The unexplained bizarre deaths of 9 Russian hikers in 1959

I just stumbled across the fascinating tale of the Dyatlov Pass Accident. The case is full of bizarre findings. Nine hikers set out into the wilderness and were never seen alive again. Theit bodies were found in groups a good distance from their camp, all in little more than underwear, as if they had to flee their tent in a hurry. Their tent was ripped open from the inside, like they didn’t even have time to use the tent’s door. Five of the hikers showed no signs of trauma and likely died from hypothermia — two of which were found around a temporary fire that they made while in their underwear. None of them seemed to dare to return to the tent. The other four hikers died of internal injuries but showed no external wounds, one from a fractured skull, and two from fractured chests, as if they had been crippled by extreme pressure.

Here are some more facts of the case (from the Wikipedia article):

  • Six of the group members died of hypothermia and three of fatal injuries.
  • There were no indications of other people nearby apart from the nine travellers on Kholat Syakhl, nor anyone in the surrounding areas.
  • The tent had been ripped from within.
  • The victims had died 6 to 8 hours after their last meal.
  • Traces from the camp showed that all group members (including those who were found injured) left the camp of their own accord, by foot. This implies that those with injuries were injured after they left the camp.
  • The fatal injuries of the three bodies could not have been caused by another human being.
  • Forensic radiation tests had shown high doses of radioactive contamination on the clothes of a few victims. These test results were not taken into account for the final verdict.


The only footprints found in the snow were those of the hikers, so it couldn’t have been caused by any sort of land animal, human or otherwise. There were no traces of an avalanche. The most curious part of the case is the high level of radioactivity found in the bodies. The families who attended to the burial procedures reported that the corpses’ skin that had turned orange and hair that had turned gray. None of the Russian military helicopter pilots would transport the corpses, not even in body bags. Did they know more than they let on?

The case was never solved. So what in the hell caused this accident? The Wikipedia article vaguely mentions aliens, but come on, let’s be real. Some kind of military testing perhaps? The radioactivity had to come from somewhere. I just can’t think of many things that would cause nine people to run out of a perfectly warm tent nearly naked into the snow, and not return for some hours while they slowly froze to death. And how did the four that suffered internal injuries die? It’s eerie. I’m getting goosebumps just thinking of it.

Man, what I wouldn’t give for a Light of Other Days-style wormhole to be able to look back into the past and see what happened there. My curiosity has been peaked, yet there are no answers to be found.

Something like this would make a great episode of CSI, unsolved ending included. Just have the episode unfold with increasingly bizarre findings in the case being discovered, and then cut to credits at the end of the hour with nothing solved, only dozens of questions raised. It would be a different experience from their typical format in which everything is neatly wrapped up about five minutes before the end of the episode, but I would love it.

27 Responses to “The unexplained bizarre deaths of 9 Russian hikers in 1959”

  1. Iamunknown Says:

    Thanks for the interesting read. I agree that it would make a thrilling dramatisation.

  2. William (green) Says:

    Go ahead and remove this comment, but…
    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/piqued

  3. Cyde Weys Says:

    Haha, good point. I know about that word, and I knew something was wrong when I was typing out “peak” because it didn’t feel right, but I didn’t come up with the pique spelling at all. I was internally arguing over “peak” or “peek”.

  4. drinian Says:

    I’m glad someone else pointed out “piqued” so I didn’t have to, and be that guy…

    The victims had died 6 to 8 hours after their last meal.
    Sounds like they were experimenting with Taco Bell in the Soviet Union.

    Seriously, though, it’s an interesting story. There have been more recent cases of people in the former Soviet bloc finding big chunks of radioactive material in the wilderness near old military installations and such, but this sounds very different.

  5. Cyde Weys Says:

    See, now you guys have made it impossible for me to go back and correct that error, because none of these comments would make any sense.

