The Dyatlov Pass Incident: A Case Study

First Published: October 28, 2018 Written by Marcus Lowth Estimated Reading Time: 24 minutes 1 comment

The fact that researchers and historians alike are not quite sure if the deaths of nine experienced mountain hikers is a UFO case or not, only adds more intrigue to an already macabre but darkly-appealing incident. The events took place during the opening months of 1959 in the wicked coldness of winter in the Ural Mountains, one of the northernmost regions of Russia, then the Soviet Union. Researchers and investigators are not exactly sure of the group’s final moments, or what ultimately caused their deaths. Nor are they sure why such experienced hikers would suddenly run from their tent, some of them barefoot, most of them ill-clothed for the conditions, seemingly choosing to leave their specialist attire inside the tent which, incidentally, was discovered cut from the inside. What we know comes from the recovered diary entries.

Dyatlov Tent

However, these entries, stop approximately twenty-four hours before what is believed to have been some terrifying and bizarre event in the subzero, dark, and inhospitable conditions of a mountain range rather ominously known by the locals as “Dead Mountain” or “Mountain of the Dead”. Their bodies would be discovered buried under the snow in two separate locations. One group several weeks after disappearing, one group nearly three months later. Immediately upon the grim discoveries, the authorities would assert close control over the details. Details which many believe are still somewhere under wraps today. Just what scared these young men and women so much they chose to run to their certain deaths? Why were they discovered apart? Was a UFO involved? Might that resolve the bright lights witnessed on the evening in question? As well as the apparent damage to several of the trees near the crippled tent?

The Last Inhabited Settlement This Far North

On the morning of 27th January 1959, a group of ten hikers were making last minute preparations for their trip into the Ural Mountains. The group’s leader, 23-year-old radio engineering student from Ural Polytechnical Institute (now Ural Federal University), Igor Alekseievich Dyatlov, would oversee the preparations as the unit planned to set off from Vizhai, the last and most northern inhabited area of northern Russia.

The goal of the group, eight men and two women (including Dyatlov), all of whom could boast Grade-II certification experience in hiking, was to reach the Otorten mountain and then return. The hike would pass all of them for Grade-III certification – essentially making them as qualified and experienced as was possible (at the time).  Most of the group were also students at the same university, with 38-year-old Alexander Zolotaryov being the exception, although he was a staff member and alumni of the school. The rest of the group would consist of 24-year-old Alexander Kolevatov, 22-year-old Zinaida Kolmogorova, 21-year-old Yuri Doroshenko, and Georgiy Krivonischenko, Rustem Slobodin, and Nikolai Thibeaux-Brignolles – all twenty-three.

In terms of “luck” or “circumstance” or perhaps even “fate”, the tenth and final member of the group, 21-year-old, Yuri Yudin, although he would set out with the unit, would fall ill shortly after, and within twenty-four hours, on the 28th January, he was forced to turn back. In retrospect, it was an illness that likely saved his life, and surely something the young man would think about repeatedly in the months and years that followed the unsettling events of the winter of 1959. Incidentally, he would pass away on 27th April 2013 at the age of seventy-five.

Dyatlov Truck

Documented Movements Up Until 1st February 1959

The hike seems to have gone as planned for the first two days. Dyatlov had agreed with their families and the University authorities that upon their return to Vizhai, a telegram would be sent so they would know of their safe return. They would estimate, all being well and even allowing for any slight delays, that this telegram should arrive with them no later than 12th February.

By 31st January it would appear the nine-strong team had reached a highland area. However, they now faced the prospect of climbing higher in order to reach their destination on the other side of the pass. Instead of carrying their full inventory of supplies, they would make the decision to store some of their food and other provisions in a woodland area just to the side of the route.

The following day, it appears things went as planned and the group went through the pass. It seems at some time here, however, a strong blizzard moved in. So strong, in fact, that the group soon lost their bearings. They would find themselves severely west of their desired location. Instead of climbing the pass as they intended, they were now heading up Kholat Syakhl. Incidentally, the local Mansi tribe’s translation for this ominous mountain is “Mountain of the Dead” or “Dead Mountain”. And it is steeped in local legends and folklore.

It would appear that they soon became aware of their error. However, the weather was worsening at such a pace it was unwise to proceed anywhere. They would make the decision to make their camp where they stood and wait out the storm until morning.

