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Mysecondaccount

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

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The far north has its share of and then some of crazed lunatics out in the northern wilderness.

About twenty years ago, i read an account of a couple guys who floated down the Yukon river from Whitehorse (Yukon Territory)} to Ruby (a village NW of Fairbanks)back in the 60's - used to be a thing for the outdoorsy types. North of Fairbanks, the Porcupine River hits the Yukon.  There, they found a ramshackle cabin, presumably leftover from one of the several mini-gold rushes in the states.  Looked occupied, but they didn't see anybody.  Stopped the boat, got out, headed up, found the door ajar, called out, peeked inside, found some tools and crude furnishings - along with a book of laws for Michigan (or maybe Minnesota, I forget which).  Damn strange find for an isolated cabin in the middle of nowhere.  They exited the cabin, made it halfway back to the boat when this crazy guy comes running out of the brush, swinging an ax and bellowing legal lingo at the top of his lungs.  Pair jumped in their boat and paddled off at top speed.

Locally, about thirty years ago, there was another, more straightforward incident.  Wildwood is a former Air Force base constructed for cold war operations that was later converted to a medium security prison.  Two sections: Pre-Trial, at the SW corner, and the main cellblock in the middle.  There was an especially nasty criminal in Pre-Trial whose case had just concluded.  Last night there before being moved to the main block.  This was right after the conversion to prison had taken place, so there were gaps in the security.  Guy makes a dummy fromnewspaper, cut hair and blankets, manages to get rid of a couple bars in his cell window, climbs out, scales a fence topped with razor wire (using another blanket) then hits the street and takes off.  Later, it turns out he spent a night or two hanging out in local bars - then he vanished. 

 

Enter the Gray Cliffs / Moose Point rural subdivisions - a collection of several hundred almost inaccessible lots sold by the Borough (County) starting a year or two prior to all this excitement (I bought and still own one of these lots and have never laid eyes on it) No roads, just ATV trails - but that didn't stop a couple hundred folks from planting cabins on this or that patch of swampland for hunting or whatnot (most were skidded in on ice roads during the winter).  Most of the time, though, these places sat empty, though most held a few weeks worth of supplies for when the owners were there.

 

Turns out our escapee made a beeline for these subdivisions and spent a good six months bouncing from cabin to cabin, living and looting one after another - until the owners showed up and realized what was going on.  Then he vanished again.  When he turned up, he was getting a haircut at a barbers college (beauty school?) in Anchorage.  Somebody recognized him, called the cops, who showed up and shot a surprising number of bullets in his direction, the vast majority of which missed (and endangered other people}.  I forget if he was killed in that incident or not (it was thirty years ago). 

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15 hours ago, Tywin et al. said:

New power, Rambo controls all the ants in the Amazon and then sends them across the Atlantic to eat you. They can return to fight the aforementioned Mounties riding elephants only after their mission is done.

Pfft. I raise by Jeff Bezos who controls all of Amazon, thus he is able to crush your ununionized ants.

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23 hours ago, DireWolfSpirit said:

So the guy goes way out into the Yukon to be left the hell alone and the authorities insist on harassing him to the point where he resorts to defending himself.

I'm skeptical of the Royal Mounties version of any of these events, especially after seeing a few of those Manhunt series.

Shame we do not have his side of the entire affair.

Eta: This has great movie written all over it.

Don’t believe the Mountie version then, believe the complaints of the indigenous people. They did not like the crazy guy and asked the RCMP to arrest him. I don’t think they were “harassing” someone who just wanted to be left alone. Being white doesn’t give you the right to move north and harass native people, which he was doing, tripping their trap lines.

I read the stories about the mad trapper when I was a teenager and thought he was a crazy guy, now in 2021 I see white privilege in action. Crazy white guy wants to live a free life in the north like the savages do, but dismisses the savages because, well, they’re just savages and he doesn’t need to get along with them, he’s white.

My assumption is he was an American who moved to Canada because America had become too tame. Even Alaska wasn’t good enough, still America under American law. Go to Canada and ignore the laws, they don’t apply to him.
 

