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Mountain of the Dead: The Dyatlov Pass Incident

Cover: 'Mountain of the Dead: The Dyatlov Pass Incident'

Staff Review: "Mountain of the Dead: The Dyatlov Pass Incident" by Keith McCloskey


The Dyatlov Pass Incident happened in February, 1959, in what was then the Soviet Union.  Nine university students set out for a ski tourism trip and never returned.  Their frozen, and in at least three cases seriously injured bodies, were found weeks later.  Their tent was cut open from the inside.  What could have cause these nine to flee out into the subfreezing Siberian night without shoes or clothes? The Soviet officials ruled the cause of death "an elemental force," and closed the area to tourism for three years.  

Since then, many theories have surfaced regarding the nature of that "elemental force."  Some have suggested natural events, such as an avalanche or bear attack, other suggest a military related accident, while still others suggest a more paranormal explanation, including the UFO's or yeti attack.  

Keith McCloskey's carefully researched book describes the skiers, and their background.  In several short background chapters, he describes what life was like in the Post-Stalin Soviet Union, as well as the state of world affairs.  He then describes the search for the skiers, the autopsy findings and the official verdict given by Soviet officials.  The most interesting part of the book describes and to a degree debunks some of the theories around the incident, including the possibility of a missile strike, an attack by either U.S. or Soviet Special Forces, attack by escaped Gulag prisoners or the possibility that a member of the group was a spy.  He also covers theories of a more supernatural nature, including the possibility of UFOs (a theory believed by the head police official until his death), a yeti attack or Siberian Trolls.  Probably the most fascinating chapter describes Yury Yakimov's eerie experience with what he calls a "light set," Yakimov's research into others who have witnessed these lights and is eventual reconstruction of what happened, that cold winter night high in the Ural Mountains.  All of this is backed up with extensive analysis, English and Russian sources and several appendices of additional information. 

While this will not be the last word on the fate of the Dyatlov Pass skiers, it certainly makes compelling reading.  If you have an interest in life in Cold War Russia, winter sports or the paranormal, this is a fascinating look at an incident that will have people debating for years to come. 

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, mystery, history

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