Manley Hotsprings, Alaska is in the middle of nowhere and at the end of the road. In 1984, Manley had a population of maybe 50. Fairbanks was the closest city and roughly a five hour drive or 150 miles away. In the spring of 1984, the residents of Manley were anxiously awaiting for spring. When the rivers start flowing, transportation on the river became available and that’s important to the Manley Springs community. On May 17, 1984, Vietnam veteran Larry Joe McVey, 37, and Dale Madajski, 24, went to the boat landing about a quarter mile out of town. Later that afternoon when the men failed to return, the wives began to wonder what was keeping them. They drove to the landing and found Joe’s boat still on the trailer. They knew something was wrong because the pair left their beer in the truck. One of the wives also noticed another local’s car at the landing. Albert Hagen Jr., 27, was visiting his parents in Manley and went to the river that morning after he cleared out some brush from their land. Given the unusually warm weather, maybe the three of them went somewhere together…
But by noon the next day, there was no sign of the three men. That afternoon friends and family of the missing gathered together out of concern. They were terrified something horrible happened to their loved ones. They realized others in Manley had vanished too. The families were worried about the Kleins because no one had heard from them. They were last seen riding their four wheeler to the landing. Their four-wheeler was parked at the landing but they were not there. Community members assumed they went to their property up river. The family left town on occasion but always asked someone to take care of their dog while they were gone. Frantic, several of the towns people went to the Kleins to check in on them, and they found the dog. They knocked on their door and nobody answered. Meanwhile, others headed to the boat launch in hopes the missing had returned. And while there, they noticed an unattended vehicle, that of a stranger who had arrived in Manley Springs only a few days earlier.
The stranger had been in town for a few days so everyone got used to him; he set up camp at the landing. It wasn’t unusual to see him at the landing or in town. But the newcomer was among the many who were missing. Six people were missing, nearly 1/10 of the town was unaccounted for, and the alarm bells were going off. Meanwhile, folks in Manley had no idea what happened down river in the tiny town of Hopkinsville. Roger Culp had called the place home for years but no one had seen or heard from Roger in more than a week. Roger’s neighbor also noticed their moose hide was missing from the line at her cabin. She was immediately suspicious that Michael Silka had taken it. She went to his cabin to confront him. While she was there, she noticed a funny mound of snow at his place. She found another mound of fresh snow behind the cabin too. Silka was nowhere to be found. She questioned neighbors about his whereabouts but nobody saw him. The neighbor left and returned to the cabin again and this time she saw blood.
The neighbor ran back to her cabin to get her husband because she knew something was wrong. When they arrived at Silka’s cabin, their first thought was he probably killed an animal but they were uneasy about why he would hide it. They took another look in Michael’s cabin; this time he answered the door. He said he took the moose hide with the understanding that they gave it to him and he said he would return it. Later that day, authorities checked out Silka’s cabin but there was no response. They found blood and fresh mounds of snow too, When they investigated the mounds, they found the moose hide. They knocked on Silka’s door once more and this time he answered; he had been there all along. Silka said he shot a moose and the hide dripped blood. The police didn’t find anything suspicious and assumed the case was closed and left. It was not uncommon for people to go missing in Alaska but this many missing in one little Alaska town was alarming. Six people disappeared in Manley and residents were going to look for them.
They found Michael Silka’s vehicle at the landing and turned his license number over to police; they thought he was suspect. The police learned Silka, 25, was the same man who raised eyebrows in nearby Hopkinsville. In Hopkinsville, Roger Culp was missing. Police searched the community after a resident saw blood in the snow. A week later, another resident told the police about a scary incident they had with Michael Silka. Roger and Michael had words and Roger followed Silka back to his cabin, then the resident heard gun shots. There was no 911 where she lived so she locked herself in her cabin. Armed with the new information, police wanted to talk to Michael Silka again. When the police arrived at his cabin, he was gone and his car was gone. The police spent two days combing the area around Silka’s cabin and found patches of blood. A lab confirmed it was human blood. The police didn’t have a body but they wanted to speak with Silka. They were going to start with a conversation with him about the missing Roger Culp.
The community suspected Michael Silka had evil intentions and it was going to be hours before a team of Alaska State Troopers would show up. In the early morning hours of May 19, 1984, Alaska State Troopers arrive at Manley by helicopter and auto. The troopers set up a roadblock at the only road that left town. When the helicopter took off and landed, it stirred up the snow and pools of blood began to emerge. They also found some 44 caliber shells. They knew this was the crime scene. Near the river bank troopers found the Klein’s four wheeler hidden in the brush and Joe’s hat. They also found drag marks to the water’s edge. At this point, they don’t know if the missing are dead or if Silka was holding them hostage. They took to the sky and ground to search for Silka. Shortly after they started searching, the troopers unexpectedly stumbled upon a woman at the river’s edge waving for help. She told them her husband had gone to town and didn’t return home; she last saw her husband Fred Burk, 27, two days ago.
Over a dozen Alaska State Troopers armed with weapons and combat gear converged on Manley Hot Springs. But they had no idea the suspected killer they were seeking was a former military man. After running his plates, they learned Michael Silka joined the Army after he graduated from high school in Illinois. He did a tour of duty at Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks. Before making his way to Manley, he spent a few months holed up in a remote Canadian town. He lived in a hotel room, used cash for everything, and stayed to himself. People noticed he carried a number of shotguns in his vehicle. Silka had minor criminal offenses for fire arms in his past. He loved fire arms but came from a place guns were frowned upon. His dream was to move to Manley Hot Springs to live off the land. The troopers learned he had trouble with law enforcement all the way from Illinois, to Canada, and in Alaska. As troopers set out to find Michael Silka, they were keenly aware they were up against a dangerous set of circumstances. They were dealing with a dangerous suspect who used the brush as cover.
