Grave of the Mad Trapper of Rat River – Northwest Territories - Atlas Obscura

Grave of the Mad Trapper of Rat River

A mad mystery man who led Canadian mounties on a 150-mile wilderness chase is still buried with his secrets intact. 


In these days of forgone privacy and hi-tech forensics, it’s rare to find a high-profile criminal case that is still unsolved, but such is the case of the mysterious Mad Trapper of Rat River who rolled into the Canadian wilderness out of nowhere and proceeded to go on a crazed tear through the wilderness with the mounties hot on his heels.

A man claiming to be “Albert Johnson” (it is widely believed that this name was an alias) arrived in the Northwest Territory of Canada in 1931 with little explanation, and seemingly even less of a plan. Nonetheless the mystery man built a secluded cabin in the woods near the Rat River and mainly kept to himself, or so it seemed. Soon the native trappers were complaining to the Mounted Police about someone tampering with the animal traps they used as their livelihood. The police assumed that the most logical culprit must be the creepy new guy, so a group of them decided to pay Johnson a visit.

On the first visit to the secluded cabin, Johnson refused to even acknowledge the officers, but when the mounties arrived a second time, Johnson greeted them with unannounced gunfire that whizzed right through the door, wounding one of the officers. Of course the next time the mounties came to Johnson’s cabin, they brought dynamite. However even with a whole gang of police laying siege to the cabin, eventually demolishing it, Johnson held out.

Eventually the madman fled and was chased into the deadly frozen wilderness where he miraculously led officers on a week-long chase before he single-handedly scaled a cliff wall and disappeared. Exhausted, and a little amazed at Johnson’s survival skills, the Canadian police hired a small plane to assist in the search, and finally, 40 days after and 150 miles away from their first encounter, Johnson was found and shot down.

During the whole ordeal Johnson is said to have been completely silent and no further information on the man’s past was ever uncovered, leaving nothing but questions. He is said to be buried in the remote hamlet of Aklavik and a crude sign emblazoned with his story still marks his passing. It may be the only trace of evidence he ever left behind.

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