11 Interesting Events You May Not Have Learned In History Class

Published June 13, 2014
Updated December 7, 2021

The Dyatlov Pass Incident

Dyatlov Pass Incident

Russian National ArchivesThe Dyatlov Pass students as they hiked toward Otorten mountain.

On Jan. 31, 1959, nine experienced ski hikers from the Soviet Ural Polytechnical Institute embarked on a journey into the Northern Urals. None of the hikers were ever seen alive again.

No one knows for sure what happened, but what the search party found at the scene after the deaths may either clear some things up or only make the whole mystery of the Dyatlov Pass Incident more confusing.

Dyatlov Pass Hikers

Krivonischenko’s cameraDubinina, Krivonishchenko, Thibeaux-Brignolles, and Slobodin having good time.

The bodies were scattered in several areas near the campsite in various states of undress (which is strange given the freezing temperatures). Unsurprisingly, they’d likely died from hypothermia. But the other bodies suggested more disturbing causes of death.

Some had major chest fractures that could only have been caused by an immense force, comparable to that of a car crash. And in the most gruesome instance, one was missing her tongue, eyes, part of the lips, as well as facial tissue, and a fragment of her skull bone.

Dyatlov Pass Tent

Wikimedia CommonsA view of the tent as the rescuers found it on Feb. 26, 1959.

Furthermore, their tents had been cut from the inside and their belongings and clothes had largely been left behind. This means that something so compelled them to leave their tents that they decided to cut their way out and run into the freezing snow without getting fully dressed first.

These mysterious circumstances have left many desperate for an explanation, and many have been suggested. Early on, many Soviets suspected that their death was the result of an attack by the local Mansi tribesmen, but the Masi people were largely peaceful, and there was no evidence of the type of attacks they would use on the bodies.

Bodies Of Krivonischenko And Doroshenko

Russian National FilesThe bodies of Krivonischenko and Doroshenko.

Reports of slight radiation on the bodies led to theories that the students had been killed by some secret, radioactive weapon. Though the radiation was largely discounted as the cause of death because a radioactive weapon would have elevated radiation to much much higher levels, it is possible that the ski hiking team was unfortunate enough to encounter testing of some secret Soviet concussive weapon.

But censorship and secrecy in the USSR largely shut down this path of inquiry.

Listen above to the History Uncovered podcast, episode 2: The Dyatlov Pass Incident, also available on iTunes and Spotify.

In the end, the deaths of these students was officially attributed to “a compelling natural force,” and the Dyatlov pass case was closed without resolution.

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