A new cryptozoology investigation, Russian Yeti: The Killer Lives, aired last night. They hint that a monster Yeti, Bigfoot’s cousin, may be responsible. The mystery is legitimate, the tragedy did happen. But can we believe the program’s conclusions?
Last night Discovery channel ran a program, Russian Yeti: The Killer Lives, that came to some very interesting conclusions about what happened to nine students in the wilds of the Ural Mountains in 1959. Let’s investigate the mystery and the program.
The Original Story
On the night of February 2, 1959, in the desolate area of the Ural Mountains, 9 students and graduates of the former Ural Polytechnic Institute, now Ural Federal University met a mysterious and deeply disturbing end.
They had gone hiking into the wilds of the Ural mountains hoping to reach Otorten mountain. This hike was considered a “Category III” hike, and as all the students were experienced hikers and skiers, they hoped to accomplish this goal. On the night they died, they were about 6 miles from the targeted mountain.
When the first search party arrived, three weeks or so after the tragedy, they found their abandoned tents that contained survival gear such as heavy boots, warm outerwear, knives – things they could have used to help themselves survive.
There were deliberate cuts in the tents which investigators were able to determine were made from the inside. Some speculate they were made so they could see what was stalking them outside. The tent doors were still buttoned shut, according to one of my sources, so the students had cut their way out of the tent.
We have to remember where these students were – in a desolate mountainous area, in temperatures below freezing -22 F (-30 C) in pitch black darkness. In all the accounts of this report that I’ve read, no one has ever mentioned a flashlight being found. (Ural Mountains in winter, below right.)
Ultimately, the searchers found the bodies. Two of the young men had died of hypothermia next to a small fire they had built on the edge of the forest. What was unusual was the wood they were burning came from branches that were taken from 16 feet (5 m) up in the trees. The researchers speculated they must have climbed the tree to see if they could find their camp and return to it.
Three more, two males and one female, were found in a row, as though they were trying to get back to their tent. One of them had a cracked skull but died of hypothermia, along with his two companions.
The rest were found in a dug-out snow cave they had made, as though they were hiding from something. This group had sustained broken bones and serious internal injuries – all without any cuts or marks on their skin.
Dr. Boris Vozrozhdenny, who examined the corpses, concluded that three of the students died from fatal injuries so severe, that it was outside the realm of possibility that a human could have caused them.
The man charged with figuring out what happened was Lev Ivanov, a Soviet investigator. He had trouble coming to any real conclusions, so he put decided to write that the students were killed by “an unknown elemental force which they were unable to overcome.” How’s that for a bureaucratic explanation? (Other translations state his conclusion as: “a compelling unknown force.”)
One of my sources said that he privately felt that UFOs had attacked and killed the students.
What we learned from the Discovery channel program is that the first searchers on the scene saw huge footprints around the camp. They weren’t human footprints, they looked just like Bigfoot prints. They took photos of them, but these were covered up with all the other information from subsequent Russian investigations. (To be clear, the photo above left is not taken from the Russian Yeti show – I wasn’t able to find a still photo of anything like that from the show. This was from another expedition in the early 1950s.)
It has to be noted that while they did find these huge animal prints, they did not find evidence of bear prints or those of any other animal native to the area that may have been stalking the students.
Other theories suggest that perhaps escapees from a “nearby” gulag camp killed the students. The gulag camps were places of extreme hardship where political dissidents were sent to die. These camps were located near the Mountain of the Dead. My first thought is, do political dissidents usually kill people? They may be starving but they could still talk and ask for food. I think this is a weak argument. Also, it seems unlikely they would have been able to escape given the circumstances and brutality of the Russian judicial system.
The point we should note is that there were no other footprints around the camp – just the students’ and the Bigfoot/Yeti, as per the photographic evidence.
According to the TV program, something happened that caused the students to flee together about a mile away from their camp, into the cover of the nearby forest. One of the last photos they took was very blurry, but showed two big spots of light in the sky.
One expert commentator from the show explained why that was most likely the “airburst” of a two stage rocket that crashed in that area just as the students were camping there. This would explain why the KGB got involved in the mystery and possible cover-up of what really happened. It would probably also explain why there were high levels of radiation on some of the students’ clothes.
Some people previously thought that UFOs must have attacked and killed these students mainly based on the fact that “lights in the sky” were seen in the area the night they died. However, the fact that the Soviets were using this area as a missile test range in the 1950s is far more plausible than UFOs who may have been involved in the students’ demise. As we know missiles can produce plenty of strange sky phenomenon, including lights.
In a Wiki article on the subject (see References), a man named Yury Kuntsevich (who began and runs the Dyatlov Foundation) reports attending the funerals of five of the hikers. He was 12 at the time and said he remembers that their skin was colored like a “deep brown tan.” Radiation burns, perhaps? It could also have been part of the decomposition process their bodies underwent in those extreme conditions. Still, I think it adds credence to the missile malfunction and subsequent explosion.
The one member of the student group who didn’t make it as far as the other students and so survived, Yuri Yudin (right), reported that he knows for certain his friends’ organs were put in boxes and sent for analysis. He saw them. In my mind this would further indicate the authorities were studying the effects of radiation on the students’ bodies.
