Mystery at Dyatlov Pass

A look at one of the most bizarre cases in Russian cross country skiing history.

by Brian Dunning

Filed under Aliens & UFOs, Ancient Mysteries, Urban Legends

Skeptoid #108
July 8, 2008
Podcast transcript | Listen | Subscribe
Also available in Chinese | Russian
 

February, 1959, the Ural Mountains in Russia - Ten young cross country skiers from the Ural Polytechnical Institute, eight guys and two girls led by Igor Dyatlov, set out for two weeks of adventure. One became ill and turned back: Little did he know he would be the only one to return alive. Weeks later, searchers found one of the most bizarre scenes in modern lore. The bodies of the nine victims were scattered over a wide area of the frozen landscape. Some were wearing only their underwear. Some were wearing each others' clothes. Two had head injuries. One had no tongue. Two had severe internal chest injuries. None had any visible external signs of trauma. Some of their clothes were found to be radioactive. Circumstances suggested that some the victims may have been blind. Various other witnesses in the region reported bizarre orange spheres in the night sky; and strangest of all, the bodies had orange skin and gray hair.

This was the Soviet Union in the middle of the cold war, and few details other than what I just gave were reported. Journalists attempting to give more information found their books and articles censored. Independent investigators found official records to be missing or classified. Many fingers have pointed at military testing. Did radioactivity from some secret weapons test drive the group insane? Some people think UFOs are responsible for the deaths, citing the reports from other skiers in the region who saw the orange spheres in the night sky in the direction of the Dyatlov party. Russian authorities closed the case, called the cause of death a "compelling unknown force", and classified it top secret. The mountain was renamed Dyatlov Pass. And that's about all that anyone's ever been able to learn about the case.

I found some translated articles from Russian media and some western articles, and although the case offers some really compelling mysteries, it also offers an elephant in the room: The possibility of avalanches being the culprit. I wanted to see how likely avalanches would have been in that area, so I looked it up on Google Earth. Turns out it's hardly the type of place you'd expect avalanches. The hills are low and rounded, much better for cross country skiing than for avalanches, at least according to my personal informal assessment from looking at the terrain on Google Earth. And, obviously, the group felt comfortable enough with any potential danger to make camp where they did. But I also found a Russian tourism brochure for the area that warns of avalanche danger on slopes steeper than 15°. According to the police reports, the slope immediately above the campsite was at 22-23°, and 50 to 100 meters above the campsite it increased to 25-30°. That's quite steep. There was a cornice, and the snow at the campsite was 2 meters deep. There has also been much discussion in the Russian press about the possible role of avalanches in the Dyatlov Pass incident. So I'm going to go ahead and call avalanches a plausible factor in the tragedy.

A number of skeptics have addressed the question of radioactivity by pointing out that the mantles used in camping lanterns contain thorium, which emits alpha particle radiation, to the point that there is actually a radiation warning on the packaging. These mantles, if you're not familiar with them, are little fabric bags that serve as the wick in a burning lantern. They're quite fragile and easily turn to dust that gets everywhere, like onto the clothes of everyone in the tent, when you replace them, which you need to do pretty regularly. Thorium gas mantles were invented in 1891 and were manufactured in many countries for a long time. Coleman, the largest US manufacturer, only phased them out in the 1990's. I found a blog comment signed "Igor", a guy who says he's Russian and went to the same college as the Dyatlov Pass victims, and he states in his comment that thorium gas mantles were not available in Russia in 1959. That doesn't sound consistent with general articles on the subject, plus I found a Russian WWII lantern on eBay that was kerosene fueled, and all the kerosene lanterns I could find details on do use thorium gas mantles. It's a question mark, and remains a plausible possibility in my book.

Here is my proposed explanation of what happened. It's wrong, of course, because it's done from my armchair 50 years after the fact and with no firsthand knowledge of the region, but it's completely reasonable and does adequately satisfy the facts as we know them. Nine skiers set up camp in an area with potential avalanche danger, but no more or less danger than would have been found if they set up anywhere else they could have reached before nightfall. Sometime during the night, a loud noise, either from a nearby avalanche, a jet aircraft, or military ordnance, convinced at least five members of the group that an avalanche was bearing down on them. They burst out of the tent wearing whatever they happened to be sleeping in and ran. At some point one of them fell and struck his head on a rock. They became lost in the dark and poor visibility, or simply found themselves stranded with their injured friend, and finally built a fire. They quickly got hypothermia and probably shouted themselves hoarse for their friends. Two of them lost consciousness and the others made a desperation decision: To take what little clothes their two unconscious buddies had and risk it all to try and make it back to camp. One made it 300 meters, the second made it 480, and the third a full 630 meters before all five were dead from hypothermia. Back at camp, the four who didn't panic and run away in the night got dressed, collected provisions, and began to search for their friends. They searched for hours, circling high and low, until at some point either through a slip or just bad luck, they were caught in a real avalanche. During the resulting turmoil one received a fatal skull fracture, one received twelve broken ribs, and one bit her tongue off, all perfectly plausible injuries during such a traumatic death. Their bodies remained buried until the spring thaw, as is so common with avalanche victims. At the open-casket funeral for the first five victims, relatives saw the combination of five days of winter sunburn in those days before sunscreen, and the mortician's effort to cover up frostbite and a full month of exposure to the elements, and described it as a strange orange color; though others described it simply as a deep tan, which is consistent with reasonable expectations. And who knows what hair would have looked like after all that exposure and who knows what kind of treatment done by the mortician, so I can't assign too much significance to what amounts to a few anecdotal reports from some funeral attendees, and not even all funeral attendees. Plus I'm quite certain that if UFOs had turned all of their hair really gray, don't you think the cold war Russian authorities would have had it colored back to normal for an open casket funeral? Their bodies had been exposed outdoors for weeks. Of course they looked terrible.

What of the radiation on their clothes? Well, there is at least as much uncertainty about what the Russians were doing with their atomic and thermonuclear weapons in that area in those days, as there is about exactly what type of radiation and how much was found on the Dyatlov pass victims. Since we don't know anything about either, we can't say that any explanation is inconsistent with what was found. And, the thorium lantern mantle question quite probably makes the entire radiation issue a moot point. Assuming they'd changed a lantern mantle sometime during the trip, which nearly always has to be done, there's every reason to expect to find low-level alpha radiation on the clothes of anyone who participated.

How about those UFO reports? Well, people all around the world report UFOs every day, and whether anything happened to the Dyatlov party or not, it's not especially surprising that skiers in the Ural Mountains saw UFOs that night. What did that have to do with the Dyatlov party? We have a statistically insignificant correlation, with a sample size of one, and no reason to suspect that one thing had anything to do with the other. Human psychology encourages us to think anecdotally and assume a causal relationship, but for my money, I consider the UFO question irrelevant. Maybe if the UFOs were identified, and known to have some specific physical capability, then we'd have something to talk about.

The Russian newspaper reports stating that the victims may have been blinded appears to be pure speculation, based only on two observations: first, that some of them were wearing the wrong clothes; and second, that when they built their campfire they didn't use some dry wood nearby. Is it really necessary to conclude that blindness, ostensibly caused by UFOs, is the most likely explanation for the choice of firewood? Five panicked young people, underdressed, in subzero temperatures in near-zero-visibility darkness, were lucky to get a fire built at all. I think we can cut them a little slack on what firewood they were able to find.

Summary: I'm still looking for something in the Dyatlov Pass mystery that lacks a simple and mundane explanation.

Tip Skeptoid $2/mo $5/mo $10/mo One time

Brian Dunning

© 2008 Skeptoid Media, Inc. Copyright information

References & Further Reading

Adams, C. "Are Camp Lanterns Radioactive?" The Straight Dope. Creative Loafing Media, Inc., 5 Dec. 2003. Web. 12 Jan. 2010. <http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2482/are-camp-lanterns-radioactive>

Angelo, J. Nuclear Technology. Westport: Greenwood Press, 2004. 230.

Giesbrecht, G., Wilkerson, J. Hypothermia Frostbite and Other Cold Injuries, Prevention, Survival, Rescue, and Treatment, Second Edition. Seattle: The Mountaineers, 2006. 38-56.

Maynard, C. The Ural Mountains. New York: PowerKids Press, 2004.

Osadchuk, S. "Mysterious Deaths of 9 Skiers Still Unresolved." The St. Petersburg Times. 19 Feb. 2008, Issue 1349, Number 13.

Wedin, B., Vanggaard, L., Hirvonen, J. "Paradoxical Undressing in Fatal Hypothermia." Journal of Forensic Science. 1 Jul. 1979, Volume 24, Number 3: 543-553.

Reference this article:
Dunning, B. "Mystery at Dyatlov Pass." Skeptoid Podcast. Skeptoid Media, Inc., 8 Jul 2008. Web. 26 Oct 2014. <http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4108>

Discuss!

Good idea, but how do you make a movie out of people wandering around trying to find their campsite. No drama man.

So.

5 guys and 4 girls go out into the wilderness for a fun week of X-country skiing. They stumble upon a derelect UFO. Someone sneaks a peak inside. They are infected by a weird disease. The men become jealous, sex ensues. Weird powers manifest themselves and blewy everyone ends up dead.

That will put some butts in the seats.

Oooh. They froze to death and ooooh, someone got caught in a avalanche. See news at ll, happened last week here in Washington. Maybe it was 3 weeks ago and it was a couple who went hiking just before a storm came in. .....

brad.tittle, bremerton
July 8, 2008 2:17pm

How about snow blindness? They could easily have lost their goggles.

Martin Sylvester, Derbyshire, England
July 8, 2008 2:32pm

What goggles? They didn't have any goggles.

The Russian Wikipedia has a long article that summarizes a bunch of theories and their flaws.
http://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/Гибель_тургруппы_Дятлова

Igor's son, Sverdlovsk, Russia
July 8, 2008 4:38pm

Brian, do you read 4chan or creepypasta.com? Cus I swear this was posted there not more than a few days ago.

Neito, Massachusetts
July 8, 2008 5:47pm

According to my first aid training manual, as hypothermia advances into its severe stages: -shivering may stop
-victim seems apathetic, confused, or irrational
-victim may demonstrate lethargy, clumsy movements, drowsiness, and changing levels of responsiveness. (National Safety Council Standard First Aid Second Edition).

Hypothermia explains most of the seemingly weird behaviors of the campers.

Kat Carroll, Bellingham, WA
July 8, 2008 6:09pm

Well they might be killed too. It was popular too at that time in Soviet Union.
Question is did they had food? How cold it was?

They might be just got lost, and died form cold. It took forever to recover bodies and nature took care of bodies appearance. It was 1959 in some remote area, in Soviet Union terms it meant it was not only long time to find the bodies, but to recover them too. In 1959 cars almost didn't existed, at least for general public.

John, wi
July 8, 2008 7:52pm

"On February 2, 2008 six of the rescuers and over 30 independent experts gathered together to examine the facts and look for answers. They concluded that the deaths were caused accidentally by military testing."

http://www.dbskeptic.com/2008/03/08/the-dyatlov-pass-accident-and-the-fatal-unknown-compelling-force/

AlanB, Long Island, NY
July 9, 2008 9:43am

I think it's great you try to tackle a topic where there really is no solid evidence either way.

I hadn't heard of this one, your proposed scenario seems absolutely reasonable though.

David W., Chicago
July 9, 2008 11:07pm

Brian,

I had not heard this story before, it was very interesting, thanks. Next time I go camping this will be a great story to tell around the fire..

Peace,

Vince

VinnyJ, Coquitlam BC
July 10, 2008 1:16pm

Excellent podcast, as always.

Great to see you covering stories I'd never previously heard of, Brian.

I guess there's still hope you'll investigate Gef the Talking Mongoose, the 1931 story from the Isle of Man that gave me shivers when I was a kid.

Gershwyn Smith, Edmonton, Alberta
July 10, 2008 7:15pm

I'm not certain how it would fit in with your theory, but you should probably consider the effect of "paradoxical undressing" as it relates to hypothermia. Apparently, when the body temp drops below 90F, people start to feel like their skin is on fire, and begin to undress.

http://www.survivaltopics.com/survival/paradoxical-undressing/

Taliver, Mountain View, CA
July 11, 2008 5:51am

"I guess there's still hope you'll investigate Gef the Talking Mongoose"

Because there isn't enough debunking of "cryptozoology"? Should there be an episode on the boogeyman, too?

AlanB, Long Island, NY
July 11, 2008 8:53pm

> Should there be an episode
> on the boogeyman, too?

Oh lighten up, AlanB.

The Gef story is somewhat unique in that it manages to bridge the wacky realms of cryptozoology, aural hallucination and even alleged poltergeist manifestation.

It also stands as an early American hoax that was effectively studied using the science available at the time.

Gershwyn Smith, Edmonton, Alberta
July 12, 2008 12:05am

Gershwyn Smith,

I'm light, I'm light! :-) Cryptozoology is just one of those things that annoys the crud out of me. Didn't mean to offend or come off as a jacka$$. I *highly* recommend Penn and Teller's episode of "Bull$hit!" on cryptozoology (no talking mongoose though).

AlanB, Long Island, NY
July 12, 2008 7:27pm

Any chance the orange lights in the sky could have been flares? I was thinking maybe flares...

A *waves* at Brian. Hello!

-A

a.real.girl, San Diego, CA
July 12, 2008 9:02pm

great episode brian! I was going to make a comment about paradoxical undressing, but it looks like someone already commtented about it...

Zach Errichetti, holmdel, nj
July 13, 2008 11:52am

Interesting, but I thought Brian's 'theory' was about as likely as most conspiracy theories about who killed JFK. It seemed he connected the dots in a manner he wanted to while ignoring or explaining away evidence to the contrary using fairly thin counter-evidence (I didn't get the feeling that there was much research put into the lanterns). Instead it seemed that Brian took an outcome and extrapolated out an improbably scenario resting upon legs of flimsy evidence such that, if any one fails, the entire theory is down the toilet.

On one hand, I think it's a nice insight into the way that theories about Roswell came about (though this one, by requiring no little gray men, seems more plausible). On the other hand... sometimes we should just say "I don't know, but I'm going to go there and find out."

eric thorn, Seoul, ROK
July 14, 2008 1:24pm

Eric -

I for one would welcome your elucidation of what "evidence to the contrary" you feel was overlooked.

Eric Schulman, Corona, CA
July 14, 2008 3:24pm

The worst part of stories like this is how terrible tragedies get turned into urban legends.

Mike, Chatham, Ontario, Canada
July 20, 2008 1:37pm

After reading countless articles and theories on this event I have to say yours is the most plausible I've found. Simply because it makes sense, although I'm sure many would love to see it remain a deep dark mystery.

Jack, Greensboro, NC
August 2, 2008 11:42am

i don't think a nuclear explosion could rip your tongue out. and if there was a nuclear explosion then they should have of been turn into a fine mist of nothing.

adolfo, corpus christi, tx
August 3, 2008 12:43pm

the avalanche theory is the one i prefer the most. but why would the first five run 2 kilometers away from an avalanche which wastnt there, and why would 4 stay behind? would they not hear each other in that distance?

triplegrim, omsk
August 13, 2008 10:45pm

Sadly the avalanche explanation just doesn't cut it. Just look at pictures of the area when the tent was found. Rolling hillsides just as google maps shows. People are killed by avalanches frequently so the Russians would know what one looks like. Very little snowcover on the tent and bodies. Simply not a fatal avalanche site. And many other details don't fit that theory. My guess? Some kind of military accident, followed by cover-up typical of CCCP. Who knows in a case this strange, but any who know the area rule out avalanche . . . and aliens for that matter.

Brian Miller, Portland, OR
August 14, 2008 2:15am

OK, many details fit, but what about the injuries? Hit his head on a rock you say. But there were no external signs of injuries, remember? Such a hit would damage the skin, there would be blood around and so on. And you say she bit off her tongue. Then where is the missing bit? And why all the secrecy? Except for those things it's a nice theory.

Atallah, Damascus, Syria
August 22, 2008 3:51am

Your lamp theory doesn't hold up, the radiation level was reported to be very high, not the amount a lamp can produce.

James, D.C
August 27, 2008 3:51pm

When I first read the facts of the story, a slow-moving avalanche in the ravine sounded to me to be the likely cause of death for the three found last. I would think that the pressure from the snow which buried them might have crushed ribs and skulls without causing skin damage.

As for the radioactivity, the source we're looking for would have to be similar to the lamp - not any sort of nuclear explosion because that would have irradiated a larger area either directly or by fallout - but the question still remains: Did the expedition actually HAVE such a kerosene lamp with them? There must be an invetory of things found, right? And what was the radiation level measured? Perhaps the radioactivity was already on a piece of clothing when they set out on their trip?

Would also like some meteorological observations from that time, and more about the social interactions in the group as well.

I have to say the best part about this podcast is the part about the orange lights: Since UFO's are so common, it might in fact be completely unrelated to the incident.

As for the one with the non-fatal skull fracture, maybe he climbed the tree and fell down?

Gunnar, Trondheim, Norway
September 4, 2008 1:07am

A very sensibly thought out and level-minded theory, much appreciated amongst the other (fantastically concocted) theories that abound about this incident.

We're never going to know exactly what happened there. I'm going to have a look into the issue of them being blinded - it's probably a dead end but if I was to arrive at a plausible theory I'll proffer it!

I'm now going to root around for more of your articles!

cardenio, London
September 4, 2008 1:35pm

Even has found out in the summer, that at your forum there is a discussion of such exotic theme for the English-speaking unit of the Internet. And if till now discussion has not stopped, the theme of you strongly means interests.
I have a considerable quantity of material in this case, therefore want to share some reasons and to inform about some discrepancies which here were already discussed. If messages will be stated we do not suck correctly in English, I ask you to excuse, I know Russian better, on the cook and there are considerable quantity about this incident.
Remarks on separate questions:

About absence of language at one of victims.
Unfortunately this detail is deformed strongly by journalists and writers. In the medical description of the judicial doctor it is spoken, that was absent not only language, on and some other parts of soft fabrics of the person. It is result of that she has been found in the spring in the current water. Probably it because of desire of journalists to receive the best advertising effect.

It was not placed in one message, continuation in the following.

Vlad, Moscow, Russia
September 10, 2008 3:35pm

About the absence of a tongue on one of victims.
Unfortunately this detail is distorted strongly by journalists and writers. The court doctor's medical description states that not only the tongue, but also other soft tissues were missing. This was the result of the victim being found in the spring's water current. The journalists probably desired to achieve the best advertising effect.

Max, Boston, MA
September 10, 2008 8:24pm

About a radio-activity.
The radio-activity is not a result of that lamps with thorium were used. Such lamps at these tourists was not. They were used by cave explorers. These travellers were ski tourists. Thorium gives alpha radiation, and beta-radiation, characteristic for Ka-40 was revealed. Probably the radio-activity was consequence of pollution by loss of a radioactive dust from tests in an atmosphere or someone brought with clothes from participants. One person from these tourists worked at the enterprise of the nuclear industry when there there was a failure, and another in educational laboratory where radioactive materials were applied. Radiation was not big, excess of a natural background was all two or three times as large. It did not cause destruction.

About « Orage spheres ».
Supervision of " Orange spheres » too has no any relation to destruction of group. Those supervision which at check have proved to be true, to within one minute coincide with start of rockets from the cosmodrome in 1959. Geophysics approve, that such supervision could be under certain conditions., and such conditions were observed at this time.

Vlad, Moscow, Russia
September 11, 2008 6:55am

It’s so refreshing to read articles that offer plausible explanations to so called mysteries. As Vlad has pointed out, so much of the reporting is done for pure sensationalism in order to sell copy.

Now a question; was it a full or no moon period at the time of the possible avalanche? It amazes me that people so easily forget just what the dark really is. Away from the city lights, without a moon, dark really is dark. You can’t even see your hand if you put it right in front of your eyes. This could easily account for the so called blindness. It was simply dark and they had no means of producing light!

I have no way of finding this out, but maybe someone has a chart somewhere that may confirm one way or the other.

Phil, South Wales, UK
September 14, 2008 3:39am

I've been discussing this "X-File" if you will with my boyfriend because, well, it's fun. We concluded an avalanche was the best explanation as well, although with one variation on your account - that the initial flight from the tent wasn't a false alarm, some just managed to evade serious injury by being first out of the tent.

I don't know why it hadn't occurred to us that the DARKNESS was just the same as blindness - that they may not have been stricken blind at all. And your hypothesis better explains how the non-wounded managed to snare clothes off the wounded if they were (in our account) buried under feet and feet of snow. Although, I guess I'm not sure who was wearing who's clothes......

Thanks!

Anya, Portland, OR
September 14, 2008 7:13pm

The site does not allow to write all at once therefore I is compelled to write the text short pieces. Therefore the set questions I can answer only upon termination of all texts. There were 2 or 3 publications.
It is guilty concerning a delay.

Part 3

About a radio-activity.
The radio-activity is not a result of that lamps with thorium were used. Such lamps at these tourists was not. They were used by cave explorers. These travellers were ski tourists. Thorium gives alpha radiation, and beta-radiation, characteristic for Ka-40 was revealed. Probably the radio-activity was consequence of pollution by loss of a radioactive dust from tests in an atmosphere or someone brought with clothes from participants. One person from these tourists worked at the enterprise of the nuclear industry when there there was a failure, and another in educational laboratory where radioactive materials were applied. Radiation was not big, excess of a natural background was all two or three times as large. It did not cause destruction.

