DYATLOV PASS – Part One: The Party


Welcome aboard! Today we’re taking a look at the last days of nine Russian hikers, who were camping in the Ural mountains in Siberia. This truly bizarre case, generally referred to as the ‘Dyatlov Pass Incident’, is among the most talked-about and well-researched unexplained events of the last century. I’d like to introduce you to the case (particularly the hikers themselves) and provide some theories, but what I’ll be able to cover in this space is really just the tip of the iceberg. I encourage you to keep digging (once you’ve finished my thoughtful and enticing take on it, of course.)

In late January 1959, a group of ten friends, most of them physics and engineering students at the Ural Polytechnical Instutute (now Ural Federal University) set out on a long-awaited and well-orchestrated excursion toward Mt. Otorten, in the northern Urals. They were apparently in fine form. This is evidenced by a mock newspaper (or, as they called it, a “Group Combat Leaflet”) which they produced en route: the “Evening Otorten”. The original is lost, but there’s an English transcription, and there’s no part of it that’s not hilarious.


The section highlighted by the “Red Circle of Evidence” is a joke; the yetis were the Dyatlov party.

The Dyatlov group was not above poking fun at themselves, or at the casual absurdities of life in the USSR. Yet, they also embody Soviet ideals in a totally non-ironic manner that is quite charming; they emphasize the importance of hard work, friendliness, group cohesion, and relying on each others’ special talents for a successful trip. I’m going to warn you folks right now that you’re going to come to like these people, which is going to make it a little tough when you think about what happened to them.


Bunch of grade-A knuckleheads, these guys.

Mt. Otorten itself, as well as its environs, is practically uninhabited; the only regular visitors it receives are the semi-nomadic Mansi people, who cross the area while hunting. The Mansi name for Mt. Otorten is Kholat Syakhl, which translates to the rather metal “Dead Mountain” or “Mountain of Death.” Some have claimed that the Mansi have a deep-seated ancestral fear of the eldritch beings of the mountain, but (as it turns out) the name means ‘dead’ in the sense of ‘nothing lives on that mountain so don’t bother hunting there.’ It’s not hideous monsters and ghouls making the place ‘dead’, either; nature does a fine job of that on its own. Nothing lives on Mt. Otorten because it’s a fucking terrible, scary, and violently dangerous place to be. It’s a mountain in Siberia, you know.

Nonetheless, our heroes were up to the task. All were accomplished hikers, and they were well prepared for the excursion. Much of the journal they kept details long hours spent organizing and maintaining their equipment and planning their route. We’ll take a closer look at the journal in the next section. They also took along a number of cameras and the trip was well-documented in their photos, recovered after their death. Some of these photos will be the focus of the third section of this project.

Before they set out for the mountain, they suffered a setback. One of the group, Yuri Yudin, had to drop out of the trip. He had a health ailment of some sort; some sources describe it as a ‘painful rheumatism’ but others are more vague. In any event, Yuri departed sadly from the rest of the group, and the remaining nine set off for the mountain. Yuri didn’t know it, but he was to be the sole surviving member of the Dyatlov party.


Yuri lived to be 76, maintaining for the rest of his life that the government was somehow behind the demise of the rest of the group.

They seemed to make good progress once they got going, though there was a strong west wind which reduced their visibility, and their intended course, a river, was not quite frozen, requiring them to take a Mansi sled-path that went roughly the same direction, but cost them some time. The journal ends at this point; from here on out we have only reconstructions.

It appears they lost their way and went partway up the mountain before they expected to. Rather than lose the distance by hiking back to the foot of the mountain, they decided to make camp and move on the next day. They pitched their tent at the top of a narrow pass which slopes down on either side. This is the area now called Dyatlov Pass.

From here, reconstructions turn to speculation, because what happened next has no reasonable explanation. At some point during the night, the tent was violently cut open from the inside. Barely dressed, the nine hikers raced down the other side of the pass, into the teeth of a fierce snowstorm with temperatures reaching as low as -30C. The nine ‘yetis’ that had been reported in the Evening Otorten were soon no more.

When the hikers failed to return, search parties followed their route and soon found frozen bodies strewn about Dyatlov Pass. They found that there was something (many things, in fact) even weirder going on than the sudden flight from the tent.

(Before I go on, allow me to say that I am greatly indebted to the author of this website. While she doesn’t give her full name anywhere on the site, the hover-text of the one picture there is of her refers to her as “Teddy”. Her site is a richly informative resource for this incident, probably the best out there, and my retelling of this story borrows heavily from what she’s already provided. Also all, or very nearly all, of the pictures and text quotations in this project are sourced from her site. She’s also apparently the designer for HR Giger’s website and she knew one of my favourite artists, Zdzisław Beksiński, so that’s pretty cool too.)

Okay, now that we’ve got that out of the way: Let me tell you how these people died.

The first group of five hikers was found by a search party on February 27. They seemed to be grouped loosely around a large cedar tree, at the base of which someone had managed to start a fire. The tree itself was stripped of branches for several feet; someone had climbed it, either to attain firewood, or to get a better vantage point from which to find the tent.


Zina Kolmogorova was a 22-year old student at UPI and an avid hiker. She was kind of the Marcia Brady of the group; she was very friendly and well-liked, with a magnetic personality. She was also tough; she was once bitten by a viper on a hike, and refused to turn around or even lighten her pack, not wanting to be a bother to the rest of the group. She was found face-down with her head toward the tent, dead from hypothermia. She was wearing two sweaters, pants, and three pairs of socks, but no shoes. She had a large, oblong contusion on her lower ribcage, which looked like a welt left by a police baton.


Yuri Doroshenko, a 21-year old geology student, was kind of a wildcard. He once won great renown and universal acclaim among Ural hikers when he recklessly charged at a gigantic bear, wielding a geologist’s hammer. He and Zina had dated for a while, but had since broken up by the time of the incident. He was found near the cedar, wearing only an undershirt, shorts, and mismatched socks. He had multiple bruises and contusions and all of the hair on the right side of his head was burned off. Pooled blood was found on the side of his body facing upward, indicating that his body had been turned over after he died, perhaps by other victims repurposing his clothing. He had grey foamy fluid on his face, which could indicate that his chest was pressed heavily, as was sometimes done by the NKVD and Soviet special forces as an ‘interrogation’ tactic.


