pigmented spots, or even the arrangement of the eyelashes or eyebrows were the same in his photos. What if the whole thing was a set up? Most people don’t want to allow themselves to believe that there’s other creatures that exist in our world. If Frank wanted to show the Iceman off without getting in trouble, he would get two scientists to believe it’s true, only to turn on them and make everyone believe it’s fake. No one would want to question the validity after that for fear of backlash. Also, wouldn’t that be pure brilliance if he had investigators looking all over the US for the real one when it was right under their noses in an exhibit as the replica? 



In the summer of 1969, Frank crossed the Canadian border to do a showing of his fake Iceman. He was preparing to return to the States afterwards via a border crossing in North Dakota. US Customs wouldn’t allow him to bring his trailer into the US. They said it was believed that he was carrying a humanoid creature and needed permission from the US Surgeon General to transport it. Frank said that’s ridiculous, he had the fake model with him. They said ok, we just need to take a small sample to do a biopsy. Frank refused and said that would ruin his exhibit. He started calling everyone for help and that included Ivan Sanderson. Ivan believed that he was truly showing off a replica, so he didn’t understand why he was in a panic, but he told him to let them just do an x-ray, the exhibit couldn’t get damaged that way.  


Frank rejected the x-ray idea and called the owner of the Iceman asking for a lawyer to intervene. He even called his Senator, Walter Mondale, in Washington, D.C. After 24 hours, he somehow pulled the right strings and was released and returned to the States without having the Iceman checked. It was blatantly obvious that Frank Hansen had some friends in VERY high places. 



Bernard Heuvelmans | The Bigfoot Portal 

Ivan T. Sanderson | The Bigfoot Portal 

I Killed The Ape-Man Creature Of Whiteface (bigfootencounters.com) 

Neanderthal: The Strange Saga of the Minnesota Iceman: Heuvelmans, Bernard, LeBlond, Paul, Coleman, Loren: 9781938398612: Amazon.com: Books