About « Orage spheres ».
Supervision of " Orange spheres » too has no any relation to destruction of group. Those supervision which at check have proved to be true, to within one minute coincide with start of rockets from the cosmodrome in 1959. Geophysics approve, that such supervision could be under certain conditions., and such conditions were observed at this time.

Vlad, Moscow, Russia
September 16, 2008 2:31am

This incident happened on the same day that Buddy Holly's plane crashed.

Dunno how that fits in with the whole story, but it certainly makes things weirder.

Geoff Sebesta, San Diego, CA
October 4, 2008 12:36am

Advanced hypothermia has been known to cause some rather unusual behavior such as resisting help and the seemingly paradoxial removal of clothes.

Cameron, Orono
October 18, 2008 7:17am

I loved this podcast on the Mystery of Dyatlov pass, Ilove these little mysteries that seem to crop up from time to time.
I do have one question about your analysis...You said that the four remaining students, got dressed grab what provisions they could, searched for thier friends and got caught in an avalanche themselves. Yet the report states that there were no outward signs of physical trama...My question is wouldn't an avalanche powerful enough to cause the extensive injuries mentioned also leave signs of physical trama outside the body?
Thank you fo your time, I do enjoy skeptoid and I will continue to practice critical thinking alot more.
Sincerly,
Paul Guimond

Paul Guimond, Auburn,Maine
October 29, 2008 1:03pm

Just one question. If Avalanche is considered a plausible factor, how do you explain the change of clothes and the fact they could find their camp site and foot prints around each body? An avalanche would have wiped all of that out without a doubt.

Nick, Australia
November 17, 2008 6:03am

Nick, you didn't READ the thing, did you?

The theory was that the four put on their clothes and LEFT THE CAMP searching for their friends. They were then caught in an avalanche, away from the camp. So why would the camp be destroyed?

As for Paul's question. If they were caught in an avalanche then they might well have been subject simply to crushing/blunt trauma. Clothing could reasonably have prevented any obvious external marks on the bodies. Plus they were found 5 months later and we don't really know how good the autopsy was.

Alhazred, Burlington, VT
November 19, 2008 1:27pm

I have some experience in the outdoors in cold climates, and I find this explaination lacking. There's no reason to think these people lacked experience in ourdoorsmanship, and plenty of reasons to suggest they had it. (The fact that they took this trip at all, for one.)
I don't have room to go into it all, but this explaination hinges upon the assumption that these people had little or no outdoors experience. If they knew anything about the region, they would not have feared avalanches at that time of year. If they knew anything about avalanches, they would have behaved sonmewhat (though not entirely) differently, had they actually feared one.

I find it funny that the author dismisses the UFO reports, because those are what made me settle on an answer:
Dirty bomb testing explains the UFO reports, and all of the available evidence, with no unneccesary assumptions.

I'll check back in a few days, and if anyone is curious why I don't accept this explaination, I will create an account and attempt to explain why, as well as explaing why I think it was dirty bombs, in the Skeptoid forums. :)

Darin, Florida
December 1, 2008 9:35pm

Darin, It would be lovely to hear.

simon, Sweden
December 2, 2008 1:34pm

Darin,

I'd really like to read your account on dirty bombs please. I'm loving this forum and this story and it's great to hear all the different theories. I'm intregued!

Thanks.

Sarah, United Kingdom
December 5, 2008 2:05am

I only stumbled upon this story yesterday in fact,almost 50 years after it happened.It is very fascinating indeed.

Jack, Vienna
December 12, 2008 10:33am

It wasn't an avalanche. Russian investigators are, contrary to the authors belief, not idiots. If it had been an avalanche, they would have said avalanche, not "an unknown compelling force".

Anyway, even if you ignore this point , there is still the issue of who was wearing whose clothes, who was heading back to the camp, and who had cut the clothes from the bodies of the two Yuris. Look it up - you'll find it doesn't fit this theory.

I have no idea what happened at "the Mountain of the Dead" (Kholat Syakhl in Mansi), but I'm fairly sure it was nothing obvious, especially after reading the original sources on this (unfortunately only available in Russian). However, mystery fans, be cheered by the fact that 2009 some of the classified files on this will be opened, which may give us more to go on!

Vitya, Moscow
December 19, 2008 1:21am

Despite all of the fantasy of this being caused by gov't/ufo, it appears to be weather/avalanche related. There are all kinds of questions and things to be analyzed. I think the one survivor should have been questioned much more about this groups' practices and such. Did they normally go out without clothes, like when they woke up or were getting ready for bed. Maybe they were just so used to it, that they didn't think anything of leaving their clothes behind during an avalanche. Did they drink much? There was alcohol in their tent. I would love to see instruments set up on that hill during the winter to gauge what sounds could be heard and what it would feel like if there were an avalanche. I don't think it would cost too much to do that. I'd also like to see how widespread it would be to see why they ran so far. Camping on a slope, running so far from the tent, and leaving their clothes are what killed them - I don't think it took anything more than an avalanche to get them to leave. I think more analysis of the area could show people why they ran when they heard or felt what they thought was an avalanche. Another thing that people may have wrong is the belief that some of the people removed clothes from the dead. Regardless of what investigators believed, I don't think that's a fact. While they may have been wearing clothes that weren't theirs, they could have put them on in the tent before leaving.

jim, detroit rock city
December 23, 2008 8:01pm

I'm with Darin and Vitya. I've a considerable experience in the outdoors, and given the expeditions knowledge and basic experience... and my own knowledge and experience of hypothermia - the explanation above does not make any sense.

"I think we can cut them a little slack on what firewood they were able to find". Personally, one of the most compelling aspects of the mystery for me is this, and the fact they did not appear to have attempted to return to their campsite.

Even if an avalanche was suspected by the team, in their situation it would seem elementary to return to the site to check for equipment. Getting as much equipment would have been (and indeed was, in reference to their possible use of dead companion's clothing) a top priority.

But from what we can tell, they did not attempt to return to the campsite. Why is that? Confusion from hypothermia? Hypothermic people act in a variety of seemingly random ways, this would appear to be "group hypothermia" in that they acted in a bizarre way, in unison. Hypothermia is a not a carte blanche authority to dismiss any odd behavior.

They left the tent for a reason, and they made no discernible attempt to return (tracks leading from the tent were discovered by searchers many days later).

As said above, if they had have known enough about avalanches to fear them, they would not have feared them at that time of year. Furthermore, they would have reacted quite differently.

Dean, Wellington, NZ
January 7, 2009 1:33pm

Couple of things
These ALL were students of Polytechnical Institute. The University had CLOSE tie's to the Military, especially after WW2. Why did they go on this hike in the first place..possibly to test something for school..just an idea. Is it possible this item while being worked on in the tent did something wrong creating a flash blinding 2 and making the others leave. Radiation from the item would have hit the closest members. This also explains why they wouldnt return knowing the item was still there. How do we know the 2 by the tree built the fire. They may have climbed for other reasons. WHY did 1 stay behind? Radiation sickness or possibly scared knowing the possible outcome of the item they had. There are also pictures of one having a gun?? Ide LOVE to have seen what was IN the tent afterwards and why did they test for radiation in the first place....

R J, Akron ,OH
January 10, 2009 7:48pm

I would just like to say that postulating a theory, eg. avalanche, is not proof of anything. You need evidence for your theory. Avalanche? The tent was still exposed as were other bodies. And you ignore the point that the tongue was missing but also the inside mucus lining of the entire oral cavity. Just dismissing the oddest bits isn't good skepticism.
The events remain completely unexplained. Your theory has even less to support it than the UFO one, i.e. people at least reported seeing lights.

mrs.chapin, USA
January 10, 2009 8:23pm

Dean, obviously these people weren't as smart as you are. Anyone who is experienced in a given area can make a bad decision that is beyond your comprehension that results in a horrible outcome. I've done plenty of things with groups of experienced people who made really bad decisions. These people in the USSR made poor planning decision even before the trip started. They then made the bad decision to go out in the cold without adequate clothing or gear. Most likely, at least one of them suspected an avalanche and the others followed bad instructions. Also, the people at the scene did say that two of the people tried to make it back to the tent before succumbing to the cold. Avalanches and bad decisions kill hikers, snowmobilers, mountain climbers, etc. every year. This group probably suspected an avalanche was coming and made a really bad decision - it happens, read the newspapers and you will see stuff every day caused by really bad decisions. Unfortunately these people weren't as smart as you and made a decision that is beyond your comprehension. mrs. chapin, I think reality is beyond your comprehension. UFO's don't exist. It doesn't even appear that you have put any thought into anything other than a UFO in this case.

jim, detroit rock city
January 13, 2009 4:10pm

There were no external signs of injury, which I think debunks the hypothesis that one of the skiers hit his head on a rock to suffer his small skull fracture. The autopsy stated that the fracture was not related to the death and, in my opinion, is not significant. It could have easily been sustained before that night. Also, I cannot understand why people continue to postulate that Lyudmila Dubinina's tongue was bitten off; the tongue was stated as "missing." And nothing I've read has stated it was removed by biting or by an instrument. If it were simply bitten off, which could easily be deduced by any competent medical examiner, then I don't think reports would continue to mention that the tongue was simply missing and not instead say it was gnawed/bitten.

Lily, U.S.
January 22, 2009 3:22pm

I find it odd that one of the members of the search party chose to bring along a geiger counter.

Kim, Berwyn, PA
March 2, 2009 7:38pm

It isn't that odd to bring a geiger counter. Well, it is, but if you read the post, it states that thorium gas mantles were more than common those days. If it is higly likely that those people would've gotten radioactive material on them, it would surely help tobring a geiger counter along in a search party. Snow does not hold back radiation in any way, so it would be a good 'underground' detector.

But if that wasn't the reason they brought it, then i agree on the suspicion.

Flater, Antwerp, Belgium
March 9, 2009 1:03am

The guide was only 23, he can't have been that experienced. They got lost because of bad weather and had to result to stopping for the night.

What would be the state of mind of lost and stranded people in the middle of a frozen country side? They would be "on the edge", sleep nervously and would probably have been arguing a bit among each other to try and find the best way out of this mess.

Night comes, everyone goes to sleep. In this kind of weather condition, you DO sleep with few cloths on in a warm sleeping bag to prevent humidity.

Now, "something" happens. It doesn't have to be supernatural. A jet that does a low fly by could be mistaken for an avalanche when you are being waken up in the middle of the night.

The stage is set...

Panic issues. In a small tent, pitch black, light get knocked off. People all start are screaming disorderly orders the guide as no more authority, some think an avalanche is rushing towards them and cut their way out of the tent.

A few "lucky" ones get their senses together and stays at the base camp. They get dress and mount a search party to find the headless chicken that made a dash for it in the middle of the winter night. They get unlucky, a bad fall maybe an actual avalanche. The described wounds kinda coincide with this. The thick winter clothing could have prevent exterior skin bruising and visible injuries without preventing internal trauma.

Now why the hell would you run 800m in the middle of the night half naked? Because

Joel, Montreal
March 18, 2009 10:10am

"And, the thorium lantern mantle question quite probably makes the entire radiation issue a moot point. Assuming they'd changed a lantern mantle sometime during the trip, which nearly always has to be done, there's every reason to expect to find low-level alpha radiation on the clothes of anyone who participated."

Mr.Brian, I think the entire hill was supposed to be covered in radiation, and a lamp is incapable of radiating an entire hill.

Aryan, St. Louis
March 22, 2009 8:37pm

nice to try to explain this, but i think the avalance theory is less probabal than alien contact to be honest.

an avalanche is certainly loud, but these guys were camped out in a generally safe area and if an avalance did occur, its unlikely that it would have woken them up, and even more unlikely that they would have woken up, identified the sound and gotten out of there as fast as possible.

an avalanche also does not explain the fact that the 4 mystery death victims' watches were all stopped, 3 of which stopped within a 30 min period. also, the bodies had HIGH levels of radiation, and i doubt the microscopic ammount from a lantern would still be with them at a high level until they were discovered.

it also fails to explain why some only had one sock or boot on, why the girl was missing a tounge (i highly doubt she bit it off, examiners could id that in 2 seconds). also doesnt explain why they made a fire with wet wood when an abundance of dry wood was around.

and most of all, it doesnt explain the orange orbs others saw in the area.

nice try, but this scenerio is unlikely

andy, baltimore
March 25, 2009 1:17pm

The avalanche is very probable. The victims all perished in the cold. As for the watches stopping; real simple. They forgot to wind them. In 1959 your typical watch did not have batteries, was probably not self winding, and was not digital.

During an avalanche your body is tumbling over and over. Kind of like getting caught in the surf down by the beach. All sorts of trauma could occur even biting off your own tongue as your body is pushed and tumbled over and over. Aliens, ghosts, evil sprits, a bunch of evil villagers would make a great novel, but as novel ideas go, they don’t fit.

Nature got them all in the end.

John, USA, New Jersey
March 28, 2009 2:12pm

@ Andy, baltimore.

Yes. Alien contact does seem far more probable than an avalanche. I expect the aliens landed near the campsite (their engines irradiating the surrounding area) and thought "sod it, let's take a piece of tongue home with us for a souvenir." And you think that this really sounds more probable? Really? Really?

The major problem here is that many of you want the mystery to remain - this allows for the possibility of aliens, UFOs and all kinds of crazy creatures. The fact is though, that the likely cause of death is mundane, which is unfortunate to conspiracy theorists who want there to be more.

What we have here, therefore, is a very human tragedy, most likely caused by blind panic trumping reason, something that would probably have happened to most of us under these circumstances. Lets give the dead the respect they deserve and stop creating fairy stories.

Here endeth the rant.

Bruce, Scotland
April 11, 2009 4:20am

Friends, the last year at me has failed write the detailed review of this case. It is a lot of information now is on website:

<http://www.aquiziam.com/dyatlov_pass_1.html>
<http://www.aquiziam.com/dyatlov_pass_2.html>
<http://www.aquiziam.com/dyatlov_pass_answers.html>
<http://www.aquiziam.com/dyatlov_pass_letter.html>

There it is detailed and the most difficult sections of this theme are authentically stated.

Vlad, Moscow, Russia
April 20, 2009 7:50am

Wasn't there one survivor? Yuri Yudin? There has to be more to this story. who knows Russian Military coverup, UFO/Alien attack, avalanche. There is usually a reason and explanation for everything unfortunately we can file this under unsolved. Lets not forget the CSI technology in 1959, not the best. Most likely this story explains what likely happened but never ever take the most logical answer to be the actual one. Truth is no one knows.

Micha, LA
May 10, 2009 12:16am

Let's talk about Yuri Yudin who fell ill and returned home...

I think he loved a woman in the group, but the woman loved another person and rejected him... So, nobody except him, knew the exact day and time of the incident. Because all of them are dead, no witness...

He told that he is sick, and returning home, but not. He followed them and murdered all while they are making some kind of party in their tents and left the bodies there. During several months after the incident, winter and snow covered the bodies...

The radioactivity is a hidden American cold war project, which is sprinkled from reconnaisance aircrafts... Particles found on bodies are just a coincidence...

Goksel, TURKEY
May 15, 2009 1:08am

ben bekçi multaza.o alienleri bulursam domaltıp zkicem yağlı yarrağımla uzay gemilerine kadar fışkırtıcam mngoduklarım.

multaza, çemişkezek
May 18, 2009 11:05am

Hi, was the Dyatlov campsite on a slope?
If so, an avalanche must have got them, seems simple enough to me..;)

Mick, Plymouth UK
May 31, 2009 6:11pm

I believe they were driven out of their tents by a very frightening noise. What that noise was I dont know. But they may have mistaken Thunder for an Avalanche approaching them and they ran for their lives. At - 30 they would only survive for about 20 min's with very little cloths on them as claimed. Maybe they ran so far that they got lost or the cold just overcame them very rapidly and they couldnt make their way back. I doubt it was too dark to see because its never completly dark in snow. Their was a bad storm than night and chill factor would hav been horrific. Visability would be poor in a snow storm. I just cant explain the trauma force against 2 of them and the missing tongue. I believe the force of the trauma was consistant with being crushed.Experts claimed that it could not have been caused by another human being.It therefore had to be caused by a machine of sorts. It was never said weather her tongue was severed with a sharp knife or ripped out. If it was sliced out then it could be murder.Someone didnt like the way she spoke so cut out her tongue. Was the surviver guilty of murder who claimed he had to return to base camp through illness and claimed the group went on without him. Would the group let a sick man return on his own. But if he is guilty then how did he inflict the trauma injuries.They said that man could not have done it by hand.I dont buy the radiation story, It has been claimed that it was never in the original report so it was added later.

Gary, DUBLIN
June 9, 2009 8:22am

avalanche danger? ok 15 degree slope might be the min required BUT! that would require perfect conditions. scared by a low flying mig 21? these were educated people and i suspect that a jet engine would be unlikely to cause such fear because a). the danger seemed to be concentrated around the camp and was enough to stop them returning for clothing dispite the fact they KNEW they would die without it b). you mention a jet engine getting louder and louder. this quite honestly is crap, a mig 21 for example is a mach 2+ fighter and would be flying at speeds close to the sound barrier if not beyond it. this means they wouldnt hear a rumbling apporach of the jet, it would be more like a close ligthening strike, suddenly very loud and then tailing off.
scavengers and the missing tounge? if animals were guilty of taking the tounge WHY was there no other evidence of predation by animals? that she bit her own tounge off also seems very unlikely as it would have resulted in large amounts of bloodstained snow
lastly as for an avalanche covering the bodies in the ravine up, this seems a little weak too, usually wooded areas are very good at removing the energy from such an event at after a study of the area there appares to be nothing at all to support this except that the bodies were buried

these people were scared enough for instant flight, they obviouly feared unavoidable death if they went back as they all died without ever returning to the camp, question is was it real of fictional

Jim, wrexham, Uk
June 17, 2009 9:04am

I think that there was one key factor in this incident: panic.

Something, possibly something harmless, freaked these kids out, causing them to wreck their tent and go running out into the the frozen mountainside.

In the deadly conditions, their behaviour was tantamount to suicide.

Kevin Rafferty, Birmingham, England
July 2, 2009 10:39am

Well of course something freaked them out! That's the whole premise of this unsolved mystery!

Devi, San Francisco
July 4, 2009 9:51pm

In response to Jim, Perhaps the blood was washed away, or in a different spot to where the body was found and was buried under snow? I agree with your other points however.

The only thing i can think of that could be an answer to this is an avalanche. It is more than the force of a car and could explain alot of the issues raised.

Mitchell, Sydney, Australia
July 11, 2009 5:48am

Mr. Dunning, your example sounds plausible and explains many of the facts in the case, buy why did the Soviet authorities close off the area for three years after the incident? Why were records of the incident kept classified? Why, when the records were released in 1990, were they incomplete, missing pages? I've known about this story for about an hour now and already I'd like to see a high-dollar American movie made based of it. I'd pay to see it!

Mike, Missouri, USA
July 19, 2009 8:31pm

Some speculations:
1) Drugs. 9 Young people from soviet union got out to the nature. If one of them got something like mushrooms or whatever.. The other four did not used this. So then 5 of them began t freak out and ran into the wild half naked (and next - something like you wrote happened)
2) Weapon testing.
3) Crowd testing. As everyone from the former soviet union knows - every travel, every expedition had to be negotiated with kgb people. So One of the group (or several of them) could be a kgb's-little-helper (duno the right English word for this position in kgb:) Anyway and some kind of inside test could be executed there (the reaction to xxx drug used on small groups in closed spaces). The 4 dressed up ones could be the executors of the test that saw that the test went terribly wrong and decided to find those lost.

Toxis, Vilnius, Lithuania
August 3, 2009 7:42am

One thing no one has mentioned:

They started a fire under that pine tree, AFTER they fled the tend nearly naked. What'd they start the fire with? They ran out in a panic, but remember to grab some matches whilst leaving their clothing behind in -30 weather?

It's not an avalanche. Avalanches killed dozens of hikers and mountaineers throughout the history of the Soviet Union, and those slopes weren't closed for 3 years. Given the cover-up nature of the Soviets, if it was an avalanche, it'd have been immediately proclaimed as such, to avoid fears, etc.

Joe, Madison
August 13, 2009 10:31pm

may have encountered the Almas

H Sher, USA
August 25, 2009 10:57am

I have never been one for the fantastical. I firmly believe that if these "supernatural" events happened as often as they are perceived to, that there would be SOME true evidence. Humans are not perfect enough to perfectly cover up so many incidents around the world.

I am good with the avalanche theory with the addition of a psooible variation in the scenario. Without being very familiar with this event, I wonder if it could have been that those who seem to have panicked did so after hearing the avalanche that buried their friends. I have not really seen anything that indicates that the searchers are absolutely certain that the "panicked" group died first.

Steve J, So Cal
August 31, 2009 5:12pm

Thanks, I found this article really interesting. I stumbled across the information about the Dyatlov incident on Wikipedia and wondered whether anyone had come up with reasonable explainations for the events. Although these are simply ideas I really see your point on some of the issues in other theories surrounding the incident!

Hannah, UK
September 11, 2009 9:02am

Great article! Very plausible theories...I too agree that there is nothing overly "fantastic" about this story...My irrelevant question is WHY would there be open caskets at funerals?

