Friday, September 03, 2010

The Mad Trapper of Rat River or Death Hunt

Albert Johnson in death
Many years ago I saw a movie called "Death Hunt". As is usual for Hollywood it has little to do with the real hunt for the real Albert Johnson. However, the incident does have some interesting points for the rest of us. First, Dick North believes he has discovered the true identity of Albert Johnson even after all these years. Second, the participants used some neat guns most notably, for me, Albert Johnson's .30-30 chambered Savage Model 99. Third, Albert Johnson was apparently a consummate outdoors-man, excellent shot and extremely fit.

While on my recent sojourn in Alaska and the Yukon I came across Dick North's book, The Mad Trapper of Rat River and read it cover to cover. In it he covers the Albert Johnson story as known and then describes his search for the identity of the Mad Trapper. He makes a compelling case for Albert's true identity as Johnny Conrad Johnson. In 2009 a televised exhumation of Johnson's corpse was aired in which the DNA comparisons were made to confirm Johnson's identity. On August 11, 2007, a forensic team sponsored by the Discovery Channel exhumed Johnson's body and conducted forensic tests on his remains before re-interring it in an attempt to confirm his true identity conclusively. All candidates tested for were eventually excluded with 100 percent certainty. It was reported that, by analyzing isotopes in Johnson's teeth, it was determined that Johnson was not Canadian but grew up in America or Scandinavia. It was also reported that he was aged in his 30s when he died. So the mystery has yet to be solved!

Mr. North followed up with The Man Who Didn't Fit In. Reading his first book, I can easily understand why the case became endlessly fascinating to him. After all, of all the books I could have bought, I bought his.

Bronson as Johnson in the movie Death Hunt
- Dick North talks about his interest in the case (video)
- Survival Topics Forum
- Northwest Territories Archives

The Men Who Don't Fit In

Robert W. Service

There's a race of men that don't fit in,
A race that can't stay still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin,
And they roam the world at will.
They range the field and they rove the flood,
And they climb the mountain's crest;
Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood,
And they don't know how to rest.

If they just went straight they might go far;
They are strong and brave and true;
But they're always tired of the things that are,
And they want the strange and new.
They say: "Could I find my proper groove,
What a deep mark I would make!"
So they chop and change, and each fresh move
Is only a fresh mistake.

And each forgets, as he strips and runs
With a brilliant, fitful pace,
It's the steady, quiet, plodding ones
Who win in the lifelong race.
And each forgets that his youth has fled,
Forgets that his prime is past,
Till he stands one day, with a hope that's dead,
In the glare of the truth at last.

He has failed, he has failed; he has missed his chance;
He has just done things by half.
Life's been a jolly good joke on him,
And now is the time to laugh.
Ha, ha! He is one of the Legion Lost;
He was never meant to win;
He's a rolling stone, and it's bred in the bone;
He's a man who won't fit in.

Investigation Discovery Channel (ID) broadcast a show about the Mad Trapper last night at 10PM EDST. DNA has apparently excluded all previously possible candidates including Johnnie Johnson BUT isotopic tests verified that he grew up in the upper mid-west USA. It may be that some day a genealogist will wonder where a certain male family member born around 1900 disappeared to and with DNA being more and more popular among genealogists we'll finally have an answer.


Edwin said...

Apparently the mad trapper was either from the USA or Scandinavia per the DNA tests. Probably Scandinavia since eye witness accounts claimed he had a Scandinavian accent.

Anonymous said...

I'm interested in finding truth..We don't know anything about Albert Johnson because they killed him and blew up the cabin. I do not think the punishment fit the crime or even if there was a crime committed by Albert Johnson. Dixie