That is the last definite fact of the group’s journey.

Widely Accepted Basic Version Of Known Events

Everything after the evening of 1st February is speculation and theory based on the eventual discoveries. The pre-arranged date of 12th February came and went with no word whatsoever of the group’s return. Families would wait another week. Then, on 20th February they would insist against the wishes of the hiker’s collective institute that a search was arranged. Even then, the search party was made up of students and teachers who had volunteered. However, it soon became apparent that such a search party would achieve little and take a long time to do it.

Several days later, the Soviet military would conduct an official and widespread search of the area. The air force also covered huge areas of snowy mountain ranges with helicopters and search and recovery planes. Several more days passed. Then, the first of two chilling and gut-wrenching discoveries came.

On 26th February a battered and shredded tent was discovered. The campsite was a particularly puzzling scene. It would appear that the vast majority of the hiker’s belongings, including their clothes and even shoes, were still present. Wherever the hikers were, they appeared to have left barefoot and not fully dressed. Even more alarming, though, was the state of the tent’s ruins. Most specifically, the tent had the appearance that it was cut from the inside, suggesting that the scene wasn’t the result of some wild and unknown beast trying to gain entrance to the tent. More likely that the hikers were desperate to cut themselves out. So desperate to leave, it would appear, that they left their clothes and shoes. Despite the blizzard-like conditions.

Then, there were the footprints.

Dyatlov Footprints

The First Discovery

Not only did the footprints show both shoed feet and barefoot prints (most likely on the same person), but they would suddenly stop, in the middle of the snow, a short distance away. All around them was undisturbed snow as if they had just vanished into thin air. They appeared to have been headed towards woodland towards the edge of the campsite. Indeed, it was there where five of the hikers’ bodies were found.

The first two bodies were those of Yuri Krivonischenko and Yuri Doroshenko. They were discovered under a cedar tree on the very edge of the woodland. Interestingly, the tree looked to have a substantial number of branches broken, damaged and in some places “snapped” off. All at a height of over fifteen feet. There were also the remains of a fire near to the two bodies.

As grim as these first two finds were, the discoveries of the next three bodies of the group’s leader, Igor Dyatlov, Zinaida Kolmogorova and Rustem Slobodin were equally as perplexing. The positioning of all three of their corpses would suggest they were heading back towards the makeshift camp near the cedar tree when they were literally “frozen” in their positions. As if by some bizarre “ice-ray” from a science-fiction movie.

All five of the corpses were poorly dressed, some with no shoes on their feet. How long they lasted in such hazardous conditions after fleeing the tent is unknown. Was the fire the remains of the hikers? Were they mentally together enough, and physically able to start a fire? And where were the remaining four hikers?

Over two months would pass before the second grim find. A discovery which would raise even more questions.

Dyatlov Cedar

Scene under the cedar tree

The Second Discovery

Over two months following the discovery of the “first group”, came the discovery of the remaining four hikers. The find occurred on 4th May 1959, buried under over twelve feet of snow in a ravine and over eighty yards away from the location of the first five hikers’ bodies.

What was immediately apparent was these last four remaining hikers were substantially better dressed than the first five. In fact, all four of them were practically fully dressed. Perhaps even stranger, some of them were dressed in clothes and wearing shoes that had belonged to their fellow hikers who died near the cedar tree. For example, Zolotaryov was discovered wearing Dubinina’s fake-fur coat and hat. Perhaps even stranger, Dubinina had wrapped her foot in a piece of Krivonishenko’s woolen pants

How long after the first group of hikers did these four meet their end? Were they moved to the ravine and buried? Or did they make their own way there, huddling up in a desperate attempt to get warm? Might they have been present at the cedar tree location where their fellow hikers died? Does this explain why some of them were wearing their clothing and shoes? Is it even possible that the second group were responsible for the deaths of those in the first group? Or had they simply passed away first leaving the surviving members of the group with a grim but needed opportunity to increase their chances of remaining alive?

What is perhaps interesting is that when the inquests were opened into the deaths of the first five hikers discovered at the end of February they were quickly, and perhaps suspiciously, wrapped up. It was “likely”, it said, they had died of hypothermia. The inquest into the remaining four hikers, however, wouldn’t be as simple.

Injuries Akin To Someone Hit By A High-Speed Truck!