Gina, Naples Italy
September 14, 2009 12:12am

Why weren't they covered in snow if it was an avalanche? It's not like it melted. Also, the ones who froze to death were wearing shreds of close from those who die in what you say was an avalanche. Did they dig them up?

Madeline, Louisiana
September 19, 2009 5:52pm

What adds to this mystery is that the reports claim there is no soft-tissue damage to the victims with chest and head injuries, therefore, he could not have fallen and struck his head.

I'm more inclined to believe it's a cover-up by the Russian government. They tested some kind of weapon or vehicle near the camp. Maybe the radiation from whatever the vehicle was caused so intense of light and heat that they tore themselves out from inside the tent to escape the intense heat. Who knows! Interesting, though.

David, Sandy, UT
September 22, 2009 10:18am

First of all, good article and good speculation about the cause of deaths. It is also a known fact that when the body temperature goes very low and the hypothermia really kicks in at some point you start to feel warm and even hot. There are cases of frozen people found in Himalaya who have taken many of their clothes off with their last strength because of this feeling of warmth. This might be the reason why many of them didn't have clothes on.

I don't believe any UFO theory, but I believe there might be something that the authorities are hiding concerning this case, perhaps something to do with radioactive material and testing of it. Maybe this would also be reason for those orange lights seen at the sky close to area, which had been actually seen by quite many people...at least I can't figure any other meaning for that kind of lights. Not sure if they can see any Northern Lights at region that south.

Artturi, Helsinki, Finland
October 7, 2009 1:26pm

To me, your theory sounds like the most plausible one.

/Alle

Alle, Sweden
October 10, 2009 5:38am

Good article, i must say. However, i completely disagree with your lack of research and plausible explanations here. There could not have been an avalanche. Why? It was widely stated that they found the victims of the campfire by tracing the footprints from the tents of the campsite to the campfire. If there had been one, wouldnt these footprints have been covered up by snow? Also, the camp had not even a remote sign that an avalanche came through it, i.e. tents not buried in snow, (in fact, nothing was hinting it could have been one). And lastly, the victims who died of head truma, as well as internal chest trauma could not have died by hitting a rock, tree, or anything of that remote nature as concluded in the initial report. Why? There was no outside tissue damage, no blood, no breaking, bruising, cuts of the skin, or scrapes. If one were to hit a foreign object such as a rock and break their skull, certainly there would be at least some damage to the outside tissue.
And also, you seem to brush off other facts as their hair turning grey as just something that could have happened due to exposure, or perhaps the mortician. Are you kidding me?
Lastly, you were saying if this really was a UFO incident, the Soviet govt would have colored it back to normal. This is completely incorrect, as the first search party recovered the bodies, (which just started a couple weeks after they were supposed to send a telegram, indicating something had already gone terribly wrong) not the govt.

Matt, Denton, Texas
October 10, 2009 3:51pm

Everyone calling an avalanche impossible is absolutely right. There is no way that this situation points toward an avalanche in any way. The visibility of footprints (which I can say from firsthand knowledge become covered with even the slightest snowslide), the intact proximity of the torn-open tents, and the lack of external damage on the bodies mean that an avalanche is just as much of a stretch as a UFO. Also, avalanches aren't gentle mounds of snow rolling down a hill. They are huge packs of ice shards that would have caused at least some lacerations on the victims and definitely marked the trees in the area.
Nice try.

Jeff, Colorado, USA
October 11, 2009 1:15pm

To Matt, Denton, Texas

Read the article again: The first five escape the tent believing an avalanche is bearing down on them alternatively they believe some other danger is imminent (but no avalanche drowns them, maybe a nearby avalanche occurred but didn't affect them) and after some time these five people die from hypotermia and their footprints can be monitored. The OTHER four skiers get caught in a real avalanche in search for their friends.

Alle, Sweden
October 14, 2009 2:25pm

I am as hard nosed and sceptical as anybody, but I gotta say I think your explanation, while plausible (or the least implausible, at any rate), does not reach convincing for me.

Lack of external injuries, while suffering extreme internal injuries, largely rules out avalanche in my book. I do not think you addressed this issue adequately.

I have no reasonable alternative explanation to offer. But sometimes all we can do is say, WTF? And admit we are stumped. This seems one of those times.

Rolly, Tel Aviv
October 15, 2009 6:36am

Interesting take, Rolly. Avalanche deaths are almost always caused by suffocation or crush injuries. Yet this consistency rules out a match for you?

Brian Dunning, Laguna Niguel, CA
October 15, 2009 8:22am

It is highly unlikely that 5 people got up in the middle of the night, ripped their tent open, & ran away in the cold nearly-naked while the other four slept peacefully. Obviously, a person in such a state of panic will start screaming & making a lot of noise -- which would have easily woken up the other four campers - even if we presume they were sleeping in another tent.
Let us suppose they were actually woken up by all the commotion - is it possible that they had the good sense & to calmly dress up first in such a moment of panic while all the other campers were running around naked hysterically?

Dr.Kaustubh Parashar, Delhi, India
October 15, 2009 11:59pm

could it have been a radioactive yeti?

Drake, Muria
October 18, 2009 7:56am

The avalanche theory isnt credible due to the geography of the site. Theere are plenty of pictures of the site and surrounding area both taken at the time (1959) and as recently as last year (2008)(There is even a video of the site on You Tube)
The actual pictures of the Searchers and the recovery of the bodies show nothing even remotely like an avalanche in the area (not even "Micro-Avalanches" or "River Avalanches" -which are basically very localized flows of snow.)Also, trying to say that the 3 people who were severely injured -one had a shattered skull and two had broken ribs, one of whom had her heart pierced by a broken rib!- were injured in an avalanche ignores the location where they were found and that 1 of the four was NOT injured in any manner. (all 4 were in a group in a small ravine...actually a creekbed, you can see the pictures). these same 4 were wearing some of the others clothes -one of the males was wearing the fur coat of the female whose heart had been pierced by her broken rib, yet HE was uninjured!). Autopsies were performed on the victims. Using the stomach contents, the timeline was the Initial Panic occured around 9-10PM and they were all dead by 2-3AM. The mystery is WHAT caused the initial Panic? and Why didnt they get themselves back to the tent, when after 3-4 hours the danger would have been over...or so you would think. 3 DID try to make it back to the tent but froze to death enroute. What would cause such desperate acts for so long?

Daniel Brown, Toledo, Ohio !
October 31, 2009 9:31pm

Lots of intelligent people posting on this site, but a lot of the stuff addressed on this site and in Brian's theory isn't true. Examples: the government never actually classified the documents, the tongue wasn't bitten off, it decayed, etc. Here is a site that actually mentions its sources and seems much more trustworthy http://www.aquiziam.com/dyatlov_pass_answers.html

Alan, Tulane University, New Orleans
November 15, 2009 11:14am

The Dyatlov pass incident never happened, it is a web created mythology.

sd, London
December 6, 2009 12:39pm

I read a story about some people in the Ural Mountains who decided to camp by a hot canister that was a strong beta radiation source, though they were unaware of the grave danger. I seem to recall mention of two hikers in this case, though. The date of the incident was about the same as this other tragedy being discussed here.

Joseph, Ohio, US
December 11, 2009 4:50pm

Joseph, the story is probably one of the cases of a looted RTG, which was exactly what came to mind when I listened to the podcast. See here for information regarding RTGs: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radioisotope_thermoelectric_generator

However, RTGs are shielded and cases of deaths from radioactivity from them have been due to damage to the unit or when looters dismantle them for scrap metal. Furthermore, I can't find any mention of Russian RTGs as far back as 1959 - development appears to have begun in the 1960s: http://www.bellona.no/bellona.org/english_import_area/international/russia/navy/northern_fleet/incidents/37598

Michael, Wisconsin, US
December 21, 2009 4:52pm

Tents back in the 1950's tend to have been made of strong fabric the temperature was -25 to 30 F.

Nine people in a panic, we have all heard of people who had super human strength during period of high trama, few of them survive more than a few hours after such a feat.

if you read the facts carefully, you will notice "No soft tissue' was damaged. One of women lost her tongue, that type of thing is reported in Cattle Mutilations in New Mexico and Colorado.

Don't know what caused these poor folks to die. They were nine very strong and healthy hikers, with no fear. Don't how if the writer of this story had ever done winter hiking, it takes a hearty sould and good planning, equipment and experience. We have the White Mountain range up North in New Hampshire and, we have experience lost of young men up there, and that was do to cold and frostbite. No one in New England ever sleeps in in winter outsides in a tent in there underwear, those nine people were experienced, they weren't amateurs, its really odd that they were only clothed in their briefs. Doesn't make any sense at all, almost seems like they were forced to undress, but by who and for what reason?

This doesn't seem right, all the facts aren't being told here, seems like political fear, or fear of ridicle could be part of the reason. God bless those nine young folks souls.

May they rest in peace.

Steven, Providence Rhode Island
December 22, 2009 1:18pm

2 sd, London
This story isn't "Web folklore". Some articles about it were published in late 1980's-1990's. It happend. Maybe some details are made up, but it did happen.
P.S. It happend at Mountain Kholat Syakhl (Mansi- "Mountain of the Dead".

Alexey, Moscow
January 9, 2010 7:48am

There's one other detail to the story - their tent was cut open from the inside. This doesn't seem to fit in your theory.

Danielle, London
January 9, 2010 5:16pm

My first and second thoughts with each detail you revealed

"bodies of the nine victims were scattered over a wide area of the frozen landscape. Some were wearing only their underwear. Some were wearing each others' clothes"

They got lost, hypothermia set in followed by delierium, making some feel hot and take off clothes, sharing it with others. Some set off to find camp on their own & stumbled off in different directions

2nd thought: At night, some of them for some reason felt rushed to go outside. They put on the wrong clothes in a rush, or just couldn't find their own and used someone elses. The later search party did something similar, with some of their clothes missing.

"Two had head injuries. One had no tongue. Two had severe internal chest injuries. None had any visible external signs of trauma."

Falls off cliffs/over rocks. Tongueless one was dead longest and maggots ate the soft tissue

2nd thought: Falls were cushioned by snow, but internal injury ensued. Tongue eaten by some animal

"Some of their clothes were found to be radioactive. Circumstances suggested that some the victims may have been blind."

WTF

2nd thought; what you said

"Various other witnesses in the region reported bizarre orange spheres in the night sky"

Ball lightning

2nd thought; Small, home-made hot air balloons made from paper bags used in some celebrations, I forgot their name.

"and strangest of all, the bodies had orange skin and gray hair"

WTF?

2nd thought; Yeah, what you sai

Jonathan, Earth
January 11, 2010 1:01pm

Mr Dunning's explanation fails. If an avalanche really did occur and that was what caused the massive internal injuries to two of the Russian explorers, then how come FOOTPRINTS were not only observable in the snow, but could be traced literally to the bodies?

A huge amount of snow would be required to cause those injuries, one investigator even said it would be like being hit by a car, and yet it couldn't cover their humble, bare footed tracks?

Fail.

Kev, London, England
January 15, 2010 3:48am

Regarding the political climate at that time in the former U.S.S.R. and the possible shoddiness of the police work, is it any wonder that no viable explanation was given other than a "compelling unknown force" caused the death of these students.
The simplest explanation is that these young people had died as a result of misadventure. The may have been drinking. They may have been using stimulants. It may have been a simple act of murder.
I love a good mystery as much as anybody. But unless you happened to be an eyewitness to the incident and are still alive(the murderer(s)), it will remain so.

Joe, Toronto,Ontario
January 22, 2010 2:30pm

Your explanation of what you though happened is as good as any. However, I don't think your idea really explains the ones that received injuries (broken ribs, skulls etc.). Each of these were found with the internal injuries but absolutely no sign of any external injury, which an avalanche could cause (not definitely) and falling on a rock would definitely cause.

Someone, Somewhere
January 28, 2010 12:13pm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dyatlov_Pass_incident

wikipedia entry on the incident. Kev's right, mentions searchers following footprints to the bodies.

also it seems unlikely that between feb 1st when the group went missing and the 26th when their bodies were found, there would be enough time for the snow from a significant avalanche to melt and expose the two injured hikers. thats just speculation though.

Joe, London
March 1, 2010 3:31am

Here's what the wikipedia article said about the footprints:

"A chain of footprints could be followed, leading down towards the edge of nearby woods (on the opposite side of the pass, 1.5km north-east), but after 500 meters they were covered with snow. At the forest edge, under a large old pine, the searchers found the remains of a fire, along with the first two dead bodies, those of Krivonischenko and Doroshenko, shoeless and dressed only in their underwear. Between the pine and the camp the searchers found three more corpses—Dyatlov, Kolmogorova and Slobodin—who seemed to have died in poses suggesting that they were attempting to return to the camp.[1] They were found separately at distances of 300, 480 and 630 meters from the pine tree.
Searching for the remaining four travelers took more than two months. They were finally found on May 4, under four meters of snow, in a ravine in a stream valley further into the wood from the pine tree."

No one followed tracks to any of the bodies. There was an entire kilometer, covered in printless snow, between the last tracks and the woods where the bodies were found! Declaring the avalanche idea out because investigators "literally" followed the trails to the bodies is refuted by the very site Kev and Joe (of London, not Ontario)are using as evidence against the avalanche idea. And in Russia in February, snow is not melting away to expose bodies. This is a classic avalanche scenario distorted by Soviet bungling.

Scott, Green City
March 8, 2010 5:50am

No no no no no no no.

It was aliens. One of them had a burst chest. That was a facehugger.

Thursty, The Gong
March 11, 2010 1:13pm

There is a problem with the avalanche theory. The injuries sustained by two of the group members (the one with the whole chest structure broken, and the guy with the head injury) could only have allowed them to be conscious for a maximum of 30 minutes, probably less given the conditions they were in. The victim with the broken chest wouldn't have lived much longer than that. There are at least 8 pairs of tracks (possibly 9) leading from the tent down the slope. That means that all of them have been able to at least leave the tent in good health. If an avalanche happened, it couldn't only do so to the four people with injuries, and much later than the escape from the tent (as Skeptoid suggests). However, there were a large number of very experienced hikers and climbers involved in the search, not to mention the indigenous Mansi people, and all of them were positive on the fact that an avalanche was not an option (the way the tent and bodies were covered in snow precluded it). The main mystery though is why exactly did the guys leave the tent in a hurry. The danger must have been very real (to them) for them to not bother to even dress properly. There's a theory that there might have been infrasound involved (as frequently happens on those heights due to rock form and the winds) and it can cause panic and delusion given certain conditions. We will never know for certain though.

Saldas, Helsinki, Finland
March 17, 2010 5:51pm

Did you ask any morticians (sp) what they would do for bodies found in those conditions? Since you postulate the mortician could have caused the orange skin and grey hair. Interesting mystery. Your article is the best of the three I have read so far.

David, Denver
March 21, 2010 10:32am

Has anyone ever thought of the Mayak nuclear waste storage explosion in relation to this drama? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyshtym_Disaster)

Mayak was two years earlier and some hundred Km to the south. The radioactive cloud moved to the north.

So, there could easily have been pockets of radiation in the soil which ended up in the clothing of the victims. And of course, it would be a reasonable explanation for why the pass was closed off for three years - the Mayak desaster was suppressed by censorship.

Johannes, Berlin
April 1, 2010 9:53am

I too agree the avalanche theory has little weight, it couldn't have been an avalanche, for all the reasons already well mentioned.
Interesting point on how the fire was lit once they left the campsite in only their underwear, that would surely not have been a simple task and what ignition source was used?

Have not yet heard a single plausible explanation for what happened.

So if there was no avalanche they must have perceived a threat to their lives, were they running when they left camp? Surely photographs of the footprints found would reveal this?

Josh, Brisbane
April 20, 2010 6:01am

From the various sources I have looked into, an avalanche was originally considered by the searchers and investigators, but was quickly ruled out. Multiple footprints of the victims were discovered. If an avalanche had occurred, it would have destroyed the footprints. Also, there wasn't any evidence of snow displacement (in terms of an avalanche).

Another problem is that the 1st 5 victims went a significant distance away from the tent, and stayed away. Common sense would dictate that after realizing there was no danger from the sound heard (as stated in the article), they would have promptly returned to the tent. 3 attempted to. Why didn't the other 2? They were sane and oriented enough to build a fire, so they had the mental capacity available to decide to return to the tent. Also, the 4 victims found later were wearing pieces of clothing taken from the previous 5, presumably after the other 5's deaths.

Another interesting note: near the 2 victims found near the pine tree, a piece of paper stating "We know now that snowmen exist," was discovered. What was that about?

Lastly, if it was a simple, explainable accident or natural disaster, why did the Russian government keep the incident classified until 1990 and close the area for 3 years? Why were pertinent chunks of information missing when the file was finally released. The file refers to a mysterious 'envelope' containing vital information. What happened to it? Something sounds off.

Amber, New Mexico
May 17, 2010 11:06pm

Single dead seems analytical and subjective but they were all dead within a few meters and the remaining who were unresponsive to loud noise met the similar tragic dead.
Totally incoherent.

MERVIN, New Delhi
June 25, 2010 1:07pm

Honestly, an avalanche seems plausible in terms of the physical state of the hikers themselves. It is even possible that they were so panicked that they cut open their tent instead of just opening it. However, I simply find it hard to believe that the investigators wouldn't have determined an avalanche based on environmental evidence. And that would certainly raise less suspicion than the reaction of the actual investigators.

Irene, Boston
July 9, 2010 4:27pm

I just listened to this episode this morning. I am an avid Skeptoid fan and don't remember ever listening to this story from 2008.
The comments were all posted after April 2010, with the latest less than a week ago.
Could the overlords who originally classified the investigation of the incident managed to suppress this Skeptoid issue for almost 2 years?
<tic> ;)
Although the avalanche theory is plausible, the information about nuclear storage accident would explain the curious actions of the Soviet authorities. Maybe it's better to let sleeping dogs lie. This could be used as anti-nuke propaganda, along with Chernobyl.

laura, So. Calif.
July 13, 2010 10:16am

Thanks to Theophage on youtube for sending this link to me abut the incident after I told him I was stumped (almost!)about this incident as it makes little sense.

I have an open mind about things and am a religious person and not a skeptic but I find this site very informative and interesting.

I first read about the dyatlov pass incident here on Cryptomundo:

http://www.cryptomundo.com/cryptozoo-news/ural-mystery/

And then Wikipedia a long while later.

I still don't know what to make of it.

This is rather interesting Amber that you mentioned the note, I had no idea it existed!!

"Another interesting note: near the 2 victims found near the pine tree, a piece of paper stating "We know now that snowmen exist," was discovered. What was that about?"

Thanks for the info guys (Brian, Theo, Amber, etc) and all your theories and opinion's and research on the matter as well.

Also I myself find this case rather strange and odd. I do agree an avalanche could have been responsible. But it just seems to easy an explaination. Something bad happened to those people on that mountain. But what?

The truth is out there somewhere....0o

Robert Kiehn, Alsip, IL USA
July 14, 2010 8:39am

i have actually been near that place in 1997 with 14 other people , and observed strange behavior in people during night camp watch, people were talking in their sleep and one was sleepwalking.. nothing bad happened tho .o) , but that was in august, and later it was explained to me that these incidents were most probably caused by airborne psychoactive alcaloids produced by some plants growing near the camp, so i guess that cannot explain what happened to these poor people ...

tseno, bulgaria
July 20, 2010 11:26am

Well, I am all for a skeptical approach if if doesn't have to create a very, very detailed story to cover all the facts. I think you've missed the boat on this one, sorry. The radiation angle, for instance: what about all the other campsites in the world every year?
Convenient avalanches and things that sound like avalanches to experienced skiers? C'mon, this explanation is quite weak!

Benjamin Touzinsky, Des Moines, IA
September 7, 2010 12:25am

Cracked.com had an article where they talked about this one. It was part of a list of misteries with obvious answers

Their take on it was;

"The big fact that gets lost in the re-telling of this story is that the bodies weren't found until weeks later. It's not like somebody turned their back, then five minutes later all their friends were dead and half naked.

That makes the missing tongue a lot easier to explain. As disturbing as it may be, the first thing a scavenging animal is going to go for is probably the soft tissue of an open mouth, especially if it still smelled like the burrito the hiker just ate. Laying out in the sun surrounded by white snow for days also accounts for the weird tan.

The trauma and the destroyed tent points to an avalanche. Their state of undress can be explained by paradoxical undressing, a known behavior of hypothermia victims when their brains start to freeze and malfunction. In other words, it's the kind of behavior you'd expect from a group of injured avalanche victims wandering around in the middle of the night in the freezing cold.

What about the radioactivity? Or stranger details that turn up in some accounts, like orange lights in the sky? Well, there's the fact that none of that stuff turns up in the original documents from the incident, and appears to have been added later by people who just can't resist making things spookier than they are."

Jonath, Omnipresent
September 27, 2010 6:06pm

The problem with this case is that any version has some inconsistency with the whole picture, reflected in tourist diaries, resque reports and investigation profile. There are already thousands of forum trends in Russia, dedicated to it, but still no one can present straight theory as to what had really happened. You have so far mentioned about 10% of the facts, and seriously corrupted some of them. There is no way to find the truth with such poor background.

max novokshonov, Satka, Urals, Russia
October 20, 2010 3:59am

This is an idea that requires support or dismissal

raised carbon dioxide from breathing in an enclosed space and or carbon monoxide levels from use of a heater/lamp in the tent causing raised anxiety, panic, impaired judgement, possible hallucinations etc

it is not common but
campers do die in tents from using heaters inside without proper ventiation causing raised CO

If this was happening possibly a team member recognised the problem cut the tent from inside unable to undo toggles as his fingers were paralysed from CO poisoning (it causes paralysis of extremities).

