Members of the group before they set off.
The fact that they were all found dead is both strange enough and tragic enough as it is; but things truly took a turn for the bizarre when forensics got their hands on the data. The first five bodies found were determined to have died of hypothermia– perhaps unsurprising given the lack of clothing, though that is a mystery in and of itself. But that cedar tree that Krivonischenko and Doroshenko had been found under? It wasn’t just a tree. The branches had been broken off the tree at a height of approximately five meters, and traces skin and other tissues were found embedded in the trunk. The implication is not only that the two skiers tried to climb the tree, but also that they were so frantic that they kept scrambling at it in spite of the broken branches until their hands were literally raw. Furthermore, Slobodin and Thibeaux-Brignolle both had skull fractures, and Dubinina and Zolotareva both had broken ribs. And let’s not forget that Dubinina, Zolotareva, Thibeaux-Brignolle, and Kolevatov were found in a ravine some distance away. Kolevatov was found to have died of hypothermia. Dubinina, Zolotareve, and Thibeaux-Brignolle died due to their wounds.
Oh, and Dubinina was missing her tongue.
Initially, it was thought that perhaps indigenous Mansi people might have attacked and murder the group for trespassing on their land; the apparent lack of a struggle, however, discredited this theory. The lack of clothing may have been due to something called “paradoxical undressing”: Already suffering from moderate to severe hypothermia, a person may become disoriented and confused, at which point they may begin shedding their clothing. But still other clues were harder to explain: The tent, for instance, had been ripped open from the inside; the footsteps around the camp indicated that all the group members had left the camp of their on accord, though the positions of the bodies Dyatlov, Slobodin, and Kolmogorov showed that they had been trying to return to it; the injuries of the group found in the ravine could not, according to Dr. Boriz Vozrohdenny, have been caused by another human (“It was equal to the effect of a car crash,” he said); and what little clothing had been found on the bodies all demonstrated a high level of radioactive contamination.
Yes. The clothing was radioactive.
But late in May in 1959, the inquest into the deaths of the nine skiers ceased due to the absence of a guilty party. The final verdict declared the group died because of a “compelling unknown force.” The files pertaining to the inquest were packed away carefully and sent to a secret archive. And that, as they say, was that.
Here’s the scariest part: All of this is absolutely, 100% true. The pass they were found in was named Dyatlov Pass, after the team’s leader, and the unknown events of February 1 that led to the group’s tragic fate have been dubbed the Dyatlov Pass Incident. A few of the claims that rolled in later on, however, may or may not be true. What claims? Try these on for size:
- After the funerals, many of the victims’ relatives said that the victims’ skin had turned an odd brown color.
- The source of the radiation was never found.
- A group of hikers about 50 kilometers south of the Dyatlov team reported sightings of strange orange spheres in the north—the direction towards Kholat Syakhl—on the evening of February 1.
- Large amounts of scrap metal were reportedly found in the area around the camp.
These claims have led many to believe that the Dyatlov Pass Incident was caused by either the paranormal or the government. The spheres point to the paranormal; the other pieces of information point to the possibility that the government or the military had used the area and were now involved in a cover-up.
I don’t know, guys. This story is so truly strange and unusual that I don’t think we’re ever going to find a satisfactory explanation to what happened—especially not 53 years on. All we can really do is ensure that the ill-fated ski team is never forgotten. They may be dead, but as long as someone is thinking of them, they can never truly be gone. Cold comfort, perhaps; but hey. Sometimes, that’s all we’ve got.