Yuri Krivonischenko, a somewhat mysterious 24-year-old student, had once helped to clean up a massive radiation contamination caused by a catastrophic explosion at a secret Soviet nuclear site. He liked music and he played mandolin and sang songs throughout the first days of the expedition, as recorded in the group’s diary. He was found under the cedar, wearing underwear, a cotton shirt, and one torn sock. He also had bruises and contusions, and he had bitten off a 2cm piece of skin from his hand. After his death, pieces of his clothing had been repurposed by the other hikers.


Igor Dyatlov, the 23-year-old namesake of the group and later the pass itself, was a natural leader and a competent engineer who liked crafting his own tools; he had designed a radio and a stove which the group used during the trip. He was described as a thoughtful and cautious expedition leader, considering his options carefully and never making reckless decisions. He had for a while ‘courted’ Zina. He was found some distance from the cedar and apparently headed toward the tent. Though shoeless, he was wearing clothing from members of the group who had already died, and had bruises on his hands that seemed to suggest he had been in a fistfight.


Rustim Slobodim, also 23, was described as friendly, but quiet. He was from Moscow and was comparatively wealthier than the other group members. He liked to play the mandolin. His hands had bruises similar to Dyatlov’s, and he had suffered a massive skull fracture, possibly caused by a blunt object. His death was ruled hypothermia, though unlike the others found near the cedar, his body had a bed of ice under it, which possibly indicated that his body was still warm when he died.

The remaining members of the group weren’t found until the snow had started to melt, some three months later. They had dug a ‘den’ out of a snowbank about 50 meters from the cedar; snow had drifted in to completely fill the ‘den’ before the search teams arrived, preventing them from finding the bodies.


Lyudmilia Dubinina, at 20 years old, was the youngest of the group. One of the only two women in the group, she was an ardent and outspoken communist. Like Zina, she was tough; during one hike she’d been accidentally shot by a hunter cleaning his gun, and her only complaint about it was that she’d ruined the hike for her comrades. She liked to sing and take pictures. Her tongue and her eyes were both missing when she was found. She had blood in her stomach, which suggested she was still alive when her tongue was removed. Her nose was broken, as were ten of her ribs, and her body tested positive for radiation. Her death was attributed to a heart hemorrhage and massive internal bleeding caused by trauma to her chest. The coroner described the damage as akin to being hit by a car.


Alexander Kolevatov, a physics student at UPI, was a gifted metallurgist. At one point he had worked to produce rare metals for the Soviet nuclear industry. He was 24 years old and liked to smoke antique pipes. His jacket and socks were burned, he had a broken nose and had died from a broken neck, and, like Dubinina, his body was radioactive.


Nikolai Thibeaux-Brignolles was the 23-year-old son of a French communist who had moved to the USSR, but fell out of favour with the Stalinist government and was executed. Nikolai himself was born in a prison camp. He was described as a funny person who liked to help younger hikers prepare their packs, often taking much of their gear himself to make it easier on them. He was very well-read. He died from a single massive cranial fracture, apparently from a huge blunt object, which nearly pulverized one whole side of his skull.


Semyon Zolotaryov, who died on his 38th birthday, was the oldest of the group. He did not know the others well, and had asked to join the expedition in order to earn time toward a guide’s certification. He had served in the army during WWII; after the war he had studied physics, and he had moved across the country many times, for no clear reason. He had no wife or children. He went by the pseudonym of ‘Alexander’, for reasons that nobody can figure out. When he was found, his eyes were missing and he had five broken ribs, which were each broken in two places. At the time of his death, he was carrying a camera. Why he took the camera during the mad dash from the tent, instead of something more practical (like a flashlight), is unknown. Moreover, according to Yuri Yudin, the group had four cameras, and this was not one of them. Yudin had never seen it. Semyon had apparently kept it hidden from the group throughout the entire expedition, for some unknown reason. We’ll see some strange pictures from this camera in the third section of the project. He was found holding a pen and a pad of paper, but he died before he could write anything.

Theories abound as to what happened to the Dyatlov group; the official explanation, that all nine had “succumbed to a compelling natural force”, sounds great but, upon closer examination, doesn’t really tell us anything at all. We’ll discuss some theories at the end of the project, as usual, but before we do I’d like to examine some of the evidence left behind by the group and see where that takes us. Our first stop is the group’s diary.

DYATLOV PASS – Part Two: The Diary


A nice map of the expedition, reproduced from here.

The group’s diary was found in the tent. It is fairly short, but contains entries from many of the group’s participants. As a document of the incident it is simultaneously charming and troubling, and especially interesting because it allows us to follow in the group’s footsteps. While it doesn’t take us up the slopes of Otorten, it gives us a valuable glimpse of the first few days of the expedition, as well as the character of the members of the Dyatlov party. I’m quoting from the site mentioned in the last section; Teddy has apparently done the English translation herself. I’ve edited some selections very lightly for readability, indicating with brackets where I’ve done so.

The diary opens on January 23, in an entry by Zina Kolmogorova. She illustrates the situation in their hotel room before departing, describing it as “an artistic mess”. She records some of the chaotic conversations going on around her:

Where are my felt boots? Y. K. (Yuri Krivonischenko) Can we play mandolin on the train?

Of course! We forgot the salt! 3kg

Igor! Where are you? Where is Doroshenko? Why didn’t he take 20 packs? Give me 15 cents (kopeck) to call. The scales, where are the scales? It [doesn’t] fit, dam[n] it. Who has the knife?

Yuri take this to the station.

Slav Khalizov just got here.

Hello, hello! Can I get 15 cents?

She mentions that “the boys” swore off cigarettes for the trip. They leave Sverdlovsk (today Yekaterinburg) on the train that night. Zina writes, “Everybody is falling asleep, and behind the window Ural taiga is spread in all directions.”

The next day, as recorded in an entry by Yuri Yudin, they got into some trouble with the police:

7.00 (am) We arrived in Serov (town). We traveled with a Blinov’s group. They have… things for hunting and other accessories. At the station we were met with hell of a hospitality. They didn’t allow us into the building. The policeman stares at us suspiciously. There is no crime or vandalism in the city, as it [is] suppose[d] to be in times of communism. And then Yuri Krivo[nischenko] started a song, the cops grabbed him and took him away. At the attention of citizen Krivonischenko, sergeant explained that the rules of §3 prohibited all activity that would disturb the peace of passengers. It is perhaps the only train station where the songs are forbidden, so we stayed without singing. Finally everything is settled by end [of] the day.