This precipitates a panicked evacuation from the tent some of the team poorly clad(it may have been warm enough in the tent for some to be partially dressed), heading for low ground makes sense as the air is less rarified, but it needs bearing in mind that all the teams judgements and ability to think clearly and rationally would be impaired possibly severely so by raised CO and or CO2 in the bloodstream.
From here an escalating sequence of events cause the deaths from exposure and accident of the whole team. When rationality returned it was too late ie trying to return to the tent and getting a fire going.
In the wild a relatively minor thing going wrong can lead rapidly to tragedy
Pardon the mundanity of the explanation but it is rational and reasonable

richard stone, south wales uk
October 20, 2010 7:33am

Typical hypothermia. I have had it and as your brain starts to slow down, you start to do unexplainable things. I stood on top of a mountain in 9 degree weather with 40 mph winds and just stared off into space until my slow brain finally said "ummm, might want to skip off for a bit," to which I was finally able to slowly descend. My speech became slurred to unrecognizable and my tongue and fingers stopped working entirely. Not fun but at the time, I do not remember being particularly cold, just really really slow in everything and dazed like I was on painkillers.

Matt W, Greenville, SC
October 29, 2010 1:49pm

I too have experienced hypothermia and I became resistive to assistance, and irrational etc and as well described by yourself a sort of drugged feeling, (foolishly being ill prepared for a weather change prior to hill walking ). I thoroughly agree that the main cause of death of the partially clad skiiers was hypothermia, I am seeking a possible explanation for the cutting open and abandonment of the tent initially.
There were a lot of people in that tent, raised carbon dioxide I believe is a distinct possibility but I do not know if they also had a heater which may have been generating CO as well.

richard stone, south wales uk
November 3, 2010 3:14am

http://murders.ru/Dyatloff_group_1.html
This is very interesting version. If you have Russian-speaking friends they could help you to translate. It explains almost everything
The essence is: all skiers were killed by US saboteurs, because some of them were involved in KGB operation, covered with hike.
It is really well-grounded and reasonable.

Dmitry, Moscow
December 10, 2010 1:54pm

When I caught hypothermia it was brought on by panic, I remember feeling away with the fairies and what I can only describe as hot and cold at the same time – I would lie there with covers over me one minute then bare the next. What happened at Dyatlov seems to be a more extreme example of this owing to the weather conditions. The obvious panic may have been brought on by the unease of the unfamiliar territory and the understood possibility of avanlanches – one thing that gets overlooked about this group being experienced hikers is that they were still young adults.

Kristof, Manchester
January 11, 2011 2:32am

Why this is considered a mystery is a mystery, pardon the pun. 9 people are in the middle of nowhere, it's pitch black in sub-zero temperatures. Something spooks them. My money is on an avalanche. Even a minor one could have created enough panic for everyone to bail out of the tent a.s.a.p. thinking that a larger avalanche was looming. they reach the tree line and are now isolated, freezing, and virtually blind in the dark. Someone climbs a tree to get a better view and falls, fracturing his skull. the others realize he is hurt and decide they have to get back to camp to retrieve first aid. they never make it. the remaining living skiers then retreat into the woods seeking shelter in the pitch dark and simply tumble into a ravine nearly 20 feet deep. One strikes his head on a rock producing a major skull fracture, and the others break multiple ribs from the impact of the fall. The sole uninjured party likely landed on the others cushioning his own impact, sparing his ribs. Then it's simply a matter of drifting off into unconsciousness and death. Nothing strange about it at all. Sad and tragic yes but it's simply a matter of frightened human beings running from the rumble of a perceived avalanche, then succumbing to the elements. Nature always wins. This is another example. No aliens, no orbs, no roving marauders, just a dark, cold, hostile, unforgiving mountainside.

Tim, Chicago
January 23, 2011 10:12pm

There was no soft tissue damage from the injuries sustained. How do you hit your bare head on a rock without getting your skin cut or even bruised?

Timo, Bratislava
January 24, 2011 3:31am

Keep in mind that the coroner's report (assuming it is genuine) states that the injury was consistent with striking a rock from a distance of at least 10 feet. It's entirely possible that he was wearing a hat soft enough to prevent cutting but still enough velocity to create the fracture. It's not impossible. And unless it's genuinely impossible, we have to assume the scientific explanations before we believe little green men zapped his head with a laser beam.

Tim, Chicago
January 25, 2011 9:08am

http://murders.ru/Dyatloff_group_1.html

Its true (in russian only)

Winged Doom, Omsk
February 2, 2011 9:48am

Most of it does seem like an unfortunate accident, nothing sinister or out of this world. Question, though... one of the reports I read said there was no sign of an avalanche; the snow was not unstable, there was no environmental damage (fallen trees, debris etc) to suggest an avalanche occurred. The photos seem to provide proof of that. I'm not denying hypothermia could have been the cause of their strange behavior/dress, but they did find some of the bodies not long after the incident, and seemed pretty certain there had been no avalanche.

Kay, Pittsburgh
February 19, 2011 11:54am

HAHAHAHAHA what is this, one who wrote this article was really funny.. what a way to interpret what really happened.

ROFL hahahahahahah loooooolll..

loool, roflmao
February 20, 2011 10:28am

Best explanation I've read so far. Most people try to make it seem sinister and pretend they actually believe the govt or aliens were responsible when it probably was just a misunderstanding. Your theory covers everything in a credible way.

Thundergod, Guayaquil
March 7, 2011 8:20am

I'm not sure if this has been mentioned in other comments, but the description of the case in this episode made me immediately think of the phenomenon of "paradoxical undressing", which is a common symptom of hypothermia where people discard their clothing, increasing the rate of heat loss.

See https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Paradoxical_undressing#Paradoxical_undressing for further details.

This doesn't explain why some people were wearing the clothes of others, though it goes some way to suggesting why people found dead in the snow might be found in just their underwear.

James, Bristol, UK
March 9, 2011 3:26am

I've seen it suggested that the terrified response of the group may have been to a low frequency sound - such sounds cause people to hallucinate ghostly phenomena, which would be pretty creepy on a mountain called "Mountain of Death".

Zee, Saint Paul, MN
March 27, 2011 12:42pm

One question - where's the BLOOD? The doctors said the injuries caused were so severe that no human force could've done it. If an avalanche did so, how does it explain the missing tongue? And why were no soft tissues damaged?

Aastha, India
March 29, 2011 9:00pm

i find several of your theories implausible. first the reports don't talk about radiation on the clothes they talk of a lethal dose, which is obviously more than would be contained in a product manufactured into the 90s. second those found with traumatic injuries had pulped bone razored organs, missing tongue, but not of them had any soft tissue damage that wasn't caused by the fragments of bone. What can pulp a bone without bruising skin? thirdly considering that separate and almost simultaneously taken accounts from those who saw "UFOs" corresponded, which begs the question how do a group of hikers fifty miles southwest and a group of city folk almost a hundred miles south-southeast saw the same hovering ball of orange light? assuming that it were atmpospheric it probably would not have lingered for several hours, if it were nuclear it would have been visible from much farther away and would have been white not orange. there are many places which thinking doesn't seem sufficient in this case. i like it.

calden, albq
April 18, 2011 7:48am

I'm sure there is a perfectly rational explanation, and I agree that the UFO reports are so common that they can easily be ignored.

But your avalanche theory just doesn't hold water for me. I've been through avalanche training, and the commonly used figure is avy terrain is 30° and up. Even if this terrain was at risk, statistically only 25% of avy victims die from trauma. The rest usually die of suffocation within an hour. So for everyone who was hit by the avalanche to die from trauma seems a bit surprising.

Really, for a group of eight experienced backcountry skiers to all die within about a 1km radius in such a strange fashion seems to be unusual at the least. Even everest expeditions rarely lose entire groups like that, except when an entire rope-team gets dragged into a crevasse.

I doubt we'll ever know what really happened, but it is an interesting mystery. http://www.aquiziam.com/dyatlov_pass_1.html does have a good summary of the facts, which helps to put the timeline in order. Once the timeline is in order, it actually all seems a lot less mysterious, other than the initial trigger that caused them to cut their way out of the tent.

Kito, SF
April 29, 2011 9:53am

Some additional facts.

1) Though the Dyatlov's group is often qualified as "experienced" (and they could consider themselves so), in fact, tourism in USSR in the end 50's-beginning 60's was largely amateurish. Death toll was relatively high, peaking with more than 200 deaths in 1961 (which led to consecutive regularization of tourism in USSR).

2) Though we have photos of the tent, it is not documented, whether it was its actual state upon recovery or did the rescue team straightened it up for recovery of group's belongins.

3) There was a rocket launch on February, 17, sighted by many as UFO. It was successfull, the LV used kerosene-LOX fuel. At the time, there were not any rocket in production or testing with UDMH as fuel.

4) Basing on the surviving diaries, crisis of the leadership can not be ruled out (see constant pranks by Dyatlov towards girls, strong personality of Kolevatov, the only one from the third group without injuries, mistery about Zolotaryov - most aged and veteuran of WWII).

5) Several meters from the place the remaing four were found, there were traces of snow burrow and sort of platform.

5) Most of journalists are deliberately shortening Dubinina descruption as "with tongue teared off", though she in fact was missing most of body tissues around her mouth as well as her eyes. She was found laying with face down in the stream. It was stated by the resquers, that she was "frozen in" at her body could be recovered only with ice picks

Demetrios B., Moscow
May 10, 2011 8:07am

Ref: the Dyatlov Pass incident, Surely the most likely explanation is an attack by a bear somehow disturbed from its hibernation.
An avalanche is not a likely explanation, pictures of the tent show only a light dusting of snow.
The attack is not likely to be from a human source, the group built a fire near a pine tree where they sheltered. this would have attracted the attention of human attackers.
There is no evidence to support any threat from UFO's, a Yeti or Russian military activities.
Two bodies showed slight traces of radioactivity, there were no abnormal body or hair discolourations. The girl's tongue was missing due to natural causes.
I suggest a likely scenario is thus:
Something large and dangerous tried to gain entry to the tent (this could only be a bear). The group cut their way from the tent away from the animal, separated and ran their own ways to confuse the animal. They then reconvened under a tree large enough to climb if necessary and lit a fire to keep warm and deter the bear.One of more climbed the tree to check if the camp site was clear and eventually three of them made an attempt to return to the tent.They were two weak and cold to make it. Two more members of the group died under the tree from hypothermia.The remaining four decided their safest option was to move further into the wooded area, they died from hypothermia and injuries sustained during a fall. The lack of paw-marks around the tent can be explained by snow fall or drift.

john cotter, london
May 17, 2011 5:13am

I thought of a possible scenario: Could there have been a fight in the tent? Who knows why. But personalities can clash, people get angry, etc. Could someone have made unwanted sexual advances on one of the women? But let's say hypothetically a fight breaks out in the tent. Someone produces a knife and the cutting/slashing starts. During the fight, blows are exchanged, maybe a pot, pan, lantern is used to crack someone over the head producing a skull fracture, everyone flees the tent/fight and that's why we see only 8 sets of footprints. Maybe they were fleeing from the 9th set belonging to whomever went nuts in the tent. Eventually the fact that everyone is freezing, half dressed takes precedent over the fight and a fire is built, someone climbs the tree to see if it's over and they all freeze to death by simply being outside too long. Any thoughts?

Tim B, Chicago
May 19, 2011 12:09am

I usually agree with the explanations or at the very least see them as plausible scenarios. However in this case you make major leaps in logic that make the UFO possibility almost seem as likely (almost). Wouldn't the five bursting out of the tent realize before running an extended distance in their skivvies that their was no avalanche? And why wouldn't the four who didn't run also wake up with all that noise either from the jet passing by or five very scared individuals running screaming from the tent (I would assume yelling--I know I would be).

I actually think the bear or fight scenarios presented through the comments actually seem more realistic than your double (one fake-one real) avalanche theory.

Keep'm coming loved the one on organic farming.

B Hunt, NYC
June 8, 2011 11:29am

viewed a russian homepage under the help of translating machine,it introduces a very interesting explanation that some sort of subsonic effect created by local geographics resulted in extreme panic and fear that caused all this.at least it's practical comparing to UFO

sarahreese, NY
July 4, 2011 8:39am

There was a very informative website I found that did not in any way try to play into the hype of possible UFOs or other strange happenings, and actually had some very good points and facts. They even claim that people that were actually involved in the event (such as the search) have helped to supply them their info. Its link is

http://www.aquiziam.com/dyatlov_pass_2.html

Enjoy :)

Ashley Myers, Casa Grande, AZ
July 5, 2011 10:40am

I believe that the bear idea could have been the answer as the tents were fled in a hurry, obviously the group feared for their lives, as they left without any suitable protection against the harsh enviroment outside the tent. Also the injuries that many of the group gained were inflicted by a powerful force, that of which a human could not inflict, therefore the most plausable explanation would be a large animal of some kind, such as a bear.

The 3 members of the group that attempted to return to the tent also may back up this explanation, as one was found holding a branch of a tree, and shielding his head, as if trying to defend against something, and the one nearest the camp was found to have blood near her. However the blood has been found not to match hers, therefore i believe that the attacker (bear) may have been injured while the group member tried to defend themself.

Furthermore, back at the forest, the trees were found to have skin and other tissues on them, showig that the group may heave tried to climb the trees, resulting in their hands becoming raw. I think that they may have been trying to escape something, possibly the said bear.

The memebers found in the ravine may have simply fallen there and been unable to escape, whilst trying to run from the attacking bear. This is where they will have recieved the other injuries, and died. The missing tounge i belive was taken by another creature (a fox?) after the person was dead. The main cause of death was ....

Ethan Castles, uk
July 6, 2011 8:32am

To be the devil's advocate, I would point out some problems with the panic+avalanche theory:
1) From the pictures, this was not avalanche terrain.

2)Even if it was possible for them to be scared of such, running 2km through the snow takes far more time than what you need to realize there are no avalanche. These things are fast.

3)If the properly dressed non-panicked people had been killed by a real avalanche, this would have been very evident as they were found between trees. Again, avalanches big enough to kill are anything but subtle.

If the USSR government had been able and willing to invent bogus, they would have gone for something plausible and non-mysterious. But with too many eye witnesses they could not. People talk even in the USSR.

Neither the hikers nor the investigators were probably not idiots, but knew the area. They knew what tracks avalanches and scavengers make, and would have thought of "falling" as a cause for injuries if the bodies had been found close to heights from which their injuries had been possible.

I am Norwegian biologist who have been in Russia, and base my assumptions on personal experiences of snow, avalanches, skiing, hiking and Russians.

Conclusion: I have no idea what happened, but none of the explanations above fit the data.

Kyrre Kaurud, Santa Cruz, CA
August 3, 2011 12:26am

The website aquiziam, mentioned by previous contributors, gives a detailed account of the probable timeline of events in this incident. It also dispels a lot of the myths and falsehoods that have accumulated and is essential reading for anybody who wants to comment on the Dyatlov pass incident. The only mystery is why 9 experienced cross-country skiers fled their tent in the middle of the night with full knowledge of the consequences. My previous contribution gave an explanation as to why the most likely reason was a bear attack. A fight in the tent is a very plausible explanation, however in this case one or more of the skiers would have survived. The originators of the trouble would have returned to the tent rather than freeze to death. The official timeline also indicates that the 9 came together at a pine tree and worked as a team. The main problem with a bear attack is the lack of evidence at the camp site. However pictures of the recent polar bear attack on a group of British school children in Norway demonstrate that a bear can enter a tent and attack people but leave no discernible damage to the tent. Photos of the Dyatlov tent site show a collapsed tent covered with a light dusting of fresh or wind blown snow.The rescuers did not reach the site until nearly a month later and any tracks of animal activity would have been covered.The trail of footprints leading from the tent is the anomaly and can be explained by freak wind conditions(see discussion in aqizium)

J cotter, london
August 9, 2011 9:31am

There is another theory with foreign intelligence involved. According to this version, part of the Dyatlov's crew were working in the Chelybinsk-40 top secret facility. They planned to meet with another group of tourists who were in fact CIA agents and give them some radioactive samples. Something went wrong, probably one of members who was unaware ща true purpose of this expedition noticed slight accent or tried to make a photo. Another group took their clothes and left them to die. This explains intervention of the KGB in this investigation.

S, Location Unknown
August 11, 2011 5:01am

The group with the exception of the elder member, Alexander Zolotarev, were students at the Ural Polytechnic Institute. The oldest member was training for professional qualifications as a master ski instructor. It is possible that,if he intended working with foreign tourists, he may have been a KGB agent. There is no evidence however that any of the group were foreign spies or belonged to the KGB.
The trace of radioactivity found on some of the bodies was very slight and its' presence has been explained. It seems rather unnecessary to carry radioactive materials into the wilderness when they could surely have been exchanged in a more convenient place.
To solve mysteries of this nature it is essential to apply the principle of "Occams razor" and look for the simplest and most logical explanation.
The major problem trying to explain this incident is the unavailability of original documents and the lack of decent photographs to examine.
The website www.aquiziam.com mentioned by other contributors is essential reading for anybody who wants to discuss this incident. The questions and answers section is particularly helpful

J cotter, london
August 11, 2011 9:35am

Rustem Slobodin and George Krivonischenko used to work in the Chelyabinsk-40 facility. They were ex-students.

S, Location Unknown
August 15, 2011 6:17am

Kyrre, I can't argue with any expertise you claim, but what if the initial rumbling was an avalanche? The four better-dressed people who were found at the bottom of the ravine had tried to get on some better clothes before following their group members but were caught in the avalanche. The people who escaped assumed the camp had been caught in the avalanche as well and stayed out for the night. After surviving a night, the three left made a decision to head back to the camp site in the hopes that perhaps the camp had not been obliterated by the avalanche as they thought. They never made it.

If the avalanche had passed between the campsite and the woods that the skiers had fled into, it would also explain why the trail of tracks ended suddenly. However, it does not explain the behavior of the four better-dressed skiers; I'd think that if they thought an avalanche was heading toward them, they would think of surviving the initial avalanche first, and clothing themselves second. Then again, I have no expertise on this matter and only conclude what I do from my pokings around the internet, which isn't very reliable in the first place.

L, U.S.
August 21, 2011 9:01pm

So if it was the result of the skiers freaking out over and avalanche, why have the authorities stated the cause of death as a 'compelling unknown force'? Also why did the russian authorities only release the documents 40 years after the fact with parts redacted or missing?

mick, melbourne
September 1, 2011 6:56am

if there had been an avalanche, wouldn't the campsite have been demolished? from what i've read, the tents were intact.

andrew, florida
September 2, 2011 10:21am

All of the skiers died from hypothermia, correct? Had the culprit been an avalanche, the cause of death would have been either trauma or asphyxiation. And there were no external injuries whatsoever.

People who suggest an avalanche don't seem to understand how snow slides work. You don't know that they are coming, you don't have time to see them coming and make decisions. Avalanches don't "bear down" on you to use your words. One minute you are standing there and nothings wrong, then 2 seconds later you are buried.

As a skier involved with avalanche education and first-hand rescues it seems impossible that avalanches had anything to do with this scenario.

Cassandra, San Francisco
September 8, 2011 10:59am

I just can't buy the avalanche theory, when the facts are that some got dressed and others ran off. No external trauma just doesn't fit the avalanche, limbs get twisted under heavy weight. And the missing tongue is hard to explain, avalanche or not. It is an interesting theory, but just leaves to many open ends. Truth is we will probably never know. But I hope I'm proved wrong.

Rob, Lehigh Valley, PA
September 21, 2011 11:14am

they had crushed ribs with intense radiation and early signs of aging..how do we explain that?

jess, nc
September 28, 2011 6:22pm

Your avalanche theory makes simple sense. But I'm skeptical about your skepticism. Honestly, if I were an alien or supernatural force and I didn't want to expose my existence which was being threatened, assuming I'm probably highly intelligent beyond human standards, I would pick a time and place to make it look like a simple accident too. Because even if they don't look like avalanche victims, I the Alien, know that people are still going to go with whatever explanation makes the most human rational sense. But I still think an avalanche is plausible, I just think it's creepy that they ripped through their tent from the inside out. Who knows, maybe the Russians blasted them with something and blamed it on ET's. The only people who know are dead.

Kate, Vancouver,WA
September 29, 2011 1:13pm

That is a GREAT explanation of what happened

Demian, WV
September 29, 2011 6:33pm

The pictures I saw showed the tent with snow all around, so where does the spring thaw come in to play. Wouldn't the avalanche have covered things, and why would the government cover up an accident, and then censor what people wrote about the accident?

Phillip, TN
September 30, 2011 1:55am

Uhm. The bodies weren't discovered in a Spring thaw. A rescue party was sent out shortly when they did not report back to friends/family/colleagues per the set time they were suppose to. Which I was believe a few days after they reached their next base camp.

FAIL. Try again.

John, Wineabogo, CA
September 30, 2011 3:37pm

I have read a few things here, and at aquiziam and saw the Ancient Aliens episode the other night.

Here is what I'm thinking,

Did someone "Spike the punch" so to write. Did they have any drugs in their systems? or find any evidence at the campsite?