Ooh, just read the Wikipedia page which obviously lots of people here didn’t bother to do. DNA was extracted from his remains and a list of people who really thought he might be a relative of theirs because they know they went to northern Canada and then lost touch with them, were tested, and none of them were related to the mad trapper.

In fact, radioactive isotope testing suggests he came from the US Midwest, with a Scandinavian heritage. 

And as for sarcastic comments about the Mounties, I would point out that the Mounties went to his cabin, were pretty sure he was there because of smoke rising from the chimney, knocked, he ignored them, and they went away because they didn’t have a warrant. Took them five days to get a warrant and come back, and things only got hostile after he shot one of the Mounties serving the warrant. Even then they went away and then came back with more people. Not exactly the actions of many of the police we read about today.

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1 hour ago, Fragile Bird said:

Don’t believe the Mountie version then, believe the complaints of the indigenous people. They did not like the crazy guy and asked the RCMP to arrest him. I don’t think they were “harassing” someone who just wanted to be left alone. Being white doesn’t give you the right to move north and harass native people, which he was doing, tripping their trap lines.

I read the stories about the mad trapper when I was a teenager and thought he was a crazy guy, now in 2021 I see white privilege in action. Crazy white guy wants to live a free life in the north like the savages do, but dismisses the savages because, well, they’re just savages and he doesn’t need to get along with them, he’s white.

My assumption is he was an American who moved to Canada because America had become too tame. Even Alaska wasn’t good enough, still America under American law. Go to Canada and ignore the laws, they don’t apply to him.
 

Ooh, just read the Wikipedia page which obviously lots of people here didn’t bother to do. DNA was extracted from his remains and a list of people who really thought he might be a relative of theirs because they know they went to northern Canada and then lost touch with them, were tested, and none of them were related to the mad trapper.

In fact, radioactive isotope testing suggests he came from the US Midwest, with a Scandinavian heritage. 

And as for sarcastic comments about the Mounties, I would point out that the Mounties went to his cabin, were pretty sure he was there because of smoke rising from the chimney, knocked, he ignored them, and they went away because they didn’t have a warrant. Took them five days to get a warrant and come back, and things only got hostile after he shot one of the Mounties serving the warrant. Even then they went away and then came back with more people. Not exactly the actions of many of the police we read about today.

We are trying to make a movie here. Don't ruin it with a bunch of facts!

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3 hours ago, Fragile Bird said:

In fact, radioactive isotope testing suggests he came from the US Midwest, with a Scandinavian heritage. 

 

I think you've misread that a little (also OP also mentioned it to be fair): he either came from the US Midwest or Scandinavia (with his accent in one exchange suggesting maybe the latter scenario).

I'm not quite sure why isotope testing narrows it down to one of those two but can't split the difference, but hey, I assume there are reasons.

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Posted (edited)
On 5/23/2021 at 10:52 AM, Fragile Bird said:

Don’t believe the Mountie version then, believe the complaints of the indigenous people. They did not like the crazy guy and asked the RCMP to arrest him. I don’t think they were “harassing” someone who just wanted to be left alone. Being white doesn’t give you the right to move north and harass native people, which he was doing, tripping their trap lines.

I read the stories about the mad trapper when I was a teenager and thought he was a crazy guy, now in 2021 I see white privilege in action. Crazy white guy wants to live a free life in the north like the savages do, but dismisses the savages because, well, they’re just savages and he doesn’t need to get along with them, he’s white.

My assumption is he was an American who moved to Canada because America had become too tame. Even Alaska wasn’t good enough, still America under American law. Go to Canada and ignore the laws, they don’t apply to him.

Your obviously entitled to your interpretations, but I personally feel like inserting "white privilege" into the "Mad Trapper" is a bit of a stretch. To me, he just seems like a cantankerous loner with some pathologically violent anger issues. It doesn't appear that he liked human contact period, regardless of their ethnic origins. As noted by the fact he was just as hostile to the white officials as he was to the local natives. Although he probably didn't have the most progressive views on race, being a general misanthrope more likely played a large role in his animosity with the locals, then racism. In other words, if he had chosen to move into some remote mountain range or desert in the Great Basin and the Southwestern states, Johnson probably would have treated the locals there similarly to how dealt with the Yukon Natives.

