The Dyatlov Pass Incident, 1959

When investigators found the bodies of nine missing trekkers in the Artic tundra half-dressed and away from their tent for no apparent reason, it began perhaps the spookiest mystery in Russian history. Find out what happened here.

It was the depths of winter and 23-year-old Igor Alekseyevich Dyatlov with eight other fit, young men and women arrived at the town of Ivdel in Siberia’s nether regions.

They had come from the Ural Polytechnical Institute to complete a 190 mile (300km) training hike and the whole group were pretty much experts at operating in this harsh, hostile environment. Yet the mystery around their fates has led to no less than 75 theories to account for their demise.

Rescuers first on the scene and investigators of the day pieced together what they could: The group had passed through the Dyatlov Pass in a blizzard and got disoriented and lost. Realising they had taken the wrong route up the wrong mountain, they camped out in a single large tent on a mountain slope, in spite of some woodland being just one mile yonder, perhaps so that the team could practice making camp in the open.

Then something compelled the group to flee so desperately, they cut a hole in the tent side and so quickly, they didn’t have time to dress or even put on shoes to guard against the −30 °C (−22 °F) winter storm outside. They walked to the nearby copse of trees where two of them were found around a small fire in just their underwear.

Another three were found halfway back towards the tent, apparently trying to return once the danger, whatever it was, had passed. All had died from hypothermia. The other four were discovered later in the year once the snow had melted 75m (246ft) further in the woods and down a ravine. They were missing eyes and lips but also with severe chest injuries and a fatal skull injury.

So what had scared the group so much they fled the tent’s sanctuary under-dressed to certain death in the blizzard? Why had they split up? Were the other four’s injuries really due to falling into the ravine? …and why did one of the nine have heavy traces of radiation?

No one knows why the party ran half dressed from their tents into the freezing night (forum.fortyck.pl)

Reports around the event were highly censored, even by the Soviet’s standards and this only fuelled conspiracy theories and intrigue. Another group of hikers about 31 miles (50 km) south of the incident reported strange orange spheres in the sky to the north on the night of the incident. There are also claims military weapon tests may have been conducted nearby, which could’ve panicked the nine.

Other theories include everything from violent katabatic winds, infrasound, high winds blowing one member away and who the others attempted to rescue, to attack by local tribal people or even by a yeti.

The most plausible explanation, however, is that the group were alarmed by a slow-moving wall of snow known as a ‘snow slide’ which might have blocked the entrance and a fear of getting engulfed by the mass of snow forced them out. Regardless, the swirl of mystique around this incident compelled the Russian state to launch another investigation in 2019.

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The Woman Who Spontaneously Combusted, 1951

Among the phenomena on the fringes of scientific understanding is the propensity for the human body to set itself alight. The explanation, apparently, is Spontaneous Human Combustion (SHC). Read here about one famous case and how it discombobulated investigators.

On the morning of July 2, 1951, Mary Reeser’s landlady arrived at her door with a telegram. Trying the door, she found the metal doorknob to be uncomfortably warm to the touch and called the police. They entered the room and were greeted with a disturbing scene.

Reeser’s remains, which were largely ashes, were found among the remains of a chair in which she had been sitting. Only part of her slippered left foot and her backbone remained along with her skull. Plastic household objects at a distance from the seat of the fire were softened and had lost their shapes. Reeser’s skull had survived and was found among the ashes, but shrunken ‘to the size of a teacup’.

Physical Anthropologist Professor Krogman who was asked to look into the case on record saying “I find it hard to believe that a human body, once ignited, will literally consume itself — burn itself out, as does a candle wick, guttering in the last residual pool of melted wax… Just what did happen on the night of July 1, 1951, in St. Petersburg, Florida? We may never know, though this case still haunts me.

He then concluded “I cannot conceive of such complete cremation without more burning of the apartment itself. In fact the apartment and everything in it should have been consumed… I regard it as the most amazing thing I have ever seen. As I review it, the short hairs on my neck bristle with vague fear. Were I living in the Middle Ages, I’d mutter something about black magic” Ms Reeser was the victim of a bizarre phenomenon known as Spontaneous Human Combustion (SHC).

That SHC even exists, the scientific community is sceptical. Can a human body really just set alight by itself? Wouldn’t there be a number of cases around the world of people combusting in public?

Of over a hundred cases investigated, none have been observed. Victims are frequently elderly, female and prodigious drinkers. They are also usually near a heat source. There is probably no single explanation for each case of SHC but the general consensus is that an external source starts a fire on the person and then body fat acts as a sort of ‘candle wax’ to the human ‘wick’. Other pseudo-scientific theories exist.

Mrs Reeser and her remains after bursting into flame (tampabay.com)
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R. Christian’s Enigmatic Stones, 1980

When a man commissioned a strange structure to be built on behalf of a mysterious group, it left stone masons scratching their heads. But that structure, since dubbed ‘Georgia’s Doomsday Stonehenge’, still stands today. Find out what is inscribed on it and why it is the subject of numerous conspiracy theories.

In June 1979, a man using the pseudonym Robert C. Christian approached the Elberton Granite Finishing Company on behalf of “a small group of loyal Americans” which intended to remain anonymous and commissioned a structure.

Christian delivered a scale model of what he wanted with ten pages of specifications. He explained that it would function as a compass, calendar and clock, and should be capable of withstanding catastrophic events.

Joe Fendley of Elberton Granite assumed that Christian was a ‘nut’ and attempted to discourage him by giving a quote several times higher than any project the company had taken, explaining that the Guidestones would require additional tools and consultants, but Christian happily accepted the quote.

