The internet has no shortage of mysteries for those who are inclined to hunt them. Many fit perfectly into genres with dedicated fan bases: real crime, Bigfoot, unexplained lights in the sky. But some are so inexplicable, so disturbing, let them find their way into almost every nook and cranny of the Internet’s ever-evolving theory machine. These mysteries not only seem to defy explanation, but they even confuse many who are quick to attribute such events to the supernatural.
One such incident took place in the ruthless wilderness of the Ural Mountains in Russia in January 1959. Ten experienced hikers, nine students of the Ural Polytechnic Institute and an older ski instructor, stood together. set off to conquer Mount Otorten, a peak in the northern part of the mountain range. They started their journey by train, going to the Soviet city of Ivdel. There they boarded a bus that took them to Vizhay. From there, they took a truck even further into the icy forest, arriving in an area known only to local loggers as “Sector 41”.
From there, a local lumberjack led the intrepid group to an abandoned geological site known as “North 2”, where they camped for a day. There, in the last piece of truly “inhabited” territory they would cross for days, one of the hikers, Yuri Yudin, fell ill. Over the next day, Yudin calmed down, collecting rock samples for the Sverdlovsk Mining Institute and hoping his illness was only a temporary setback. The next day, however, Yudin admitted that his health would not allow him to continue the trip, so he parted ways with the remaining nine hikers as they set out. It was the last time Yudin would see one of his friends alive.
The nine remaining hikers, led by experienced climber Igor Dyatlov, set out on their journey and, according to photographs and diary entries later discovered, were in good spirits despite the bad weather and the difficulty of trekking miles in the snow. deep. They took photos along the way, most of which appear to have been taken by any group of students on such a wilderness adventure.
Then on February 1, the tenth day of the trek, Dyatlov’s group stopped and camped on the eastern ridge of a mountain known only as “height 1079”. According to some reports, they ended up there after getting lost due to the low visibility caused by the winter weather and, for some reason, chose to establish their camp on the mountain side.
The indigenous population of the region, a tribe that calls itself the Mansi, has a different name for this mountain: “Holatchahl”. Mountain of the dead.
If they had walked only about a mile further, they would have found flatter terrain and more natural protection from the elements. Why Dyatlov chose this region remains a mystery. Some claim he didn’t want to sacrifice altitude so that he could start the next morning with a descent. Others say he might have wanted to camp on a mountain slope. In any case, this decision could have cost the life of the whole party.
By the time the sun rose again over the Ural Mountains, all nine of Dyatlov’s group were dead. Objectively, the deaths of nine adventurers on an icy, snow-capped mountainside in Russia may seem tragic, but it is not unusual. These types of trips are inherently dangerous – which one might say is why they offer such appeal. But it was not this the hikers all died, which earned the Dyatlov incident its place among the greatest mysteries of the Soviet era – that is How? ‘Or’ What they died, which continues to spark new theories to this day.
The bodies of Dyatlov’s party were not discovered until weeks later. Once the relatives started to worry, they informed the Soviet authorities, who organized a search and rescue operation on February 26. They quickly found the abandoned mountaineers’ tent still attached to the side of the mountain slope.
Investigators immediately saw that the tent had been opened inside, with nine separate sets of tracks leading out of the tent from the open hole. Some of the tracks were even barefoot, indicating that Dyatlov’s group fled the tent in panic, many leaving behind their jackets, gloves and even their boots. Some have suggested that the tent may have caught fire, causing a quick leak, but no signs of a fire were found.
Investigators then followed the tracks leaving the tent along the mountain slope and into the nearby forest. About a third of the descent, investigators noted, the footprints were gone, which they attributed to snowfall following the incident. About a mile from the tent, they found the remains of a makeshift campfire and the first two bodies. They wore only their underwear, with nothing on their feet. A nearby tree had a number of broken branches, some quite high on the trunk, leading some to speculate that one of the two attempted to climb the tree to escape something below or to gain a higher point of view.
Soon three more bodies were found in different places between this makeshift camp and their tent. These bodies, including Dyatlov, appeared to be heading towards the tent they had fled. Unlike the first two, who simply appeared to have died of hypothermia from exposure to the elements, these bodies were in a much worse condition.
Rusem Slobodin, for example, was found with a fractured skull, although the coroner who examined him said the injury would not have been fatal. Instead, it seemed likely that the injury had occurred before he succumbed to hypothermia.
The other four bodies were not discovered until almost two months later. Well in the spring, after nearly a dozen feet of snow had melted, these bodies were discovered in a ravine a hundred feet from the impromptu camp. Initially, they didn’t seem to have suffered much from trauma, and the speculation was that they too had just frozen to death. That is, until the autopsies are performed.
All four bodies showed signs of extremely traumatic death. Nicolas Thibeaux-Brignollel, like Rusem Slobodin, had a fractured skull. Alexander Zolotariov and Ludmila Dubinina had their ribs broken or crushed inward. Dubinina’s tongue had been pulled from her mouth, while the other two were missing eyes. According to one of the doctors examining the bodies, the force exerted on Zolotariov’s rib cage would have been equal to that of a car accident. This might suggest that an avalanche was the culprit, but there was no sign of an avalanche elsewhere on the slope – the tent stayed in place and the snowfall felt natural. Stranger still, these four deceased hikers were found much better equipped than their peers. Some of them were found wearing the clothes of other hikers, one of whom uses a change of clothes to wrap his feet and create makeshift shoes.
If that doesn’t sound strange enough, testing at the site and again during the autopsy revealed that the clothes these four people were wearing were radioactive. Soon, local reports of lights in the sky around the Dyatlov Party’s disappearance zone were passed on to investigators who, under orders from the Kremlin, quickly sealed the cases and declared the investigation closed. Officially, they only admitted that the group had been killed by “an unknown driving force which the hikers could not defeat”.
According to statements by investigators at the scene, once they were asked to verify, their Geiger counters recorded extremely high radiation levels in the area. In addition, one of the camper’s friends allegedly claimed that their bodies were “deeply tanned” at their funeral.
Another group of campers about 30 miles from Dyatlov’s group that same night reported “a shiny circular body flying over the village from southwest to northeast.” The glowing disc was almost the size of a full moon: a blue-white light surrounded by a blue halo. The halo shone brightly like distant lightning. When the body disappeared behind the horizon, the sky lit up there for a few more minutes.
The lead investigator on the case, Lev Ivanov, even said publicly that he did not agree with the Soviet Union’s formal conclusion that the incident was just an avalanche.
“I suspected then and I’m pretty sure now that these glowing flying spheres had a direct connection to the band’s death,” he told the Leninsky Put newspaper years later.
Since then, everything from mountain curses to UFOs has been offered as potential explanations. Some believe that the Dyatlov party encountered a UFO. Others claim they were attacked by the abominable snowman. Many others argue that the behavior of the Soviet government in the aftermath of the incident, as well as reports of lights in the sky, suggests that some kind of nuclear weapons test has gone horribly wrong. A nuclear-powered cruise missile, similar to those being tested by the Russian government today, could potentially be responsible for irradiating a swath of forest and sending a group of hikers into a frantic panic.
The Russian government recently reopened its investigation into the fate of the Dyatlov Party. Although his statements made it clear that the intention is to prove that the deaths were caused by an avalanche, rather than uncovering new evidence. This has prompted some to suggest that the cover-up – for whatever reason – remains ongoing.