Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Creature of the Month - The Minnesota Iceman by Nick Redfern

We are excited to share an excerpt from a new release for our Creature of the Month post.  This comes from Nick Redfern's Monster Files which published May 20th.  Here Nick discusses the Minnesota Iceman, The FBI and the Vietnam War from Chapter 13.

Midway through the 1960s, a controversial character named Frank Hansen claimed to have in his possession nothing less than a primitive humanoid dating back to the last Ice Age, preserved in a block of ice that was found floating in the cold waters off the coast of Siberia by the amazed crew of a Russian fishing vessel. The primitive looking specimen, which has since become both infamous and legendary within the arena of monster hunting, is now referred to as the Minnesota Iceman. According to the story, the corpse of the hairy, approximately 6-feet-tall creature had been purchased by an anonymous Californian millionaire, who duly made arrangements for Hansen to exhibit it, which he did in various parts of Canada and the United States, including Illinois, Texas, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin. Rather than being an apelike creature similar to Bigfoot, it appeared to be more along the lines of a primitive human or Neanderthal. Some suggested it was possibly even an example of Cro-Magnon man.

The Quest for the Truth About Bozo
Cryptozoologists Ivan T. Sanderson and Bernard Heuvelmans heard amazing rumors of the existence of the beast in early December of 1968 from a man named Terry Cullen, who had seen the Iceman on display a couple of weeks earlier at the Chicago-based annual International Livestock Exposition The pair quickly made for Hansen’s compact Minnesota-based trailer later that same month to view the evidence up close and personal. After spending about three days studying the creature in the cramped confines of the trailer they declared it to almost certainly be the genuine article. The primitive man, which they dubbed Bozo, appeared to have a broken arm,  and one of its eyes was missing from its socket—possibly the result of it having been violently knocked out. Unfortunately, before a full scientific study could be undertaken, the corpse was returned to its anonymous owner and an elaborate latex copy was substituted in its place. And of course there are claims—which may very well indeed be wholly justified—that there never was a real body, only a carefully created model designed to hoodwink the gullible and wide of eye. Today we’re really none the wiser than the monster hunters of all those years ago. But that’s not the main thing that concerns us here. Regardless of whether there really was a genuine Minnesota Iceman or just a brilliantly crafted model, the fact is that the story of the creature—manufactured or born—attracted interest at an official level.

Conflicting tales of the monster’s origin
While the original assertion was that the remains of the Minnesota Iceman were allegedly recovered somewhere off the coast of Siberia, the story expanded into one suggesting the crew of the ship in question thereafter made port somewhere in China, and the body was then quickly seized by elements of the People’s Republic of China before being smuggled to Hong Kong and from there on to the United States. A slight variation on this tale suggests it was found stored in a deep-freeze plant in Hong Kong, but had never actually been in the hands of Chinese officials. After the story was afforded growing media publicity, a woman named Helen Westring surfaced and claimed that she herself had killed the Iceman while hunting in Bemidji, Minnesota, in 1966. As for the significant damage to its face, Westring maintained that it was the result of her having expertly shot the Iceman right through the eyeball, killing it instantly. That there have been literally dozens of sightings of Bigfoot in the state of Minnesota certainly made people sit up and take note of Westring’s claims. But, just to confuse things even further, Howard Ball, a man who worked on the creation of models for the Walt Disney Corporation, proclaimed that there was a much more down-to-earth explanation for all the controversy: he and his son, Kenneth, had constructed the Iceman. Any kind of proof supporting this claim, however, was not forthcoming. In what was arguably the most intriguing story relevant to the subject at hand, Heuvelmans heard that the beast had been shot and killed by U.S. military forces during the Vietnam War, and then smuggled back to the United States in a body bag courtesy of Uncle Sam’s finest. Intimations of an official connection don’t end there, however.