You can pick up on a little sarcasm as Yuri describes the policeman dressing down “citizen Krivonischenko”, haughtily reminding him of the severe legal implications of Section Three. As mentioned before, Yudin, the surviving member of the Dyatlov party, remained quite suspicious of the government regarding the eventual disaster at Dyatlov Pass. Possibly we see here his latent distrust of authority, but it’s also possible that there’s more going on here. Krivonischenko, remember, had previously helped in a top-secret nuclear decontamination project, and was probably known to the government. It may have interested them to know that he was going somewhere very remote, especially if he were traveling with a group of people who were a little more free-thinking than was really encouraged at the time.

After this hiccup, they gave a presentation to a group of schoolkids, who were fascinated by them. The kids loved to hear from them all, but they were especially captivated by Zina, who they followed to the train station, tearfully begging her not to leave.

Later in the day, Yuri crafts perhaps some of the most Soviet sentences in world history, writing “We have the whole day free. We want to go to the city, to visit the nature museum or take a trip to a factory, but too much time is passed in distribution of equipment and cleaning it.” They were accosted by a “young drunk” at the train station who claimed that they had stolen his booze out of his pocket. Yuri is silent as to whether or not they had in fact done so, but adds “For the second time this day the cops were involved.” They round out the night with a “[d]iscussion about love provoked by Z. Kolmogorova”. They seem to have a lot of these conversations. Most sources on the Dyatlov group claim that there were no romantic entanglements among the group, but Zina had dated one group member, Doroshenko, and been ‘courted’ by another, Dyatlov himself. Also, one of the headlines on the Evening Otorten read “Greeting the XXI convention of increased birthrate among tourists!” and it also advertises a “philosophical seminar on the topic of ‘Love and Tourism’” which “takes place on the tent premises” and features lectures by “Dr. Thibeaux and postdoctorate of Love science Dubinina” so, I don’t know, I guess you can draw your own conclusions there. My point is only that a romantic falling-out, or a fight over one of the girls, doesn’t seem as clearly ruled-out as some would suggest.


The esteemed professors. Where’s that left hand, pal?

There’s no discussion of what happened on the 25th, the day they arrived in Ivdel, but when the journal picks up in an entry from Citizen Krivonischenko on the 26th they’re singing songs together, and still talking about love, as well as cancer, for some reason. He mentions that they chatted for a long time with some local workers in a hostel, writing “I remembered particularly the red-bearded man. The Beard, that’s what his friends call him.” When you live in Siberia and your friends call you ‘The Beard’, you know you’ve got one hell of a beard. This is the day Yuri leaves the expedition.


Dubinina hugs Yuri goodbye. Dyatlov is in the background.

They leave Ivdel this day and travel to the ‘41st District’. That night, in a brief, mysterious entry with no apparent point of reference, Nikolai Thibeaux writes “I can’t, although I tried.”

The next day, the 27th, they will be staying in a house in an abandoned village at the edge of the taiga, from which they will launch their assault on Otorten. Yuri Doroshenko writes today’s entry:

Guys started writing down a song. One fellow sang beautifully. We heard a number of illegal songs, that one could go to prison for (article 58 counter-revolutionary crimes). Ognev told Igor how to find the house where we can spend the night. We went there 4 pm.

We started a fire with wood boards. Smoke came [from] the stove. Several people hurt their hands on old nails. Everything is well.

It’s interesting that this appears to be the second time the group has skirted the law with their music. They mention singing songs throughout the diary; is it possible that their ‘counter-revolutionary’ music had put someone on their trail?

The next day, Dubinina mentions that they sing a number of songs around their campfire. They are now on the trail proper. After dinner,

[W]e resume our discussions, mostly about love. Someone comes up with an idea that we need a special notebook for ideas that we might come up with. Conspiring, we started going into the tent two people at a time.



OK, the sexual tension in this group isn’t all in my head, right?

 Later that night there is an argument about who should sleep where; the intensely-hot stove hanging from the middle of the tent divides the hikers into two parties, with nobody wanting to sleep in the middle. Krivonischenko tries it, but later moves, “cursing and accusing us of treason.” He goes into another section of the tent, where he and another of the boys have an argument about something else for a while. Dubinina doesn’t say what they were arguing about, which is odd, because she would know, sharing a tent with them.

The next two entries, the last in the journal, seem to be written by Dyatlov, though the first is apparently unsigned. His contribution to the journal is technical and no-nonsense. He is concerned about the weather; it’s not snowing, but a strong wind is blowing snow off the trees in big falls. The river they were supposed to walk on isn’t frozen enough and cannot be traversed; instead they take to a Mansi trail.

In the middle of the road [we saw the] Mansi shed. Yes, Mansi, Mansi, Mansi. This word comes up more and more often in our conversations. Mansi are people of the North. Small Hanti-Mansijskiy nation located in Salehard with 8 thousand population. Very interesting and unique people that inhabit the North Polar Urals, close to the Tyumen region. They have a written language, and leave characteristic signs on forest trees.


 Dyatlov inspects the Mansi markings.

 On January 31, Dyatlov comments again about the weather and mentions that they are following the trail of what he presumes is a Mansi deer hunter. They have left the sled trail and are instead apparently following this hunter: “Till now we walk along a Mansi trail, which was crossed by a deer hunter not long ago. Yest[e]rday we apparently came across his resting stop. Deer didn’t go much further. The hunter didn’t follow the beaten trail and we are now in his steps.” He mentions that their visibility is basically zero, and that “sometimes we have to advance gropingly.” Questions here include whether or not Dyatlov was correct about his identification of the Mansi hunter as the one who made the trail. It’s also worth mentioning that if their own visibility was diminished, so would be that of anyone seeing them, which could have caused someone to mistake this hiking party for a threat of some kind.

This is where the journal cuts off. From the reconstructions, we know that they advanced another couple of days. On February 1, they cached some of their gear for the return trip and advanced up the mountain. The disaster, whatever it was, took place that night.

The diary gives us a few ideas to go off of, but we’ll save those for the end, once we’ve seen some more evidence. In the next section we’ll look at the hikers’ large cache of photos from the doomed expedition.

DYATLOV PASS – Part Three: The Photos

Probably the richest primary evidence from the ill-fated Dyatlov party are their photographs. Dozens of photos were taken, both before the outset of the hike and during the trek toward Dead Mountain. There were gifted photographers in the group; many of these are quite nicely composed. Some provide a relatable look at the doomed adventurers, while others are more mysterious.

In total, there were five cameras retrieved from Otorten. As mentioned previously, the group thought they only had four; Semyon’s body was found with an unknown camera which he had kept hidden from the group. Aside from the film in these five cameras, there was also a loose sixth spool of film, and some loose photos, whose origins are unclear. They clearly show the hike, and were introduced into the inquiry of the accident, but nobody seems to ultimately know where they came from.

