In Eugene O’Neill’s 1939 play, The Iceman Cometh, the title refers to the off-color jokes then in fashion in America about wives who would practice adultery with a mailman, milkman, traveling salesman, or any other man who knocks on their door while the husband is away. In 1912, the year in which O’Neill’s play is set, one of the deliverymen who stopped frequently at homes was the iceman, the guy who delivered blocks of ice used to refrigerate food. Like milkmen and mailmen, icemen were regularly featured in these often insensitive, crude jokes.
The essence of the play is about the unrealized dreams of older men seated around a bar, appropriately run by a character named Harry Hope. There is always hope at the bottom of the bottle in Hope’s saloon.
One of the main characters is a slick guy named Theodore (“Hickey”) Hickman who is known for joking that his wife has cheated on him with the iceman. Hickey is the huckster of the play, the fast-talking hardware salesman, not unlike Tom Biscardi in our recent stories, who is a success because of his back-slapping ego reinforcement of the wishful hopes of his clients. Once a year, he drops by Harry Hope’s tavern to celebrate Harry’s birthday, and usually regales the drunks there with more false hopes.
But for this visit, Hickey has changed; he is no longer drinking, and tells the patrons to stop drinking and to get jobs. But what is revealed by the end of the play is that it has been Hickey, not some mythical iceman, who has been cheating on his wife, for years. His wife’s willingness to forgive all of Hickey’s sins makes him feel so guilty, he says, that he had no choice but to ice (“to kill”) her, shooting her while she sleeps.
In the end, the “iceman” does not exist, really, for the “iceman” is Hickey. But then, of course, we all are the iceman. Biscardi is the iceman. I am the iceman and so are you. We all dwell in Harry Hope’s bar, sometimes.
If you examine most good analyses of The Iceman Cometh, you will find there is agreement that the play finds universality through the theme that all human beings have a tendency to entertain unachieved or foolish hopes – or, as Hickey and others in the play call them, “pipe dreams.”
The characters in the play constantly deceive themselves into thinking they shall return to a world of status, achievement, and respectability. “Day after day, year after year, they delude themselves with a belief that one day they will do what is necessary to rise from their nether world of booze and lice and demons from the past. However, they continually postpone acting on their dreams until tomorrow,” mentions one examination of the play.
In the midst of the Georgia Bigfoot hoax, which held many metaphorical Minnesota Iceman moments for me, with its block of ice, the body in the ice, the huckster, the media, and the learned saying what they said, I had a stark revelation. I could no longer support the promised hopes that had been embodied for me in the Minnesota Iceman.
New insights about the Minnesota Iceman became so clear to me as I experienced Tom Biscardi standing up at the August 15th news conference, making statements about having “touched the body,” even though he had clearly not and had said so before and after the 15th. The Georgia “body in ice” story had eerie parallels that made me very uncomfortable.
During the autumn of 1967, college zoology major Terry Cullen spotted an extraordinary exhibit in Milwaukee—a fresh, apparently authentic corpse of a hairy man-like animal. For twenty-five cents people could see the “man left over from the Ice Age” that exhibitor Frank Hansen kept frozen in a block of ice inside a refrigerated glass coffin.
After Cullen contacted Ivan T. Sanderson (because none of Cullen’s anthropology professors would go look at it), Sanderson got in touch with Hansen. Sanderson and Bernard Heuvelmans traveled to Minnesota to look at the “body in ice.”
For three days, December 16-18, 1968, Sanderson and Heuvelmans examined the creature in Hansen’s freezing cold cramped trailer. The specimen appeared to be an adult male with large hands and feet. Its skin was covered with very dark brown hair three to four inches long. The creature had apparently been shot through one eye, which dangled on its face, but it also had a gaping wound and open fracture on its left arm. Smelling putrefaction, the two concluded that the creature was authentic. Through the ice, they could hardly believe what they saw. They took photographs, published their findings, and the rest, as they say, is history.
In August 1969, I saw what was said to be the Minnesota Iceman at the Illinois State Fair. (The 1969 event, an 11-day fair, still holds the highest attendance mark for any Illinois State Fair, 1,155,304 people.) I talked to Frank Hansen. I went through the exhibit twice.
