Was the frozen body a missing link between man and ape?
Was the frozen body a missing link between man and ape?

Curse of the Minnesota Ice Man

Austin, Texas

It started with a curse placed on a child.

Creature in Ice.
Sign for the World Famous Creature in Ice.

At least, that's how it plays to us, in the darkened corridors of Steve Busti's Museum of the Weird. Steve is recounting a life-changing experience from when he was a kid growing up in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. He probably tells this story a lot, but it's important, and funny.

"When I was maybe 4 or 5 years old -- it must've been 1974 -- at the time I was really into dinosaurs, cavemen, and the Bigfoot craze was just starting. There were TV shows like 'In Search of.' My aunt knew I was gonna love this thing, which was touring around the country in this tractor-trailer. It came to our town, and set up in the parking lot at the K-Mart . It was the Minnesota Ice Man."

Stop right there, Steve. We know the Minnesota Ice Man, or at least know of him -- from misspent college years hanging around the Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained (SITU), British zoologist Ivan T. Sanderson's crackpot enclave in remote northwest New Jersey. The famous unexplained creature (AKA "Bozo the Ice Man") was legendary around SITU HQ. You could examine an Ice Man photo display on your way to sharpen razors with pyramid power in Ivan's backyard.

Back to Steve channeling kid Steve: "It was my Aunt Ginger, my grandmother and me. I saw the sign 'Creature in Ice.' I went up these stairs into the dark tractor-trailer. Inside was this big frozen box, like a freezer, with glass on top. All these adults were looking down into it, moving around, trying to get a good view..."

Big Steve Busti channels Little Steve.
Big Steve Busti channels Little Steve.

"I wasn't tall enough to see, so my Aunt positioned me next to it, I jumped up, and came face to face with the Minnesota Ice Man. I screamed. Everyone around me laughed. It was a shocking thing to see, big teeth, blown out eyeball, hair all over its body." Tiny Steve clung to the edge of the freezer for what seemed like an eternity to other paying customers. "I studied it intently, people had to go around me."

The Ice Man burned him. But as years passed, Steve could only vaguely remember seeing a frozen creature.

In Austin, his childhood memories started to thaw. "I did some research. After years on the sideshow circuit, the Ice Man was missing, and no one knew what happened to it. It was missing for 40 years."

"I became obsessed with finding the Ice Man. I wasn't sure what I was going to do if I did find it and buy it -- put it in my garage?" Steve finally cornered the creature in an auction online, and bought it in 2013.

Freezer sarcophagus of the Minnesota Ice Man.
Freezer sarcophagus of the Minnesota Ice Man.

The Museum of the Weird presents the Minnesota Ice Man in its own temperature-controlled chamber, lying under the ice in a refrigerated sarcophagus. Steve revels in the story details.

The Ice Man was supposedly discovered in Siberia, and placed into the dubious care of exhibitor Frank Hansen, who he drove it around to state fairs and events. It was regarded as a typical carnival fake (there may have even been two other Ice Men touring simultaneously, according to our SITU insider).

Then, in 1968, two cryptozoologists, Sanderson and Bernard Heuvelmans, were looking for evidence of Bigfoot, and drove from SITU HQ to Minnesota to examine the creature. The pair spent three days taking measurements and photographs. The heat of a photo lamp broke the cover glass, and both men claimed they immediately smelled rotting flesh. The creature was real! Not some wooden or stone prop.

Sanderson wrote about the Ice Man in Argosy magazine, proclaiming it was the long sought missing link between evolving ape and man, and Heuvelmans published about it in Belgium, dubbing a new species: Homo pongoides. Somewhat improbably, Heuvelmans believed "The World Famous Creature in Ice" had been a Vietnam war casualty, a wildman known as nguoi-rung inadvertently killed in its steaming jungles. (then, uh, put on beer ice by opportunistic G.I.s and shipped home?)

For better of worse, Steve's fate is linked to the Ice Man. Each day, he must interweave his story and the creature's story, standing at the icebox and enlightening visitors. It's likely none will ever scream quite as convincingly as little Busti did back in 1974.

"It came to my town, and it changed my life... the Minnesota Ice Man."

Also see: Museum of the Weird

Museum of the Weird

Lucky Lizard Curios & Gifts

Address:
412 E. 6th St., Austin, TX
Directions:
Lucky Lizard Curios & Gifts. North side of Sixth St. between Trinity and Neches Sts.
Hours:
M-Th 11 am - 11 pm, F 11 am - Midnight, Sa 10 am - Midnight, Su 12 pm - 10 pm. (Call to verify)
Phone:
512-476-5493
Admission:
Museum: $12 Adults, $7 under 8
RA Rates:
Major Fun
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

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Statue of the Cannon LadyStatue of the Cannon Lady, Austin, TX - < 1 mi.
In the region:
Wonder World: Anti-Gravity House, San Marcos, TX - 30 mi.

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