Stranger than fiction


Only in Alaska can reality prove stranger than reality TV, and when the two converge, the outcome is near unbelievable.

Consider the case of 78-year-old Duane Ose who off and on for years lived underground far from anywhere in the foothills of the Alaska Range only to emerge, find a woman to marry, and proceed to build with her a beautiful, three-story log cabin over the hole in a hill far from nowhere that he’d named Ose Mountain.

Now Duane’s wife, Rena, is dead. The cabin has been deeded to two contestants who won it in an English reality TV show. Duane has married a younger woman. She and he are arguing Duane was bilked out of the cabin, and they’re trying to reclaim it but can’t get to it because law enforcement authorities in the Central Alaska city of Fairbanks told air-taxi services not to fly them to Ose Mountain because Duane no longer owns it.

So the newlyweds are shacked up in a Fairbanks Holiday Inn trying to figure out what to do next while ranting on Facebook about the loss of the cabin and family members they believe are trying to sabotage the ailing Duane’s return to the wilderness.

Approaching his 79th birthday in January, Duane has already battled colon and prostate cancer, daughter Carol Hansen said during a telephone interview over the weekend from her dad’s old, home state of Minnesota, and last summer Duane suffered a heart attack.

Meanwhile, a past hip injury makes it difficult for him to walk. She doesn’t think her father fit to return to the now freezing wilderness for the winter, noting that since about the middle of the decade Duane and Rena had been moving into Fairbanks to live in an apartment through the cold season because of the difficulty the two of them faced trying to keep the three-story cabin warm with only wood for heat.

Duane and new wife, Ellie-Mae Blair, however, have a wholly different view of the situation.

In a rambling post on Duane’s Facebook page, he or she or both of them have posted a long list of complaints against Hansen and Duane’s other children including that “4. They MADE FUN OF Duane with hurtful comments Like: YOU ARE TOO OLD, You are CRAZY, you are LOCKED in a Basement, You are Drugged, You are Spending my inheritance, You are NOT SAFE to be in Alaska, You are not safe on the mountain, and Finally, YOU are not You??!! Crazy hurtful lunatics

“5. They HATE I haven’t taken Rena’s ashes to fly over the mountain…but they threaten my new pilot to Not go to MY Ose runway. George chips in here and had my hunting guns mailed and ADDRESSED Exclusively to himself and tricked me into telling him name of my new pilot so he could tell Mark and Emily Trolls and assist in harassing police for them, giving foreigners my private information and flight plans and other helpers.”

Duane has authored several books about his adventures in the Alaska wilderness, and the grammar, punctuation and random capitalization in those books is not at all like that in the Facebook posts quoted verbatim above. He has yet to respond to a request for an interview.

The “George” he refers to is the pilot who used to fly him to Ose’s Mountain but is wintering in Texas now.

Hansen said she is worried about her father’s mental health.

“They’re still trying to find a pilot to fly them, but no one wants to take them there,” she said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen next.

“He doesn’t have a place to go. He packed up his apartment (in Redwood Falls, Minn.). His lease ended in August. He put all his stuff in his car that is parked at a friend’s house.”

The child of Duane’s first wife – Rena was his second – Hansen is not exactly a fan of the new Mrs. Ose, a blonde who has posted what might best be called pin-up pictures on Duane’s Facebook page.


A dream

But now this story is getting ahead of a tale that starts – as do so many Alaska stories – with a dream of life in the wilderness.

“My dad grew up walking in the woods,” Hansen said, “hunting and fishing. He was a Boy Scout leader.”

The owner of a successful concrete contracting business in Minnesota, Duane was accidentally shot by Hansen’s mother in 1978 and afterward began collecting Social Security disability payments. The government support offered him freedom he’d never known as a working man.

Four years later, he and Hansen’s mother divorced, and Duane followed an “Into the Wild” dream north. Unlike a young Chris McCandless, the subject of a now-famous tale of struggle and death in the Alaska wilderness, Duane had the skill, the experience and the financial support to make his dream a success.

A promotion for one of his books claims “he and his wife, Rena, were the very last persons to file a claim under the Federal Homestead Act of 1862 for a piece of property Duane describes as ‘a giant, fertile garden bowl, cupped warmly in God’s loving hands.'”

The reality is that little in the 49th state is “cupped warmly in God’s hands” but for a few short months of summer, if that, and Duane’s homesteading predated Rena’s arrival. For several years in the early ’80s, Hansen said, her dad – who always stayed in touch with her mother and family – bounced back and forth between Alaska and Echo, Minn.

Eventually – either in 1986 or 1987 – she said, he moved north permanently and settled onto a homesite in the Lake Minchuminia area about 80 miles northwest of Mount Denali, and not all that far from where McCandless starved to death in an abandoned bus.