Krivonischenko was the most avid photographer of the group, and shot the lion’s share of the Dyatlov photos. He has a good artist’s eye.


His early shots, such as this one showing Dyatlov and Thibeaux planning the journey, are often candid. He snapped a classic “picture-of-a-person-taking-a-picture” picture, showing Zina with her camera, and a great snap of Nikolai Thibeaux immediately after tripping over a sawhorse:


Another, gloomier shot shows a view of the abandoned village as the party departs for the mountain.


They appear to be in typically high spirits as they reach the Lozva River:


However, we begin to see some grumpy faces as they recognize that they will not be able to take this course as planned, and must resort to the rougher Mansi road. Dyatlov, in particular, is not impressed.



The group appears to stop for a while for what seems like a somewhat tense conversation about the future of the expedition.


The final frames of the Krivonischenko film show the party struggling forward in what appear to be whiteout conditions. The last frame is a blurred shot of what looks like a luminous sphere of some kind, possibly a long exposure with bad focus. This shot has confounded many and led to speculations that UFO’s were somehow involved in the group’s demise, as there were indeed reports of glowing lights over Otorten that night. Teddy, however, argues that it is a technical frame exposed by the film lab that developed the pictures.




Nikolai Thibeaux took comparatively fewer photos, but, like Krivonischenko, he captured the strained sense of being lost as the group left the river and started following the Mansi trail:



Thibeaux’s last, fairly alarming shot is of a darkened figure that seems to be approaching from not far off. To some, this is a photo of nothing less than a real-ass Yeti. Others just see an out-of-focus shot.


Slobodin didn’t take a lot pictures with his camera, and many that he did take were water-damaged and have large sections missing. He did manage to grab a great picture of Dyatlov climbing a tree, before things got hairy:


He also got one of the few photos the group took of the ominous Otorten itself, looming grimly in the distance beyond miles of undisturbed taiga. His final shot is a spooky, badly damaged frame showing the Mansi tree markings.



The loose roll of film mostly consists of staged photos of the group traveling together.



In this film, too, we see that the smiles have vanished around the time the group comes upon the Mansi tree markings. Apparently following the path of the Mansi hunter, as described by Dyatlov in the journal, we see the group leaving the open trail and heading into dense tree cover.



The final shots on this roll show the group either resting or preparing to make camp. The frames are badly damaged. The group is still in a densely thicketed area, which they will leave as they approach the mountain.



From the obscure loose photos presented at the inquest, we have shots of the tent, rigged up with Dyatlov’s homemade stove, which has a chimney that sticks out the side. The whole thing looks incredibly dangerous, if you ask me.



The final image is from February 1, afternoon on the day before the incident. The group is bundled up tightly and the weather does not look hospitable.


Finally, we come to Zolotaryov’s mysterious camera, which none of the other hikers knew about. The images on this roll are badly, badly damaged, and there are few that don’t seem to show anything at all. Most are just black squares with white damage artifacts:



Some have seen in this damage clear evidence of UFO’s, or demons, or some other kind of unexplained horrible beings. I’m not so sure I buy that. However, there are a couple of photos on this mystery camera that are a bit more, well, mysterious.

One image shows a very bright light source on the left, which weakens toward the right side of the frame, as a real light source would (note that in the above, damaged frames, we see white ‘blobs’ with fairly well-defined edges.) There also seem to be three objects in the foreground, which block the light. The one on the left has the highest contrast, again as we would expect with a real light source. It may be that this is a photograph of something intensely luminous in the sky over the heads of three hikers.


Another image very clearly shows an illuminated tree branch. It’s hard to say whether the light source is behind the tree (swallowing it in its glare) or whether it is a light shined at the tree. In any event, none of the hikers in the Dyatlov party brought a flashlight with them in their flight from the tent.


By now, you’ve probably thought of about a hundred possibilities for what could have happened to this ill-starred expedition. Rest assure, there are hundreds more out there. Let’s run through a few of them.

DYATLOV PASS – Part Four: The Outsider

When it comes to Dyatlov Pass, there are more theories out there than can readily be digested into a summary like this. As we always do, we’ll close with the Wet Blanket Revue, in which I’ll suggest a few of the most realistic options. There are other realistic options as well, but they require a bit more of a stretch, and this is the one section when I really try to rain on the paranormal parade. Then we’ll move on to the Venusian Conclusion and I’ll tell you all about how these poor bastards were crushed by aliens.


Among the most salient options in terms of a non-paranormal explanation for the Dyatlov Pass Incident, I personally narrow it down to three. These are: the threat of an avalanche, a fire in the tent, or a stupid and tragic accident caused by a fight.

Regarding the avalanche theory: it should be said right off the bat that there was no avalanche. Many have chalked up the massive chest trauma experienced by some of the party as clear evidence of an avalanche, which also explains why they would have rushed from the tent. However, it was independently confirmed that no avalanche took place that night. The bodies that were buried in the snow had been in a depression or ‘den’, which was covered over by regular snow drifting- certainly not enough to crush a ribcage.

However, even without an avalanche, a panic could have been set off by the idea that there was going to be an avalanche. While Igor Dyatlov was an experienced mountaineer who would never set a camp in an area at risk for avalanches, he does mention in his entries in the diary that there are heavy winds which often blow large masses of snow off the trees in one big whump. Maybe the tent was hit by one of these in the night, causing the group to wake up in a panic at what they imagined to be the first few seconds of an avalanche. Fearing that they would be buried alive, they cut their way out of the tent and ran to ‘safety.’ When they realized their mistake, it was too late; they never found their way back.

Another possibility is a fire in the tent. The improvised stove built by Dyatlov was notoriously hot, causing the group to argue over who would have to sleep nearest to it. It vented its smoke through a chimney that ran half the length of the tent before poking through a hole in the fabric at one end. Nobody on earth would camp like that today, it’s ludicrously dangerous. Doroshenko had half of his hair burned off and Kolevatov had burns on his clothing. Other members of the group had burns on their hands. Perhaps Doroshenko woke up in a panic, understandably freaking out because his head was on fire, and in the course of trying to put him out (and receiving burns themselves) the group made the sudden collective decision to get as far as possible from this demon stove lest they all burn to a crisp. The tent itself never caught fire, and the stove would have blown out quickly after the tent came down, but again, by that point the deal was sealed, and the hikers never found their way back to camp. In this case or the above, injuries could have been sustained normally as the hikers stumbled around in the night or fell from trees as they climbed for firewood or to look for the tent (radiation and missing tongues are another story.)