A bear attack would leave some NASTY visible marks on skin. If they had any food in or around the tent, the bear would have made a mess getting it.

If a scavenger came once, it and a possible many others would have come back for more.

Advanced signs of aging? I would like to know more about this.

I consider myself to be a skeptic, but reading about this incident really creeps me out. Something really strange happened out there. I don't buy any of these theories. None of them make any sense, unless these people were really stupid (and we know they were not) or they were drugged.

Let's just go the UFO route for a second. Obviously anything would be possible, but why would it play out like this? This one has me stumped, I will keep researching this story.

I do believe there is more documentation out there and we are not being told all the facts. Someone needs to step up, these victims need closure.

Karl, Ohio, USA
October 1, 2011 1:20am

No question -- this incident is creepy.

My theory: something extra-terrestrial, or otherwordly, visited their campsite during the night -- perhaps the "orange spheres," or whatever they were. The hikers became aware of this visitation as they slept, and it drove them wild with terror. They slashed through their tent and fled through the snow, desperate to get away from the site. When they reached the treeline they halted, out of breath and already half-frozen.

And they were terrified enough that they stayed there for HOURS, barely clothed, in freezing temperatures, rather than go back to their camp.

Think about that.

What could have created that kind of terror?

The victims who suffered the massive internal injuries obviously must have incurred those injuries on or very near the spot where they were found: they never could have walked more than a few feet with that kind of damage.

I've seen no plausible explanation to explain this aspect of the case. I don't buy the avalanche theory, simply because there was no
evidence of an avalanche: the tents were not swept away or buried in snow, as one might expect; likewise, the treeline apparently didn't suffer the sort of damage one would expect from an avalanche.

This case is a true mystery, and probably cannot be solved unless we open our minds a bit.

Scott, Michigan
October 6, 2011 6:12pm

That whole area was used for dumping radioactive waste between 1948-1990 and in 1957, just 2 yrs before the incident, an accident expelled 20 million curies of radioactive material into the area. Some possible effects of radiation exposure are disorientation, fever, nausea, increased skin pigmentation, loss of hair pigment and death. The wrinkled skin could be caused by several types of exposure. The missing parts could easily be attributed to animals. So you take a bunch of ppl being effected by radiation poisoning and you have them stumbling around in the snow, it's not too far a stretch to think they might take a tumble. =/

Wixx, Ca
October 12, 2011 6:17pm

One more version:
http://www.murders.ru/Dyatloff_group_1.html (russian language)

Igor, Moscow
October 14, 2011 1:43pm

John on September 30th,

The bodies of the first five were found by the initial search parties. The four with actual injuries were found that spring after having been under four meters of snow.

Cybrludite, New Orleans, La.
October 19, 2011 10:24pm

Several more important facts seem to have come to the surface since the original post was written. The avalanche explanation absolutely does not hold up with the total "facts" of the report. Also the map on the link by Igor is very helpful. Although I don't read cyrilic, I can make out the campsite as 1, the tree and fire as 2, the four severely damaged and irradiated bodies found in the ravine at 3, and I'm guessing the three companions who attempted to return to camp at 4, although they died at various distances, so perhaps 4 is the spot where the closest person died. I did subsequent searches on the internet, which can never be verified of their authenticity, nonetheless, if I take the information at face value, I would mention to readers that the autopsies indicated that their last meal was eaten 6 to 8 hours before their death. The information was not specific to whose death, but I assume this was true of all of them. So all of them died that night. They set camp at 5 pm, which would have been dark for that time of year in russia. They probably ate at or near the same time, 5pm. Therefore they died at or near midnight to 3 AM, "the witching hours". Scott made a very good point. Something absolutely horrifying made them cut the tent and flee, forgetting clothing, tools, or food. The orange UFOs have become the occams razor of this case, they are essential. If you look at the terrain, they fled far, but it would not have been fast. Their terror lingered. Not an avalanche!

Sean Glass, Chicago
October 20, 2011 10:02am

While I too am skeptical of outrageous claims, from what I've read there was no avalanche. However, something terrified those people into running for their lives. They felt like they had to tear open the tent and ran out under dressed. What could have caused this? Is it possible a large animal such as a bear?

Velvet Cyberpunk, Denver, CO.
October 20, 2011 5:20pm

I just find it kinda strange also how when looking Dyatlov pass up on Google maps all around the actual pass the images where so crystal clear that i could almost make out singular trees. Yet in 2 km of the pass on the east in west sides the picture is very blurry and you can't make much out and north and south the blurry images go for only about 10 or kilometers then go clear again. I'm not sure what that means if anything but it seems like quite the coincidence. Also if an avalanche ripped through there campsite a lot of stuff should have been completely destroyed and most of the time you die from suffocation in an avalanche and not the actual crushing power from the snow.

Josh, edmonton ab
October 25, 2011 9:18pm

please. "avalanches"???

if you look at pic's of the scene when rescuers got there, you will clearly be able to see the bottom of the tent resting on the top of the snow.

also, the skiers footprints were still in the snow.

dream up "avalanches" all you want, there certainly were none.

Larry Fitzgerald, Beverly MA USA
November 8, 2011 9:00am

No one is claiming an avalanche actually did occur where the tent was.

It is theorized that the 4 people who left the tent fully clothed were killed by an avalanche at the place where their bodies were found, a long way from the tent.

Bill, Mt Clemens, Michigan
November 15, 2011 4:58am

This theory is bullshit. Every single one of them were experienced in going on hikes like this in the past. There is no way in hell that they would rip out of a tent with no clothes on because they "thought they heard an avalanche."

And then one of then "falls and hits his head on a rock"? Does that explain how their eyeballs were removed?

I guess you're right, the Russian government I guess just think about that one DUH! a ROCK.

Some people just can't handle the fact that somethings can't be explained.

Kyle, Austin, Texas
November 16, 2011 10:58am

bullshit, propaganda. nothing happened

Miroslav Jovejevic, Sthlm
December 22, 2011 3:49am

Everything can be explained Kyle. It's just that when there are no survivors, you're dealing with technology from the 50's, and the Soviet Union was notorious for secrecy back then, we'll probably never get the truth even though it's not as mysterious as some would like to believe. The eyeballs missing aren't even suspicious at all. Animals love human remains and will often remove tongues and eyes. And if you don't think that falling backwards with full force and hitting your head on a rock won't cause a skull fracture, I suggest you try it. I talked to a friend at the medical examiner's office who says that fracturing your skull is actually very easy to do and takes less force than one might think. So can we actually explain what happened? No, I give you that. But is there an explanation? Of course there is. But time and technology won't allow it.

Tim, Chicago, Il
December 22, 2011 6:49am

Hi Tim..I just wanna say that if a certain animal ate the tongue and the eyeballs of some of the victims then there must be an external wound.But according to the report there are no external wound found.

Brian Shuck, Richmond, VA USA
December 31, 2011 9:40pm

This seems like an extremely plausible theory to me. The one missing piece of the puzzle, however, is the lack of soft-tissue injury noted. Could post-mortem examiners have been confused when reporting the lack of soft-tissue injury in those with massive internal chest injuries?

Sonje, Baltimore, MD
January 3, 2012 9:30pm

"And who knows what hair would have looked like after all that exposure..."
-Brian Dunning

A scientist would probably know. A biologist, archaeologist, mortician, coroner, forensics expert....a cosmetologist might even be able to tell you. That's who knows.

mike, detroit
January 4, 2012 10:52am

Very astute correction. Thanks!

Brian Dunning, Laguna Niguel, CA
January 4, 2012 1:10pm

This incident was caused by UFOs. Im 100% sure. This case is just like cattle mutilations in the states. Read about it. In both cases there missing tongues, raditation , orange lights/UFOs , and crushed bones. No other explaination fits the facts : not an avalanche, military test , nor a murderous mansi tribe. The lead investigator said the orange spheres were responsible and he is right.

Olson, sequim wa.
January 6, 2012 9:05pm

I wanted to add sometihng that I heard,and read about.The people and the journalists that attended at the funeral had noticed that the funeral was not a open casket funeral,and the coffin was made out of Zinc.That's all I wanted to add and I,even as a,UFO believer consider your theory very plausible.

Maiorescu Titu, Bucharest Romania
January 8, 2012 10:03am

Thoughtful and well-written theory, but not plausible to me, although I haven't a better one. Your explanation assumes that the Russian investigators were simply stupid and simple-minded.
As many have said, evidence of an avalanche would've been easily detected. Closing off the area for three years because of an avalanche?
What about the "massive internal injuries equivalent to being hit by a speeding car,(from another article)" yet no outward signs of trauma? Biting off one's tongue would mean biting off two or three inches of tongue at the most...VERY different from having "no tongue." Biting her tongue off is not a "perfectly plausible" explanation for this mystery.
Is there a "natural" explanation for everyone's hair turning grey? Does someone here know?
The Discovery Channel documentary claimed that the first lead investigator was sacked, ostensibly because he was overly-inquisitive, and that the bodies were buried in zinc-lined coffins.

Jeff Hanna, San Diego
January 9, 2012 6:35pm

Although this story remains mysterious, some facts do have a simple and logical explanation. For example:

"Some people think UFOs are responsible for the deaths, citing the reports from other skiers in the region who saw the orange spheres in the night sky in the direction of the Dyatlov party."

The "orange spheres" were, probably, traces of first test missile launches, which were conducted in various West Siberian test ranges.

Inversion trace of missiles can be seen in athmosphere, especially high in Ural mountains, where air is very clear. This missile tests are certainly unrelated to accident. (BTW, several days before and after 1-2 Feb 1959, there were no tests at all!)

trilirium@yandex.ru, MSK.RU
January 14, 2012 9:56pm

it is astupid theory man.

max, england
January 16, 2012 5:17pm

Hey guys. Responding to some of the comments I received consider the following: They determined that the loss of tongue was actually the natural process of flora/fauna activity. And if you haven't been fortunate enough to see the graphic photos of the discovery of the corpses, it could certainly go a long way towards understanding why the bodies were in such poor condition. Frozen, face down in Spring coldwater runoff. It's amazing there was any soft tissue left at all. We also have to keep in mind that very strange things happen to the human body. While one corpse may completely decompose, the one next to it remains in pristine condition. When they exhumed civil rights leader Medgar Evars body decades after death, it looked as if he had just died the day before. It CAN happen. Also, again I stress that we are dealing with forensics from the 50s NOt current day technology. Of course the bodies were discolored and orange. They were left outside exposed to a brutal Russian Winter! I'm not saying any one explanation is definite. I'm simply saying that while not common, or probable, there is a RATIONAL explanation for what happened. When people are outside, half dressed in sub-zero cold, they DIE! No mystery there.

Tim, Chicago
January 17, 2012 6:51am

Brian, I do think that would be a plausible explanation for what happened. I just have to wonder why so much of the case was kept secret? You wrote, "Journalists attempting to give more information found their books and articles censored. Independent investigators found official records to be missing or classified." Why were they missing or classified? I'm not saying that it was therefor a UFO or anything, but if it was simply an avalanche and young people being skiddish, why was so much kept secret?

Also, I've never been clear on the whole tongue thing. Was part of it gone? Or was there no tongue at all? As Jeff Hanna points out, that makes a big difference.

Finally, I just want to add that you left out where each of the bodies were found (the woman without the tongue was in this group). The last four bodies were found a few months later, piled together in a ravine.

Again, I'm not saying any of this points to UFOs or a government cover-up. It just makes simpler explanations like the one you gave seem less and less likely, and makes the whole case more and more curious.

Katie, Los Angeles
January 26, 2012 2:24pm

That's the urban legend part of the story. I did not find any record anyone actually discovering that classified documents about the event exist.

Brian Dunning, Laguna Niguel, CA
January 26, 2012 3:12pm

I think that your proposed explanation is probably very close to the truth.
I thought that perhaps to explain the injuries 3 of the 4 that went looking for their friends fell through a softpatch of snow that had covered the rivine.
Hence the severe injuries and location of the bodies.
That could be how one of the people could have bitter her tongue off. Suddenly stepping through the soft patch but hitting her chin on a hard section in front of her.

Pieter van den Heever, Middelburg / South Africa
February 5, 2012 2:19am

You are close, but I would like to change the story a little bit. I think this is what happened: Four people went out from the tent for some reason, maybe they went out when there was still light, and got lost a little bit when it got dark. When its dark at winter its so dark that it is impossible to see anything, you cant even see your own footprints.
Five people in the tent got nervous for their friends but they decided to go to sleep, because they cant do anything in the dark.
Then the avalanche started where the four were. It killed and crushed them. (Im sure that it was avalanche that killed the four) Sound was very loud and five others heard it in their tent. They panic because they think that avalanche is near and will bury them. It is impossible to get out from the tent that small fast from the door. I think that couple of them who were further from the door ripped the canvas.
They all started to run in panic. After the have settled down they realize they cant find the way back before the dawn. They start the fire and wait. When there is enough light one of them climbs to tree and sees where the tent is. Yuris are in very bad shape or even dead and they leave them in the fireplace. Unfortunately they dont reach the tent.
Why four got out? I dont know, for firewood maybe? Missing tongue and no visible external damage? They were outside couple of months, sometime in running water, that does lots of thinks to the body. Radioactivity? Maybe from some test in the area?

Ville, Finland
February 12, 2012 2:27am

Avalanch panic theory is VERY good. Indeed it is reasonably plausible & does fit the given facts (though the devil could be in the forensic details which are not given ie radioactivity & tongue issue). I too largely dismiss relevancy of skin color & mysterious lights. However I agree w/Katie - why any sort of cover up? If it was aval would there not be obv signs - not the least of which is being buried under large amount of snow (maybe in ravine where u were huddled with others hoping to somehow escape snow onslaught). Surely there had to be at least one perceptive rescue / investigation member to bring up aval theory? Side note-What were they doing partially clothed to begin with? I cant pic myself getting into pajamas in mid of Siberian snow storm (though it was a coed team-hmm). Lastly - one irrational theory I havent seen yet is Yeti attack. Whatever happened its a good mystery that has, unfort for me, lost its entertainment value thanks to Brians very compelling explanation. Skeptics are no fun

KC, Chicago, IL
February 15, 2012 10:13pm

My own take is that this is destined to remain a mystery. Avalanches were of course known to the people investigating the incident. If there were signs of an actual avalanche, wouldn't they have mentioned it? This bit makes me want to run to the source material and see if there is anything for Brian to hang his hat on there. Otherwise, this crucial point is pure speculation.

Second, it is only the lack of good information in regard to the radiation levels that enables Brian to make this point about the lanterns. Maybe the lanterns are a good explanation. Maybe not. Ideally, we'd need to be able to compare the radiation level one of these lanterns was capable of delivering with the level of radiation found on the victims' clothing. Also, surely the investigators knew this information, too? Yet they still were unable to reach a satisfying conclusion.

The same thing applies to that poor woman's tongue. Was it bitten off? Was there anything left of it?

I find this habit of the professional skeptic class highly curious. Come up with "plausible" explanations, in spite of a lack of direct evidence for them—signs of avalanche? corresponding radiation levels between the victims and the lantern?—and call it a day.

My favorite part of Brian's presentation is when he says "It's wrong, of course" and that's what keeps me listening to Skeptoid. He does acknowledge the limitations of his own efforts.

I look forward to the sci-fi movie about this incident.

Steve V.

Steve Volk, Philadelphia
February 16, 2012 6:57am

Steve, a movie may well be in the works:
http://www.giantfreakinrobot.com/scifi/renny-harlins-dyatlov-pass-incident-movie-poster.html

Aron, Smith
February 16, 2012 9:35am

While I really find a lot of the ideas you brought up to be appealing, I have a few qualms with some of them. First of all, there couldn't have been an avalance to cause injuries to the skiiers. When the search crew came through, all of the footprints were visible, beyond wind damage from the days. no new snow had fallen and no avalance had buried them. Secondly, on your theory of the woman biting off her tongue, that sort of trauma is VERY easy to find. Even as far back as this incident, the biting off of a tongue was easily recognizable and would be something mentioned in the report. however, it was specified that it was CUT off, implying a straight edge sort of wound. Also, the kind of fall that would hit her jaw to cut off her tongue would leave a mark. There would be bruising and lots of blood at the very least, and in the reports it was specifieed that there was no physical trauma. No bruises, no blood. That's what makes this story odd. (This also applies to the theory of the fractured skull coming from falling on a rock, because there would be a large amount of bruising and most likely an open wound). I find your idea of a sound triggering panic in the campers to be really plausible, and if they THOUGHT that there was an avalanche, it would certainly explain their actions. On the issue of radiation, the people who were found with radiation were the ones who had been gone the longest. Alpha particles, whil doing a lot of short-distance damage, decay extremely (CONTINUED

Mary, Chicago, IL
February 24, 2012 8:42am

After reading a very bad translation of the original report(you can find many of them online), I think that there is nothing really mysterious with the deaths at all - only the exact cause remains a riddle.
If you look into the report, the bodies had a lot of external injuries, like cuts, missing skin and even haematomas. The woman missing the tounge was badly decayed alltogether, as Max allready wrote. You can find a picture of her body lying in the stream along with another corpse with a simple web search - there's basicly only the skull left. That people always say "her tongue was missing" only shows how poorly reported this whole story is by some people. Literaly the report says that the soft tissue of face, lips, forhead and gingiva was missing and in the next line that her tongue was missing.

A more interesting point is that she had haematomas on her upper thighs and had sexual intercourse before she died (- or had not - the report was badly translated here, it said that she did not, and for that reason the relationship to the other male hikers should be investigated - so I think it means that she had). This could lead to another speculative cause of the panic - a violent fight between the hikers.

Felix Hummel, Regensburg, Germany
February 28, 2012 6:27am

The problem with the avalanche theory is that there was no sign of one when the searchers arrived; the tent was damaged but not swept away as an avalanche would do. The avalanche panic theory leaves unexplained why they didn't return to the tent after they realized there was no danger.

The best theory I've heard is that there was an established campsite (with a fixed shelter) in the valley below that they had passed the day before. The blizzard damaged the tent so badly that they decided to work their way back down into the valley to shelter in the established campsite. But...

Thanks to leader error and near zero visibility, they descended into the WRONG valley and ended up freezing to death or falling off a ravine.

Check out this picture: http://shot.photo.qip.ru/2047uOB.jpg

The blue line is the route back down the way they had come from, where the storage shed was located. The red line is the route they accidentally took, into an empty valley and their doom.

Hammiesink, LA
March 2, 2012 8:27am

This site has more information as well as official documents. This includes report on radiation from the clothes of the dead victims

http://www.ermaktravel.com/Europe/Russia/Cholat-%20Syachil/Kholat%20Syakhl.htm

Paul I, Chicago
March 13, 2012 11:47pm

"Yury Doroshenko is one of the two tourists that were found under a cedar. He was most sturdy and tallest member of the group at a height of 180 cm. He was wearing a vest and a shirt, short sleeve shirt, knit pants and shorts over pants. On his feet a pair of wool socks. Pants had tears inside of the thighs. Additionally the left foot had burnt socks (marked by 13). No footwear"

After reading this and having had a personal experience a few years back I can say their is a possibility I have not seen anyone discuss yet.

I was winter camping and spilled a can of fuel for cooking over and it did catch fire on the snow packed floor. I wanted out of that tent like a mother MUCKER)and while I was neat the door of the tent I can tell you I would have ripped that sucker to pieces to get out. The tent amazingly did not burn up and when I went back I say that the fire had burned out and the snow was not really chard, expect for a little black ripple lines where some of the fuel cooked off and left some residue and I suspect some of the soaked well enough in to the snow that it did not burn.

Paul Sheehan, Vienna VA
March 26, 2012 4:55pm

I am wondering if someone accidentally started a fire (it was dinner time for them and they were preparing food) The fire was blocking the door and the went through the side of the tent trying to get away from it fearing burns or an explosion that did not happen. This would explain the burn marks on Yury's sock. He might have been stepping in the fire trying to get away or trying to put it out by stepping on it. We know from their diary that the visibility was poor and there was a lot of wind. As a avid hiker I can tell you one can get lost only feet from a shelter. Also in a windy environment like that placing sound if you hear it at all can be a real challenge.

What ever drove them out did so in a way they found it easier to rip through the tent vs using the door. This tells me they could not use it or were afraid to. As far as thinking they were in a avalanche The best place would by in the tent and the gear to dig out with and warm up. To feel in to the open invites sure death.

From my experiences I suggest the fled a small fire that they thought could turn in to a big one or an explosion and got lost in the dark night.

It is clear they did could not find the tent after leaving it or they world have tried to repair it and or get their gear and warmer clothing.

P Sheehan, Vienna VA
March 26, 2012 9:08pm

Did they say they were all in one tent? I don't recall. I was thinking the group was in a couple of tents. In any event, say there was a fire, ok so they rip through the sides to get out. What would you do then with all of your stuff that you need inside the tent still? Would you run off in different directions? These are experienced outdoors men and women, I'm thinking they probably have a good idea of what the chances are of an explosion occuring where they would need to run as fast as they could. I think that at least a few of them would have stopped and turned to look at the status of the tent. The fire would have gone out right away or else, there would have been more damage to the tent. They would have stood there a little while and then gone back in. I don't know what made them run, but fear of fire or an explosion, I mean, how big could they have anticipated the explosion to possibly have been in their mind? Tongue ripped out? An animal can do that. Farmers say that's what happens to their cows, scavs eat their tongues. no one believes ufos are coming down and gathering tongues. There's no need. Everything you could ever want to know about a human being can be determined by looking at one tiny drop of blood. What the heck would they need a tongue for?