“He built himself a 12-by-15 foot dugout in the ground,” Hansen said. “He lived there for a year or two by himself.”

Lonely, he posted an advertisement for female companionship in a magazine when next he returned to Minnesota. That was how met Rena, a resident of New Brunswick, Canada.

“She told him, ‘You’re going to marry me, and we’re going to go back,” Hansen said. “They lived there 10 years building that house” before finally moving into it to grow old together.

Too old eventually for the wilderness where life is inherently hard even without a massive cabin to heat when the temperatures in Central Alaska drop to 50 degrees below zero or colder.

In such conditions, a man has to cut, haul and split a lot of wood to heat even a 12-by-15 feet dugout in the ground. Wood for a multi-story cabin requires far more labor. And then there is the grind of daily gathering snow or ice to melt for water.

Not to mention the experience of visiting the outhouse in extreme cold.

This is a life that wears people down. So when the illnesses that tend to come haunting the elderly began to appear, Duane and Rena started looking for a way to escape the wilderness outpost they’d come to love. But for that, they needed to recoup the money they’d poured into their wilderness adventure.

Chartering airplanes to fly to remote corners of Alaska costs hundreds of dollars. Costs quickly run into the thousands and tens of thousands of dollars when you start flying in building and other supplies needed to live in the wild.

“For the last six years, they’d been trying to sell the house,” said Hansen. “Rena really wanted running water.

“They didn’t get anywhere.”

Bush reality

It was during these years Duane hit on the idea of pitching his story of life in the wilderness to producers of Alaska reality TV shows, which have their own little cult following. A number of U.S. producers were interested, Hansen said, but wanted to add their own, soap-operaesque spin to the telling as is often the case.

“My dad didn’t want to be part of that,” Hansen said. “He wanted to tell his own story.”

Eventually, Duane’s desire for control led to the couple hooking up with TwoFour media, which produced a show titled  “Win the Wilderness: Alaska” for the BBC.

“How far would you go to escape the 9 to 5,” the trailer for the show teased. “In the depths of Alaska, 100 miles from the nearest road, six British couples risk it all to win an extraordinary wilderness home.”

“He and Rena were paid six figures,” Hansen said. “They got more money than they were ever going to get out of the cabin by selling it.”

The show aired in six episodes that largely featured cheechakoes bumbling in the wilderness or semi-wilderness, usually far from Ose Mountain. Duane then offered sage advice on what sort of couple he and Rena wanted to take over the cabin.

“We’re not just looking at practical skills now,” he revealed in the “Trekking into a glacier” episode. “We’re looking for a couple that will weather the storms of whatever comes along. The greenhorns have to have survival instincts. They have to be able to adapt.”

Given that Ose Mountain is a long way from the nearest glacier, those instincts would be of more use than any glacier trekking skills. The Oses didn’t appear to join the British couples on any of their various outings, all of which appear guided by others, but they did eventually pick a winner of the cabin.

“In the final episode of ‘Win the Wilderness,’ the two remaining couples fly to Ose Mountain one last time. In just 48 hours, Duane and Rena will reveal which couple should take over their home on Ose Mountain, but first the couples must prove their worth. Arriving to a boarded-up house, Duane and Rena surprise the couples by not actually being there to greet them,” the Win the Wilderness website says. 

“The next morning the couples wake up to the sound of an incoming plane and Duane and Rena’s arrival. After a quick catch-up, both pairs are put to work on two crucial final tests….In the evening Duane and Rena invite each couple to sit down with them, one on one, to hear their reasons why they wish to be the next owners of their home.

“The next day Duane and Rena take an emotional, final tour of the home they spent over 30 years building, before delivering their verdict and naming the new owners of Ose Mountain.”

The winners were sheep farmers Emily Padfield, 37, and Mark Warner, 53, from Warwickshire, who were planning to spend the summer at Ose Mountain until the COVID-19 pandemic put an end to that idea – as if this story didn’t need yet another bizarre twist.

“Fortunately, they say that they have friends in Alaska that are looking after Ose Mountain while they are away and are in constant touch with them to know everything that has been happening. An issue for the couple though, when they do finally try to go to Ose, is Emily’s health insurance and the whole immigration process, but hopefully, it will all work out soon,” The Cinemaholic website reported in April.

Only weeks later, Rena died after heart surgery in a Minneapolis hospital. Her ashes were to have been scattered over Ose Mountain, but that has yet to happen.

Hansen said that Rena figured her odds were not good going into the surgery.

“She had all her final documents in order,” Hansen said. “She had directions for him on what to do with her ashes. She did everything for him. She’d been doing everything for him. He was on the computer all the time. He’s been into Facebook for years.”

Facebook is where he met Blair, the magazine connection with Rena having worked out so well Daune apparently decided to give the electronic version a try.