Another possibility is that there was a fight between two (or more) of the hikers and that things quickly turned sour. Dyatlov and Slobodim both had bruises on the first joint of all of their fingers; if you make a fist, that’s the part you punch with. Some of the group members had been previously related romantically, and there seemed to be a slight erotic undercurrent to the whole expedition. Maybe things got out of hand. It’s possible that an argument (similar to the one recorded by Dubinina in the diary) got physical and turned into a wrestling match in the tent. Maybe the tent was partially pulled down in the process, and the group cut themselves out quickly before it could catch fire. Given that some of the injuries appear to be blunt object trauma, it’s possible the fighting got more violent outside the tent.

But I’d rather not believe that. These guys were clearly good buds.





 My theory here hinges on one guy, and one guy alone: Semyon Zolotaryov. He’s the most enigmatic of the group; he joined practically at the last minute, nobody really knew him, and let’s face it, he looks sneaky as hell.


What’s this guy’s angle? He’s at least a decade older than everybody else, he quit the army for no apparent reason, proceeding to move around the country, not able to be pinned down anywhere. Then, just before the expedition leaves he enters the picture, asking everybody to call him by some name that’s not actually his name. And he’s got a secret camera he doesn’t tell anybody about. What was his plan with that camera? Obviously, after the expedition was over, he didn’t want to make excuses for why he wouldn’t send his film for development with the rest of the group’s negatives. He was going to take pictures of something he didn’t want anybody else in the group to know about.

It’s not at all unusual, then or now, for the military to pretend to discharge someone and quietly put them to work gathering information. Maybe this Dr. Smith-esque enigma was a secret agent, with an inside bead on the mysterious lights that people were seeing over Otorten. Maybe the Dyatlov group was just his ticket to get there without dying along the way. His real goal was to sneak away from the group and photograph some UFO’s on behalf of the good old USSR. After all, he was the most well-equipped of the group on the night of the incident, and the only one wearing shoes. Almost as if he were outside the tent when it started.

In the end, Zolotaryov got it just as bad as everybody else, when the aliens landed, zapped out some eyeballs, tore out a tongue, crushed ribcages and smashed one guy really, really hard in the head with a tree branch. Then they dipped out, leaving nothing but some bizarre photos on Zolotaryov’s camera, and some residual radiation from their antigravity drive.

Again, the above theories only scratch the surface. You can get lost in this stuff for days, and I hope you do. I’ve compiled some further resources for you to check out. I really hope you’ll check out Teddy’s site (it’s not for the faint-hearted, though; there are some postmortem photos I tastefully did not include here).

Thanks for sharing this trip with me.


The simply-named dyatlov-pass.com website by ‘Teddy’ is the foremost resource.

Writer Donnie Eichar has a book called Dead Mountain, which I confess I have not read, but if the website for said book is anything to go by, it’s well-informed and well-written. The site alone is a great resource. I stole his nicely-designed map for the intro to section two of this project.

The Atlas Obscura entry is a good summation.

In 2016, another person died at Dyatlov Pass.

There’s much more out there, too. This is a well you can return to time and again. Until next time!

Friday Foofaraw: April 29, 2017

I found something really cool on Wikipedia the other day.

A Kurdaitcha, among the Aranda group of indigenous Australians, is a kind of ritual hit-man. Their job is to carry out a curse on an enemy via a ‘bone-pointing’ ritual (a form of which is generally common to many different groups of Aboriginal people).

The ritual is carried out by first preparing the cursing bone, which is generally animal bone, though sometimes human bone or a sharpened stick is used. The preparation is often a complicated process which usually involves coating it in rotting meat or other foul substances. The Kurdaitcha then dons a pair of special shoes, made of feathers held together by human blood and fastened to the foot with human hair; these shoes are said to leave no tracks. Before putting them on, one would first hold a fire-heated stone to the ball of the pinkie toe to soften up the joint, and then sharply pull the toe toward the outside of the foot, dislocating it. The dislocated toe is then inserted through a special hole in the shoe. The shoes themselves and the rituals surrounding them are highly secretive and cannot be witnessed by women or children, but medical examinations have shown evidence of the dislocation in people who have claimed to be Kurdaitchas. You can see pictures of the shoes online if you search for them, but since it’s taboo to look at them, someone somewhere would presumably be pissed to know that these pictures are out there, so I’m not going to post them here. You can look them up yourself if you’re comfortable making that decision, you insensitive brute.

Once the shoes are donned, the Kurdaitcha hunts down the intended target, taking years to do so if necessary. Once the victim is found, the Kurdaitcha drops to one knee and points the cursing bone at the target, who witnesses the curse; death follows not long afterward. The cause of death may be, in modern parlance, ‘psychosomatic’, ie. with no apparent medical cause, the victim grows anxious and listless and simply wastes away and dies (it’s worth noting that this is basically what would happen if he was, you know, actually cursed.) Some variants on the ritual involve scratching or piercing the victim with the bone, which could cause death via infection if the bone has been coated in filthy substances, as is often the case. Some Kurdaitchas killed more directly, albeit still stealthily, by crafting a long, thin, sharp lance from a kangaroo bone, sneaking up on a sleeping victim and driving it through the nape of their neck and into the chest where it pierces the heart. When the bone is removed, the tiny flap of skin is pushed back in place so that the wound doesn’t bleed and can barely even be seen.

In 2004, Australian PM John Howard was the recipient of a politically-oriented bone-pointing curse. The Wikipedia article rather snarkily remarks “As of 2017, John Howard is still alive”, which is a kind of douchey thing to mention. Congratulations, outsider, you sure taught those idiots a lesson about how ridiculous and wrong their beliefs are! That’ll teach them, for… uh… daring to preserve and recontextualize their culture’s history and traditions despite centuries of European colonialist oppression? Go team The West!

Quick update in re: hollow Earth theories

In my last entry, I mentioned the hollow-earth theory of the Koreshan religious group, who argued that we live on the inner surface of a hollow planet which has ‘outer’ space in the middle. I was picturing that and I got to wondering how gravity would work inside a hollow planet.

What strikes me as the common-sense answer is that because gravity pulls matter to matter, near the inner surface you’d be pulled ‘down’, meaning ‘against’ that surface (so that you’d walk with your feet pointing ‘out’ and your head pointed ‘in’, toward the middle of the empty space, just like all good Koreshans do (and also possibly Vyacheslav Krasheninnikov‘s dinosaurs?)) If you were to jump in a rocket ship and propel yourself ‘up’ off the inner surface, the effect of gravity would get less and less until you reached the exact centre of the sphere, at which point the equidistant gravitational forces surrounding you would all cancel each other out and leave you floating, weightless. If you moved too far one way or the other, you’d be in for a long fall and a sudden splat. That makes sense, right?