From the Smithsonian to the FBI
Ivan Sanderson, determined to resolve the controversy surrounding the creature/model, took the proactive stance of contacting a primatologist named John Napier, a man with a strong interest in Bigfoot, and who penned a book in 1973 titled Bigfoot: The Yeti and Sasquatch in Myth and Reality; he also wielded a good deal of influence with the Smithsonian. Sanderson wondered aloud to Napier if the Smithsonian’s staff might be interested in pursuing the matter of the Minnesota Iceman for themselves. Much to Sanderson’s satisfaction, it turned out that they were. However, two issues quickly developed. First, the minions at the Smithsonian who were put on the case uncovered evidence—much of it controversial and bordering on hearsay—that Hansen himself had secretly commissioned the construction of the Iceman some years earlier. Or perhaps it was the copy that Hansen commissioned, after the real corpse had been returned to its rightful owner—a man no-one could find, identify, or even prove existed outside of Hansen’s story. Needless to say, it all got pretty confusing for everyone involved. Second, when word reached the Smithsonian that the creature might have been deliberately killed, its staff became worried that they could have a case of outright murder on their hands if it turned out that the creature was real and some form of primitive human, rather than an unknown animal. So what did the Smithsonian do? It quietly set the Feds on Frank Hansen and hastily distanced itself from the controversy. As evidence of this, in 1970 Hansen himself commented on the interest that his creature provoked in official circles:
“I became extremely nervous when the newspapers in both the U.S. and England pointed out that ‘...if this creature is real, then there may be a question of how and why it was killed.’ The Federal Bureau of Investigation and hordes of lesser law enforcement officials revealed a sudden interest in my specimen” (Hansen, 1970).
In later years, Hansen expanded further on all this. Recalling the heady days of the late 1960s when his specimen was on display, he said that a close friend of his, Sheriff George Ford of Winona County, Minnesota, showed up and informed him that he, Ford, had received an inquiry from a Mr. Brewer—special agent Brewer, actually—at the FBI’s office in Rochester, Minnesota, which in turn had received orders from J. Edgar Hoover to find out the true nature of the Iceman. Hansen had no intention of waiting around for the FBI to get on his back: “The whole world was looking for this thing and we were heading down Interstate 94 toward Chicago.” The image of J. Edgar Hoover’s finest in hot pursuit of Hansen and his Neanderthal specimen provokes justified, amusing imagery of the Keystone Cops meets Scooby Doo meets Harry and the Hendersons. It would have made a great story if it were true—such a pursuit never happened. What did happen is that the undeniably mystified Mr. Brewer simply poked around for a while, accepted the explanation that the Minnesota Iceman was either an animal or a hoax—but definitely not some form of human, primitive or otherwise—and went on his way to deal with the daily activities and duties of the FBI. He duly informed J. Edgar Hoover of his conclusions that whatever the Iceman was or was not, it was definitely not something that the Bureau needed to bother itself with, unless it wished to find itself up to its collective neck in a laughable controversy (Simmonds, 1995).

A primitive ape-man attracts the attention of the FBI (Copyright Hermann Schaaffhausen, 1888)
Inevitably, given that he was an astute character who knew how to get the punters to part with good money to see the hairy enigma, Hansen very soon thereafter created a large and prominent sign that went on display right next to the creature. It read: The near-man...Investigated by the FBI. One suspects that J. Edgar Hoover and his band of G-Men, including Mr. Brewer, were hardly impressed or enamored by this development—in which they almost certainly would have played no role had the Smithsonian’s staff not worked itself into a panic about a potential murder. But for Frank Hansen, it was a dream come to life, and one which furthered the thick atmosphere of mystery and mythology in the making that surrounded his Minnesota Iceman and its attendant tales of official interest in the story.
The Minnesota Iceman is not the only strange creature with alleged links to the carnage of the Vietnam War, however.

A Winged Woman and Mesmerized Marines
It was a warm summer’s evening in 1969, and Earl Morrison, at the time a private serving with the U.S. Marine Corps, was stationed in Vietnam, sitting with two friends atop a bunker situated near Da Nang, a port city on the coast of the South China Sea at the mouth of the Han River. For reasons that Morrison and his friends could never really fathom, they all looked up almost simultaneously and, to their jaw-dropping astonishment, saw a strange figure crossing the night sky and slowly moving in their direction. “We saw what looked like wings, like a bat’s; only it was gigantic compared to what a regular bat would be. After it got close enough so we could see what it was, it looked like a woman, a naked woman” (Worley, 1972). The winged creature, added Morrison, was entirely jet-black in color, but seemed to have a greenish glow about it. As it closed in on the dumbstruck trio and passed over them at a height of barely 6 feet, they could hear the distinct flapping of wings. Too astonished to do anything but remain rooted to the spot in terror, Morrison and his comrades simply stared for three or four minutes until the flying bat-woman finally vanished into the darkness of the Vietnam skies.