The finished product was unveiled on March 22, 1980.

That structure is called the Georgia Guidestones, a granite monument in Elbert County, Georgia, in the United States. It has been carefully crafted with astronomical features, with the four outer stones being oriented to mark the limits of the 18.6-year lunar declination cycle for example.

A set of ten guidelines is also inscribed on the structure in eight modern languages:

  1. Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.
  2. Guide reproduction wisely — improving fitness and diversity.
  3. Unite humanity with a living new language.
  4. Rule passion — faith — tradition — and all things with tempered reason.
  5. Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.
  6. Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.
  7. Avoid petty laws and useless officials.
  8. Balance personal rights with social duties.
  9. Prize truth — beauty — love — seeking harmony with the infinite.
  10. Be not a cancer on the earth — Leave room for nature — Leave room for nature.
The Guidestones seem to advocate population control, eugenics, and internationalism (wired.com)

The fact that the Guidestones’ authors are anonymous and they apparently advocate population control, eugenics, and internationalism has made them a target for controversy and conspiracy theories.

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The Rainstorm That Went Splat, 1994

Residents of Oakville were flummoxed by a downpour of goo they experienced in 1994. What was even more disconcerting was the wave of illness that rippled throughout the community immediately after…

With the sight of undulating woodland resembling the serried ranks of a million upright matchsticks covered in a fuzzy green blanket of needles to the north and the sound of the wily Chehalis River babbling by to the south, Oakland in Washington State is the kind of all-wooden, spread-eagled town American frontier folk, accustomed to all the wilderness they want, like to call home.

On August the 7th, 1994 there was no indication that the coming day would be unlike any other.

Oakland is rinsed by mountain rains year-round so, for the few awake at 3 am, the rhythm of precipitation was familiar. Yet, any awake in bed would have strained breathlessly to scrutinise an alien sound; not a patter of raindrops on bedroom windows but rather a queer, dull splattering. What on earth could it be?

A cop and his friend on the graveyard shift were cruising the area in his patrol car. They were caught under the heavy deluge and left open mouthed as a translucent, soupy liquid was smeared across the windscreen by the wipers.

We both looked at each other and we said, ‘Jeez, this isn’t right. I mean, we’re out in the middle of nowhere, basically, and where did this come from?’”

They pulled over under shelter and the cop took a closer look at what had just gunged his car.

The substance was very mushy. It’s almost as if you had Jell-O in your hand… We did have some bells go off in our heads that basically said that this isn’t right, this isn’t normal.

The rain had covered an area of 20mi² (32 km²)

The puzzle deepened. People soon began to turn nauseous and dizzy. Pets dropped dead and Officer Lacey was finding it hard to breathe by the day’s end. Most of the residents were reportedly struck down with a mystery virus which lasted up to three months. Was the mystery rain of goo and sickness coincidence? Surely not.

Questions about the gelatin’s origin remain open. Lab tests on the substance were inconclusive; human white blood cells and two types of bacteria were found but the theory that it was human waste dumped from overflying airliners was discounted. Another idea that the goo is caused by a phenomenon called Star Jelly is… peculiar, to say the least.

Some residents recalled the drone of slow, black military aircraft over the town around the time but the Airforce denies involvement.

Shockingly, the official government reports of the event are no more.

(newspapers.com)
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The Most Baffling Book Ever Written- The Voynich Manuscript, 1400s

The Voynich Manuscript has professional code breakers scratching their heads even now trying to decipher its meaning, filled as it is with exquisite illustrations and an unknown language.

The Voynich Manuscript is possibly written in a proto-Romance language (newatlas.com)

A book was once written that’s had everyone from cryptographers to professional code breakers scratching their heads in bemusement. Who wrote it, What does it mean, or even, what language is it written in? No one really knows.

The Voynich Manuscript, named after a Pole who purchased it in 1912, has been carbon-dated from the early 15th Century. It’s a fantastic piece of craftsmanship — too good to be some prank. It’s over 240 pages long and written in a language which no one’s been able to identify and crammed with 6 types of exquisitely drawn illustrations:

  • Plant/herbal — none of which have been clearly identified.
  • Astronomical/Astrological — includes suns, stars, moons, some symbols of zodiac signs and female figures arranged in concentric bands.
  • Balneological — dense text interspersed with images of small nude women.
  • Cosmological — circular diagrams, includes a 6 page foldout with a possible map of islands or ‘rosettes’ connected by ‘causeways’ with castles and a possible volcano.
  • Pharmaceutical — many labelled drawings of plant parts ranging from the mundane to the fantastical.
  • There’s also a recipe section.

Very weird. The best guess for its purpose is that it was a kind of medieval technical manual to cover medieval or early modern medicine. 

Experts speculate that the Voynich Manuscript contains a meaningful text in some European language that has been hidden in the VM ‘alphabet’ through a cypher of some sort; this was the working hypothesis for most 20th-century deciphering attempts, including an informal team of NSA cryptographers led by William F. Friedman in the early 1950s.

In recent years, further research by a scholar at the University of Bristol, England has revealed the book is possibly written in a proto-Romance language that was spoken centuries ago and is the forerunner of modern languages like Spanish, Italian, French and Portuguese. And the scholar theorises that Dominican nuns compiled the manuscript as a reference book for Maria of Castile, Queen of Aragon—Catherine of Aragon’s great-aunt.

As of 2019, however, this research is also far from conclusive and the mystery of the Manuscript remains, for now.

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