The inquests of the last four hikers would reveal some bizarre and terrifying injuries. They would find that all four had injuries akin to someone who had been hit by a high-speed truck. While between them they all had severe chest fractures and skull damage, there were no other external injuries. Certainly not consistent with the severe internal injuries each of them had. The report would even state that the internal injuries were in line with someone who had been “subjected to a high level of pressure”. We will come back to this point a little later.

There were, though, some extremely puzzling injuries to some of the second group members. For example, Dubinina was missing her tongue, eyes, and even part of her lips. What’s more, these injuries appeared to be the result of surgical precision. Furthermore, fragments of skull-bone and even facial tissue appeared to have been carved out – again with medical precision. Further still, skin maceration on her hands was also present. Officially, the inquest would state Dubinina’s injuries were the result of the putrefaction process due to her lying face down in the ravine. Some researchers, however, were not convinced with this take on the situation.

Although authorities had an obvious desire to wrap up the case as quickly and as quietly as possible, members of the family, as well as independent researchers would continue to pry into the case. And as the years passed by, theories, speculation, and conspiracies would run increasingly rampant.

Dyatlov Ravine

Scene at the ravine

Claims Of UFO Activity

On what is widely agreed to have been the night in question, there were several reports of strange lights in the skies over the mountains where the group’s battered tent was eventually discovered. Had they been present at a UFO event? If so, were their deaths a result of this? And furthermore, was this a purposeful murderous act, or a tragic accident? A case of the hikers being at the wrong place at the wrong time?

There are many reports of glowing orbs over the mountain range. On the nights in question, these same lights were allegedly witnessed by settlements below. To some, the deaths of the hikers were not of a supernatural nature, and not to do with any of the long-standing legends. To some, the deaths were the result of a close encounter with a vehicle from another world. And given some of the injuries – in particular, those to Dubinina – their deaths may not have been a mere accident.

Were the broken branches of the cedar tree at the location of the first two bodies, for example, the result of a nuts-and-bolts craft? Might that explain why the footsteps suddenly stopped with all around them undisturbed snow? Might they have been “scooped up” and then “dropped” near the cedar tree? If this was the case, why was Dubinina discovered with the second group of hikers? And why were three of the group found “frozen” in the positions of returning to camp? Might the hikers, if we assume that a UFO was responsible for their deaths, have been returned separately?

Or might the glowing orbs and strange activity on the mountain ranges not be the result of alien intelligence? Might it be a top-secret region for military weapons testing?

Secret Cold-War Military Testing?

Another popular, and credible theory is that the deaths share a connection to secret military weapons testing. Again, whether they were an intentional target for an unknown test or their deaths an unintended and tragic accident is again open to debate. Although it should be said, it is mere speculation that the group might have been an intentional target. That the Soviet authorities played the situation tight to their chest and, whether intentional or not, gave a general feeling of having something to hide, isn’t.

Might the glowing orbs witnessed by locals in the settlements around the foot of the mountain range have not been extraterrestrial but of a clandestine military nature? Might the area, otherwise cut off from the population, have been home to a secret military installation? Again, the questions arise as to whether the deaths were accidental or a consequence of being somewhere “off-limits” to most. Even if they didn’t realize or intend to trespass?

As we will explore a little later, two of the hikers, Zolotaryov and Brignolles, would leave the tent seemingly before the others. It is thought they did so to relieve themselves or to picture some kind of activity outside of the tent. If we assume for one moment that this activity was of a clandestine military nature, it is perfectly reasonable to assume an extreme and coldly effective response would follow.

While this is all speculation, it would certainly explain why the military wished to have the incident neatly tied together and forgotten about. And what’s more, some of the aforementioned injuries just might endorse these speculations more than not.

Sonar Or Pulse Technology?

One of the most interesting theories is the testing of some kind of pulse or sonar weapon over the Ural Mountains. As we mentioned earlier, the injuries sustained by the four members of the group of the second discovery were particularly interesting. They appeared relatively undamaged on the outside, while internally their injuries resembled those of someone who might have been hit at high speed by a large truck or who had been “subjected to a high level of pressure”.

Was this, in fact, the result of some kind of unimaginable wave of energy that crumbled their insides and presented the military with an unseen problem? Either admit their error publicly and face embarrassment, not to mention the wrath of the people that ten young lives had been needlessly cut short? Or they had to create a situation that wouldn’t be questioned by anyone who might poke a little further than the official story?

