Unveiling the Mystery of the Minnesota Iceman

To some it was a sensational find, to others an infamous hoax. So what’s the truth? Discover the story behind the Minnesota Iceman.

5 June 2024

In the late sixties and seventies, the American public became fascinated with the creature known as Bigfoot. And, amid this cryptid craze it emerged that researchers had tracked down an evidential jackpot: the well-preserved remains of a real-life Sasquatch. It became known as the Minnesota Iceman.

Half-man, half-ape, and entirely frozen in a block of ice, the discovery of the Minnesota Iceman sent shockwaves through the scientific community. Some thought the creature was the missing link in the evolution of human beings, others that it was an entirely new species. Yet, as interest in the iceman of Minnesota grew, so did the cracks in its story. And those cracks would soon expand to reveal the truth behind the so-called Minnesota Ice Man.

The Minnesota Ice Man Sideshow

Encased in ice (Credit: francescoch via Getty Images)

In the late 1960s, a promoter named Frank Hansen toured carnivals, shopping centres, and various showcases across the United States with an unusual exhibit loaned to him by what he described as an anonymous movie mogul. It was the cadaver of a six-foot-tall male encased in a block of ice. It had the body of a man, and yet it was seemingly not human. For one thing, it was covered entirely in thick brown hair, while its facial features included a prominent brow and flat nose. While perfectly preserved, one of its eyes was loose, apparently from a gunshot wound to the back of the head as well as a broken arm. Calling it the Siberskoye Creature, Hansen claimed it was discovered off the coast of Siberia and promoted it as the missing link along the evolutionary line that led to modern humans.

Scientific Scrutiny

Is the Minnesota Iceman the missing link? (Credit: Man_Half-tube via Getty Images)

In 1968, two prominent researchers were tipped off about an exceptional frozen specimen seen at Chicago’s International Livestock Exposition’s annual fair. Bernard Heuvelmans, often considered the father of cryptozoology, and Bigfoot expert Ivan T. Sanderson would spend two days studying the strange creature at Hansen’s home. There, they reportedly took the first Minnesota Iceman photos, although some say they actually produced illustrations. And, even though they could only peer at it through its icy cage, both were impressed, drawing different but equally dramatic conclusions.

Heuvelmans published a paper declaring it a genuine unknown species of ‘Minnesota neanderthal’ he classified as “Homo pongoides.” Meanwhile Sanderson wrote an article provocatively titled “Is this the missing link between man and the apes?” He also contacted a Smithsonian Institution primatologist by the name of John Napier. Suddenly, there was a press release noting the institution’s interest in the creature. And, given the gunshot wound and the theoretical possibility that the Minnesota Ice Man was human, there was even talk of the FBI investigating a possible murder, although this never came to fruition.

A Narrative on Thin Ice

Was the Minnesota Iceman a case of mistaken identity? (Credit: Lynn_Bystrom via Getty Images)

News of the Minnesota Iceman spread quickly, and the increased attention seemed to have a dramatic effect on Frank Hansen. According to him, the owner of the Minnesota neanderthal insisted on reclaiming the cadaver, replacing it with a replica. What’s more, Hansen’s story apparently began to change. His initial claim that it had been a Russian seal-hunting vessel that had happened upon the specimen is said to have changed to a Japanese whaling ship. Another reported alteration was that the Iceman hadn’t been recovered from the sea at all, but was found stored in a deep freezer in Hong Kong. Or that it was an animal shot on a Minnesota hunting trip.

Theories and Explanations

Human encased in ice (Credit: Westend61 via Getty Images)

Thus, despite early claims of authenticity, scepticism grew within the scientific community. Hansen’s reluctance to allow independent, thorough examinations and the inconsistencies in his story raised red flags. Theories began to circulate as to where it might have originated. Initially, some thought the body had been collected in Vietnam and flown to the United States in a body bag. Heuvelmans connected it with the story of a ‘huge ape’ killed in Danang in 1966, supposedly close to where Hansen had been stationed during the war.

Napier and the Smithonian team reached an altogether different conclusion; namely that there was only ever one Minnesota Ice Man. They reported that Hansen had commissioned a West Coast company to produce a lifelike figure of its description in 1967 and that “the creature is simply a carnival exhibit made of latex rubber and hair.” He posited that the change in appearance between the first and second icemen was merely a repositioning and that “the ‘original’ model and the present so-called ‘substitute’ are one and the same.”

The Role of Minnesota Iceman Photos

What lurks beneath... (Credit: artpartner-images via Getty Images)

Even as scepticism swirled around his exhibit, Hansen continued to tour, attracting the attention of newspapers who printed photos of the replica. Heuvelmans, who still had his original Minnesota Iceman photos, compared them with the newer ones and found too many similarities to ignore. Thus, he too concluded that there had only been one “creature,” and that it had always been a fabricated one.

Moving the Minnesota Iceman

Neanderthal skull (Credit: Jose A. Bernat Bacete via Getty Images)

Nobody ever saw Hansen’s apparent “original” Minnesota neanderthal in the flesh. However, that wasn’t the end of the story. In 2013, Hansen’s replica was apparently sold on eBay. It was then featured in the reality series Shipping Wars. In the episode “Crypt-Prank-ology,” the figure is shown transported from Minnesota to the Museum of the Weird in Texas. And, while it starts off covered in ice, it’s completely melted by the journey’s end, offering a clear view of the still impeccable iceman.

Legacy of the Minnesota Iceman

Minnesota state flag (Credit: Yevhen Borysov via Getty Images)

The iceman of Minnesota, once hailed as a potential breakthrough in cryptozoology, is now widely recognized as an elaborate hoax. The combination of skilled craftsmanship, strategic promotion, and the allure of the unknown led many to believe in the creature’s authenticity. Even today, the legend of the Minnesota Iceman endures in popular culture and cryptozoological circles, with some believing that the “original” cadaver was very much real.


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