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Have any of you here ever heard of "'Albert Johnson, the 'mad trapper of Rat River'"?

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Edit: This thread was accidentally placed under the wrong folder. I meant to put it under "general chatter" instead of "entertainment." I'll duplicate this post under the proper folder, though I don't think this forums allows submissions to be deleted.

Recently, I was reading up about "Albert Johnson", otherwise known as the "Mad Trapper of Rat River." For those unfamiliar, Albert Johnson was an unidentified man shot dead in the 1930s by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, after an intense manhunt that climaxed into a gun fight. It all started when a mysterious fur trapper who referred to himself as “Albert Johnson”, arrived at Fort McPherson, a small outpost in Canada’s Yukon territory.

At the time, most of Yukon was very desolate, and the local demographics were overwhelmingly dominated by Native Americans. The settlements around Fort McPherson were no exception. If I recall the details correctly, around ~87% of Fort McPherson’s population (more precisely 200 out of 230 people) were Native Americans. Thus, a blonde haired white man like Johnson stuck out like a sore thumb.

Relations between Johnson and the local Natives quickly soured. As the natives were rather unwelcoming to white outsiders, whom they deemed as encroaching on their livelihoods. It didn’t help that Johnson was a very secretive recluse with a volatile temper, who avoided human interactions at almost all costs. Johnson only willingly intermingled with others when restocking his supplies, and even then was very curt and aloof in those exchanges. Reportedly, Johnson threatened native trappers with his rifle on a few occasions. In return, the natives accused him of sabotaging their traps, and took their complaints to the Mounted Police.

Local authorities were already suspicious of Johnson on the account of him not acquiring a trapping license. With the sabotage accusations added on the list, a few officers tried talking to him. In the first interaction, Johnson only gave evasive and short responses to their questions. He then ghosted further attempts at contact.

Fed up with Johnson’s uncooperative behavior, the Mounties trekked to his handmade cabin for further questions. Once they reached his cabin, seeing smoke from the chimney, they knocked on his door. Again, Johnson ignored them. A few days later, the officers returned with a warrant. When they tried to force their way in, Johnson shot one of them, and scurried away after a brief shootout.

The other officers dragged their wounded comrade to safety to the nearby town of Aklavik. From there, they regrouped and formed a posse consisting of Mounties and their trapper guides, to hunt Johnson down. Over the course of the month and a half long manhunt, Johnson traversed over 150 miles in temperatures as low as -40°F to the Alaskan border, even crossing a 7,000 foot mountain peak.

Some of the tactics he used to evade the Mounties was following Caribou tracks, building blind trails (with the help of wearing the snow shoes backwards), and backtracking. Johnson also carefully built small fires that would be difficult for pursers to detect. Last but not least, he also shot 3 more Mounties over the course of several skirmishes in the manhunt, killing one.

In desperation, the authorities resorted to a search plane to flush him out. With the help of the plane, the Mounties finally located Johnson. In the final confrontation, Johnson shot another Mountie, while taking 9 bullets in return. Finally killing him in the process.

While attempting to identify Johnson, the authorities took his fingerprints, though they couldn’t find a match in their archives. They also took pictures of his corpse and distributed them around both in Canada and the US, in hopes of soliciting someone to claim him. No one ever did.

To this day, Johnson still remains unidentified. Every attempt to identify him with DNA testing has proven unsuccessful. Perhaps from his suspiciously generic sounding “name”, authorities and historians are almost certain that “Albert Johnson” is a mere pseudonym. What motivated his behavior during the whole episode is also unknown. As the dead can’t exactly speak for themselves. Johnson not leaving any diaries or written records, nor having any known associates didn’t help in that regard.

Some scholars speculate that he might have committed some sort of crime(s) in another jurisdiction. According to such theories, Johnson was paranoid that if he was further questioned or detained, the Mounties would’ve eventually tied those previous crime(s) to him. Thus he was hellbent on eluding them.

At the time of his death, Johnson was estimated to have been in his thirties. If that estimate is correct, then he would have been eligible to be a World War 1 veteran. Which might explain his proficiency with firearms and his performance in the shootouts. During their brief exchange, the officers noted him having a Scandinavian accent, leading some to believe that he was an immigrant from that region. Isotope testing done in the 2000s solidified this possibility, with the conclusion that he was either raised in the American corn belt states or Scandinavia.

On a few parting notes, first hand accounts mentioned that they never heard him utter a word in the entire chase. The only vocalization they reported Johnson making, was him laughing after shooting a Mountie. It is also unknown if he truly was responsible for sabotaging those traps, or if they were just false pretenses conjured up by the natives to get rid of him.

What are your thoughts on the Albert Johnson case, if any? From what little is available to us, what are your theories on the man's true identity and nature?





Edited by Mysecondaccount

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