Have you ever heard of Troy Hurtubise? He was a real world folk hero, native to Canada. He an inventor, known to create several materials and machines, that would theoretically have been groundbreaking. But no one ever gave him the time of day. Although, the thing he was most famous for was building a mech suit designed to help him fight bears.
Road To Inventor
Troy Hurtubise was born in Scarborough, Ontario in 1963. His father built scale models, most notably for Iroquois villages. Troy helped his father and picked up his early skills with planning and designing. In addition, he began to find himself more interested in the outdoors. Yet, with an interest in physics and engineering, he began to find inspiration in scientists such as Albert Einstein and Nikola Tesla.
The Canadian Wilderness
With his interest in the outdoors growing, Troy’s father suggested he go on an expedition into the Canadian wilderness. Of course, he agreed, and began making preparations. It was this trip that would end up changing Troy’s life forever.
The Old Man
During the summer of 1984, while gold-panning in British Colombia, Troy found himself alone at the base camp. Except for one individual. He found himself confronted by a white-chested grizzly bear. The bear didn’t immediately attack, giving Troy the chance to escape. When recounting the story, he referred to the grizzly as “the old man”.
Take What You Want!
Troy prepared for a standoff with the bear, shouting, “Take what you want! But I’ll take both these knives and shove them right up your a**!” Surprisingly, the grizzly left him alone after that. But this incident lit a fire under Troy, leading him to begin construction of a new invention.
Troy’s interaction with the grizzly made him more interested in studying them. He learned what he could from reading, but that didn’t fully satiate his curiosity. He wanted to check them out up close. However, he also recognized that studying them close in the wild would be incredibly dangerous.
Troy’s first idea was to create a new bear spray for people studying grizzlies. In case someone got too close to a territorial grizzly bear, they could spray this to ward them off. However, Troy soon realized that, in order to test his spray, he’d need to actually get close to a grizzly. As a result, he began shifting his focus to other methods of protection.
A few years later, Troy’s interest in bears hadn’t waned, but he still hadn’t found the inspiration he needed. He wanted to get to know bears better, but had no way of getting close still. While studying natural sciences at Fleming College he was struck with inspiration. And that inspiration came from the movie Robocop.
Troy began building the prototype of what he referred to as the Ursus Suit. It was designed to be a protective armor that would protect him from even bear attacks. He began consulting with other scientists and experts at both his college and across the country to make sure he’s get everything right. The original suit was constructed from discarded hockey pads, but Troy soon made upgrades to the design.
An advantage that Troy had was that he owned a scrapyard as a part of his day job. This gave him access to materials that would otherwise be difficult to come by. His exploits were eventually reported on in a local newspaper. During the building process, friends and family could be seen in videos with him. They would test the suit by hitting him with two-by-fours and other materials. It proved to be quite durable.
Testing The Suit
By 1989, Troy had gone through five different prototypes, with the most recent one costing him $26,000 to make. In order to test the suit, he confronted a black bear at the local dump. However, as black bears are much more timid than grizzlies, it fled at the sight of him. Unperturbed, Troy began construction of the Ursus Suit Mark VI.
The Mark VI
The Mark VI armor ended up becoming his most recognizable one. The suit covered in an ultra durable rubber, titanium plating, chainmail, hard plastic, more titanium plating, and a final layer of hard plastic. Its level of protection was so great that even a bullet from a hunting rifle couldn’t fully penetrate it. It really seemed as though the suit would be ready for field work. Troy had already outfitted the suit with a camera, to hopefully even film bears in their dens during hibernation.
Becoming An Author
To share his accomplishments, Troy began writing his own book. The goal was to inform the public on his activities and the inner-workings of designing the suit. The book was called White Tape. It wouldn’t be the last book he would have self-published, but it was one of his most notable.
Troy was already becoming infamous around his hometown as the “bear suit guy”. It didn’t take much longer for his fame to spread out across the entirety of Canada. One man had actually approached Troy and offered him the chance to make a feature-length documentary about his journey. Not wanting to turn down the opportunity to get the word out, Troy jumped at the chance.