Much of what we know comes from the students’ own diaries that they left behind. Last night’s show revealed a one liner from one of the girls’ diaries that read, “Now we know the snowman exists.” In fact, the students did seem to be taking a lot of pictures of the forest, as though they were trying to catch a glimpse of something.
Why hadn’t we heard this before?
Then we were shown a photograph, slightly blurred, of what looks exactly like a Bigfoot off in the woods. They had a forensic video analyst (I can’t remember their exact title) look at the photos and she concluded the photo was real, authentic, and hadn’t been tampered with. It helped that they had the original negatives which also showed the image.
We have to look at the era in which this disaster occurred – at the height of the Cold War between the US and Russia. Rumors abounded and no clear answer was available back in the day. So the Soviets did what people in those days usually did – secreted all the evidence away in an obscure vault, leaving it to turn to dust.
First Nations people living in the area where the students lost their lives, the Mansi, were interviewed for the TV program. At the time of the search and recovery of the bodies, some people suspected the Mansi had killed them. This was based on past incidents where the Mansi fought with Russians over various things.
In fact, at least one of the student’s diaries mentioned a big fight that one of them had with the Mansi, but it turns out the Mansi were just trying to warn the students away from the Mountain of the Dead, as they call it.
Further supporting their innocence, the doctor had firmly stated that the injuries perpetrated on some of the students could not have been caused by a human being because of the force involved in executing the blows.
But we did learn something very interesting. The Mansi know about a forest giant they call the “Menk” (artwork above right). It sounds very much like a Bigfoot. They describe it as big and strong. They said it hunts deer and likes to rip out the deer tongues and eat them. The Mansi woman reporting this also said they make a horrible whistling sound that seemed to spook her just talking about it. She said the menk doesn’t like when humans whistle in the woods so they don’t whistle.
A chilling fact from the original investigation states that Lyudmila was found with her tongue ripped out. There was a lot of blood in her stomach which means she was still alive after it had been taken.
The Mansi woman interviewed for the program believes they were killed by the Menk. Their people reported they know of other people who have gone missing without explanation.
I’ve said this to my readers before. I take the testimony of native peoples very seriously. They aren’t idiots. They know their environment. And they have nothing to gain from talking about it.
I think this Mansi woman may be right. However, it’s not the whole answer.
Russian Yeti: The Killer Lives
Mike Libecki, American explorer, said, “I’ve spent a lot of time alone in the mountains and have had my share of near-death experiences. I know if I went missing, I’d want my family to know what happened to me.” A compelling opening that leaves us in no doubt as to his motivation and intentions.
He is joined on this journey by journalist and translator, Maria Klenokova.
Parts of their adventure, particularly when they were looking for the Yeti nest in the cave, seemed contrived. If the film crew refused to stay there overnight, where did the footage come from?
I also didn’t think the “sound” they heard was very convincing. The “monster call” sounded very much like one I’ve heard on another program, “Mountain Monsters.” It’s my opinion that the Mountain Monsters show is a hoax and nothing but pure entertainment. So I’m disturbed that the “monster call” heard in the cave and at other points in the show, sounded canned.
Skeptics are all over this program, panning the assumption that a Yeti attacked their camp and severely injured some of them. One suggested the force of an avalanche hitting Lyudmila while she was screaming is what ripped out her tongue. Despite there being no evidence of an avalanche. It’s easy to criticize from a lighted, heated, home office.
For me, the main problem with the show is Discovery channel’s lack of credibility. They gave us that Megalodon show that some people believed, but it was pure fiction. Discovery channel owns Animal Planet. Remember their “Mermaids” movie? Pure fiction, and they put that fact in the small print so most people missed it.
So now we have the Russian Yeti program. How much of it can we believe?
They make an excellent case as to why the lights in the sky may have been there. Mike Libecki cites three other times a Yeti purportedly attacked humans and it was when they were provoked. So he concluded the exploding missile provoked the Yeti enough to attack the students. Well, it’s better than the UFO theory in my opinion.
As for the Yeti, I think it’s very likely that there is a Yeti that exists in the wilds of Russia and I see it as another relative of Bigfoot. But of course skeptics don’t believe in that either.
My main concern is with these “newly uncovered” files and secret archives – are they real? Are their contents real? Can we believe that photo of the Bigfoot in the forest anymore than we can believe in the canned “monster call?”
I’ve also been wondering, if that area really was a missile range test area, how is it that the Mansi aren’t sickened by the radiation fallout?
The program made a good case for how the students died that fateful night in 1959. The trouble is, can we believe it? How many of us can afford to go to Russia and start researching and investigating everything Mike Libecki did? Few to none?
So it’s hard to draw any definite conclusions.
Do I think a Yeti really exists? Yes I do. I know Bryan Sykes found evidence of an extinct polar bear and not a Yeti but that only means the sample he got wasn’t from a real Yeti. It was from an extinct bear.
Could the lights in the sky on February 2, 1959 have been from a failed missile test? Sure because the cold war really happened and Russian secrecy is legendary. In recent times we’ve also seen examples of rocket or missile tests of theirs that have failed spectacularly. It’s certainly possible.
What needs to happen is a corroboration and rechecking of these theories by people who have the authority to evaluate them – preferably people NOT associated with a network. Only when we have multiple reports saying the same thing, can we begin to believe it as fact. That’s called science.
I’d love to know what you think! Please share!
UPDATE TO THIS STORY: