Picture this –
Soviet Union – February – 1959
Ten students embark on a hiking expedition up Kholat Syakhl (The Dead Mountain). One leaves the venture early on due to illness and returns home. Nine are left. Those nine never survive. What happened?
The expedition was led by one Igor Dyatlov (hence the incident being named so) and all members of the team were experienced in skiing, mountain climbing and outdoor survival. They set off in high hopes and Dyatlov assured the students’ sports team that he would send a telegram to let everyone know they were safe by no later than February 12th. When they didn’t check in, the students’ families arranged a volunteer search party to go looking for the team. What they would find is nothing short of horrific.
The bodies of all nine hikers were eventually found. The camp site had been hurriedly left, all clothing and supplies were still inside and in ample condition. The tent had been cut open from the inside and nine sets of footprints led away from the camp. Strangely, all of the footprints showed that the team had been either barefoot or wearing only socks. A group of bodies was found not far from the camp site, all dressed only in their underwear. One group of three was found in a ravine. It appeared that they were wearing some of the clothes of the other hikers.
None of the bodies showed any signs of external trauma to their skin but upon investigation, post mortem examinations showed that all of the hikers had severe and fatal internal trauma, similar to those of car crash victims. One hiker was missing both her tongue and eyes. The skin of the corpses showed signs of advanced ageing, as well as having an orange tinge. Their hair had turned grey. Further tests showed that the clothing had strong levels of radiation emitting from them.
What caused nine experienced hikers to suddenly leave the safety of their camp and go out into temperatures of -30 degrees Celsius, dressed only in their underwear and leaving all of their supplies and belongings behind?
Several theories have been put forward. The most obvious theory was an avalanche. This would naturally force the hikers to up and leave very quickly and although some of the bodies were found buried thirteen feet under the snow, there were no signs of an avalanche and all the surrounding wilderness was undisturbed. The footprints left behind by the hikers were also untouched, leaving the avalanche theory a practical impossibility.
It was suggested that the locals in the surrounding area had attacked the camp and murdered Dyatlov’s team, but again, there was no evidence of external injuries or a struggle and no signs of blood.
Some witnesses on the night of the team’s disappearance claim seeing several bright orbs hovering around the mountain, creating the theory that extraterrestrials may have been involved. This seems incredibly outlandish to me, but no more so than the theory of Sasquatch or Abominable Snowmen attacking and killing the hikers. Allegedly, a scrap of paper was found near some of the bodies on which was scrawled –
“From now on we know that snowmen exist”
Again, I have serious doubts about this theory too. For me, the most likely theory falls down to the Soviet government at the time.
It was well known that during the time of the Cold War, Soviet Russia was testing out weapons for use in the war. A theory exists that the weapons testing was being carried out near Kholat Syakhl and the hikers got caught up in a test and were killed. This may be plausible for several reasons –
- The government flat out refused to send a search party for the team; the parents of the missing students arranged this themselves,
- When the bodies were found, the government labelled all the evidence as classified before taking it away,
- The pass was then sealed off and closed to the public for the next three years,
- When the evidence files were eventually reopened, it was discovered that several vital pieces of evidence listed in the evidence log were mysteriously missing,
- The radioactivity levels in the clothing found suggests nuclear testing,
- The mysterious “orbs” seen by witnesses could have been military aircraft,
- The government later admitted that weapons testing had been carried out around that time but denied any involvement with Dyatlov’s team.
This still however does not explain the missing tongue and eyes of one of the hikers, nor why they ventured out barely clothed.
A recent theory has emerged that very low frequency sounds (infrasound) caused by avalanches and other natural phenomenon were to blame for the bizarre incident. Infrasound can cause optical illusions, paranoia, fear, dizziness and nausea and can result in strange behaviour.
I came across this very interesting article which you should definitely read if this mystery interests you as it delves deeper into all the theories.