Wrong! As it turns out, if you should happen to be on the left ‘side’ of the cavity (with the shell on your left) the nearness of that part of the shell would indeed result in a stronger gravitational pull to your left- but you would, of course, have more of the shell to your right side. The gravity associated with that matter is weaker, but there’s more of it, to the extent that it completely and exactly cancels out the gravity on your left, and you’d neither crash to the inside of the shell nor drift off to attain perfect, harmonious equilibrium in the exact centre of the planet. You’d just bounce around like an idiot. The net gravitational field of every point within the cavity of a sufficiently massive (and uniform) hollow shell is exactly zero.

Pretty bizarre, eh?

(The link above does a good job of dumbing this down for regular schmucks like me, but if you have the kind of advanced intellect that can comprehend high-level mathematics, the idea is called shell theorem, and that Wikipedia article has what I’m told is called a “derivation” that proves it. This derivation, according to a few physics forums I’ve visited, is apparently so clear and transparent and idiot-proof that even the most knuckle-dragging, bungling, backwoods physicists and mathematicians can readily make sense of it.)

Friday Foofaraw: April 14, 2017 – Why the Earth is Flat and Also Bigfoot Exists, Too

Happy Good Friday, y’all, the day that celebrates the improbable feat of derring-do attributed to a certain Jewish fellow Who died and then somehow was still not dead and also still isn’t. You probably heard recently that Shaq apparently believes the world is flat. I’m here this week to explain why he is perhaps not a raving lunatic for saying such a thing, and to offer my support for all well-meaning spectacular and incredible claims, be they religious or secular in nature.

Upon learning of Shaq’s adherence to the flat earth theory, the internet immediately erupted into hysterics, with most people landing somewhere between mockery and indignant reproach. While some were satisfied with simply lambasting this professional athlete for being an idiot, others leapt into the fray clad in their science-armour, these brave, stalwart heroes of empiricism, gallantly defending against overwhelming odds the embattled belief that the fucking world is round. WE KNOW THE WORLD IS ROUND.


Bless you, Shade of Galileo!! For a moment there I nearly forgot what shape planets are! Thank God you’re here to drop your “SCIENCE” on me!

Shaq later clarified: “I’m joking, you idiots!” Given the reaction, though, I think people are really missing the point on this whole thing. Sometimes when people make claims like this (whether they admit it’s a joke or not, which, for the record, it almost always is) they’re going for something a little more subtle. I think, particularly in the case of flat earth theorists, the point is to highlight the necessity of challenging received wisdom. The flat earth idea is great for this because it highlights a palpable manner in which our lived experience clashes with what we’re told. Everybody tells us the earth is round, but dammit, it fucking feels flat. Shaq states this eloquently.

So, listen, I drive from coast to coast, and this shit is flat to me. I’m just saying. I drive from Florida to California all the time, and it’s flat to me. I do not go up and down at a 360 degree angle.

If you take him seriously there, he sounds like an insane moron. But just before that, he said:

Listen, there are three ways to manipulate the mind — what you read, what you see and what you hear. In school, first thing they teach us is, ‘Oh, Columbus discovered America,’ but when he got there, there were some fair-skinned people with the long hair smoking on the peace pipes. So, what does that tell you? Columbus didn’t discover America.

His stereotypes aside, he has a point. Columbus didn’t discover America. People were already living there. Yet generations of schoolchildren were and still are being taught that ‘fact’. I think Shaq is very cleverly and subtly using the flat earth idea as an ideological weapon against the whole concept of received wisdom, or at least the uncritical acceptance of said wisdom. He’s effectively saying “If you can invent history, if you can just make shit up and tell us it’s real and expect us to believe it despite all evidence to the contrary, then what if I say I believe the world is flat? How will you refute me without being a hypocrite?” It’s worth noting in this context that a staggering number of people still think the same reprehensible tyrant Columbus ‘proved’ the world was round; this is flatly not correct but people still believe it, and why? Some idiot taught them that in school.

The same point was made by another NBA flat-earther, Kyrie Irving, a few weeks before Shaq’s big reveal:

I think people should do their own research, man. Then, hopefully, they’ll either back my belief or throw it in the water, but I think it’s interesting for people to find out on their own. I’ve seen a lot of things that my educational system said was real and turned out to be completely fake. I don’t mind going against the grain in terms of my thoughts and what I believe.

The importance of galling people into giving a shit about the truth becomes paramount when we look at the current political climate, for obvious reasons. The constant stream of bald-faced lies oozing out of the White House is only possible because the American populace no longer really gives a shit about whether things are true or not. In a climate like that, saying in public that you believe in something that everybody 100% absolutely knows for sure is bullshit is a great way, maybe even the only way of making people notice again and pay attention to truth’s inherent superiority over falsehood.

I’ll give you another example. Maybe you noticed that Bigfoot has been on the rise lately. There’s Bigfoot documentaries all over Netflix, the show “Finding Bigfoot” is on its eighth season, there’s popular Bigfoot people on Youtube and Twitter. And the International Bigfoot Conference is bigger and better than ever.


Mostly just mentioned them so I could show their logo, which is just so, so awesome.

Bigfoot as a theory is generally regarded by most people as pretty dumb, maybe not quite as dumb as flat earth theory, but still pretty dumb. So why the sudden uptick in Bigfoot shit over the past few years? I’ve noticed that it seems to coincide pretty closely with the public debate over climate change and climate change denial. I think the Bigfoot people are doing a sort of ecological version of the same sort of thing Shaq is doing with flat earth; they’re saying “if you can simply deny that this horrible natural catastrophe is happening, when mountains of evidence prove its existence, you’re essentially saying that empirical evidence itself, as a means of verifying truth, is irrelevant. If we grant that, why can’t I say that Bigfoot is real? There’s no evidence, but as far as you’re concerned, evidence doesn’t matter. So how will you criticize my stance without revealing yourself as a hypocrite?”

That’s what I think is going on, anyway, but maybe I’m being a little too cerebral about it. Let me know what you think.

As a palate cleanser, I’d like to point you to something that’s kind of the reverse of the flat earth theory. This is the theory proposed by the wacky late-19th century religious group, Koreshanity. According to their cosmology, the earth is indeed round, but it’s hollow, and we live on the inside. The sun and stars and all that we see in the sky are contained in the middle of the sphere and we live on its inner surface, whereas outside the sphere there is nothing at all, or as Cyrus Teed (aka Koresh) put it, “Inside the shell there is life, outside a void.”