It is certainly a credible theory, and not at all one that required too much of a stretch of the imagination. Furthermore, while we won’t examine them here, there are some similar “UFO cases” that very well might be more in line with sonar, pulse, or some other exotic but deadly weapons testing on record. Perhaps the Guarapiranga Reservoir Man case being one of the best examples.

The short video below, while not looking directly at the Dyatlov Pass incident, looks at other “secret weapons”. Including sonar weapons.

Secret Intelligence And Untranslated Tattoos

Perhaps they are simply a product of their time, but several theories regarding the fate of the nine hikers revolve around secret missions for the KGB. At the time of the incident, and certainly over the following three decades that followed, the Soviet Union was all but at war with the Western world. And in particular, the United States, who themselves would keep a constant close eye on Soviet activities.

With that in mind, some theories suggest that several of the group were actually working for the KGB. Their mission was to plant “radioactive clothing” at the site to simply serve as a false trail for Western intelligence services with the hope being they would divert funds and resources investigating it. Not to mention, if Soviet forces could capture them, the embarrassment for the Americans on the international stage. In fact, going a stage further, Alexei Rakitin would write in his book ‘Dyatlov Pass’ that Alexander Zolotaryov, along with two other members of the group, were actually KGB agents looking to uncover a CIA cell operating in the country. He would assert that it was the CIA who was ultimately responsible for the death of the nine hikers.

While there is little proof of the CIA’s involvement in the incident, the involvement of the aforementioned Alexander Zolotaryov is rather interesting. Not only was he much older than the rest of the group, he had extensive military and combatant training. Furthermore, he had joined the group at the very last minute. Even stranger, was a tattoo on his person which would read “DAERMMUAZUAYA”. No translation, into any language exists.

We will come back to Zolotaryov a little later.

The Gulag Theories

At the time of the incident, Gulags would surround the location of the group’s hike route – official and otherwise. Many theories suggest the group may have been suddenly ambushed by Soviet authorities who mistook them for escaped prisoners. Even if the authorities hadn’t directly caused their deaths, the panic perhaps caused them to flee into the freezing elements. Perhaps such an operation would explain the glowing orbs and the damage to the cedar tree nearby. Is it even possible that upon realizing their mistake, they would receive orders to “cover-up” the deaths to save the embarrassment of such an error in front of the Soviet public and the world, no less?

However, it might not have been the Soviet authorities that were responsible. Many of the prisoners of the Gulags did indeed escape. Some of them had been there since the Second World War and many were there due to their political views or associations. Given how isolated such prisoners would have been from the rest of the world, anyone that did escape would have little knowledge of happenings since their incarceration. Many such escapees would “disappear” into such otherwise desolate landscapes. And with skills learned on the front lines of war, and already hardened by the prison camps, they would survive on what they could catch and steal. And kill.

Might such an escaped prisoner have come across the group of hikers. Might he have believed the group to be looking for him and so decided to strike first? Or perhaps the group had witnessed him, in his mind leaving him no choice but to kill them so they wouldn’t report his presence and so sending him back to the Gulags – or worse.

Dyatlov Incident

Avalanches And Speculation About The Mansi Tribe

Perhaps more mundane, although no less credible, at least initially and on the surface, are suggestions that the group fell to a sudden avalanche. Maybe they suddenly heard or felt the onset of such an avalanche. Or perhaps they became trapped due to rolling snow blocking the entrance and so forcing them to cut themselves out of the tent, not to mention having to vacate the scene quickly due to the oncoming rush of thick, crushing ice.

However, more intense scrutiny on such a theory would soon reveal it to be less credible. In fact, it is highly unlikely. Not least, there was no visible indications nor aftermath of such an avalanche. And while it is much less scientific a reason, all of the hikers, in particular, Dyatlov, was highly unlikely to have set up the camp in any such “danger” area.

Once again, while it is only speculation with no evidence to back it up, some researchers have suggested the group might have fell victim to local tribes of the region, specifically the “Mansi” tribe. However, despite the assertions of some, the Mansi tribe were, in reality, peaceful in nature. Furthermore, if the hikers did indeed fall victim to the Mansi, or any other tribe in the region, that doesn’t explain the lack of tracks or any other signs of an outside presence.