Also, given his extraordinary survival skills demonstrated in the manhunt, it's highly doubtful that he was some sort of "native cosplayer" as you insinuated. This is a man who endured temperatures of negative 40 F for an entire month without shelter in treacherous mountain passes, all the while evading the Mounties hunting him. A "crazy white man wanting to a free life like the savages" wouldn't have survived any of that. If anything he probably was raised from birth in some remote wilderness, and no doubt felt most comfortable being as far away from civilization as possible. Johnson moving to Yukon was probably more of him trying to find a untouched wilderness similar to his childhood home, then appropriating the "wild lifestyles" of the indigenous tribes. In terms of his lack of respect for authority, I'm certain that can be more attributed to a lifetime in de facto autonomous isolation, then to "American entitlement."

It seems like there are two opposing schools of thought when it comes to interpreting the Mad Trapper. One is that he was an ostracized loner acting out in self defense, while the other is that he was an interloper trying to bully the indigenous from their traditional livelihoods. To me, both sides are projecting their own personal values on the matter. In my own personal research, it seems like information is too scant to come to a solidified conclusion on what actually occurred. Though I personally take a middle ground approach.

In my personal speculation, Johnson simply moved near Fort McPherson for the sake of finding isolation. From years of exploitation and dealings with sketchy characters, local natives (and likely long time white settlers as well) probably were already wary of newcomers. The "Mad Trapper's" sullen and secretive demeanor most likely didn't help matters. In other words, it seems feasible that they thought Johnson was a creepy jerk, and never friendly to him to begin with. Their theoretical passive aggressive suspicion of him would have definitely exacerbated Johnson's disdain for others.

I envision that things took a turn for the worse, when Johnson tried establishing himself. When setting up his hunting grounds, it ended up overlapping with that of the Indigenous trappers. The local trappers weren't thrilled by this and confronted Johnson about it.

What exactly happened next is quite murky, but I can picture several different scenarios. Perhaps the natives confronted Johnson and demanded him to leave. In the resulting altercation, he angrily retaliated by threatening them at gunpoint. Maybe they conjured up false accusations of trap sabotaging to remove an unhinged competitor, and added them with the real complaints to the Mounties. Johnson genuinely being responsible is also very plausible, given his actions in the manhunt. Another, less likely, possibility is that an unknown third party was behind the sabotages, and the "Mad Trapper" was scapegoated for it.

Regardless, I don't feel like there just isn't enough information available (at least to me) to suggest which side was in the wrong. Thus propagating both that the "'Mad Trapper' was a misunderstood victim of bullying" and "he abused and depredated upon the indigenous locals" doesn't sit well with me.

Last but not least, as I mentioned in my first paragraph, it doesn't seem like Johnson was motivated to feud with the natives by a racism induced malice. I feel like if the natives would have been more keen to turn a blind eye to him, he wouldn't "harassed" (as you put it) them in retaliation.  Johnson seems to be the type that really only wants to be left alone, and will resort to violence if he feels threatened or provoked. Unfortunately though, his definition of "threatened or provoked" is likely quite loose, and extends to any sort of slight.

However, I must emphasize that I don't sympathize with Johnson's cause here. It is clear that his standoffish and uncooperative behavior is what sparked the whole mess. If he would've been more civil and communicative with the Mounties and the First Nations alike, the manhunt/standoff could of been avoided.

Edited by Mysecondaccount

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5 minutes ago, Mysecondaccount said:

our obviously entitled to your interpretations, but I personally feel like inserting "white privilege" into the "Mad Trapper" is a bit of a stretch. To me, he just seems like a cantankerous loner with some pathologically violent anger issues. It doesn't appear that he liked human contact period, regardless of their ethnic origins.

 

You don't necessarily have to be intentionally enacting white privilege to be either benefiting from it or set in a mindset which has you do privelege-minded things.

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On 5/22/2021 at 8:01 AM, larrytheimp said:

Ok I confess he was my great grandfather AMA

I only just opened the thread. 
 

Against Medical Advice?

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1 hour ago, polishgenius said:

I'm not quite sure why isotope testing narrows it down to one of those two but can't split the difference, but hey, I assume there are reasons.