There’s a lot we don’t know, and a lot of what we think we know isn’t real. Reason, open-mindedness, and compassion are. Let’s use them whenever we can. Have a good weekend.

Special Feature: Vyacheslav Krasheninnikov, the Omnipresent Ten-Year-Old Internet Prophet

Welcome, friends. What I’ve got for you today is really bizarre, and what’s more, it will literally change your life. Only slightly, mind, but not necessarily for the better. Consider that before you move on.

This won’t be a full four-part project like I normally do, but it also can’t be condensed into a Friday Foofaraw, because it is a singular phenomenon that really deserves some close attention on its own merits. It’s something I can practically guarantee you’ve never heard of before, but which you will not be able to stop noticing once you know what to look for and where to find it. Prepare yourself, gentle reader, because you’re about to learn the story of Vyacheslav Krasheninnikov, the most famous pre-teen prophet you’ve never heard of.

Vyacheslav Krasheninnikov, fondly known to his family as Slava, was a boy from the town of Yurga in the Kemerovo region of Russia. He is, however, most famously associated with the small city of Chebarkul, where, tragically, he died of leukemia in 1993, at the age of ten. His life was short, but highly significant. To the Russian Orthodox church, he was at best an imaginative boy whose flights of fancy were greatly overblown by his grieving parents and interpreted as mystical visions; at worst, he was himself possessed by a demon, or something even more sinister. But to his followers, young Slava is a saint, or perhaps an angel, or perhaps something even beyond that.


To wit: somebody made an icon of this kid, which, if you’re not at least a saint, is a big no-no.

Slava was, in many ways, a product of the ‘indigo child’ movement, which had filtered to Russia through mass media around the same time that it was fashionable in certain circles in the English-speaking world. Russia seized upon the idea, and Slava was one of many children his age who were touted to have some mysterious abilities far beyond typical human nature. However, where these special talents of indigo children are typically thought to arise from some metaphysical energy or psychic power, Slava, both during his life and after his death, was conceived of as a specifically religious figure.

The stories about Slava derive principally from his mother, who wrote several books about him, and a woman named Lydia Emelyanov, an early advocate of the indigo-children phenomena in Russia, who wrote two more. Aside from being “remarkably kind, obedient, intelligent, pious, [and] devout”, Slava was said to have the gift of mystical healing. People came from all around to receive his healing; one of his patients supposedly claimed that he treated her by gazing at her from a distance, and that “from my head something seemed to come off in the form of thin strings.”

Slava’s healing ability apparently transcended his death; when pictures of sick children are placed on his old chair, the children are miraculously healed. At the small shrine set up around his memorial, the earth over his grave must be constantly replenished; pilgrims remove it bit by bit, to mix with water and apply as a curative lotion. Small marble stones, routinely spread over the grave, also vanish. They are ‘infused’ in water and can cure many ailments. One claim comes from a fellow who decided to tie a little buzz on to celebrate his birthday, before suddenly being called in to work. A bottle of water infused with the marble stones from Slava’s grave sobered him up instantly (or, one presumes, that is at least what he told his boss.)


If you’ve only got time to visit one child’s grave after a Russian bender, well friend, make it this one!

The marble stones are important; Slava specifically asked for them to be scattered over his grave. Why? Well, marble, because it is a living being with a pulse, frightens away aliens, which are really demons.

…wait, what?!

This is where it starts getting really odd. Faith healing is one thing; we could argue about its efficacy (if we really wanted to, which I don’t at the moment) but we can all agree that it’s pretty standard protocol for saints and holy people. But Slava was more than that. He was a seer and a prophet, and the stuff he saw and prophesied was bonkers.

Slava’s death was primarily a result of his refusal to accept a blood transfusion, based on his belief that the sins of the donor are transmitted to the patient in the blood (leaving this critical decision to a ten-year-old boy seems odd to me, but whatever.) Slava could speak to plants. He declared that it was unlawful to kill birds, because birds are involved in the creation of time, and killing them hastens the end of days. He avowed that the bowels of the earth hid gigantic subterranean spaces (undetectable to science due to a “layer of radioactive sand”) which are full of dinosaurs, mutated to massive proportions by underground nuclear weapon testing. These dinosaurs will emerge from sinkholes and lakes, and we will only be able to kill them by “going for their nerves”. Some of his visions are pretty transparently lifted from Hollywood movies; he once spoke of a short, mysterious monk who had a light on the tip of his index finger, who assisted him in leaping across a huge canyon (one presumes the monk first called his home monastery for permission to perform the miracle.) Slava called upon his listeners to give up drinking vodka, because it dries up your brains. He warned about the mark of the beast and the nearness of the apocalypse, in which demons (which will appear to humans as extraterrestrial aliens) will run rampant on the earth. With the dinosaurs. There are many, many more claims like this. A good run-down can be found here.

What appear to most of us as childhood flights of fancy are, to a certain group of very strange Russians, infallible truths about the present age and indisputable prophecies about the coming tribulation. And for some, Slava is even more than a prophet; when we take a look at his life, full of suffering and prophecy, granting the gift of healing to others, taking their suffering on himself, and dying too young, he begins to look an awful lot like a much more famous religious figure. This characterization (which Slava may have acknowledged himself during his lifetime) is embraced by Slava’s most eager followers, who see in him nothing less than the second coming of Christ.

But hey, really wacky metaphysical claims aren’t exactly foreign to Russia. The raskol, which formed the rift between the Orthodox church and the so-called ‘Old Believers’, spawned a massive number of truly bizarre sects, some of which are documented here. Contemporaneously, you may have heard of Vissarion, the head of a Siberian church which claims that he is Christ reincarnated (he was the focus of a Vice documentary.) You may also be familiar with Valeria Lukyanova, the so-called ‘human Barbie’, whose quest to turn herself into the world’s favourite doll has rather overshadowed the fact that she teaches astral projection and believes she’s an alien. Naturally, there’s a Vice documentary about her as well.

But what sets Slava apart from these others is something I will now demonstrate. Let’s take his claim that “vodka dries one’s brains” and pop that into a Google search:

Huh. That seems like… a lot.

How about his claim that “birds participate in time creation”?

Hmm. Uhh… hm.

Okay… well, let’s try something a little more obscure, like Slava’s idea that dinosaurs “will get out through sinkholes and lakes. To kill them, go for their nerves.”