As we will look at slightly later, it would appear any blame put at the door of the Mansi tribes likely stem from an opportunistic desire of the wider Russian population to paint who they saw as heretics in a bad light.

The Menk – A Russian Supernatural Bigfoot?

More recently in the 2000s, some theories would surface revolving around the notion that the culprit behind the deaths of the nine hikers was a “menk”, a legend of the Siberian region similar to Bigfoot. However, unlike Bigfoot, the menk have a supernatural element to them, with many of the oral traditions of the story revolving around “formidable forest spirits”. Furthermore, and possibly a slight connection to the ancient astronaut theory, these strange creatures have protection “by the gods”. Did they suddenly face attack from such a creature? And why would they choose to cut themselves out of the tent? As flimsy as it was, it was surely preferable to whatever beast might be outside, not to mention the subzero conditions.

Realistically, an attack from local tribes or wild beasts, mythical or otherwise is highly unlikely. Not least due to the lack of tracks around the site that would have declared their presence to all who followed. Unless, of course, considering again the menk’s supposed supernatural abilities, maybe such a creature wouldn’t leave any tracks.

Another thing to consider, leaving out the supernatural element for a second, although there were great internal injuries to the four hikers in the second group of discoveries, and seemingly minor external injuries on the first group of five hikers, there was no shredding, cuts, or lacerations that would perhaps be consistent with an attack from such a beastly creature.

However, one picture surfaced from the many developed from the group’s recovered cameras which is certainly worth looking at.

The “Frame 17 Bigfoot” Picture

Although most dismiss it, many researchers point to a picture cataloged as “Frame 17” of Nikolai (Thibeaux) Brignolle’s camera as rather interesting. The picture’s perspective from below a rise in the landscape. A pathway is visible with snow-covered trees on either side. In the middle of the frame, is a blurred yet unmistakable picture of a humanoid figure. Although it could easily be a person (and almost certainly is) the shading of the figure appears to be of the same color or material. Even the most ardent skeptic would have to admit the figure certainly bears a resemblance to what many people would recognize as a Bigfoot-type creature. A Russian Yeti? Or a menk? You can check out the picture below.

Dyatlov Bigfoot

It is also clearly facing forward as if walking back down the slope towards the cameraman. Incidentally, this was the last picture on Brignolle’s camera. Was this mysterious creature some kind of wild beast-like man, a Bigfoot? And was it responsible, one way or another for the deaths of the nine hikers?

Detractors from these claims insist that a trail leading away from the photographer is visible. This would suggest that whoever the mystery figure is, they are likely one of the nine hikers. They most likely walked away from Brignolle, likely to gain a better view of their position. At the time of the picture, they were likely in the process of returning to Brignolle.

You can check out a recent documentary looking at this aspect of the incident.

The Zolotaryov “Second Camera” Pictures

As well as the reasons already highlighted previously for assuming Zolotaryov may not have been all that he seemed, he and Brignolles were each substantially better clothed than the rest of the group. They also each had some type of inner soles in their footwear, unlike the others. This has raised the question as to whether they had equipment especially supplied that the others didn’t. Or were they simply the last of the group to perish and so took clothes from their dead friends in an attempt to survive?

Other theories suggest that the pair likely left the tent slightly before the other nine. Perhaps they left to relieve themselves and so dressed in whatever clothes they could find. The intention being that they would be back in a matter of minutes. However, something happened which caused them not to return to the tent.

What is interesting, though, is Zolotaryov’s camera on his body. In fact, he had the camera still around his neck. What is perhaps even stranger, this camera was a different one to the one at his disposal throughout the journey, which would turn up among the ruins of the crippled tent. Why had he changed cameras? Was this another hint towards some kind of clandestine mission? And if so, what was he hoping to capture on camera? Had the pair not left the tent in order to relieve themselves, but because of some kind of disturbance outside?

Whatever the reason, the eleven pictures he captured were mysterious and slightly chilling. While none of them are clear, they show strange flashes, bizarre manifestations, and perhaps most intriguing, “glowing orbs”. You can see several of those pictures below.

Dyatlov Zolotaryov Pic2


Dyatlov Zolotaryov Pic1

An Intelligence Mission Or Demonic Manifestation?