“She talked him into getting out of his apartment,” Hansen said. “They met for the first time in Fairbanks. They got married a week later.

“We know a lot about her, and it’s not good.”

Padfield and Warner credit the new Mrs. Ose with turning their Alaska dream escape into a growing Alaska nightmare.

Duane’s “texts certainly used words I’ve never seen Duane use,” Warner told The Sunday Times in England. “You can almost imagine Ellie-Mae banging her fingers through the keyboard  – some of her statements are so irrational.”

“My dad kind of went off the deep end a bit after Rena died,” Hansen said. She’s worried Ellie-Mae might simply be trying to cash in on Duane’s life-insurance policy. He reported on his Facebook page that he was doing five sets of 50 pushups per day.

Hansen questioned whether that is a good idea for an old man with a heart condition, and she wondered if Ellie-Mae is seeing to it that her dad is taking his meds as religiously as Rena saw to it.











26 replies »

  1. Who cares with whom Duane chooses to share his life with, honestly.
    That is totally personal.
    The property belongs to the English couple.
    The show paid well for the property & allowed Duane & Rena to participate & choose their successors. All part of the theatre.
    Ugly behaviour!

  2. She is a grifter and a loser abusing an old man. Someone should get him away fro her so he can carry on with his life. Hopefully his children and friends will do the right thing and take him in and care for him.

    • you only wish you could be abused against such a beautiful body – jealous n ignorant!!

      • You are ignorant people! You entered into a deal and then when you meet a golddigger you disrespect your wife after her death and you disrespect yourself by allowing this gold digging bitch to talk you into trying to steal back Ose Mountain! Shame on you

  3. The place is MAYBE worth $50k. He needs to be a man of his word & leave! What kind of mountain man goes back on his word?

  4. The Ose’s got paid for their house so why should they have to “Give it back” Duane is now too old to take care of such a place and his new wife probably doesn’t know how to turn on a stove. Duane should pit that gold digger in her place and I sure hope he got a prenuptial signed. ANYONE and I do mean ANYONE can see why she would have married him, It is very pathetic.

  5. Give him back his house. His life and memories are there. You have nothing in the game. He should have to leave it to you in his will.

    • What planet do you live on? The Oses sold the house, period. And considering they have been trying to sell the place for years without any success, Duane should be thankful that he was able to walk away with six figures for the place. Bottom line, memories or not, Duane no longer owns the home or have any rights to the property. That’s how it works, you moron.

    • the house legally belongs to mark and emily and dwane was payed six figures. they also had the house up for sale for two years before the show so they very much were ready to leave. it’s not his anymore

    • Why should they give it back ? So his new gold digging wife can steal it ! Mr Ose got paid very well and signed the property over !!! end of story

  6. Give him back his house, you didn’t pay for it. Or make a deal that you get it when he dies. Stop torturing this guy. He built this, you have NOTHING in it, you’re being very very very selfish,

  7. It would seem Carol’s worries about his new wife trying to cash in on his life insurance could well be true.. given his recent accident on the mountain when everyone, but his new wife, fully advised against him going. How sad

  8. I watched the show, it seemed like a dream come true for the British couple and a fitting end to life on the mountain for Duane and Rena Ose. What has happened since Rena’s passing disgusts me.

  9. The temptation to watch Alaska reality TV occasionally touches me, but I believe this article has inoculated me by providing a dose that will suppress that temptation for several years.

  10. As a follow up to the story, you should check into Ellie Mae Blair/ Eleanor Ribera or what ever she goes by this month. She has 4 or 5 names that she uses. She has criminal complaints in not only Wisconsin but in Wyoming also. She received a police escort out of town in Wyoming were she tried used a local church to do her dirty work. She is a con lady who has alienated Duane from all of his family, and any of his friends who question her motives. This “woman” is very sketchy.

    • I take offense at that remark! The ‘Brits’ have nothing but sympathy for Daune at being taken over by this Ellie Mae character. She sounds abhorrent in what she is doing. I have certainly viewed some of her videos and it is quite, quite clear she is delusional and manipulative and I can’t believe the authorities are not taking care of Duane.