Mary, Maine
April 14, 2012 4:06pm

The avalanch theory is completely plausible, except for the fact that the footprints were crealy visible.

My guess is still some sort of nuclear military test. Nothing paranomal or UFO related. Just a plain old case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Sonia, Tabasco, México
April 19, 2012 1:35pm

this was a ufo. i am 100% sure. read cattle mutlations its the same with missing tongues.

dan olson, sequim
April 19, 2012 7:43pm

Dan: For what reason would aliens need to collect tongues, of any animal? Do they eat them? Do they turn the muscle fibers into enhanced muscles of their own to use? If they have the technology to travel the universe, I'm sure they can find something to eat other than tongue, and if they have the brain to travel, they don't need the brawn of tongue muscle. But, even if they really liked tongue for whatever reason, they don't need to hunt cow after cow to get it. The can take one tongue cell and regenerate the muscle in a lab just like our scientists are doing right here, right now with embryonic cells. I've thought about this and there just isn't any reason to need tongue. There isn't any knowledge to be gained from a tongue that you can't get from a drop of blood. From blood you can determine how we breathe, how we create muscle, what we would need muscle for, how we've evolved as a species, where our ancestors have migrated from since we came out of Africa, what we need to eat, what we need to breath, what our diseases are, how and why we mate, how we die, how we make bone, I mean everything! I just think it's a lot simpler and more discrete to get a single drop of blood than to come down, kill cows and cut out tongues. Even if it were our own government experimenting on the cows, I don't see why or what could possibly be gained from cow tongues that would be worth the risk of exposing themselves to the public by slaughtering cows and cutting out their tongues.

Mary, Maine
April 21, 2012 6:44pm

Has anybody considered and animal attack. Are there bears in that region?

Greg, Doncaster, Great Britain
April 24, 2012 5:44am

They were killed by men. There is essay made by Rakitin witch expains all details of this case.

Alex, Novosibirsk
April 24, 2012 9:54pm

I do not believe in UFOs or aliens, and I think the suggested cooking fire plan is perfectly plausible. I do, however, have to object to the logic that there's no reason aliens wouldn't take tongues. Let me repeat, I do not believe in UFOs or aliens. BUT if they do exist, then they are an entirely different species with entirely different technology and entirely different thought processes. There's no way we can say they would or wouldn't do this because it doesn't make any sense, or because they don't have the technology. They could have hundreds of different motives we haven't thought of, and we can't say they woudln't do something because we wouldn't do it.

lea quinn, USA
April 28, 2012 8:58am

California is capital of cattle mutilations. The FBI has special investigations and it's interesting to note that there has never ever been an arrest made for the mutilations. The theories are either a: covert operations (but why??? and why would they need to sneak in the middle of the night to a ranch and kill cows? Why wouldn't, say if it were the government, they just buy their own cows for whatever they're doing? b. a mean person does it but has never ever been caught, or c: aliens, again why for all the reasons I've written again, I think its the most unlikely, or d: scavengers. Many of the ranchers believe its scavengers. I can't believe its some kind of covert operation being shielded by the FBI via disinformation... Because why would they need to go to such lengths to get a cow? Whatever they're going to do with the tongue, they're obviously going to do it in a lab or facility somewhere. They can afford a lab, but they can't afford to use their own cows? Who knows...

Mary, Maine
April 28, 2012 3:44pm

The soft tissues of the tongue readily absorb particulate emissions; the simplest explanation for tongue collection would be to examine it medically. One drop of blood can be studied, but is far less useful than a soft tissue sample.

Sesh, US
May 6, 2012 8:13am

I could see why cows would be used, because they are eating the grass that all this emissions garbage falls on (that's why I'm a vegetarian). Studying particulate emissions then, I would think, rules out our own government, because they would just use their own cows. Heck we probably do that and then publish the findings, so that would likely rule out another government sending spies here to cut out cow tongues, because they can read the published findings for themselves. So I guess that would leave either aliens or scavengers. So many mutilations have occurred, I guess whoever the culprit, they are doing time studies and geographical comparisons. I wonder if scientists study the particulates in soft tissue samples and then look at the scavengers to see if they are experiencing secondary poisonings with the same types and levels of emissions as the cows. If the rates were similar, we might conclude that scavengers are the culprits.

Mary, Maine
May 6, 2012 12:38pm

http://www.ermaktravel.com/Europe/Russia/Cholat-%20Syachil/Kholat%20Syakhl.htm
i recommend u to visit this site either and then u will be agree with me that this avalanche theory makes not sense
four of them had their dead friend clothes like ludmila that had trousers of a dead guy then these 4 remanant found their friend dead and then with a great fear headed to forest deep not to camp like that 3 and then tried to dig a shelter in snow but really short after founded by something and have been killed out of that shelter
position of ludmilas body is very unusual and out of shelter like something grabbed her
and there are a picture that ay be is the last picture that one of these victims caught just on the attack time and u can see something is burning and a man shadows on front of it
yes ufo is more sensible

hassan karbassi, yazd persia
May 6, 2012 1:59pm

I'm curious about the report of radiation being found on the bodies. How was that determined? Why did anyone even think of checking?

Al, Nelson NH
May 9, 2012 10:22am

bien, primero, una felicitación por tan interesante pagina,de esto, hay mucho de que hablar, pero para ser breve, los cuatro ultimos cadaveres fueron encontrados por los militares, gracias a que traian un contador geigi, para la detección de radiactividad, y no por el deshielo, tan es asi que el helicoptero del gobierno no quizo trasladar los cadaveres, por el grado de radiactividad que tenian los cuerpos, y los familiares tuvieron que contratar un helicoptero particular,para trasladarlos, pero ¿para que traian los militares ese tipo de aparato?, ¡por que ellos ya sabian!, y no hay mas, Zinaida Kolmogorova tenia entre sus ropas a la hora de al autopsia una mascara militar, para evitar dañarse la vista, no se si le fue sembrada por los militares o ya la traia, ademas dos de los miembros de la expedición trabajaron en lugares donde se manejo plutonio, energia nuclear, que incluyo un accidente de este tipo donde existio escape de radiactividad es historico, esta documentado. Les diria los nombres pero el espacio es reducido.Concluyo, el gobierno y los militares rusos, tiene mucho que explicar,saludos camaradas.

CESAR, H.VERACRUZ VER
May 12, 2012 10:39am

The idea that the hikers fled a tent fire makes absolutely no sense. When someone's house is burning down do they get out and run up to 1 kilometer away in a dead sprint? No if the tent was on fire they would have tried to escape and then focused on putting the fire out which would have left evidence.

Also due to the terrain and the clearly defined footprints in the snow the idea of an avalanche is slim to none.

If they were attacked in the tent by other humans or animals there would have been blood and signs of trouble. None of that existed. It is very odd that they chose to cut open the tent in a panic and avoid using the opening.

What we do know is that the hikers ran in a panic for some unknown reason and that some died of hypothermia and others of trama injuries with no outward indications of how they sustained the injuries. The radiation is also odd but may have an explanation.

I have not read a single explanation of this incident that correlates with all of the evidence. I am not a UFO believer either. I suspect they were accidentally caught up in a military experiment and inadvertently killed. It would explain much of the missing evidence and documents.

JT, Colorado
May 19, 2012 12:30pm

Why were they in clothes, which could not protect from the low tempratures in the first place? How can you expect 4 to continue sleeping while the others were running from a mistaken Avalanche, surely they would have tried to warn/wake-up the remaining 4? Why weren't there any external injury marks?

Salman, Bahrain
May 23, 2012 7:15am

It is my understanding that at least some of the students worked in laboratories. Maybe one or more of them had something in their possession, this thing being a radioactive substance. If so perhaps the substance had ruptured from its container thereby removing the highly radioactive material within the tent. The three or four that were crushed might have been an avalanche as they were covered in 12 feet of snow. It is also possible the military had been with the group at some point in time as there was evidence of pieces of clothing recovered that did not belong to any of the victims.

DyatlovInestigator, Ohi USA
May 26, 2012 10:21am

It was something that not even the most experienced of them was prepared for; something that sent competent, experienced, and level headed people into a near blind panic.
Avalanche? They would've been prepared for that with adequate first aid gear and good knowledge of the area.
Aliens? Certainly an "unknown compelling force", but not exactly plausible.
Military? Anything capable of doing only internal damage technically should've been fully developed and in use by now.

Perhaps a sort of insanity brought about by extreme cold? Extreme paranoia and behaviors, perhaps fever?

Lizabeth, Melbourne Australia
May 27, 2012 7:04am

some of the bodies were deeply tanned to the point of being orange, not only the tongue was missing but soft tissue at the base of the mouth, photo no.33 the last on the roll of film of yuri is bizarre, some think it shows a figure, the last entry in a diary of the group was "we know now the snowmen are real"...the lack of eyes the premature ageing including greying of hair, the hands on at least two of the men showed signs of hand to hand combat, bruising of knuckles ect.....a piece of material found at the scene later to go missing from the evidence room was somthing both prisioners at gulags and soilders wore as a bindind around boots....alot of the radiation elements remind me of a siberian legend about sunken cauldrens that native tribes would stay clear of the few that ventured into these to rest or use as shelter would show signs similar to overnight tanning hair loss or hair whitening and eventual death

roy radin, cork, ireland
June 12, 2012 3:17pm

Gee you skeptics jump to conclusions on a whim,Quote;"So I'm going to go ahead and call avalanches a plausible factor in the tragedy". A poorly researched hypothesis which disregards important factors such as the footprints leading away from the tent. Please explain how these were buried in an avalanche that melted and revealed them. Please research UFO phenomena with objectivity rather than skepticism, as this is the only way to present facts, without an agenda.

Jimmi, New Zealand
June 15, 2012 4:02pm

Avalanches are a plausible theory, but that doesn't explain why members of the group stayed behind, while others fled. Also, the radiation levels are too high to have come from one of the lamp wicks, so could it be from a possible Russian nuclear weapon? I am also curious on how one of the group members, already buried in snow, could have lost her tongue to a scavenger without evidence of the scavenger digging her up. As to the injuries and skin and hair discoloration, there could be evidence of either a chemical agent of some sort, and reduced bruising and swelling post-injury due to the cold temperatures the group was facing.

Isa A. Buckles, New York
July 1, 2012 3:07pm

Why isn't anyone considering the information provided by Vlad in Moscow? He has some good insights that would explain very important details here, like the missing tongue and the source of the radiation. Too much is made of the radiation, which was actually only found in trace amounts and was superficial contamination that was transferred among the hikers as those who died last removed clothing from their dead friends in a futile attempt to get warm. It did not "cover the entire mountain," as someone above suggested. And as Vlad notes, it is easily explainable as being a result of one hiker's workplace or another's work at the university lab. The condition of the skin and hair is not extraordinary given the bodies' exposure to the elements for weeks or months and the likely attempts by undertakers to make the corpses presentable for an open casket funeral with makeup. The snowmen comment is similar in tone to the rest of the hikers' mock newspaper, which was clearly deliberately silly. It was a joke! Something startled them out of their tent that night, and then everything else that happened is explainable as disorientation, hyperthermia, fear and darkness. Now whet startled them? No one knows, but the rest is explainable.

Kate, London UK
July 8, 2012 1:40pm

Jimmi, consider Occam's Razor. "Horrible accident" versus "space aliens showed up, decided they'd kill these people for the hell of it, and flew off never to be seen again."

Martin, Austin
July 12, 2012 10:20pm

Speaking as an experienced mountaineer, here's another thought to keep in mind: it's shockingly easy to become hypothermic in wet weather, even for people who know what they're doing. A common (and ironic) symptom of final-stage hypothermia is a sensation of body-wide burning heat, wherein the victim strips off his or her clothes, flings away the sleeping bag, etc.. A fair percentage of people who have died of hypothermia are found naked or clad only in underwear. So, no additional explanation is needed as to why some of them were unclothed.

Jane, Boulder, CO
July 15, 2012 6:08pm

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Davey Papey, Rapid City, SD
July 21, 2012 1:05pm

Kate from London UK, well said! The only true mystery in any of this is why they left the tent. I did notice one very interesting fact in reading the autopsy report on the group's leader Dyatlov. It mentions cuts to the insides of his fingers as if he had grabbed the blade of a knife. That's what has made me lean towards a possible fight breaking out in the tent and Dyatlov was defending himself from an attack. Obviously if someone begins trying to cut you, you bail out regardless of the clothing you have on. Now once the chaos comes to an end and you realize you're a mile away from camp in sub-zero temps, your attention turns to survival. This could also explain the skull fracture on one of the dead hikers. Could he have been struck as the result of a fight as well?

Tim, Chicago
July 25, 2012 7:39am

Re: knife wounds/fighting...I have read that victims of hypothermia can become disoriented to the extent that they physically resist attempts to help them.

Jesse, NY
July 28, 2012 7:55pm

I'm quite sure had their been an avalanche, it would have been evident to the investigators and anyone else viewing the surrounding area. Plus, there would be external signs of injury, especially in the case of the conplete skull fracture. A fatuous theory, one which ignores conveniently certain extremely relevent facts.

richard, Alberta canada
July 29, 2012 8:30pm

The information regarding to this area is also mentioned and shown in History Channel's 'Ancient Aliens - The Series ' Documentary, making it more mysterious.

Sourabh, Mumbai,India
August 6, 2012 2:49am

An avalanche which left the camp complete with footprints untouched. The ones with the internal injuries were found in a shallowish ravine (theres a pic of the rescuers stood inside it and their heads are above it) inside the forested area. Im not dumb enough to just blame it on aliens but surely your doing the same thing to the other extreme by just blaming it on an avalanche.

As for the radiation theres tonnes of speculation on that. Some claim it was severe, others claim it was minor. Sadly the original report is missing actual figures so we can put that to oneside when trying to use it to prove/disprove anything.

Sadly speculation is all we have. They could have turned on each other and things went bad quick. The military coulda used them to test their latest weapon. Hell someone coulda bought some bad shrooms leading them to all go whacko.

All thats known is at some point after setting up camp they bolted half dressed having cut their way out in desperation. They fled for the woods. They lit a fire and tried to survive the night and as they died off the others took what clothing they could for warmth. At some point some tried to make it back and froze before they got close. The rest fled further making it to an unfortunate end in a valley after picking up some unexplained internal injuries that left no outward damage. The rest is all speculation one way or the other

Wikkr, Portsmouth
August 17, 2012 5:48pm

The more I read up on this the more weird it seemed. Not alien weird BTW lol

Any 'evidence' is now long gone and the files are missing information now.

I guess it comes down to what would make you leave a tent too quick to get clothed. I have read everything from animal attack or soldiers to avalanche and a bad hallucinogenic experience.

I read somewhere that the autopsies said that the last meal was about 8 hours before death, so from that I would deduce that they left the tent in the middle of the night.

Imagine running as fast as you could for cover, fearing going back and needing to be warm, making a fire - I would be interested to know if they had carried matches - then looking from the tree to see if the coast was clear - then trying to make it back; too late...well that's one group half explained lol

We can all make our opinions but none of us will ever know I guess.

Imagine what forensic science today could have done for the case?

One thing I am sure about, is that Yuri Yudin was a lucky man to have turned back - through illness - and not have suffered the fate of the other nine!!

Although, typically, some conspiracy nuts say he turned back because he knew what was going to happen SMDH

Dapper Dave, London, England
August 18, 2012 10:54am

A lot of valid points in this article but also a lot of complete misses. And I don't even want to mention the comments

Let us examine the facts and come to the conclusion based entirely on logic. I'll base this entirely on the premise of them being experienced hikers/skiers/campers, something that was established numerous times. Also, let's remember that we are talking about Russians here, and smart ones at that. If you have ever heard of the expression "As cold as the Russian winter", I'm sure you'll understand what the people there have known all their lives. Cold is something that they live with all their lives and have even been famous for utilizing to their advantage too (Napoleon, WW2, etc.).

Anyway:

1.Do you sleep without your clothes on in such a perilous and cold area as an experienced hiker?

2.Do you not recognize basic symptoms of hypothermia as an experienced hiker, as someone who is quite familiar with the cold?

3.Let's say that you are one of the slow ones, are the other 8 people just as dumb? Remember, they are smart (academics and students), hikers and have been living all their lives in a country that knows what cold is.

4.Moving on from the group, let's talk about investigators. Did they really not see signs of an avalanche? It's quite visible, even to an untrained eye. It's pretty much a huge red X marking a spot to a professional (and there were professionals there, people that know the land and the terrain. Army especially)

Ash, EU
August 31, 2012 4:26am

Ash,

Most people who have experience hiking&camping in cold climates do sleep in their sleeping bags without their clothes on. The reason for this is that it is much warmer to sleep in your sleeping bag(s) without your clothes as your clothes may be if not wet, then humid at least. Even if you happen to have entirely dry clothes, you still would want to strip down to underwear before getting into your sleeping bag. During your sleep, you sweat and your clothes would get humid, making you cold.

I can't see how this could have been an avalanche as their tent remained standing. Wouldn't an avalanche generally tear everything apart? I mean think of the force.

Sam, Canada
September 24, 2012 4:30pm

As far as I have been able to determine, no autopsy reports have ever been released to the public. They are still sealed. No one has ever even read them. If you know where they are, please provide a link to the official autopsy reports.

Brad, Little Falls, NJ
September 25, 2012 2:07pm

This website has autopsy records and information:

http://www.ermaktravel.com/Europe/Russia/Cholat-%20Syachil/Kholat%20Syakhl.htm

It's one of the most detailed accounts I've read. I believe the author is Russian and seems to know the history and have some personal connection the the surviving Yuri.

JennRose, Montana
September 27, 2012 1:10pm

"Paradoxical undressing" would probably explain those who weren't clothed.

Chris, Bristol, UK
October 8, 2012 11:57am

According to the legend, 9 Mansi hunters died in the exact same area, an area aptly named "Mountain of the Dead". Then we have another 9 die in mysterious circumstances back in 59.

Certain documents/evidence has been classified ever since by Russian authorities, even though the cold war is long over and many state secrets about everything else have been declassified.

But i am quite sure there is a simple, pandimensional explanation for all of it.

Phil R, Southampton
October 13, 2012 7:22am

Easy. Russian supersonic jets on maneuvers create sonic booms and 'orange lights'. Camp mistakes for avalanche and some bail. Ones who bail set up camp and light fire, most succumbing quickly to hypothermia. Clothes taken from dead by survivors who try in vain to make escape, dying of hypothermia one by one, staggered.
Remaining campers head out to look for those that fled, who's calls for help could be heard.
Fall into small ravine running, smashing skull and ribs on rocks (I've seen someone run into athletics horse and break all ribs, both cheeks, nose and skull, clearly not far fetched to do so in dark, small ravine).
Nothing seems unexplainable.

Sean Salvador, UK
October 24, 2012 4:03pm

Fracturing skull bones while falling in a shallow 13' deep snow packed ravine ?
Fracturing your skull and chest bones on rocks (under snow) without soft tissues injuries ?
Dying from hypothermia in front of a fire, in a forest edge probably full of deadwood ?
Ripping your tent off because you heard a strong noise that could emanate from a possible avalanche, and leave your otherwise undisturbed camp (and comrades) without putting your shoes on ?

MP, France
November 17, 2012 2:26pm

Bulls**t!! It was aliens, admit it. Probably the reptilians. I've heard they cause orange skin. Some special Illuminati power they have. Just sayin....

JimiMiddleFinger, US of A
November 18, 2012 11:37pm

ok im really freaked out its like another storie on the internet. this girl was in here bedroom getting ready for prom and she was video taping here dress all the sudden lights flashed in here closet and she didnt think nothing of it here friend found here one day in the forest ¹d her toung was in a some dead scin by a tree - her eyebals were gone. all the evidents they cold find was that dead skin and a piece of metal thhat woesnt frrom a normal airplaane

chris, canon city col
November 19, 2012 6:59am

When I first read about this, I wouldn't have thought it, but it turns that I find it more likely that it must've been aliens than any other things.
I mean, if you'd sleep in a tent would you run outside when you hear an explosion? Especially if it's of an nuclear kind? Wouldn't you rather try to hide from the "fresh air"?
And those who 3 tried to get back to the camp...they died in distances from each other at about 100 meters - of hypothermia as reported. I don't know but that sounds illogical to me. Normally, in the cold & dark you surely would go back together. Why should one person die like every 100 meter?
And one person found by the campfire tried to climb the tree up to 5(!) meter. Pieces of wood in his hands and parts of his flesh on the tree describe how much panic he must have had.
The drug/alcohol theory doesn't sound bad at all, also dynamics in the group about upcoming fear that they've lost their way or where to go, could've played a role, yes. BUT this doesn't explain their injuries or the way bodies looked. I'm not good at biology but I think after only 2 weeks in the very coldness, their bodies should've been relatively good conserved. Even more they really reminded of reports of animal mutilations.
I also don't understand the paradox of running out in panic and finding the time to make a fire instead of going back to the tent. Or why they didn't built up their tent near the woods at all. They seem to have got there in relatively short time at night....

