OK, we know know where the most famous model in the history of cryptozoology is headed. It's going to the Museum of the Weird in Austin, TX, with a loan planned for half of 2014 to the International Cryptozoology Museum.
The Iceman, as seen today, has some definite differences from the one seen by Bernard Heuvelmans and Ivan Sanderson as a Minnesota carnival exhibit back in 1968. It was off exhibit, then returned to the carnival circuit with changes including the disappearance of the bullet wound to the eye. This creates two possibilities: a real animal was replaced by a fake, or the fake was altered, for whatever reason, and there never was a real animal.
After missing for decades, this model turned up on, of course, eBay.
OMNI magazine once reported it was a fake made by Hollywood veteran Alan Ball. The story said he modeled it on Cro-magnon "cave man" illustrations, though cryptozoologist Dale Drinnon points out the eye sockets, with their distinctive semicircular bone arches, match only Neanderthals out of all the known human relatives.
Two experienced men thought the original creature was real, but frankly we'll never know. Cryptozoologists often note that the investigators could smell it decomposing, but a canny showman could easily have stuffed a piece of meat in or under the ice-filled case to give it that "air" of authenticity.
There are four stories of its origin
- Shot in the US by exhibitor Frank Hansen
- Found floating in a block of ice
- Shot during the Vietnam war and smuggled home
- Shot (really) by a Minnesota hunter after the animal raped her (ok, no one thinks this was anything but an attempt to cash in).
Dr. John Napier, the most eminent scientist to ever conclude sasquatch was real, thought this animal an improbable mix of features and thus not a real specimen. (He had essentially similar problems with the Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot film). Other experts who've expressed opinions are split.
Personally? I think it was one of the great carnival hoaxes of all time. It is, as Sharon Hill points out in Doubtful News, a great piece of American history, and soon everyone will be able to look at it.
ADDED: This blog gives some interesting background I hadn't heard. I never realized there was more than one dead-Bigfoot exhibit (which is in addition to the Iceman, which was not initially shown under the name Bigfoot)