Diet that end up in teeth enamel is what the radio isotope data probably shows; presumably something that is common to both Scandinavia (was it Norway?) and the US Midwest.

I dont think the isotope data tells you about ancestry as much as gives you a crude estimate based on some data collated for various geographical regions around the world that have specific isotope values or ratios.

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3 hours ago, IheartIheartTesla said:

Diet that end up in teeth enamel is what the radio isotope data probably shows; presumably something that is common to both Scandinavia (was it Norway?) and the US Midwest.

I dont think the isotope data tells you about ancestry as much as gives you a crude estimate based on some data collated for various geographical regions around the world that have specific isotope values or ratios.

I don’t think it’s all that crude, my understanding that it can be very specific. The area might be largish or quite small, but I don’t think the US Midwest is going to be the same as some area of Scandinavia. I think, though, if he was a child when he immigrated to the US he would have isotopes from both Scandinavia and the US Midwest. I would think it more likely in the early 1900s that he could have been a child or young man immigrating to the US with his family, rather than vice versa. My recollection is that the information comes from the water you drink and the food you eat, and the minerals deposited in your bones.

A quick look at Wikipedia explains things change over a period of 10 years in your bones, but not your teeth. Your teeth would retain stable isotopes collected during your life, your bones would reflect about the last ten years of your life. That may be an oversimplification, it was just Wikipedia I looked at.

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2 hours ago, Fragile Bird said:

I don’t think it’s all that crude, my understanding that it can be very specific. The area might be largish or quite small, but I don’t think the US Midwest is going to be the same as some area of Scandinavia. I think, though, if he was a child when he immigrated to the US he would have isotopes from both Scandinavia and the US Midwest. I would think it more likely in the early 1900s that he could have been a child or young man immigrating to the US with his family, rather than vice versa. My recollection is that the information comes from the water you drink and the food you eat, and the minerals deposited in your bones.

A quick look at Wikipedia explains things change over a period of 10 years in your bones, but not your teeth. Your teeth would retain stable isotopes collected during your life, your bones would reflect about the last ten years of your life. That may be an oversimplification, it was just Wikipedia I looked at.

I’d bet that the problem is that especially at that time parts of the northern US (some of which are called the Midwest, like Minnesota, but are geographically north) at that time were OVERWHELMINGLY Scandinavian. The town Fury Sr grew up in only had a couple families who weren’t Norwegian- and they were Danish. Up until the last decade or so that was still literally all there was there. My grandfather was born in Denmark, and that was long after, those Scandinavian immigrants brought their cuisine with them and would likely sport the same teeth composition. Minnesota is still very very Scandinavian, that Fargo movie accent come from the Norwegians, Swedes, and Danes. My grandpa sounded just like that, and that was just his Danish accent. And at the time, those Scandinavians were farmers, growing the same foods they did before coming here.

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Posted (edited)

Drinking water and climate are more important indicators of geographic origins than dietary records. Metabolically inert tissue such as hair and nails provide an ongoing record of fractionated isotopes. Tooth enamel can also be used, though it is chemically dynamic. Isocapes can be fairly detailed if the data is properly tracked. I think supplementing this with strontium, carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios gives a pretty good idea of the geographic origins.

Note: Not a forensic anthropologist. Take confident assertions with a pinch, possibly a fistful, of salt.

Edited by IFR
Indemnify myself from being accused of being a poser of forensic anthropology- one of the more serious crimes an individual can commit.

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Granted I dont find this story particularly interesting to go dig into all the details, but everything I've read so far seemed to indicate they only looked at teeth, might have something to do with the nature of the remains of said individual in question.

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On 5/24/2021 at 1:10 AM, IFR said:

Drinking water and climate are more important indicators of geographic origins than dietary records. Metabolically inert tissue such as hair and nails provide an ongoing record of fractionated isotopes. Tooth enamel can also be used, though it is chemically dynamic. Isocapes can be fairly detailed if the data is properly tracked. I think supplementing this with strontium, carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios gives a pretty good idea of the geographic origins.

Note: Not a forensic anthropologist. Take confident assertions with a pinch, possibly a fistful, of salt.

That is actually very fascinating to read. Will have to look into it more. Thanks for introducing the concept to me.

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