In January of 1914, there was a “wild man” on the loose near Kenosha, Ontario. But unlike many reports of Sasquatches and the “forest people” of popular folklore, this beastly biped was actually captured and imprisoned.
Described as a “raving maniac” so unwieldily that upon his capture he had been locked within a steel cage, the tale of Hjalmar Moilanen, the beast-man of Ontario, was first related in the January 28, 1914 noon edition of the Chicago newspaper The Day Book, a periodical that appeared in print for only a short six years between 1911-1917.
The strange story read as follows:
“WILD MAN” BREAKS UP BIG SETTLEMENT OF INDIANS
Kenosha, Ont., Jan. 28–A famous “wild man,” Hjalmar Moilanen, former well-known resident of Aurora, Minnesota, who has terrorized Indians and woodmen and has been pursued all over the forest region of Ontario, has been captured and placed in a steel cage.
Indians, believing their country infested with evil spirits after seeing the wild man, abandoned their homes and migrated to a western section of the country.
The article described Moilanen as “a raving maniac,” who after his incarceration was “making the local jail hideous with his howling.”
Combing old newspaper archives will often yield treats like these, though there are countless numbers of articles which dealt with pure fiction, or what writers for local dailies often called “whoppers.” It was also common during this era, particularly in frontier America, for “liar’s clubs” to formulate wild stories for pure entertainment, with the winner of the best yarn-spinning being based on who managed to craft ridiculous stories that were believable enough to fool editors into publishing them. It has long been held that stories involving sea serpents, airships, and even the infamous purported photograph of a “thunderbird” nailed to a barn which allegedly had been carried by Arizona’s Tombstone Epitaph were likely instances of such tom-foolery.
So was there ever really such a man as “Hjalmar Moilanen,” and what had caused him to run wild amidst the Canadian wilderness? And if so, why had he been regarded as “famous” in his former hometown of Minnesota? Perhaps most importantly, why would any of this matter?
Recently, I have taken an interest in reports of purported “feral humans,” regarding instances where human beings have been raised in wild or primitive environments (i.e. feral children), or otherwise have seemingly reverted back to primitive living for other reasons. A recent article featured here at Mysterious Universe dealing with the subject, ““Wild Men” May Be Lurking in North America’s Remote Woodlands”, explored potential cases where such “beast men” may have appeared, with potential for contributing to at least a few cases of alleged Bigfoot reports in America. Based on the description of the alleged “wild man” Hjalmar Moilanen, his actions do indeed sound feral, possibly as a result of severe mental illness or some other condition which impaired judgement and social abilities.
So far as whether he existed, a search for Moilanen’s name among American newspapers spanning the years of 1836 – 1922 made available online via the Library of Congress yielded no results other than the article which appeared in the 1914 issue of The Day Book mentioned earlier. However, there is a military services registration card still on file bearing the name “Johan Hjalmar Moilanen,” with the birth date of December 15, 1887, and the state/city of residence listed as New York.
Perhaps the full story of Hjalmar Moilanen, and why he may have gone wild, will never be fully known. But might this have been the same individual who, later at age 28, had been incarcerated and referred to as a “famous wild man” that terrorized woodsmen and area natives in Ontario?