Yesterday I had one of those “I feel like a real author” moments. It might surprise some of you to discover I rarely feel this way. Real authors are reviewed in major newspapers, have six-or-seven figure book deals, movie options, and hardbacks in all the big bookstores, after all. Their books are translated into every language, making the NYT list is a given, and each new release already has thousands of reviews.
I’ve set myself up a bit, haven’t I? Nevertheless, I got to experience a little bit of the Real Author euphoria when I discovered the German edition of Return to Dyatlov Pass is available for preorder. This is the first time one of my novels has been translated, and the cover is awesome. I’m beyond thrilled. For those of you with German friends and family, I’d be honoured if you’d help spread the word.
Speaking of Dyatlov, the book appeared on another “best of” list, which I also discovered yesterday. Thanks to Brian Fatah Steele for including me with such esteemed company. It wasn’t that long ago (try 2017) since I was never included on such a list, so I’m always moved to tears when it happens.
Fans of the book will be happy to know that Nat, Dyatlov’s protagonist, is returning in my next Severed Press novel, Valley of the Sasquatch. I’m planning for a spring release. (Igor may be making a comeback as well.)
As discussed in a previous post, I’m starting a vlog this year, and it seems fitting that my first episode will tackle the Dyatlov Pass Incident, which is easily the creepiest, most disturbing, unsolved mystery of all time. Do you have any questions you’d like me to answer on the vlog? Any theories you’d like me to weigh in on? Please leave them in the comments.
For those of you who aren’t familiar, here is the story of what happened. It’s long, but it’s a fascinating tale, I promise.
So what happened to the ill-fated campers? There are tons of theories.
- Avalanche: The problem with this popular theory is that there was no sign of an avalanche. Other than the damage done by the campers while they were escaping, the tent was still intact. The searchers could clearly see the campers’ footprints. And the area was not known for avalanches.
- Infrasounds: A low-frequency sound that could have been caused by the wind going around the mountain. Infrasounds have apparently been known to drive people crazy, but since two of the campers built a successful fire, it doesn’t seem like they were completely mad. And wouldn’t the effects of the infrasound wear off before everyone died? It seems strange that it would have affected nine reportedly level-headed, capable people the same way.
- Government cover-up/conspiracy: This happened during the Cold War, so the military involvement in the investigation raised some eyebrows. There is a lot of speculation that the campers stumbled upon something they shouldn’t have, or were killed accidentally during a weapons test, and the government then staged their deaths to look like an accident. By why such elaborate staging? Why not leave the bodies all in one place? And why tear out one woman’s tongue and the muscles inside her mouth? If they were trying to make the deaths look like a run-of-the-mill accident, I’d say they did a shitty job.
- Yeti/Bigfoot: This theory really took off when a piece of paper was discovered in the tent. One of the campers had written, “From now on we know, that snowmen exist.” But there were no large prints at the site, nor the destruction of bodies we’d expect to see if there was an animal involved. The tent was cut open from the inside. And unless there were a team of Yetis, how did one creature take out nine people without leaving evidence of a struggle at the scene? Some believe the note was planted at the site, or made up later, or was a joke. There’s no evidence to believe it was serious.
- UFOs: It’s pretty obvious how this theory caught on–the military involvement and the radiation on the clothing of some of the victims. Since the campers were students who worked in labs, some believe the radiation came from the university, but I call bullshit on that. I doubt they wore the same clothing camping that they did in a lab–usually protective clothes were in order when you’re working with radiation, even in the 1950s. When one of the police inspectors brought a Geiger counter to the scene, it reportedly went nuts, which could have been from military testing in the area. The same inspector also noticed the tops of some of the trees were burned. Others who were camping nearby reported seeing mysterious orange lights in the sky around the time the group died, and the last photo taken by the group shows huge, blurry lights.
- Avalanche Paranoia: Some believe that the group could have heard rumbling on the mountain and fled their camp, thinking an avalanche was imminent. But wouldn’t they have eventually headed back? And would everyone have been struck with this paranoia simultaneously? By all reports, these were serious and experienced outdoors people who had gone on many similar excursions.
- Mansi People: This theory purports that the local nomadic herders attacked the group for encroaching on their land. But not only did the Mansis not view the mountain as sacred–they called it “Dead Mountain” because of the lack of game. They’d also learned long before not to piss off the Russians, and were super cooperative with the police, even helping with the search to find the campers. They had no motive.
- Wolves/Bears/Other animals: Again, no prints, and not enough destruction of the soft tissues of the bodies. Also, no sign that any of the bodies were dragged. Animals tend to be messy eaters. And they certainly wouldn’t have left the supplies in the tent untouched for months.
Interestingly enough, one theory that’s never mentioned is the human element (beyond the Mansis). If you delve into this case, you’ll see lots of claims that there were no signs of a struggle or defensive wounds on the bodies. But all of the bruising–especially on the hands and face–the fractures, the abrasions–could definitely be the result of a struggle. But what immense force crushed the bodies? Why did some live longer than others? Why did they decompose at different rates, and what on earth was going on with that radiation?
As frustrating as it is to contemplate, the Dyatlov Pass Incident is a mystery that will most likely never be solved. Many of the people involved in the original investigation are dead.
Yuri Yudin, 22, the only surviving member of the group, died in 2013. The day of the camping trip, he’d become ill and had to turn back before his friends trekked into the mountains. He wasn’t with them on that fateful night.
“If I had a chance to ask God just one question, it would be, ‘What really happened to my friends that night?’” he once said. Me too, Yuri.
What do you think happened at Dyatlov Pass? Let’s talk theories!
PS – For more unsolved mysteries and other creepy stories, plus free books, please sign up for my Hidden Library.