  6. Anonomous Says:

    Oh and I just checked your source.. Wikipedia… Why not check out the actual article http://www.sptimes.ru/index.php?action_id=2&story_id=25093

  7. Anonomous Says:

    Actually, now that I think about it… When you look at those pictures… I guess carrying a RTG through several feet of snow wearing skis and carrying tons of gear would be easy! NOT! I once got lost in a gully in the Rocky Mountains.. I had to get rescued! There is actually zero chance they moved an RTG anywhere! Just look at t hem setting up camp! are you serious?

  8. Anonomous Says:

    Wow, I wrote a length comment about this but it didn’t post for some reason. Anyways the person who foud the possible solution? So they traveled up to 1 1/2 kilometers with the radiation poisoning? If they were so able to move why did they flee from the tent so fast? Also, it is ignorant to say that the Alien theory is laughable. With todays technology we could easily get around 200 years ago unseen. Technology is relative to time… Humans have not been around long compared to the billions of years or more the universe has existed. So the argument that they would have to travel at lightspeed to get here unseen is stupid.. It’s the equivalent of us using stealth planes to get around unseen during the caveman years. Also, I am an engineer not just some kid. I know about astrophysics! Do you? I guess you personally visited the billions and billions of galaxies to check for other life huh? I personally think that you are ignorant and laughable! I mean you seriously think that earth is the only planet capable of sustaining life when their are literally billions of other galaxies.. We live in 1 galaxy! I think that you are ignorant and it is laughable that you rule out aliens as a possiblity. I have no idea what happened that day.. and I will not pretend to… The more you know the less you now… Why is it that the Nasa Astronauts had a press conference recently about the government hiding info about UFO’s etc? I guess astronauts are laughable to you too huh? You don’t even have to do research. Just realize that you are human and that we have existed for a trivial amount of time compared to the universe… Wake up

  9. Anonomous Says:

    How does anything you say explain the woman missing her tongue? How could soldiers kill people from the inside? The coroners said the deaths coudln’t be caused by humans.. How would they even move an RTG? How would they get it open? Radiation sickness doesn’t cause people to run 1 1/2 kilometers in 30 below Celsius. Theory just doesn’t explain anything really

  10. Cyde Weys Says:

    If you didn’t post so many comments in a row, you wouldn’t have been caught by the spam filter. Generally, blog etiquette says that you carefully consider your comment, then post a single comment. Don’t keep coming back and adding more as you think of it.

  11. William (green) Says:

    I’ve had this problem every so often on my blog as well. It’s nowhere near as popular as yours, of course, but I have one person who feels the need to comment on every post, but not necessarily with something useful. I think it’s some kind of first-post-! syndrome, in my case.
    I found these links which might be interesting:
    http://www.lostartofblogging.com/the-comment-etiquette-the-guide-to-proper-blog-commenting
    http://dariablack.wordpress.com/2007/02/13/the-bloggers-guide-to-comment-etiquette/
    http://www.blogherald.com/2007/08/16/time-wasting-blog-comments-comments-policies-and-comment-etiquette/

  12. Emma Says:

    Well – let’s see. Avalanche. Hikers go insane with fear nd run away. Explains the shredded tent and why they ran away. Also possibly the orangeskin from lying down in the snow for days on end. The tongue — well, animals get hungry, no?

    It is a bit of a mystery though, and I know that my proffered explanation doesn’t really clean up all the questions!

  13. aps Says:

    Most likely answer Mushrooms! they where tripping and ran off into the snow and the chick bit her own tongue off, no brusing was because the sub-zero temps. 2nd most likely nerve gas as the area was used for u.s.s.r milatry training. that would explain the orange skin and the area being closed for three years after

  14. Peter Hansen Says:

    On the pic of the tent there is bulky snow on top of it. The snow does not seem to have blown there. Ho did that snow get there?