These pictures and the events leading up to them would seem to be of obvious importance. Why did Zolotaryov and Brignolles leave the tent in dark, freezing conditions? Why did Zolotaryov feel the need to take a camera, and why did he take a different one? And of most importance, what took place once they were outside? Were the pictures a purposeful attempt to capture some strange but initially non-threatening activity? Or did the pictures come under extreme pressure? Perhaps as the pair ran through the icy snow away from some unknown entity or force?

What is perhaps also of interest, of all the cameras, this camera around Zolotaryov’s neck was the only one that would receive a label. Why was this? Does this indicate that there was something special about these pictures? Or even something special about Zolotaryov. If we assume for a moment that the intelligence claims are true, why would he have gone to take photographs for the Soviets, who could surely have done so themselves? Is it possible that Zolotaryov was spying for another body, possibly the Americans? Is this why he and the group met such a sudden and brutal end?

Or do the pictures, as Cora Hull in the book ‘Fallen Angels Exposed’ suggests, show supernatural manifestations? According to Hull the Zolotaryov pictures “are a clear indication of fallen angel/higher level demonic involvement”. Hull would even go as far as to state that several of the pictures show a “partial physical manifestation, shape-shifting demon”. Furthermore, according to Hull, the glowing orbs are “typical of fallen angels or higher-level demons manifesting in orb form”.

Is this why the locals call the range the “Mountain of the Dead” (or Dead Mountain)?

The Gravity Fluctuation Theory

Perhaps one of the most intriguing theories is also one of the most scientific. Professor and physicist, German Erchenko would claim that the nine hikers were the victims of “gravity fluctuation” – a set of circumstances, including the location, which causes the external gravity to literally fluctuate.

According to Erchenko, he believes that a “significant external pressure” literally threw the hikers out from the tent. He would explain it as a “corridor” forming in and around the valleys of the land. As the campers were getting ready to settle down for the night, they would suddenly find themselves lifted off the ground and “dragged into the corridor”.

This, Erchenko would continue, would explain the damage to the tent from the inside, as the air pressure inside the tent was significantly higher than outside. The hikers would, in theory at least, have raced through the air towards and through the material of the tent. This set of circumstances would also explain the harrowing internal injuries to at least four of the hikers, who perhaps were already outside at the time of the incident. Furthermore, this would explain why they were so far away from the campsite. And perhaps why the remaining five were in such bizarre and awkward positions as if trying to get towards the cedar tree. Perhaps they were not trying to reach the tree so much as pull themselves out of the apparent corridor.

It is likely, according to Erchenko’s theory, that those outside at the time of the gravity drop “died instantly”. The remaining members may have remained alive for a short while afterward. All of them, “once outside the tent (would) remain hovering in the air as though lying on a horizontal surface”.

Bizarre Natural Phenomenon, Or Top-Secret Gravity Weapons?

Is this really as extreme as it sounds? Erchenko insists that this is not at all uncommon for the area. Furthermore, the incident likely lasted only a matter of minutes, which would still be enough time to scatter all nine of the hikers to the positions they were discovered. This, of course, would also explain the complete lack of tracks of an outside influence or predator. Furthermore, Erchenko would theorize that had the hikers remained firmly in the tent, they would likely have remained unaffected from the temporary drop in gravity outside. Even unaware of it.

However, what about the glowing orbs witnessed by the locals, and by the hikers? At least by Zolotaryov, who appears to have left the tent to investigate them. Might they too be some kind of consequence of such a bizarre phenomenon? In the same way that some people claim to see bright lights before earthquakes?

Or might the glowing orbs, while certainly being an indicator of such an upcoming drop in gravity, be of a more manufactured nature? Perhaps, although certainly a lot more unlikely, this “gravity fluctuation” was not the result of a natural phenomenon. Maybe it was part of a top-secret military experiment? If that was the case, then the need for secrecy, although not to endorse such behavior, would certainly be easier to understand.

What is also interesting is the several plane crashes in and around the hikers’ final location. As well as the wild animals that are often drop dead in unnervingly similar circumstances.

While there is no proof that this is the case, the claims by a member of the original search team just short of a decade later would light the touch-paper on many of the conspiracies that surround the incident today.

Dyatlov Ski Scene

Yuri Yarovoi – Another Case Of Fact Hiding As Fiction?