I took photographs and sent them to Ivan T. Sanderson, Bernard Heuvelmans, and Mark A. Hall. The four of us worked closely together to determine the differences between the hominoid-like body that Sanderson and Heuvelmans had seen and photographed in December 1968, and the obvious fake that Hall and I saw a few months later in 1969. The toothy model that is often shown as the “real Iceman” is one of the photos taken of the acknowledged fake being shown in 1969.
Sanderson and Heuvelmans discussed a list of 15 specific differences they noticed in the two “Minnesota Icemen.”
I have been one of the greatest supporters of the Minnesota Iceman for the last 39 years, having written and lectured extensively on the many points I felt called for a steadfast support and consideration of the “body” being that of an unknown bipedal primate.
But I must reject the transitory hope that the Minnesota Iceman has given to the field of hominology for all these years. With regard to the Ray Wallace fake tracks that still exist in some books on Bigfoot, I have been clear that those images should all be thrown out. Cleanse away the imperfect to fashion a better sense of the good data. I now feel the same way about the Minnesota Iceman, an object of false reality in the field of cryptozoology. Clear the distraction of the Minnesota Iceman from the database. Move on to find the first and real actual body, and prove the existence of unknown hominids forever. Or not.
What is my main objection to the Minnesota Iceman, in the wake of the Georgia Bigfoot hoax? Sanderson and Heuvelmans never touched the body, they never took a DNA sample, and they never even realized the physical nature of this object. Mark A. Hall and I were also not allowed to touch whatever it was we were shown, which we have been told for years was “the fake.”
I find that round after round of arguments about the reality or the origin of the Minnesota Iceman is no better than a debate over the remembered details of a sighting. The sides have been fixed for a long time.
There is a supporter who was convinced of the reality of the Iceman because he remembers seeing plant matter in the teeth, shed skin of ekto-parasites (lice) on the skin, and unique dentition showing in the mouth where a lip was curled back. This is versus the detractor who thinks he recalls seeing the hair coming out of the same follicles like in a Barbie doll, although the remembering of which year it was seen is hardly firm.
The endless examinations of Frank Hansen’s yarns to try to figure out if the Minnesota Iceman came via a body bag from Vietnam, from a block of ice found by Russian sealers or Japanese whalers, or because it was killed and they found a month later in an unlikely frozen state in the Wisconsin woods are like trying to find microscopic truths in an ocean of lies.
Those that wish to make points – pro or con – by saying they have viewed the Minnesota Iceman in 1967, 1968, or 1969, remind me of all the people who have said they were at Woodstock in 1969. To what end does this “shared Minnesota Iceman experience” further cryptozoology? (“The widespread joke [is] that millions of people now claim to have attended Woodstock, even though the actual crowd numbered about 400,000,” notes a commentary in Fortune, 1999.)
I am guilty of having hope that the Minnesota Iceman would be a key to understanding unknown hominoids around the world, and I have written about those thoughts. I had hopes, fleeting ones, yes, but hopes, nevertheless, that, against all my instincts regarding the unholy three Biscardi-type personalities, an actual body would be revealed during the summer of 2008, too. But that hope lasted for about ten minutes. As I reach nearly four decades of holding out hopes that the Minnesota Iceman might have been real, I must completely reject it now, as a bringer of false promises to enlightenment.
If an alleged cryptid body is sitting in front of you but has not actually even been touched, it cannot, it should not be held aloof as a form of scientific evidence within cryptozoology. We call for others to be open-minded and set their standards with cryptids to a level of fairness without rejection off-handedly. We must set our standards higher than they have been in the past, and only through such an exercise will something of value come out of the horrible Georgia experience.
For me, it does not matter if the Minnesota Iceman is a carnival gaff, a Hollywood model, or an actual body, at this point, for it never existed in any state of physical reality within hominology. It was as surely an illusion as Frank Hansen wanted us to think it was, as much an illusion as Biscardi’s latest folly.
The Minnesota Iceman leaves us with nothing but false hopes, deceptive leads, and, yes, pipe dreams.
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013.