  15. Taylor Says:

    Alien life is completely possible for one thing. trillions of galaxies and we have barely explored our solar system. this story is so interesting because of all the loose ends. i dont know what happened but some proffesionals recorded that the footprints and behavior of the victims was as if they were blinded, which might explain the ripping open of the tents in a panic. one of you said an animal ate her tounge. well food is scares in that climate and i dont know any animal that would open a girls mouth and remove a tounge and leave the rest of the body. and she would have had claw marks and tooth marks on her somewhere on her face or something. russian weapons may be possible since it was the cold war but i dont know. the fact that there were not extra foot prints is scary. the signs that they would not return to camp is scary. the fact that the injuries were like getting hit by a car without any bruising or cuts is scary. the radiation is scary. an avalanche would cover the footprints in the snow. witnesses in the area saw orange lights in the sky.

  16. Medlocke Says:

    I saw the story about this incident just tonight on the History Channel. Of all thing’s, on the program entitled “Ancient Aliens”!! According to their program, some of the 9 had orange looking skin. As if poisoned by radiation. They also said the bodies had suffered from significant age progression, and some had gray hair. This too, unexplained? The tent had in fact been cut open from the inside, and no other tracks other the 9 hikers in their sock feet were found. Very strange, indeed.

  17. John Says:

    What I’ve seen on T.V. and read about this incident is that something “unknown” caused these people to cut open their tent and flee for their lives in just their sock feet and little more than their underwear in frigid, sub-zero Russian weather. 2 had skull fractures, 2 had broken ribs, and 1, a female, had her tongue cut out. Some had high levels of radiation with the skin appearing to turn orange, and all of them had suffered from age progression and graying hair. The Russian report says that a, and I quote, “a compelling unknown force” caused their deaths. They then Soviet authorities also closed that mountain off to hikers and skiers for 3 years after the incident.

  18. shekiera Says:

    Love this mystery stuff! I too watched it on ancient aliens and I found it to be very mind boggling. A time machine would be ideal now so we could all see just how this went down!

  19. cathy Says:

    What I find it mind boggling is that no one questions the foot prints from the tent that ‘supposedly’ were clear enough to identify who they belonged to, and what footgear the owners were wearing, 22 days after the event. I live in a very cold and snowy region. In 22 days there is usually a huge change in the snow (new snowfall, wind damage, Feb. thaw, etc.). Notice the tent top is covered with snow. To say nothing of what effect the searchers own footprints may have had on the sight. I believe that the soviet government was doing some experimenting and ‘got to’ the sight prior to the searchers discovering it. These folks altered the sight and placed the footprints and possibly took the bodies in the tent and threw them down the ravine. Two things to keep in mind. 1-science and techolohgy were much more primative at this time & 2-the soviet authorities had absolute life and death powers over their people and could hide & alter anything they wanted so aything official should be taken with a grain of salt.

  20. chedca Says:

    their deaths were facilitated, that much is clear
    although cathy has a good point that in 22 days there must have been snowfall – but this kind of detail would be immediately described in the initial investigation. a feb thaw that she suggests is exactly what would preserve footprints from wind in their refreezing come nighttime

    with taking the articles facts as they are, this is along the lines of what i think could have happened

    the camp was attacked from underneath!
    with something coming up through the snow in the night before they were dressed. 5 of them fled in the snow through a hole in their tent (with the path to the exit obstructed) and regrouped at the pine tree site nearby where 2 ultimately remained and from where 3 died trying to return to the camp, for their supplies i presume. there was evidence of somebody having tried to climb the pine tree – assessing status of the threat they escaped together. this is the “first five” mentioned to be found with brown, tanned faces for which i offer no explanation .

    the 4 remaining of the group must have been captured by the threat, the nature of their wounds suggests suggests they were tortured (the removal of dubinina’s tounge) before they were dressed with what clothes were around, and buried.

    i suspect also, that a pair of officials (like ski patrol) were first to respond after hearing the screams of the party, which could carry a great distance in the mountains. they themselves or whoever they called to help must have interfered with the scene in some way.

    as for the orbs, im of the opinion that phenomena like this happen when there is something interesting to be observed, see, nasa’s “smoking gun” inquisition

  21. Janet Deer Says:

    The reports I have read do not call the traces of radiation HIGH, and were found on only two of the men. These traces could have been explained as possibly coming from a type of camping lantern used in those days, that was powered with radioactive parts and was known for leaving traces. The traces could have been left on the men’s clothing and/or belongings in a previous camping trip.