Alright, what the hell?!

Okay, okay, but let’s try something really crazy and see how many instances we can find of his theory that the antichrist will be a “born to a 12th generation prostitute, flying, big-nailed, gloved, pale-faced, red-eyed, Satan-possessed since he’s 12 years old, homosexual man.” That’s awfully fucking specific. Surely that’s not going to be-


This is why I wanted to bring little Slava to your attention today, my friends. The internet is positively crammed full of this stuff. It’s absolutely everywhere you wouldn’t think to look. What’s more, filling in the gaps between these formulaic professions of faith in the utterly insane, we find passages that seem to be freely-composed, only appearing in one or two places. This means that this isn’t the work of spam-bots; what we have here is a healthy, thriving community of faith, undergoing actual mythological and theological development as we speak, and it’s pretty much all happening deep in the comments sections of unrelated Youtube videos, in emails that get funneled straight to your junk mail (yes, yours, specifically), in the murky waters of Yahoo Answers, blasted in giant text blocks across Reddit threads you’d never read— pretty much everywhere on the internet, provided it’s the last possible place you’d be looking.

I was drawn to this story specifically because I kept seeing this shit everywhere I turned and I finally had to get to the bottom of it. Now that I know what’s going on, I find it more and more. I’ve developed kind of a sixth sense for it; everywhere there’s an obscure website with a comments section and people asking questions about religion or human health, there’s Slava. It’s completely inescapable. And it will happen to you too.

Now, thanks to me, you’re cursed with this hideous awareness as well, and I guarantee this little Russian boy’s sci-fi apocalypse will start appearing to you too. You don’t even have to go looking for it. Just wait and watch. Slava’s ghost will track you down.

Further Reading:

Orthodox Wiki: Vyacheslav Krasheninnikov

Good background there, and lots of links for further research, but they’re all in Russian. Copy the link and paste it to Google, then use the translation function; close enough.

If you need more, just look… anywhere.

Friday Foofaraw: March 31, 2017

I was digging around Snopes earlier today and found my way into the bizarre world of what they call ‘scarelore’: email forwards and Facebook posts which portray a certain criminal threat and offer handy tips for how to identify or avoid it. The vast majority of these are really alarmist and display a critical lack of awareness as to how actual criminals operate. This is particularly true in ‘near miss’ cases of supposed ‘human trafficking’ which are alleged to occur in big-box stores like Walmart, Target, and Ikea.

There are a ton of these, and for some reason, they seem to follow distinguishable trends; there was an upswing in 2011 and then another big one in 2015. In most of these accounts, nothing ever actually happens; the ‘victim’ (usually a mother, alone with one or more kids) simply notices someone nearby who seems to be looking at her, and proceeds to invent a surprisingly elaborate child-kidnapping scheme based on whatever people and circumstances happen to be around.

The narratives are all quite similar, and they persist despite the fact that there doesn’t seem to be a scrap of truth to any of them. One possible explanation for this is that people are told to be ‘on guard’ whenever they encounter an extremely vaguely defined scenario (that is, “someone acting weird in public”, which I personally observe somewhere around 99-100% of the time I go out in public) and come to believe that they have ‘narrowly avoided’ a dangerous criminal. No matter how many times people hear that this kind of thing (that is, being forcibly kidnapped in broad daylight out of an extremely busy store) is rare to the point of practically just not happening, the broad phrasing means that pretty much everybody will go through a ‘near miss’ (as defined) on, like, a monthly basis, if not more. The cumulative effect, so the theory goes, is that people wind up believing that if they’ve ‘dodged’ a Walmart kidnapping six times this week, it must really be happening to somebody somewhere. Except it isn’t.

(Human trafficking is a real thing, of course, but victims are primarily prostitutes, serious drug addicts, undocumented immigrants and the homeless (people who can drop off the grid without many questions being asked). Traffickers don’t have to risk exposure by devising intricately coordinated plots to abscond from a Target with suburban housewives.)

But enough psycho-babble. Let’s dive into the unseemly and unnecessarily-complicated world of greasy criminals who:

Offer summer jobs to people and then kidnap them when they show up for the interview

Shop near you in a Hobby Lobby and then get in the checkout line behind you but don’t speak to you or approach you in any way

Run up and inject you with an unknown, lethal poison so they can snatch your purse

Accept your freely-offered help in loading their vehicles

Leave hundred-dollar bills hanging on random people’s windshields so they can snatch you when you get out of your car to pick them up

Invite you to sniff a perfume which is actually ether, so that you’ll pass out instantly (because that’s apparently how ether works) and they can then presumably pick up your lifeless body and walk out of the store with you over their shoulder without anybody thinking to notify the authorities

Shop in an Ikea at the same time as you, and perhaps insidiously stand near an exit while doing so

Mistakenly think you have a period stain on your clothes and offer you a sweatshirt to tie around your waist

Be a child, and try to make friends with another child, while appearing nervous around the adult accompanying said child

Try to offer you a free sample of something they’re selling in the store you’re visiting

And there are many, many more. I’m not sure what the takeaway is from this, aside from a series of object lessons in the 21st century’s generalized, unfounded paranoia and fear of the other, which will eventually demolish human civilization as we increasingly come to regard every single interaction we have with strangers as an attempted crime. Enjoy your weekend!

Friday Foofaraw: March 24, 2017

Sorry for the delay. And I am again late on the Shag Harbour project. IT WILL HAPPEN, I PROMISE!


One time, in 1800, a new Pope needed to take office, but the church authorities were in exile because France was occupying the Vatican. Without access to their vast storehouse of regalia, the college of Cardinals made do with what they had on hand and produced a papal tiara made of papier-mâché. It was subsequently used many times, even after the crisis had been resolved, as it was substantially less weighty than a normal tiara and so was a lot more comfortable to wear. The only catch was you could really only wear it to address large masses of people from a long ways off, so that nobody had the chance to inspect it too closely.


The memorial above, from a Chicago cemetery, is dedicated to Inez Clarke. Local legend has it that Inez was killed by lightning and the statue was set up by her grieving parents. Spookily, cemetery staff and tour bus drivers have claimed that the statue has a tendency to vanish from its protective box during bad thunderstorms, only to reappear once the weather has calmed down.

The truth behind the legend is a little sketchy; the cemetery has no record of an Inez Clarke being buried on the premises. Some argue that another person is buried under a repurposed memorial, or else that it was placed there as an advertisement for a gravestone-carving business and that nobody is buried under it at all. It’s a creepy tale in any event, and a prime candidate for a long-term static internet camera.