The film was called Project Grizzly, after the project Troy had begun to create the Ursus Suit. The subject of the documentary was a 1995 pursuit of a bear after several attacks in the area made by it. Troy had his Ursus Suit airlifted in for the event. Unfortunately, pursuit was unsuccessful due to the large and clunky nature of the suit. Fortunately, Troy was able to at least discern the problems with mobility for the next iteration of the suit. He even joked that he would be able to drive a car while wearing the next model.
Being Taken Seriously
While the documentary, itself, was a huge success, Troy thought it was still a detriment to him being taken seriously. Even his wife, Laurie, who did enjoy the movie, thought that it made him look less serious than he actually was. The goal was to show the science behind the bear suit. yet it was cut together to make him look much less serious than he actually was, and possibly even a little bit less sane.
Opening A Door
While it may not have had the impact he wanted, Project Grizzly did help Troy move forward with his goals. He was asked to make several media appearances and consult on certain projects, demonstrating the effectiveness of the Ursus Suit. He even made an appearance on Penn and Teller.
Winning An Award
In 1998, Troy actually won the Ig Nobel Prize for safety engineering by the Annals of Improbable Research Magazine. While the award was mostly comedic in nature, it was a step towards taking Troy more seriously. The description of the award was that it was awarded to people with achievements that “first made people laugh, then made people think”. This award actually gave Troy the chance to present at Harvard University.
The same year that he presented at Harvard, Troy began construction of his next model of the Ursus Suit. He called it the G-Man, with the “G” standing for “Genesis”. The suit was to be coated in Troy’s own experimental compound, Hurtsi. According to him, it was able to drastically increase the durability and strength of materials it coated. Even a pad from a handbag coated in Hurtsi was supposedly able to hold up a car. When he presented it, he admitted that he didn’t know why it worked, just that it did.
Research for his bear suits ended up setting Troy back $100,000. He ended up losing his scrap metal business and his bear suits were repossessed. In order to keep using them, he needed to rent them from the banks for $500 whenever he made television appearances.
A Different Kind Of Defense
Troy actually at one point went up against a trained Kodiak bear in order to test out his suit. Initially, the bear actually cowered from him, due to his strange appearance, but it prepared to attack after realizing it was much larger than Troy. Before anything else could happen, the trainer called off the bear. The bear did prove to be able to tear up some of the rubber on the suit, but was unable to completely destroy it. This encounter gave Troy some much-needed insight on how to improve the next model of the suit.
Troy later talked about how he believed he was being watched for an 18 month period. He even thought his phone had been tapped. One night, while researching, a pair of well-dressed Arab men appeared at his lab to talk to him, interested in his work. They took particular interest in one of his suits, the Superman Suit. Supposedly it could electricity as a catalyst to make the wearer impregnable to most conventional weapons. The two men offered him $200,000 to get a working prototype made.
After getting the necessary materials to begin work on his prototype, Troy discovered that he had been robbed. Parts of the Superman Suit had been stolen. A year later, Troy found a possible lead. He supposedly had seen one of the two men that came to his lab on a news report about the identities of the 9/11 hijackers. He called law enforcement to inform them of the potential lead, but whether he was taken seriously or not was never clear.
The Ursus Suit wasn’t the only thing that Troy had been working on. He created a flame-resistant material called firepaste to protect rockets. He also made a metal that was supposedly 40% lighter than steel while still being more durable. His most notable accomplishment was the God Light. It supposedly used UV light in order to stimulate cellular regeneration and shrink tumors. While it was believed to work, only one scientist from Japan ever arrived to test it. And while that scientist sang its praises, there have been no other attempts from scientists to prove of disprove the effectiveness of Troy’s inventions.
Despite his interesting work and unwillingness to give up, Troy was met with failure after failure. It did eventually take its toll on him, both mentally and financially. He was forced to sell his prototype Ursus Suits and ended up moving in with his mother for a time to stabilize himself. After this time, he returned home, looking for his wife, Laurie. However, when she didn’t answer, he got worried and ended up breaking into their own home, finding that she wasn’t there. Troy got in his car and drove away to find her and got in an accident. He died at age 54, survived by his wife, son, and numerous inventions.
Troy’s inventions never had the reach needed for him to become a success. While he didn’t seem to fully understand how his inventions worked to produce their effects, he was otherwise confident, and didn’t appear to be a charlatan. Perhaps if more people had given the “bear suit guy” a chance, we’d be living in a more whimsical and advanced world.