In 1967 one of the members of the search team, Yuri Yarovoi, would write and publish ‘Of The Highest Degree of Complexity’ – a fictional story that was based on not only his personal experience with the search unit, as well as his capacity as the official photographer, but also on access he claimed to have to secret leaked files on the incident. Given the political and social climate of the Cold War era of the late-1960s Soviet Union, some researchers have suggested releasing the account in this way was the only method of avoiding persecution from the Soviet authorities.

Even more intriguing, Yarovoi, who died in 1980, had several “alternative” versions of the manuscript, each of which wouldn’t see the light of day because of the aforementioned censorship around the issue. The whereabouts of his archives, including the alternative manuscripts, is unknown.

His work, however, would inspire others to look at the case again. Among them was Anatoly Gushchin who would write the book ‘The Price Of State Secrets Is Nine Lives” in 1990 following the demise of communism in the Soviet Union. Although many were highly critical of his work, it would indirectly produce “new” witnesses who, under threat of the Soviet regime, had remained silent regarding who they knew of the incident.

One of these witnesses was former police officer, Lev Ivanov. He would publish an article the same year as Gushchin’s book. In it, he would state that the police investigating the case were at a complete loss as to what had happened. Furthermore, and of interest, were the reports from his team about the “flying spheres”. The ones from their search. According to Gushchin, he received direct orders from high-ranking officials ordering him to retract the claim.

Could It Really Happen Again?

Claims such as those by Yarovoi and Gushchin certainly make many of us reexamine this most strange of cases once again. Whatever the truth of the situation, it certainly appears there was something, or the perception of something that required covering up. While we will go over once more the theories and claims as to just what happened in this most uninhabitable area of northern Russia in the brutal winter of 1959 in summing up this morbidly fascinating case, it could prove to be, if we assume that one day we will be privy to the real and accurate events, that aspects of all areas will be found contained within them.

Perhaps it is worth returning to the aforementioned, German Erchenko, who would state that gravity fluctuation was responsible for the hiker’s deaths. He would assert that this phenomenon occurs more than people think. Only the fact the area is so uninhabited prevents more deaths like those of the nine hikers, at least according to Erchenko. Perhaps, interestingly or not, this is actually the origins of the ominous moniker, “Mountain of the Dead”. Erchenko would issue a stern warning to any adventure seekers who might wish to visit the Dyatlov Pass in the future. He would state, “It is worth bearing in mind that the corridor where the gravity to Earth is decreased can ‘open’ again”.

Whether this phenomenon is real, or whether it is some menacing secret technological weapon, the image below is extremely interesting. It is from the European Space Agency and claims to show the discrepancies of gravity on Earth. The blue areas show where the gravity is lower, while the red areas similarly show the areas with higher than normal gravity.

Dyatlov Gravity

Still An Enigmatic Mystery Sixty Years Later

Despite the intense interest in the case, the numerous investigations, both official and otherwise, just what happened in the dark, freezing elements on the Ural Mountains in early-February 1959 remains a mystery. And an ominous one at that.

We can likely rule out an avalanche being the cause of the hiker’s deaths. Aside from there being no evidence to suggest an avalanche to have happened, it wouldn’t explain a whole manner of details, not least the bizarre positioning of the bodies. Or why they would end up in two different groups. And the damage to the cedar tree and the remains of a fire where the first two bodies were discovered. Even the perceived threat would unlikely have resulted in such a panic to have caused the group’s deaths.

It also appears unlikely to have been the local Mansi tribe who killed the group. They were indeed familiar with the terrain and expert at negotiating it in all manner of weather conditions. They were even expert hunters and efficient at covering their tracks. However, it seems unlikely such an attack would go ahead. Not at least in the middle of a blizzard at night. Researchers since have uncovered what appears to have been a simmering resentment. Largely from the wider, mostly-religious population towards the Mansi tribe. And in particular for their “pagan ways” which were only a little short of heretical. In short, there would have been a large number of people only too happy to see the Mansi blamed for such a heinous act as the murder of nine defenseless hikers.

So, what about the grittier conspiracy theories involving the military, UFOs, and even supernatural beasts.

How Credible Are The Bigfoot And UFO Connections?

It is likely within this sphere that the answer lies. If we start first by ruling out with what is perhaps the least likely suggestions among the three. That the hikers met their grisly end at the hands of a Bigfoot-like creature or a supernatural entity.

So then, what about the UFO claims? There are reports of many strange lights in this area of the mountain range. The main reason for the UFO claims here, however, is the bizarre and precise facial injuries. In particular, the removal of skin tissues.