Thomas, Seattle
November 24, 2012 3:01pm

I think the only reason to leave the tent w/o shoes/clothes would be if the tent was fully buried in an avalanche and everybody was panicking because they were being suffocated in a collapsed tent. Maybe they all made it down to the cedar tree and made a fire but some were convinced they should try to return to the tent for clothing and left the safety of the fire. Three died trying to go back. Maybe two more almost did but were pulled back towards the fire by their companions and just died anyway of hypothermia. Or maybe those two freaked out when the others didn't return and climbed the tree to look for them and got hypothermia. Four of them stayed close to the fire the whole time, maybe until there was enough daylight to see by. They got their body temps up by huddling near the fire til dawn. Maybe the tent was too far away but they were able to get to their dead companions to take as much clothing as possible. What they wore represented all the clothing everybody left the tent with. They couldnt just stay there so they went to try to find the supplies they cached the previous day but fell into a ravine, causing injuries and one bit her tongue. The one guy who wasn't injured may have been stuck in the ravine or unwilling to leave the injured.
...or maybe it was sasquatch...

Helen, Seattle
November 25, 2012 12:36am

Given that avalanches aren't quiet, it's possible (though I need a source for this) that they heard it start, darted outside (unclothed?) and got caught by it.

As opposed to the alternative (admittedly this is my inner cynic and is purely hypothesis) some of them were sleeping together who shouldn't have been, emotions ran high, underwear clad folks got caught, someone else put on the discarded clothes rest is explained (this hinges on certain knowledge of interpersonal relations which I don't have, for all I know they were all married and faithful)

Or as my final, personal favourite theory, a radioactive Super-Yeti got them.

Jimmy, England
December 6, 2012 8:40am

The most troublesome aspect of this incident for me is the fact that if you read the bios of the 9 individuals involved(the 10th member got ill on the first day and returned to the village they departed from), these were PROFESSIONAL cross-country skier/hikers with much experience taking on the elements, led by an accomplised, experienced leader. The above explanation is VERY rational and well thought-out, however, it almost portrays the nine as novices. Something SERIOUSLY out of the ordinary(and avalanches do NOT fit that criteria in my opinion) had to have occured to cause this well organized expedition to break-camp in such a haphazard way. These 9 individuals while settled in their tent were either intruded upon by a hostile force or were escaping something from within the tent itself. Remember, in the pictures, the tent still stands(albeit with the huge cuts made where those inside cut there way out) and is NOT buried nor does it appear damaged due to avalanche.

Tyler Kasuboski, Oshkosh, WI
December 11, 2012 10:34pm

Tyler Kasuboski, there could have been a belief that something was occurring outside of the tent, doesn't necessarily need any 'force' to attack them. I mean, wouldn't a 'hostile force' have noticed them ripping through the tent?

The chance of a thorough, new and modern investigation into the facts and physical evidence has long since passed, we got what we got, and at the end of the day perfectly rational reasons can explain what happened, whether experienced people or not, experts too make mistakes.

We definitely do not need to invoke some mystery beast or aliens, like some folks would have us do.

passin thro, where my hat layeth
December 16, 2012 10:46am

My problem with Dyatlov is, and always has been... there just not enough evidence to show that this even happened.
The wiki article is so circular in its references... and those that dont follow back on themselves or to other "skeptic" sites are from unreliable or flat out untrusted sites of unknown origin with no real way of even checking them, or a video uploaded in 2011.
What I'd like to see instead of a discussion on HOW this happened was an in depth discussion, going past the existence of a wiki page, that this EVEN happened.
A script for a movie based on the "incident" has been floating around since the mid 2000s, what better way to get it picked up than manufacture a mystery...

Jay, Canberra Australia
December 22, 2012 12:45pm

I've just come across this, and as an climber (20+ years in Swiss + French Alps + Scotland) there are several very puzzling elements. On balance, however, I think they panicked after a probable avalanche, got disorientated in the night after fleeing the tent, lost contact with each other, maybe searched losing heat and eventually someone made a fire (which would have been visible) and then made a subsequent series of bad decisions. The tanning is odd though, dead people do not tan, the opposite in fact, they bleach in UV.

Banzaibee, Edinburgh
December 30, 2012 3:16pm

What I neglected to include is that the off skin color was reported after viewing (some or one) of the bodies at an open-casket funeral. This body/bodies had been outside for months (who knows what was left) and then fixed up by the funeral home for presentation. So it's not a hugely useful report.

Brian Dunning, Laguna Niguel, CA
December 30, 2012 4:33pm

I like a supernatural twise much as the next person, but after reading this theory, I have to confess (a little disappointed), that it sounds plausible.

Many of the comments reveal a major misreading of the author's theory. He isn't saying there WAS an avalanche; rather, that they thought they heard one coming. Would a "professional" cut his way out of a tent and take off running? He might. Indeed, anyone familiar with avalanches knows that seconds matter - if you hear one (and they may have heard one in the distance), you run, and you don't go 100 meters and say, "OK, this should be good." Folks here seem to think the hikers should have had time to dress and pack a few things. Yet in real avalanches (which almost all agree this wasn't), split-second dashes like this have saved lives.

Thomas in Seattle asks how 3 people can die meters apart, and wonders "wouldn't they have gone back together?" No doubt they did - but if one of your buddies keels over dead, what should you do, lie down beside him? You'd keep going - and when you keel over dead, your one remaining friend likely keeps going, too - until he keels over dead as well.

The appearance of the bodies is less-interesting to me; I'm an MD and I've seen corpses (incl. a frozen one), and they can look odd. In medicine, we have a saying, "common things being common, and while I like to think this was aliens (I really do), it seems more likely that the explanation is disappointingly common - human error and bad luck.

Jennifer, Kingston, Ontario
December 31, 2012 5:28pm

I would recommend all of you watching the History channels special they did on this incident. The photos say a lot. The tent is not buried in snow but cut from the inside. They ran off with no shoes and some weren't even wearing socks. One of them had their tongue taken out, ribs and internal organs were crushed, they looked as though they were cooked and aged. Those that had internal crushed orans and bones had no visible signs of anything that would cause that. Orange orbs were seen in the are of the campers from other hikers that night. Even if I thought there was an avalanche coming, I wouldn't run out of my tent with only my underwear on in -30 degree weather. What's worse? Freezing to death or avalanche? Something caused them to cut themselves out of the tent and flee like crazy! The fact is that the government classified all of this and did not want us to know the truth. Why? For those that believe this was just an avalanche or something that can be easily explained are extremely neive!!! Don't be so easy to just dismiss things and say it was human error and bad luck.

Jake, Fort Worth
January 10, 2013 4:27am

Somewhere I read stated that a lot of the behavior of the climbers could be explained by hypothermia and its effects on the brain. This article states, "I think this can be explained as a case of hypothermia and paradoxical undressing. Basically when people start to die from hypothermia, their brains don’t work right, and they do weird things like get undressed even though it is deadly cold." (http://unitedcats.wordpress.com/2008/02/28/the-dyatlov-pass-accident/)

Cracked.com has a more tongue-in-cheek (pun not intended) article that states, "What about the radioactivity? Or stranger details that turn up in some accounts, like orange lights in the sky? Well, there's the fact that none of that stuff turns up in the original documents from the incident, and appears to have been added later by people who just can't resist making things spookier than they are." (http://www.cracked.com/article_16671_6-famous-unsolved-mysteries-with-really-obvious-solutions.html)

I tend to agree with Cracked.

Dana, South Carolina
January 10, 2013 8:30am

I have to disagree with any notion that it was human error. First off experienced climbers know the difference between sounds of avalanche and the feel of the earth vibrating under you as tons of snow cascade down a mountain at break neck speeds. Even small ones.Besides picture show no Snow damage.
Second in -30 below, why the (F) would you ever have your socks off EVER!!! Unless its to change them(them being wet), other then that theirs no other reason to have them off period.
An experienced climber would rather just die in his tent from the avalanche then suffer in -30 below without gear. Being knocked out and dying blissfully is a hell of a better way to go then running around half naked outside after the fact knowing your going to die. Arm chair researchers never seem to understand high risk mind sets. (Always choose the lease painful way to die if given the option).
I do agree that hypothermia played a role in their deaths at the end, but it was not the cause.
I suspect whatever being killed them was using some type of microwave device that was cooking them inside their tent. And it was selective. During the night something was heating them up during their sleep before it got to hot, they begun to disrobe themselves unknowingly half awake.(their socks, and maybe even their undies). Then when the heat got to intense they woke up and began to panic, fleeing the tent in haste freaked out by the heat. Scared out of their minds. (continue)

Rook, Houston, texas
January 12, 2013 7:56am

Rook are you friggin serious? Someone was cooking them in their tent with a microwave device? Is this the X-Files or real life? Listen to the comments of Jennifer the MD above and the article itself. I consider it foolish to invoke sneaky aliens every time there is a mystery.

Damon Montano, Barrow, AK
January 12, 2013 9:31pm

@ Rook, that is some funny stuff, right there lol

Microwaved by beings? Conspiracy Theorists should all do stand up comedy.

Do you think that in 1959 there was a particular mindset for adrenaline junkies? It's easy today to sit there and say that such people would take the choice of an easy death over a hard one. Wrong!!! How many people have been recovered from avalanches who has no hope of rescue, so should have just let the avalanche kill them?

The socks, are you crazy? They would have carried the minimum amount of equipment, so who knows if they carried spare socks. You said yourself that the only explanation would be if the socks were wet !!! Kabang!!! There's the answer. If you read Robert F Scott's diary entries for his failed Antarctic expedition, you would note that as far back as 1912, people took off socks to dray them. No mystery.

Even your idea about experienced people staying fully clothed and preferring to die in the tent is ludicrous. Human instinct is for survival, whoever you are, and if you were awoken by someone - a fellow climber in the tent - or something like an avalanche, your instinct is to survive, often rationality goes out the window, this is why many military attacks happen in the early hours of the morning before dawn. Have you ever been woken up suddenly? Did you think or just react?

There is no real mystery, no aliens or secret military technology, not even a microwave to warm a cup of tea lol

David Healey, Maidenhead, UK
January 13, 2013 5:36am

You know, I should add that I was really disappointed when I read this explanation above. Previously, this mystery was one that really intrigued me, and I was sorry to find myself reading the article and thinking, yes, this would certainly explain it.

As a physician, I'm trained to consider rational explanations. However, I'd never be proud to call myself a "cynic" or a "skeptic." Many people mistake cynicism for intelligence, and think appearing skeptical makes them sound smart. To me, it sounds close-minded.

I don't consider myself a conspiracy theorist, (I really dislike these kinds of terms), but I've been alive long enough to know that this world is every bit as strange as it seems, and there's much we don't understand. So I'm not a skeptic. I'd call myself an "interested observer."

This was the first of the "Skeptoid" articles I read, and I think the best, even if it did de-bunk one of my favourite mysteries! I've since read other Skeptoid essays and have found myself disappointed in almost all of them - respectfully, I think the author and I are just too far apart in ideologies for us to ever enjoy middle ground.

To think we *know* the mysteries of this world is, to my mind, naive and absurd; in years to come, people will look back on us and LOL at how clever and discerning we thought we were - just as we look back on our ancestors from centuries ago and laugh at the many "flat earth" theories they simple *knew* to be true.

Jennifer, Kingston, Ontario
January 13, 2013 10:54am

http://www.ermaktravel.com/Europe/Russia/Cholat-%20Syachil/Kholat%20Syakhl.htm

Go to this link and read my comment there. Hopefully I explain myself better.

David Healey, Maidenhead, UK

Have you ever been faced with death? I know how high risk minds think, if you have two ways to die, you would pick the lesser of two evils. Unless the other one will save a loved ones life etc. i'M NOT IMPLYING HIGH RISK MINDS WOULD THROW THEIR LIVES AWAY. Im stating that they view the options far more carefully and quickly because they do not sit in chairs and think about it!

Rook, Houston, texas
January 13, 2013 5:14pm

I think its not really in contrary to science to consider other form of intelligence a possible cause of events in earth.it has a great difference with believing for example to ghost intervention
i want u to have a view to this great site about Dyatlov pass http://dyatlov.looo.ch/en/p/the-lights-of-yakimov

hassan, yazd iran
January 16, 2013 1:27pm

I can't help myself. I was just re-reading this article, and discovered it has a by-line that is hilarious:

"A look at one of the most bizarre cases in Russian cross country skiing history."

*One* of the most bizarre? Are there other bizarre Russian cross country ski "cases"? Are there even any "non-bizarre" Russian cross country ski cases?

Too funny.

Jennifer, Kingston, Ontario
January 19, 2013 6:47pm

Jennifer, THANK YOU! I put that there as a joke, but nobody has ever noticed it until now. :-)

Brian Dunning, Laguna Niguel, CA
January 19, 2013 7:06pm

Thats one I missed...

Mud, missing point, NSW, Oz
January 19, 2013 8:26pm

Just thought i would throw out there how difficult it would be to bite of your entire tounge. I highly doubt someone would be able to, even under the circumstances, be able to put there tounge in such away in there mouth that they would be able to bite the whole thing off. I just feel like some people here are grasping at strings... To me this seems like Russian nuclear testing gone wrong, and a quick cover up to hide the evidence.

Timmy, Quebec
January 27, 2013 7:35pm

Jennifer from Ontario, I couldnt have said it better !

Kim, Norway
January 29, 2013 2:53pm

Timmy I definitely agree with you the government was way to eager to brush this under the rug. These were EXPERIENCED mountaineers, who wouldn't panic when mountains do what they do, such as an avalanche. They wouldn't have abandoned their gear, because they know that their gear is the only thing that can keep them alive. It was definitely something none of them had expected, or they wouldn't have run into the woods without clothes. And the hypothesis that two seperated avalanches is definitely a reach. Unfortunately, this is one we will never get to the bottom of. The government didn't want anyone to know what actually happened there.

matt, madison
February 20, 2013 11:38pm

avalanches do occur in bunches, corrolating to storms. yeti! ha ha. see mystery of champion skier jim carter at APE CANYON mt. st.helens. interdimensional???

rick, arizona
February 23, 2013 6:43pm

There is more to this story than an avalanche. Experienced hikers...no something else at work, for sure.

Greg, Spraul
February 24, 2013 3:09pm

The basic questions come down to these:
Why did they leave the tent in such a hurry?

Why didn't anyone attempt to return to the tent (which offered their best chance for survival) until it was too late to do so?

Three people tried to get back to the tent, but only when they were already nearly dead

Four people decided to try and den up rather than go back to the tent.

Why?

The cut on the tent and exit from it are on the downhill side.

The tracks appear to have moved directly downhill from the tent. If they were attempting to escape from an avalanche would they have moved directly downhill? Would they instead have moved at right angles to the slope to get away from the moving front?

Why move directly downhill?

Terry, St Peters, Missouri
March 18, 2013 8:58am

Why would any one look for evidence of radiation? Seems an odd thing to check for considering the nature of the incident.

WAL, NH
April 14, 2013 9:11pm

Probably find the real explanation is something as mundane as a midnight panic attack or bad dream x 1 person with everybody waking up and dogpiling in.

No evidence of avalanche, plus the straight down track .... No evidence of in group fighting. No evidence of animal attack either in tracks, on tent or bodies.

And yet they cut their way out, left without shoes in the snow (!) and they traveled a considerable distance at night in hard terrain. I reckon no one stopped to ask WTF until they got to the trees.

Brive1987, Oz
April 28, 2013 4:57am

I was looking at resent deaths a couple of days ago and found out about this story, the survivor died a couple days ago. Pretty interesting mystery considering that we don't know that much about what the Russians were doing in those days. I don't believe any UFO stories at this time. Loved the article. I will be reading more on this site.

Steve Humphrey, Braintree, Mass
May 4, 2013 12:33pm

http://murders.ru/Dyatloff_group_1.html

Willy, Ukraine
May 11, 2013 1:06pm

BD's view on this is just as bad as UFO did it, doesn't explain too many things and is just a make fits attempt, I like how he admit he is wrong, but why even bother to do an ep if you have nothing solid to offer?

Reader, Vancouver
May 19, 2013 1:29pm

Avalanche victims usually present with multiple traumatic injuries; I've only just stumbled across this story so I can't tell if what these people went through was consistent with that or if each person presenting with a single injury is just an artifact of the way the story was reported. It seems like the bodies in the ravine may have been buried in a terrain trap, but the terrain conditions don't seem right for having been caught in an avalanche; you wouldn't cut your way out of a tent unless you had no other choice.

Leaving your tent naked seems to me to be only attributable to very advanced hypothermia which a group this prepared would have been familiar with and able to address before it reached a point like that... I do like the lantern theory to explain the observed radiation levels, and obviously the bodies being exposed to the elements explains changes in skin and hair color; the orange lights are said to have been identified as ICBM tests.

That being said, as a trained historian, scientist and experienced backcountry traveller, I can't come up with any "simple and mundane" reasons for these people sustaining these injuries and leaving their tent naked at -30'C. A group of eight people who know what their doing in the backcountry simply won't do this in response to a night terror or a bad dream.

This story scares the hell out of me.

Nate, Bozeman
May 21, 2013 9:14pm

I believe they were blasted with some radiation device, probably unwittingly. That would explain their frantic running from the tents unclothed as they were being cooked from the inside. It would also explain the strange tanned appearance. Standard operating procedure for the Russian military to cover it up whether it was weapon-testing or something mundane like a microwave transmitter.

Matt, London
June 12, 2013 2:49am

Hallucinogens; either experimental or accidental - ergotism, for example?

George Henderson, New Zealand
June 12, 2013 10:39pm

I do not believe there is Big Foot, Ghost, U.F.O.s or any other paranormal activity took place there, except the human kind. I think there was another group that they met on the way there. If any picture were taken of the second group, they got taken out. That last night, nine people should been able should take them down, instead they fled. Few may have got caught they had been taken out of the scene, and there bodies got taken back into the scene and placed. the other of the nine were left to freeze to death. Now you should be able take it the story from here.

Paranormal Investigation Crossroads.

P.S. I just said is only pure speciation.

Floyd, Buford, Dalton, Georgia
June 14, 2013 4:29am

This story has fascinated me for years! I wish there was some hope of finding out what really happened, but I don't think we will ever know why these young, experienced skiers died such horrible deaths. It makes me sad, especially for the families and the friend who survived.

Sissy, Idaho
June 18, 2013 11:31pm

Yeah, I like the idea of two avalanches, but my understanding of the case is a bit different, because we have more data in Russian, including documents.
For you English-speaking guys I would like to tell some facts that should explain the most weird details.
First of all, radiation. The radiation levels on the clothes were only several times higher than the natural level, while for example in the city of Yekaterinburg (former Sverdlovsk) where they studied there are places where the permanent radiation levels are dozen times higher than the usual natural level. Also, don't forget that two of the guys worked as engineers at the USSR's then most secret weapon-grade plutonium production facility now known as Mayak (this also explains the special interest of the government in this case, especially before all the bodies were found). Besides that, the radioactive contamination was on the clothes, not in bodies, and it was dirt, not rays. A few months before the incident immediately before the 1958 nuclear test moratorium came into effect, nukes were tested almost every day on Novaya Zemlya some 1000 km to the north from the place of the incident, some fallout could reach the area. The clothes was tested because the leading investigator Ivanov was himself obsessed with conspiracy theories, in a 1990 interview he said he believed the incident had been caused by an UFO. There were reports of some lights in the sky in the area, he checked if it could be a nuclear explosion.

Feodor, Moscow, Russia
June 20, 2013 1:44pm

I like this theory. It's possible that they got caught in a military exercise cross fire. There has to be a logical explanation. The UFO one is nonsense.

Jocko, Santa Monica, CA
June 21, 2013 2:15am

Ok, so I can't post another post before someone answers, so 1 mystery at a time.. The light balls. They were observed by one of the rescue teams, and by some Mansi on the same day, and it was two weeks after the incident. The reason why the light balls became an issue is because the members of the rescue teams ran out of their tent barefoot to watch the light balls in the sky, and later it was found that the members of the Dyatlov group left their tent barefoot, so the rescue team members suggested that Dyatlov might have seen the light balls as well. But there is no evidence of the light balls sighted on any day except that single case, so there were no light balls on the day of the incident. Mr. Buyanov in his book cites and article from a local newspaper from Feb 17. that reported sighting of the lightballs over a town nearby and described them in detail. Buyanov's theory that it was a failed missile test, started from Plesetsk some 1000 kms to the west. Archives show that there was indeed a failed launch on Feb 16. The editor of the newspaper was fired by an order from Moscow, this is a strong evidence that the lights were indeed a military test. But that's all on Feb 16., two weeks after the incident, so no light balls contributed to the disaster.

Feodor, Moscow, Russia
June 21, 2013 5:09am

Feodor, great information on this fascinating case! Thanks for posting it.

Gregg, St. Paul, MN, USA
June 21, 2013 12:24pm

Ok, next topic is allegedly Mansi legends and toponyms. The mountain where the incident took place is called Kholatchyakhl in Russian, which is the misspelled Mansi name Kholat-Syakhyl, "the dead montain". Contrary to urban legends, it's not "mountain of the dead", and modern Mansi deny that there is a legend about 9 Mansi who have died there. You can often read that story in context of the Dyatlov incident, but it simply not true. The mountain that they were heading to is called Otorten in Russian, which is not tranlated as "don't go there" (as some conspiracy theorists claim), in fact it's not a proper Mansi word at all, it's a misspelled Vot-tar-tan-Syakhyl (Mansi "the mountain from which the wind blows"), which is a Mansi name for a mountain nearby, adopted for Otorten by a mistake of a cartographer. The real Mansi name for Otorten is Lunt-Khusap-Syakhyl, "the goose nest mountain". So the region is not a cursed place at all, modern Mansi explain that "the Dead Mountain" got its name because there's no game to hunt on it. However there is some evidence that it's a revered place for them, but they do go there, and it's not prohibited by their beliefs.