    • AMEN TO THAT ONE!!!! They are so liars……everyone is so wrong but thats because Craig Medred was paying evil hansen for crap cuz crap sells more but when she goes to hospital in fairbanks after Ellie saved the couple, carol stayed in hallway and was rubbing her body all up n down on State Troopers that she had called to the hospital.. to do what??…. just create more drama and her quote by craig medred saying “HE (ose) will die in the wilderness eventually but believe you me, the whole world will be much better off when he does” – that quote was of carol typing away to drudge bloggers her evil wishes instead of saying One nice word to Duane in the hospital bed…..being checked out head to toe after he miraculously survived 12 weeks of severe covid n its exploding diahreah…..Duane was fed all of the several dozen eggs ellie had carried into the wilderness along with his favorite chocolates n powdered milk…..Ellie did not eat anything for the final 15 days of abandonment while Carol and one homesteader “friend” failed to be the emergency contact they had promised to be and failed to contact the helicopter company that had left them at ose house and not returned on any of the promised scheduled dates – leaving them with no wood or food and not staying to make sure elec grid or computer worked before leaving … they were instructed that if the closest neighbor had not heard from Duane n Ellie that they were to return for pickup immediately… fishing equipment was delivered in their first drop,,,, no guns,,, no food,,,, no flour and broth and ingredients for ANY COOKING…..pilot thot it was funny to leave one bottle of cranberry juice and one bottle of vodka saying go ahead and party??!!!! Very NoT Funny since that was to be in fourth drop for pantry to offer to visitors the next summer and the couple is VERY ALLERGIC TO ALCOHOL !!!! cAROL n the homestead neighbor / carol mole merely sat back laughing and making fun of Duane and Ellie and never told the pilot company or anyone else of the failed checkins – carol constantly trying to create disaster to sell to her ugly bloggers…….
      carol was never close to any of this ose family and lied even about duanes eye – it was not an accidental shooting… he had been in many arguements with carol mom – duanes first wife and he told police on arrival of that shooting that she had come down hallway of the home and aimed the racoon rifle ” Right between the eyes, just like i had taught her to hunt racoon…” it was an intentional shooting and they did divorce upon his healing ……because he did not press charges, police speculated on the nature of their arguements and her drinking issues but it is not for carol to try to use to her advantage when she has never been family to any close to Duane… her blog for money and saying if she pushes to emily’s side of things that she will repay carol by blogging to her advantage reeks on carol’s true monetary intentions – carol complaining to seargeant Laska “HE’s spending all of my inheritance” to which Duane responded to the Laska Seargeant: “but its MY money!” carol needs to stop blogging re Duanes situation- shCarol only called state troopers to hospitaL BECAUSE CAROL WAS UNDER NOTICE FROM ALASKAS POLICE FOR ANNOUNCING ONLINE FOR EGGING FOLK TO ALLLL CALL DUANE TO AWSK IF HE OKAY AND GENERATED 50,000 PHONE CALLS HARRASSING BOTH ALASKA POLICE AND DUANE AND ELLIE WITH 50 000 CALLS NOT ONE TIME BUT TWICE !!!! ANYMORE CALLS AND CARAOL WOULD BE ARRESTED IN 5 STATES THAT SHE HARRAWSSED!! she has claimed to be his guardian NOT TRUE and has taken much funds and even forged mortg documents, aCCORDING TO FEDS EMAILS re a condo she forged Duanes signatures to sayingshe only could contact him .. for a condo she got for duanes son and to which carol stood to inherit if duanes son died of various drug problems……cAROL NEEDS TO STOPP SELLING LIES ASND CRAIG MEDRED PUBLISHED 5 ,,,WHOLE EVIL STORIES OF LIES ,,,AND NEVER REACHED OUT TO ASK dUANE AND ELLIE – ONCE!! FOR THE TRUTH – UNTIL AFTER HIS STORIES ALL DRIED UP HOPING TO DRAG UP ENUF TO FUEL HIS CRUDDY LYING GOSSIP… CRAIG SHOULDA GONE TO DUANE AND ELLIE UP FRONT ANd not believe the ignorant cArol who has never been a part of our life…… Ellie n Duane

      • Strange, Duane wrote a fantastic book and in it he uses punctuation and sentence structure. The above rant lacks any of that simple grammatical skill in his book. Methinks he did not write this or any of his posts since his marriage to the grifter.

      • Duane isn’t writing this, and the fact that you tell one commenter, “you only wish you could be abused against such a beautiful body – jealous n ignorant!!“ tells everyone all they need to know about you and your intentions. Write whatever you want. No one will ever believe your lies.

  11. Maybe I missed the “strange” part, but I see a typical heart broken old man suffering from lonliness and paranoia while longing for the the past. A typical old man who finds “inspiration and love” from a loser, I mean younger woman, who of course “loves” him for his great personality. I see what the future holds for all of us. Plan accordingly.

    • Excuse me but i did not see you take a turn wrapping a towel around Duanes privates so he could pee….nor clean his diahreah,,, nor mayday call on radio all night, nor crawl down cliff to collect sticks to warm the cabin ….not set signal fires cuz dummy carol n neighbor were laughing about us being abandoned….and who states all in ignorance.. some lonely divorced man who thinks duane is paranoid?? you obviously dont know Duane…just another dumb guess cuz u dont go out n live your own life i suppose….

Leave a Reply