And because of two pictures on Zolotaryov’s first camera.

The first – Frame 15 – wasn’t initially of interest. Mainly as it would seem to show nothing more than just a blur. However, in light of recent research, as well as the pictures on Zolotaryov’s second camera, this changes. The picture perhaps takes on a little more significance. Was it just a blur? Or might it have been some type of strange interference? You can view that picture below.

Dyatlov Frame 15

The second picture, and certainly most well-known is Frame 34 – the last picture on this camera. It appears to be an out-of-focus orb of some kind. Was it a picture that was merely an accident, as some skeptics insist? Or was it an attempt, perhaps by one of the other hikers to use Zolotaryov’s camera? The one left by him in the tent. Perhaps to document the bizarre and frightening events unfolding around them?

Dyatlov Frame 34

Initially, the incident looks to be a UFO encounter. And has certainly remained in the UFO arena. Particularly since the account became better known around the world following the fall of the Soviet Union. There might, however, be a more down-to-earth, but no less unnerving scenario.

Military Intelligence – A Likely Epicenter Of The Conspiracy?

Might there be, then, a clandestine military connection? Maybe the hikers had innocently wondered onto the land? Or perhaps they were discreetly “led off course” by Zolotaryov (if claims of his “intelligence” connections are true). It would seem that Zolotaryov and Brignolles left the tent, likely to investigate some kind of activity outside. This might explain their increased clothing and their “borrowing” of their campmates’ attire. Perhaps the remaining two hikers of the second group would join them at some stage.

Whether through a military weapons experiment, an aircraft test, or indeed an extraterrestrial-controlled craft, something seems to have gone wrong. Perhaps the object crashed or there was an explosion overhead. Or, if we say that it was a weapons test, perhaps these explosions were the result of such testing. It would seem that whatever “it” was, panic in the hikers remaining in the tent was the result. While the four already outside ran further away, desperately looking for cover.

Perhaps this explains why the first five hikers were almost naked and relatively near to the tent. Maybe this is why three of them were in bizarre positions? As if making their way to the first two hikers under the cedar tree. However, might it be that the “fire” was not a makeshift campfire? Perhaps the remains of some kind of explosion? One that not only damaged the tree but perhaps killed the two hikers presumably under it. Remember, their hands were “in the fire”. Hardly a position to put oneself in voluntarily.

Perhaps the four hikers in the second group met a similar fate near the ravine. Although their extensive internal injuries would suggest a much closer proximity to whatever was being tested.

An Event So Terrible…?

If the deaths were through secret military testing, is the real conspiracy the covering up of the acts? And not necessarily upon the bodies’ discovery. Might it be that the military, realizing their mistake, purposely manipulated the scene? Perhaps even the positioning of their bodies and their ultimate final locations?

There is, for example, some discrepancy as to whether the remains of the tent had even been put up correctly. These hikers had experience in hazardous conditions. It would have been highly unlikely for them to overlook such a basic yet essential procedure. Was the tent, then, put back up in haste? By inexperienced military officers in order to cover-up events that still remain unknown to the rest of us? Was there such a cover-up? Was it so terrible there was a perceived need to hide them from the potential prying eyes of the world?

There remains hope that somewhere in a vault in Russia explanations await. Perhaps deep below the modern cities, in a building once utilized during the Cold War era. Maybe there sits a file with the real story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident. Until that day, there remains only the theories and speculations. The findings of those who still, over half a century later, have a grim fascination with this dark event. An event, that perhaps we should keep in mind, resulted in the very real deaths of nine very real people.

The video below looks at this most fascinating, if grim, cases of the twentieth century a little further.

About Marcus Lowth

Marcus Lowth is a writer with a love for anything interesting, from UFOs, aliens, and the Ancient Astronaut Theory, to the paranormal, general conspiracies and unsolved mysteries. He also has a passion for film, music, and the NFL. As well as writing for various websites, he runs and writes for Me Time For The Mind.

Marcus has written a total of 349 articles for UFO Insight. You can contact Marcus via email.

1 Comment

  • William Granger says:

    Great article. One theory I recently heard was that the stove may have overheated and filled the tent with smoke. The last video “Michael’s Lens” said the stove was not used the night they perished. Wonder if anyone else has heard this?

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