The Minnesota Iceman is a sideshow exhibit that depicts a man-like creature frozen in a block of ice. It was displayed at shopping malls, state fairs, and carnivals in the United States and Canada in the 1960s and early 1970s and promoted as the "missing link" between man and Neanderthals. It was reportedly sold on eBay in 2013 and put on display in Austin, Texas.
It has been described as male, human-like, 6 ft (~1.8 m) tall, hairy, with large hands and feet, very dark brown hair about 3 - 4 inches (~9 cm) long, and a flattened nose. One of its arms appeared to be broken and one of its eyes appeared to have been knocked out of its socket, allegedly by a bullet that was said to have entered the creature's head from behind. Although cryptozoologists have suggested the Minnesota Iceman was a Neanderthal, Bigfoot and/or a primitive human, mainstream scientists say that it was likely to be a hoax due to Neanderthals going extinct thousands of years ago.
Promoter and exhibitor Frank Hansen stated the Minnesota Iceman was discovered in the region of Siberia and that he was acting as its caretaker for an absentee owner he described as an "eccentric California millionaire". Touring carnivals and fairs with the exhibit, Hansen was once reportedly detained by Canadian customs officials, who were concerned he was transporting a cadaver. While searching for evidence of Bigfoot in 1968, cryptozoologists Ivan Sanderson and Bernard Heuvelmans examined the Iceman in Hansen's house trailer in Minnesota, and concluded it was a genuine creature, saying they found "putrefaction where some of the flesh had been exposed from the melted ice."
In 1969, Heuvelmans wrote an article in a Belgian scientific journal about the Iceman suggesting that it was a new species with Neanderthal affinities called Homo pongoides, and theorized it was most likely shot and killed in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Prompted by Heuvelmans' naming the Iceman Homo pongoides, the FBI was informed that the subject might potentially be a human murder victim, but the agency did not investigate, possibly due to many believing it was a hoax.
Sanderson, then science editor for Argosy magazine, authored an article about the Iceman in the April 1969 issue that featured the headline, "Is this the missing link between man and the apes?" Sanderson also spoke about the Iceman in television appearances, and contacted primatologist John Napier, asking him to investigate it under the official auspices of Smithsonian Institution. Hansen subsequently withdrew the Minnesota Iceman from public inspection, saying the withdrawal was on orders from its California-based owner. Hansen later provided a new "Iceman" for exhibit, described by observers as a latex model that was clearly different from the original.
Napier, in conjunction with the Smithsonian, made preliminary investigations of Hansen's affairs and said he found that Hansen had commissioned the creation of the Iceman from a West Coast company in 1967, leading Napier to quickly conclude there was only ever one Iceman latex model that he theorized was repositioned and refrozen between appearances. Napier stated that "The Smithsonian Institution…is satisfied that the creature is simply a carnival exhibit made of latex rubber and hair...the 'original' model and the present so-called 'substitute' are one and the same."
In February 2013, the Minnesota Iceman was reportedly auctioned on eBay. The listing read: “This is the actual sideshow gaff billed as “The Minnesota Iceman” by Frank Hansen in the 1960s. This is a one of a kind hoax that was fabricated by a mid-20th century showman." It was reportedly purchased by Austin, Texas "Museum of the Weird" owner Steve Busti, who has placed it on public display.
- Neanderthal: The Strange Saga of the Minnesota Iceman. Bernard Heuvelmans, tr. Paul Leblond, afterword Loren Coleman. Anomalist Books, 2016.
- Searching for Sasquatch: Crackpots, Eggheads, and Cryptozoology. Brian Regal, Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.
- Mysterious America: The Ultimate Guide to the Nation's Weirdest Wonders, Strangest Spots, and Creepiest Creatures. Loren Coleman, Paraview Pocket Books, 2007.
- Bigfoot: The Sasquatch and Yeti in Myth and Reality. John Napier, Dodd, Mead, 1978.
- Bigfoot: The Life and Times of a Legend. Joshua Blu Buhs, The University of Chicago Press, 2009
- The Field Guide to Bigfoot, Yeti, and Other Mystery Primates Worldwide, Loren Coleman and Patrick Huyghe, Illust. Harry Trumbore, ISBN 0-380-80263-5
- Joshua Blu Buhs (15 May 2009). Bigfoot: The Life and Times of a Legend. University of Chicago Press. pp. 153–. ISBN 978-0-226-07979-0. Retrieved 7 August 2012.
- David J. Daegling (30 October 2004). Bigfoot Exposed: An Anthropologist Examines America's Enduring Legend. Rowman Altamira. pp. 77–. ISBN 978-0-7591-0539-3. Retrieved 7 August 2012.
- Michael McLeod (2 June 2009). Anatomy of a Beast: Obsession and Myth on the Trail of Bigfoot. University of California Press. pp. 118–. ISBN 978-0-520-25571-5. Retrieved 7 August 2012.
- Hill, Sharon A. "Minnesota Iceman to go back on display (UPDATE: Still hyped as real)". doubtfulnews.com. Retrieved 26 August 2013.
- Hill, Sharon A. "Step right up and see the Minnesota Iceman! SOLD!". doubtfulnews.com. Retrieved 26 August 2013.
- "Crypto-Prank-ology, Season 4 Episode 6". A&E Network. Retrieved 30 January 2014.