    As to the other elements of the incident, avalanche has been suggested. That would explain all other evidence: the sudden panic and cutting out of the tent in a frenzy to get out of the way of the wall of snow they heard coming, the states of undress and/or clothes torn off or shredded, the precipitous plunge into the snow, running away from the open area into the tall trees, climbing the trees, broken tree limbs, the only injuries, (which are consistent with avalanche and snow suffocation) found on the bodies covered with snow in a ravine as if tumbled there, the survivors scavenging the dead for clothes and waiting under the trees for the avalanche area to settle before attempting to go back to the camp.

    Although not as romantic a hypothesis as aliens, monsters or government weapons testing — the avalanche idea is logical and answers many of the interesting questions of what happened.

  22. Janet Deer Says:

    Oh, and another thing. Some people have questioned why the campers would have been undressed in that kind of severe cold, why they were not bundled into everything they had, boots included. An Eagle Scout explained to me that good camping practice teaches that body heat is best conserved by undressing inside a sleeping bag and piling clothes and coverings ON TOP of yourself.

  23. Joe Says:

    Crazy Russian springbreak orgy gone wrong. That explains sleeping butt-naked. They heard an avalanche coming, cut the tent, ran out half naked and four were taken by the avalanche with that one chick losing her tongue and others suffering internal injuries. Five made it to the tree-line and climbed a tree to escape avalanche. Once that passed they got a fire going, two died by the fire and three left to get clothes (the two burned fell into the fire after freezing) and died. As for radiation w/o total hairloss take into account they are Russian University students and likely were exposed to mild radiation. Solar radiation from the sun intensified by the snow’s reflection caused orange skin (tape colored construction paper on a window and check it after a week) and “premature aging”. Case closed… have a great day people.

  24. suzanne Says:

    wow, joe. Good thing you came along to solve this….!

  25. Wrongway Says:

    I just saw a episode on Ancient Aliens about it. People in the near by village reported orange glowing orbs flying around that night. Does anyone know if they were tested for toxins? Regardless the Radiation its self is unexplained….Plus the mountain means something like “dont go there”. Thats a good hint. Check it out History channel.

  26. kc Says:

    @wrongway
    in a search for factual information, i think i would ask my dog before i would waste my time watching the history channel

  27. Rob Says:

    Much of the events could be sensibly explained. Hypothermia causes mental confusion. This leads to a misconception that one feels hot and sheds one’s clothing. Under such trying conditions, one could conceivably have a fit of panic/claustrophobia/self-preservation and exit the tent by the nearest route, i.e. through the fabric with a knife as opposed to clambering over the other eight to get out. Of course others would instinctively follow to restrain the one from becoming lost in the snow which lead to their own deaths. A similar scenario could also happen if any of them were experimenting with drugs. Regarding the injuries, a plausible explanation is that the three fell (they were in the mountains). E.g. they climbed a tree for some reason, i.e. to get their bearings, and part of that tree broke sending them crashing onto the snow covered rocks below (I’m not familiar with the makeup of snow). Whatever the cause of a fall, impact with hardish snow could be firm enough to damage their insides and yet leave their skin etc, undamaged. And as for the radiation part..? Well, who knows, a Russian engineering student may have had access to a radio-acitve substance prior to the trip that contaminated clothing he/she shared with the others. Perhaps they unwittingly stumbled upon some substance along the route, i.e. a de-orbited, crashed satellite. Of course the government wouldn’t be in any hurry to confess to such a possibility.