The troopers scour the area and suddenly the pilot spotted a man in a flat bottom boat towing a canoe. The pilot recognized Michael Silka. He also observed an arsenal of weapons in the boat. Armed with M-16s, the troopers orchestrated a plan. They used two helicopters to keep him surrounded but Silka got out of the boat on the edge of the river bank. He immediately picked up a weapon and began shooting at the troopers. Silka had the upper hand so the helicopter pulled back. He shot at the helicopter quite a few times and positioned himself for a gun battle. The troopers were not going to act unless acted upon. But Silka strategically positioned himself by taking cover in the thick brush as he shot at the helicopter again. As the helicopter was backing away, they realized they had been hit and that Trooper Troy Duncan, 34, was shot. Seconds later, another trooper started shooting back with a M-16 in fully auto. Silka was hit five times and died instantly. They then turned their attention to their comrade but he was already gone.
Trooper Duncan was the fourth trooper to die in the line of duty in Alaska. In the days after the carnage, the residents set out to find the missing. Divers attempted to look in the river but the silt pulled them down to the bottom. It was impossible to find them if they were in the river. Investigators contended that Silka got in an argument with Joe and Dale down at the boat dock and the argument most likely led to Silka using his gun to settle the score. He lost his temper and shot them. The other residents showed up when he was dragging the bodies to the river. He had to keep killing people to get rid of the evidence. Fred Burk had the unfortunate experience of running into Silka too. Michael shot him so he could take his boat. Thankfully by the end of the summer, the river had given up the bodies of Joe, Dale, Lyman Klein, 31, and Fred Burk. All of them had been shot in the head. Lyman’s pregnant wife Joyce and their son Marshall were never found and the bodies of Albert Hagan Jr. and Roger Culp never surfaced either.
The total number of Silka’s victims may never be known. In the days before Silka was making his way to Manley, Fred Burk and his mother-in-law saw the drifter’s vehicle parked some 30 miles outside of town. They noticed three people in the front seat, one they later identified as Silka. They observed that the two people with him look petrified. To this day, no one knows what happened to those two people or who they were. At the request of his father, Michael Silka was buried in the National Cemetery in Sitka, Alaska. He was an honorably discharged soldier and had that right. But what’s even more ironic about that is the State Trooper Training Academy is right next door to the cemetery. A retired Alaska State Trooper said they had to unmark the grave for whatever reason.
This week we focus on a heinous & horrific crime as well as the killing spree committed by a wandering “mountain man”. Get ready for scary mysteries Twisted Two’s. -Michael Silka, Scary Mysteries Podcast (July 4, 2018)
Manley Hot Springs, Alaska is a remote mountain hide-a-way known for simplicity and solitude. But, that innocent existence is shattered when a newcomer goes on rampage and guns down residents one by one, ultimately taking out one tenth of the town. -Frozen Carnage, Ice Cold Killers (S1,E5)
Editor’s note: With a cable subscription, you can download the free ID Go app and watch Investigation Discovery programming at your convenience. And for those who do not have cable, you can watch “unlocked” episodes on the ID Go app including the latest premieres. For those who prefer commercial free programming during your binge session, Prime Video has an ID channel: ‘True Crime Files by Investigation Discovery” available for $3.99 a month. It’s a compilation of older seasons but totally worth the cost if you are a true crime addict. Download the ID Go app or purchase ID True Crime Files & binge away.
Obituary: Michael Alan Silka (1968-1984)
Murderpedia: Michael Alan Silka
Manley Victim is Found
Mass murder in Alaska: Suspect, 9 others dead
Massacre: Slain drifter believed mass murderer in Alaskan town
Alaska town is still haunted by the horror of mass murder
Memories of Springtime Murders Chill Small Alaskan Town
Violent crime in Alaska:Are loners and outcasts drawn to America’s frontier?
At Road’s End, There’s No One Left to Flee From
Michael Alan Silka and the Firefight at Manley
Gunfights on Guns.com: Wilderness Manhunts
The Tiny Town In Alaska With A Terribly Creepy Past
Murder in Alaska: Crazy in the ’80’s
Murders at Manley Hot Springs
Today in Horror History: Michael Alan Silka (May 19, 1984)
10 Ice Cold Killers From Alaska That Will Make You Fear The Last Frontier
Here’s a look at rampage killings that have occurred in the United States since the 1940s
Here’s a look at rampage killings that have occurred in the United States since the 1940s 2
By the numbers: America’s deadliest mass shootings | CBS News
Man killed by police after killing spree
Yours in Murder: Michael Silka | Apple Podcasts
10 Small Towns Devastated By Sudden Killing Sprees
5 Devastating Small Town Crimes
Becoming a Practical Rifleman
Murders In The United States: Crimes, Killers And Victims Of The Twentieth Century
Manley Hot Springs Rampage: Michael Alan Silka killed at least 9 people in a three hour rampage
A history of Alaska State Troopers’ line-of-duty deaths
Trooper Troy Lynn Duncan | Officer Down Memorial Page
Frozen Carnage | Ice Cold Killers | Investigation Discovery (S1,E5)
Frozen Carnage | Ice Cold Killers | Investigation Discovery (website)
Frozen Carnage | Ice Cold Killers | Investigation Discovery (Amazon)
Twisted 2s #33 Damon & Devon Routier & Michael Silka | Scary Mysteries Podcast
Book: Murder at 40 Below: True Crime Stories from Alaska by Tom Brennan
Ice Cold Killers Premiered ‘Frozen Carnage’ on Investigation Discovery: Army Veteran Michael Silka Went on Killing Spree in Alaska (January 8, 2013)