Could a killer Russian Yeti be to blame for the deaths of 9 Russian students? Decades of speculation about the strange deaths of the students who set out on a ski trip still remains an unsolved mystery. I remember watching a documentary on Discovery Channel featuring an eerie hypothesis of a Russian Yeti killer. On Jan. 31, 1959, 23-year-old ski hiker Igor Alekseievich Dyatlov and his team of eight experienced ski hikers from the Ural Polytechnical Institute traveled to Kholat Syakl in the Soviet Untion, which according to the indigenous Mansi language means “Dead Mountain”. Their end goal was to reach another mountain about 7 miles away, Gora Otorten, which means “Don’t Go There” in Mansi. The students must have been aware of the mountain’s dangerous reputation but took on the challenge. A few days after their venture began, a snowstorm interupted the group, forcing them to pitch a tent on the eastern slope of Kholat Syakhl. This would be their last night alive.
The deaths of all nine students baffled police and investigators. Tents had been sliced open from the inside and hurriedly abandoned. Belongings were left behind and some skiers bodies were found as far as a mile away under nearly 13 feet of snow. The placement of the bodies were unusual. Oddly enough, investigators found footprints in the snow of the hikers who were wearing just their socks or a single shoe. The footsteps ended right before a dense wooded area about 500 meters away. An autopsy of the first five bodies revealed they had died from hypothermia. The remaining four were discovered near a forest ravine and appeared to have suffered from traumatic injuries. The tongue from one of the deceased at been ripped out. An unsettling discovery told of small traces of radiation found within their bodies.
Final verdict of the autopsy concluded that the skiers died because they encountered a ‘natural force they were unable to overcome'. Rather unnerving, the results of the case were classified and public access to the site was banned for three years. The conclusion was vague and the conspiracy theories poured in.
There were too many questions left unanswered. Russian Yeti or top secret Russian government experiments? But then, of course, began the talk of UFOS. It was reported that eyewitnesses in the northern Urals noticed unusual ‘balls of fire’ in the night sky that coincided with the time of the 'Dyatlov Pass incident'. Some suggested that these were Soviet missile or rocket tests. Others believed the strange phenomenons had a paranormal explanation.
Most fascinating of the theories was featured on a Discovery Channel documentary that proposed the idea of a Russian Yeti killer. American explorer, Mike Libecki reinvestigated the mystery following a trail of evidence that would show proof that the skiers were not alone. Wild rumors of a Yeti or Bigfoot in Siberia and the Ural Mountains have existed for centuries. Libecki stated, “When I found out one of the students was missing a tongue immediately I knew this was not caused by an avalanche. Something ripped out the tongue of this woman”. But the tongue wasn’t the only body part missing. Soft tissue around one of the woman’s eyes, eyebrows, nose bridge, upper lip and cheek bone were scrapped off her face. The eyes themselves were gone.
A roll of film was found on the campsite but denied by authorities until now. The lost footage from the groups shows us a steady shot of a picturesque mountain view. The film was rather lengthy and due to its single shot of the mountain, it would leave many questioning if they were trying to deliver a message.
What was the Russian government attempting to cover up? This case has stirred up some of the most disturbing theories from top secret Soviet experiments to a Russian Yeti killer and even an extraterrestrial invasion. My imagination surely runs wild with this one.