The Han River horror and a secret file
In the summer of 2009, building began of a huge bridge designed to span the Han River. It was to be more than 2,200 feet long and 123 feet wide, and boast six lanes to allow for traffic to flow to and from the city of Da Nang and its international airport. The Dragon River Bridge, as it came to be called, was sculpted in the shape of one of the legendary, fire-breathing reptiles of ancient Chinese mythology. The name of the bridge is even more apt, some say, since the waters of the Han River are the domain of a Vietnamese equivalent of the Loch Ness Monster.
Admittedly, sightings of the creature of the river are rare, but they do occur. The fact that they span a number of years makes it much more likely that the beast is real and not a product of myth or imagination. Two important documented cases, rather surprisingly, come not from the files of respected monster-hunters and cryptozoologists, as one might reasonably expect to be the case, but from the now declassified archives of none other than the U.S. Army. Even weirder still, several eyewitnesses to one of the encounters were from the U.S. Marine Corps, the very branch of the United States Armed Forces that Earl Morrison and his colleagues were with when they encountered the region’s resident flying bat-woman back in the summer of 1969.
Titled “Sea Serpent” sighting at Han River, the two-page document in question tells an extraordinary story. On the morning of September 17, 1965, several Marine Corps personnel, along with two personnel from the 311th Air Commando Squadron of the 315th Air Command Group, were flying by helicopter from Da Nang Air Base (today, the Da Nang International Airport), when, while crossing the Han River at low level, they caught sight of something incredible and almost primeval in the waters below. They later told an interviewing officer—who must have been wholly bemused by the strange affair—that it was a huge, bright yellow serpentine creature, easily 80 feet in length. It was swimming downstream at a relatively slow rate of speed very near the surface, which is why they were able to see it so clearly. Couldn’t the creature have just been nothing stranger than a large snake, the length of which the team had inadvertently and innocently exaggerated in their state of excitement and amazement? Not according to the eyewitnesses, it couldn’t. They claimed that the serpent-like creature possessed four large flippers that, as a result of its striking color, could easily be seen against the background of the dark water. These flippers, along with a powerful thrashing tail, appeared to be pushing the creature along as it swam the length of the Han River. And, as everyone knows, snakes don’t have flippers.
Given none of the men thought to take even a solitary, priceless photograph of the beast in the half a minute or so that it was in view before quickly vanishing below the waves, apparently there was some degree of discussion amongst superior officers to the effect that the whole thing was nothing more than a good-natured hoax. However, each and every one of the men was absolutely adamant that it most certainly was not a hoax, conceding that all thoughts of photographing the creature were eclipsed by the shocking sight of seeing such an immense and strange animal in the first place. After all, how many of us could accurately predict the way in which we might react when confronted by such a shock? It seems likely that far more than a few of us might forget all about the camera in our pocket when faced with an 80-foot-long monster mere feet below us.
While the story was of some interest to the military, particularly since it involved several of their very own highly trained personnel, it obviously had no bearing upon national security, and so the matter was simply and quickly forgotten about and became nothing more than a curious and little-known aside in the history of the Vietnam War. However, there is one more thing that needs to be mentioned: the author of the document included a very brief footnote stating that institutional memory on the base revealed that an extremely similar creature—even down to the pronounced yellow coloring—had been spotted in the Han River during the late summer of 1962, shortly after U.S. military personnel were assigned to the base to help monitor the activities of the Viet Cong. That we have this additional data in hand is important because it demonstrates that the witnesses in the September 1965 incident were not alone—there were others who had encountered the yellow peril years earlier. Of course, this begs an important question: if there are two reports on this huge river monster, might there be more, still hidden and buried in the old archives of the U.S. Army?

Nick Redfern is the author of many books, including The Pyramids and the Pentagon; The Real Men in Black; The NASA Conspiracies; Keep Out!; Contactees; Memoirs of a Monster Hunter; and The World’sWeirdest PlacesHe has appeared on more than 70 TV shows, including: Fox News; the BBC’s Out of This World; the SyFy Channel’s Proof Positive; the History Channel’s Monster Quest, America’s Book of Secrets, Ancient Aliens, and UFO Hunters; the National Geographic Channel’s Paranatural; and MSNBC’s CountdownNick writes regularly for UFO Magazine, Mysterious Universe, and Fate.

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