Feodor, Moscow, Russia
June 22, 2013 12:05pm

Just a slight note on hypothermia - as it begins to take hold, it causes extreme confusion and disorientation, and one of its most horrific effects is that it actually makes the sufferer feel that they are 'burning up', because it has disabled the body's temperature-sensing faculties; stories of victims of hypothermia being found almost naked when they were originally quite well-clothed are common.

Rob Horne, Colombo, SL
June 23, 2013 5:29am

Now a few words about the mising tongue, eyebealls, strage skin color, etc. Many English-language resources miss the fact that not all bodies were found at the same time. 5 were found a few weeks after the incident, in winter, while the other 4 were found in several months, when the temperature was above the melting point, frozen deep into the melting snow with a stream of water running over them. There are photos of the bodies, the tissues were severly damaged. Autopsy reports clearly distingush between wounds and post-mortem damage. The missing tongue and the lip, missing eyeballs in two of them, and more missing soft tissues of their faces and scalps were all classified as post-mortem damage. Similarly the orange-brown color of the skin was said to be typical for corpses that froze for a long while and melt up thereafter, and the coroner wasn't surprised, but the students that constituted the rescue team were because they never dealt with dead bodies. There are no such "strange" kinds of damage in those 5 bodies that were found in winter. The story about gray hair is simply not true and not proven by any credible source. So there were only broken ribs, scull fracture, scratches, chilblains, burns, and hematomas in some of them.

Feodor, Moscow, Russia
June 23, 2013 2:00pm

Feodor, don't know if you have any more sense to offer, but I'll give you the opportunity by posting this.

Rob Horne, Colombo, SL
June 24, 2013 8:41am

Thanks, Rob ) Probably the most important misconception about the case is secrecy. In fact, it is on the contrary, there is much more official information available about this case than it usually is. The entire case with all documents is open for public, and numerous copies of it are circulating in the Russian internet. Back in 1959, it was not classified as secret, but as a case of public interest, which meant that it should be preserved in archives beyond the usual 25 years. It was freely available at the library of the archive until a few years ago when there were attempts by readers (I think successful ones) to steal pages from the case. Even now, anybody can order a copy for a fee of some 5000 USD, but you don't even need that, because virtually everything can be found of the Internet. The area around the pass has never been closed, only hiking in area was prohibited for a few years because the investigation failed to identify the cause of the deaths and conclude whether there were any natural dangers. The rescue teams were mainly students and Mansi volunteers, as well as prison guards from the nearby camp, soldiers - no KGB, no secrecy. There was some government interest and supervision in place, but that's because two of the missing hikers were engineers at the top-secret plutonium production facility (Mayak). Their friends couldn't know that and may have been surprised by the unusual scale of the rescue operation, and that created rumors.

Feodor, Moscow, Russia
June 24, 2013 12:31pm

Its a nice theory but there were no outside injuries in relation to the damage, a broken skull, broken ribs, that should have shown severe damage/ bruises on the outside aswell. Also there were footsteps of all 9 on the camping site, with 1-2 avalanches it would have been whiped away, so if there was an avelanche it happend before they got outside their tents

patrick, netherlands
June 29, 2013 7:53pm

Patrick, I think the injuries are consistent with a blunt trauma caused by the avalanche hitting an obstacle, isn't it? The footsteps are preserved because the major avalanche hit them on the slope when they were running down already; the tent was only probably hit by a very small leading avalanche or a side of an avalanche that took a different path.

Feodor, Moscow, Russia
July 1, 2013 1:18pm

Have you seen the trailer for the film based on the true events on the Dyatlov Pass Incident? It looks really creepy!

http://dyatlovpassincident.co.uk

Edward, London
July 30, 2013 4:42pm

Re: the orange spheres. I can't actually read Russian, so I'm going on my general trust in Wikipedia. The article on this incident links to this document, which according to Wikipedia has the following explanation: "Another group of hikers (about 50 kilometers south of the incident) reported that they saw strange orange spheres in the night sky to the north (likely in the direction of Kholat Syakhl) on the night of the incident. Similar "spheres" were observed in Ivdel and adjacent areas continually during the period of February to March 1959, by various independent witnesses (including the meteorology service and the military). These were later proven to be launches of R-7 intercontinental missiles by Eugene Buyanov." Any Russian-readers able to give confirmation?

http://www.alpklubspb.ru/ass/dyatlov_07.htm

Bee, Oregon
September 11, 2013 10:02am

Actually it was too much vodka. We were Russian.

Igor Dyatlov, Moscow
September 14, 2013 7:02am

Jackie Collins had it right ;truth is stranger than fiction. What on Earth compelled those people to flee in such haste, leave behind their clothing AND most importantly abandon their companions in the dead of the night? This unfortunate incident rivals the plot of any horror movie I've seen or heard of.

Sbo, Durban SA
October 8, 2013 4:48am

Earthquake mistaken for an approaching avalanche caused the hikers to panic and flee their warm tent. This would also explain the 'mysterious' earthlights (orbs)

Just my opinion...

James, Emerald City/CA
October 22, 2013 11:48am

I was listening to Tinfoil Hat George Noory a few nights ago because there nothing worth watching on TV.
His guest was some guy named Donnie Eichar who wrote a book about this subject called "Dead Mountain". He claimed to figure out exactly what happened, and it had something to do with "howling winds", "something in the tent with them", and "fear of the unknown in the dark" - as far as I can remember.
He claimed his conclusion was "studied by scientists" and considered "likely" - or something.
Tinfoil Man kept pressing him to state his conclusion on the air, but he was evasive and "coy".
He was obviously "dangling the carrot" and being "tantalizing" to get people to buy his book. He never did state it.
That tells me his "conclusion" is probably a load of BS. I learned about that sort of thing from the cheating cliffhangers in kids' TV serials in the '60s.
This article sparked a mild interest in his "conclusion".

Has anyone read that book and wants to state that "conclusion" here?
Please don't call it a "spoiler" because I won't buy the book anyway - its probably just as nonsensical as Blair Latta's "Franklin Conspiracy". That was money NOT well spent.

Sorry for the wordy post!

Ron, Calgary Alberta Canada
October 26, 2013 9:04am

I was one of the George Noory listeners who was hooked by the interview with Donnie Eichar, and went out and bought the book immediately. I'd heard about the Dyatlov incident years earlier and it's an intriguing case. Eichar's book is extremely well-written. It's interesting the way he weaves the story of the hikers' journey, along with the search for them later; and a third strand being his own journey of discovery in Russia. His theory regarding what happened to the hikers is firmly grounded in science and in fact, came about from his consultation with world-renowned scientists. I don't know if that theory is the answer, but it is certainly the most plausible that I've heard, and does fully explain the bizarre actions of the hikers and what happened that night. I won't write it out here, but you can always check the book out from the library if you'd like to read a thoroughly researched, highly scientific theory of what probably occurred. "Dead Mountain" is well worth reading, if you're interested in the case. No other book or article approaches Eichar's level of research.

Jemi, Fort Collins, CO
October 29, 2013 7:40pm

".....you can always check the book out from the library if you'd like to read a thoroughly researched, highly scientific theory of what probably occurred......if you're interested in the case....."

Thanks anyway Jemi, but I'm not THAT interested. ;)
More like plain old curiousity.

I have a whole list of other books that I have to read first and really want to get around to, but for time constraints.

Besides, I take The Three Stooges more seriously than The Tinfoil Hat Man and his 'guests'.

Ron, Calgary Alberta Canada
October 30, 2013 12:13pm

The conclusion Eichar reached about the Dyatlov Incident is actually quite the opposite of a tinfoil hat theory. His theory is grounded purely in science, and the hypothesis was formed in concert with esteemed physicists. Their theory is credible, and fascinating in the way that only pure science can be.

Nothing is more frightening and bizarre than the very real science behind what may have happened to the hikers. I just don't want to be the one to spill the beans, when the man worked for years on his book, and others coming here may not want the book spoiled for them.

By the way, I absolutely can see why you would take the Three Stooges more seriously. ;-)

Jemi, Fort Collins, CO
October 30, 2013 10:31pm

I realize that this is a skeptics site but the overuse of "tinfoil hat" to deride just about ANYTHING someone doesn't agree with is in epidemic proportions these days. Until recently, NSA spying was a "tinfoil hat" conspiracy. My own opinion is that more whistleblowers will possibly provide even more conclusive, empirically verifiable "tinfoil hat" evidence on a range of subjects. I look at that as rational and not the work of some 'crank' that needs to be derided even if by someone who isn't familiar with the issue. You don't need to look too far these days to only get "us and them" versus having an understanding or an open mind toward a subject.

The Tin Man, Tinfoil, CA
November 4, 2013 11:41am

These explain what the researchers found:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%A1rm%C3%A1n_vortex_street

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infrasound

Seems like a fairly sound conclusion. Very sad.

Kris, Lafayette, LA
November 27, 2013 11:43am

"I realize that this is a skeptics site but the overuse of "tinfoil hat" to deride just about ANYTHING someone doesn't agree with is in epidemic proportions these days......"

Oooookaaaaay, Mr. Noory, if you say so.
Don't worry - I'll still listen to one of your episodes every couple of weeks or so, in spite of the horrendous number of annoying commercials.

BTW, you shouldn't interrupt your guests as much as you do - that's very rude.

"http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%A1rm%C3%A1n_vortex_street

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infrasound

Seems like a fairly sound conclusion. Very sad."

Ah yes, my old aquaintence infrasound. If that's what Eichar is talkin about, maybe it's not BS after all. But I still didn't like his "dangling the carrot"!

I learned about infrasound in high school in the late 60s, so "The Exorcist" didn't bother me much in '73 - I could just sit back and enjoy the BS movie because I knew what was happening when I "jumped". That movie is LOADED with it! Even a cr@ppy little TV speaker can pump some of it out!

I had other experiences with infrasound in "haunted buildings" when I was a Building Operator, and the fans and elevator machinery was running - but nobody would listen to me.

I actually found Eichar's "conclusion" right here on the Skeptoid site - without realizing it. I stumbled across it before reading about Dylatov, and didn't make the connection until your post.

Go figure.

Ron, Calgary Alberta Canada
November 28, 2013 6:28pm

I am sorry but your explanation is wrong – it is because you have been missing thousands of important fact from : KGB agents who were in the group to info’s what happened long before the trip and after the trip etc.
It seems those people were hunted and murdered by another smaller group of people. There is great explanation / many pages/ on Russian website. I read it just to exercise my Russian... try to put it into Google translator and will get the glimpse. http://murders.ru/Dyatloff_group_1.html#1
It is much more complicated that it seems at first glance. You will see that those people were forced to remove their shoes by somebody etc. Author of the article is pointing in the end to espionage and Americans - but I would not go that far. See for yourself.

Mushka, Australia
December 3, 2013 8:08pm

"Author of the article is pointing in the end to espionage and Americans....."

YUP!

It's all the Americans' fault!!

Just ask any lib-lefty in Canada that hates Americans!

Ron, Calgary Alberta Canada
December 4, 2013 12:05pm

This website has the best and most plausible information I have found so far

http://www.aquiziam.com/dyatlov_pass_1.html

They are in contact with the Dyatlov Foundation and try to disprove all sensationalism that has sprung up and I think they are doing a really good job.

ang, CZ
December 8, 2013 3:11am

Aquiziam looks like a bunch of bullshit.

"These “facts” may-or-may not be true but are as follows: (THIS FOLLOWING SECTION STILL NEEDS TO BE UPDATED AND CORRECTED.)"

Does not seem credible to me.

John, Philadelphia, PA
December 23, 2013 3:05am

Military jet trials are a possibility. Early days of supersonic planes with afterburners which would explain orange lights in the sky. Shockwaves could have caused avalanches and the racket and sonic booms from low level flying could have had a dramatic effect on people sleeping in a tent, and probably the tent as well.

Someone ought to try it?

These people would probably never have heard sonic booms and certainly not generated at low altitude; it predates commercial supersonic flight by about ten years.

Re afterburners on full reheat they emit a plume of incandescent gas which can give the impression of a stationary orange ball suddenly veering off to one side at high speed as an aircraft turns.

Because of the range involved and the cold war anything like this would have been as secret as possible.

Clive, London
December 27, 2013 10:06pm

A recent book I read (The Dyatlov Pass Keeps Its Secrets - courtesy of Mykeru from the Slymepit) has this theory which to me explains most with the fewest new assumptions:

Snow/ice slip. Ie slab, not avalanche. Possibly caused by weakening of the underlying ice by digging out the level on which to pitch the tent. At least four people received crushing type injuries - explains consistency of wounds and lack of external trauma. Tent sides partially covered and it part collapses - people cut their way out.

Controlled but hasty exit to protected tree line, presumably with intent to return when safe. Tent temporarily U/S and more possible danger, exposed slope and injured team mates. Only real asset is the tree-line for shelter and warmth. I can imagine a leader doing the "lets go people, lets go" line.

So they obviously felt the immediate danger was the imperative. Bad decisions are always bad in hindsight and this was their first experience camping on an open slope ...

One injured man collapses, unmarked, on way down. The rest reach the tree-line. Concurrent activity; one man takes three remaining injured to sheltered position out of wind, sets them apart while he builds floored seating area in creek-bed, three people start fire, leader goes back for missing man and dies. After a while woman goes after both, misses them and dies closer to the collapsed tent.

Two remaining "bonfire men" run out of branches, incur burns, succumb.

Guy with the injured checks up, finds the bonfire men dead and the others not back yet. He recovers clothes and returns to creek. Injured are by now unable to move to flooring. He snuggles up with one for warmth and waits against hope for the return of team

Brive1987, Australia
December 28, 2013 4:05pm

I think that photos of two tent poles still standing plus footprints still there = a weak avalanche theory

Herschel, New Jersey
January 6, 2014 9:41am

I've been quite interested in this case recently, as it is one of the most strange and intriguing incidents in recent history.

I think it can all be explained without the need to appeal to supernatural, conspiratorial, extraterrestrial, or mysterious forces; quite close to the way Brian did above... with the exception of the avalanche.

It seems to be an almost unanimous conclusion among investigators, which is supported by the first photographs taken when the camp was found, that the remains of the tents do not show signs of avalanche. It had to be something else which terrorized the group in the middle of the night to such extent that they preferred to take their chances in the open than staying in the tents.

Author Donnie Eichar claims in his last book that the answer seems to be a natural phenomenon characteristic of those mountains, and which was unknown to science in those days -reason why the puzzle could not be put together by investigators- but which can be explained with modern methods.

Adam Freeman, Springfield
January 12, 2014 9:13am

The rear tent pole (ski pole was used) was broken and the rear of the tent was collapsed and under snow/ice - rescuers had difficulty getting thru and ended up cutting the tent themselves (in addition to inside damage).

The inside cuts were horizontal rather than the expected vertical slits for easy egress - suggesting they didn't want to let more snow in. They were also cut high - ie above a possible ice level.

The theory in play is an ice slab slippage caused by levelling the slope - not a classic avalanche.

We do know that they a) felt the tent or the tent site was non viable and b) they left in relative order without panic. c) they didn't wait around to get shoes etc.

This suggests an urgent rather than a fearful exit from a compromised structure they had to cut their way out of....

It's interesting that Slobodin apparently fainted and lay for some time with full body heat before dying - suggesting he died on the way down and after getting his head injury. No one else had similar underbody ice melt.

I much prefer a theory that explains the retreat from the tent and the injuries over one requiring additional implausible downslope mishaps.

Brive1987, Sydney/Australia
January 14, 2014 7:31pm

Is anybody abroad studying the incident thoroughly, looking into the criminal case files, photos and maps, rather than books? It might be fruitful since Russian community interested in the accident is pretty stuck, having a few versions and everybody fixed on his own idea.

Feodor, Moscow
January 15, 2014 9:06am

Just so everyone knows - if you want the book and like mysteries, don't look at the reviews at amazon.com - someone posted a "spoiler" that tells what Eichar's conclusion is.

(Same as Wikipedia gives "spoilers" on Agatha Christie mysteries).

I give this warning because I'm not so big a jerk that I want to "ruin" it for anyone who's interested.

Ron, Calgary Alberta Canada
January 16, 2014 12:16pm

Wish someone had warned me about his under evidenced, cherry picked and often just plain wrong book before I bought it.

Buy it for the characterisations and interviews with principal witnesses - not for the kooky ultra sound theory - "the solution just has to be something out of the ordinary - and I'm going to find it" line got repeated there at least twice.

Whoops. Spoilers.

Brive1987, Sydney/Australia
January 17, 2014 4:43am

Haven't read Eichar's book, but after listening to his interview in Coast to Coast I imagined it would be something like that. Thanks for the tips anyway...

Now that I'm more or less sure of what Eichar claims I'm not that convinced he finally cracked the mystery, and to be honest I also didn't like him saying in the video promo: "I wrote the book, but haven't found the solution; so I really need to come up with something before publishing". Well, I guess it all depends on whether or not he's able to replicate the phenomenon, and if this would actually push a group of experienced ski hikers out of their tents in a hurry in the middle of the night.

In any case, he says that he consulted with various scientists (don't remember from which institute) and they found no problems with his theory.

Adam Freeman, Springfield
January 20, 2014 4:44pm

He got blown off by a Russian scientist but found an audience at NOAA. They initially said Boot Rock could not have produced the effect. Then they saw a photo of the 1097 peak and said "perfect". I guess case closed. Not.

His final chapter is a joke. He has the hikers pursued down the hill by mini tornados. Apart from that nugget he has them finishing dinner at 9.00pm. "Conserving firewood". Making hot chocolate but forgetting there is no fire. He has them still divided 300 metres from the tent. He ignored the fact the seats twigs came from the fire area ( there was a trail) preferring to push his separate groups theory. He says the river bed was 450 metres from the fire not the actual 75 metres. There is more but you get the picture ......

Brive1987, Sydney/Australia
January 21, 2014 1:21am

I have thought of the unfortunate and unexplained deaths of these students for some time and as Spock said in Star Trek - quoted from Sherlock Holmes "... when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the
truth..."

I originally thought that it may have been the Russian Army with concussion bombs that were dropped on them by accident.
The Army had used this location for secret tests.
Some mention that the Army secretly arrived at the crime scene 1 week before the rescuers found the bodies.

This could answer a few of the mysteries but not all!

Why their tent was on the side of the mountain and not logically down at the tree line for shelter and fire wood?
The Army could have moved the tent up the mountain to change the crime scene.

Why there was radioactive material on some of the clothing and why they were not wearing any protective clothes for the harsh climate?
The Army could have changed their clothes and confiscated clothing which showed being radioactive.

Though all good explanations, I do believe there is only one explanation that holds up to all the facets of this case!

Yeti or Abominable Snow Man - Encounter!

On research I found that the small tent used was not their main tent.
They had left supplies at a base camp and were using this very small tent for an excursion.

What was their purpose for climbing the Ural mountain range?
I googled Russian news broadcast for the past year (1958) and found an interesting account of Yeti encounters on this range. That year a number of local Mansi tribe people disappeared.
After an investigation, the Russian Government banned all further reporting on the Yeti with threats of incarceration.

Th

Robot, Prince George, BC
March 3, 2014 4:44pm

Re the cuts in the tent: Imagine being asleep in the tent - lying length ways. If the tent collapses on your face, the logical way to cut your way out would be from your head towards your feet. When the tent is stood up, it would look like a horizontal gash.

Been there done that ! (not in Russia, just in a collapsed tent)

Aussie, Melbourne
March 16, 2014 11:31pm

Both hypothermia and extreme high altitude (say, a mile or more) can cause or contribute to mental confusion (similar putting away a pint of vodka.)

So can putting away a pint of vodka.

Given this incident is so poorly reported and distorted by time and gossip, I think that UFOs and military conspiracies are equally unlikely.

Without some concrete evidence to the contrary I believe this can be assigned the status of a terrible tragedy due to personal errors and/or extreme conditions and should be mourned for the loss of the sons and daughters and friends of the families, no turned into just another media circus equal to the loss of the 5 pilots who disappeared over the Gulf on a training flight (who were eventually found on the bottom of the Gulf where they as a squad ditched and drowned.)

And, by the way, there is a problem known to intrepid snow fanciers called "whiteout conditions" which may be a factor in the apparent blindness and confusion suggested by the news.

It was terribly sad.

Swampwitch, Gainesville Fl
April 3, 2014 5:53am

in the camera they used has been found the last photo they took.
a wird light in the night sky , don`t forget that the tongue of one girl was missing like parts of cows are missing in strange cases , some strange force as the russians put it back then took the lives of the 9 people.
something is outhere a phenomenon which is real and sometimes can be fatal.

Greek, Athens
July 1, 2014 6:04am

I have studied this subject a lot, including some stuff in russian (a friend translating it ) all I can say is its interesting but i can find no 100% answer as to what happened. But I would put my money on some sort of weapons testing. A lot of things like that happened in the old USSR.

domi, Finland
July 1, 2014 9:43am

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