The Discovery Channel will tackle a major mystery on June 1, 2014, at 8 PM Eastern, when they simulcast in the USA and Russia their new documentary, Russian Yeti: The Killer Lives, directed by Neil Rawles.
The Soviet Snowman Commission signaled an important moment in history. In 1958-1959, the USSR seriously inquired as to whether unknown hairy hominoids existed in Russia. But then it was shut down. Why? What secrets were being hidden? What occurred back then?
The founders of cryptid hominoid research in Russia are shown less than a decade after the Commission was disbanded (left to right): Boris Porshnev, Alexander Mashkovtsev, Pyotr Molin, Dmitri Bayanov, and Marie-Jeanne Koffmann. This photograph is from January 1968.
The new Discovery documentary fuels speculation that Porschnev’s January 1959 Snowman expedition was withdrawn from the mountains because he was getting too close for comfort to discovering hidden Soviet secrets.
Earlier in 2014, UK’s Raw production company traveled to Maine to tape an interview with yours truly, Loren Coleman, at the International Cryptozoology Museum. Director Neil Rawles wanted to talk to me about the role the Russians and Americans had in searching for Snowmen in 1957-1960, with emphasis on my work about Tom Slick.
In my book and research on Tom Slick, I had conducted FOIA searches revealing he had traveled to Moscow to talk to the Soviet Snowman Commission.
I was told by the production crew that during the middle of May, those interviewed for the program could begin to talk about their interviews and the documentary to and in the media.
On May 9th, Discovery sent out a press release. The following is their statement, unedited:
DISCOVERY CHANNEL HEADS DEEP INTO SIBERIA IN SEARCH OF RUSSIAN YETI ON SUNDAY, JUNE 1
American explorer Mike Libecki Investigates Mysterious Deaths of Nine Students and Uncovers Something Truly Horrifying
(Los Angeles, Calif.) – On February 2, 1959, nine college students hiked up the icy slopes of the Ural Mountains in the heart of Russia but never made it out alive. Investigators have never been able to give a definitive answer behind who – or what – caused the bizarre crime scene. Fifty-five years later, American explorer Mike Libecki reinvestigates the mystery – known as The Dyatlov Pass incident – but what he uncovers is truly horrifying.
RUSSIAN YETI: THE KILLER LIVES, a 2-hour special airing Sunday, June 1 at 9 PM ET/PT on the Discovery Channel, follows Mike as he traces the clues and gathers compelling evidence that suggests the students’ deaths could be the work of a creature thought only to exist in folklore.
Based on diary accounts, forensic evidence and files that have just recently been released, Mike pieces together the graphic stories in search of what really happened that evening. According to the investigators at the time, the demise of the group was due to a “compelling natural force.” The students’ slashed tent was discovered first with most of their clothing and equipment still inside. Next, the students’ bodies were found scattered across the campsite in three distinct groups, some partially naked and with strange injuries including crushed ribs, a fractured skull, and one hiker mutilated with her eyes gouged out and tongue removed.
The mysterious scene left more questions than answers. Why was the tent slashed from the inside? Why would the victims leave their clothing behind in subzero weather? Could it have been a government top secret weapon that killed them? Or an indigenous local tribe that lashed out for trespassing on their land? But perhaps most strange of all, why did the Soviet government suppress the autopsy and other reports for 30 years?
Mike first heard about the Dyatlov Pass incident on a climbing expedition in 2011 and since then has become obsessed with the case. “I’ve spent a lot of time alone in the mountains and have had my share of near-death experiences,” he said. “I know if I went missing, I’d want my family to know what happened to me.”
Determined to find answers, Mike hires Russian translator Maria Klenokova to join him. Together, they set out to one of the most remote and inhospitable places on Earth. However, nothing prepared them for what they were about to discover. Following the trail of evidence, Mike finds proof that the hikers were not alone – a photograph, taken by one of the hikers a day before they died that suggests that they encountered a Yeti. But just how far will they go to find the answers?
RUSSIAN YETI: THE KILLER LIVES is produced for Discovery Channel by Raw. For Raw, Executive Producer is Richard Bond. For Discovery Channel, Executive Producers are Michael Sorensen and Sarah Davies.
The documentary is in post-production now, and, as usual, I have no idea if the interview with me about Tom Slick will make the final cut.
But I do have a feeling the documentary will be about more than just the Dyatlov Pass incident. Nevertheless, from this press release, it does seem that the Dyatlov Pass mystery has been upgraded to a focus of their treatment.
As two recent books on the mysterious Dyatlov Pass incident indicate, this early Russian 1959 event is one of the biggest mysteries of the 20th century.
The Dyatlov Pass incident generally refers to the mysterious deaths of nine ski hikers in the northern Ural mountains on the night of February 2, 1959. The incident happened on the east shoulder of the mountain Kholat Syakhl (Холат-Сяхыл, a Mansi name, meaning Dead Mountain). The mountain pass where the incident occurred has since been named Dyatlov Pass (Перевал Дятлова) after the group’s leader, Igor Dyatlov (Игорь Дятлов).
The entire group died, and a riddle developed about what had scared they so much they had cut through their tent (instead of using the entryway) and taken off in barefeet and socks. Diaries and cameras found around their last camp made it possible to track the group’s route up to the day preceding the incident. Photographs showed various camp activities, and, in many ways, mirrors the “found footage” genre in narrative fiction film in recent years.
Some of the injuries killing the skiers were,
mysterious, car crash-like injuries, according to Russian cryptozoologist Mikhail Trakhtengertz, looked ‘as if someone had hugged them, oh so tightly,” and a number of armchair theorists have suggested that what sent the group running in terror from their tent was the sight of a 3m (10ft)-tall monster looming out of the snows.
Sightings of ‘abominable snowmen’ and yeti-like creatures are common in Russia – after all, if such creatures do exist then the country’s vast snowfields offer plenty of places for them to hide from the eyes of man.
Trakhtengertz has also stated that in their ‘newspaper’, the Evening Otorten, the students had written in large letters: “From now on we know that the snowmen exist”. Perhaps, though, we shouldn’t read too much into this; it goes onto say: “They can be met in the Northern Urals, next to Otorten mountain.” Given the humorous tone of the ‘newspaper’, it’s quite likely that the students were jokingly referring to themselves rather than recording a genuine sighting of an almasty. Source: Fortean Times February 2009.
Among the many photographs left behind by the Dyatlov Pass party is a haunting image: a dark figure at the edge of the forest. Could it have been a Yeti? The Discovery documentary will explore several mysterious questions, including that one.
While the above picture may only be that of a young skier at the edge of a Russian forest, in the context of the Russian Yeti, it may take on a life of its own linking it to the long history of Almas, Almasty, Kaptars, Yetis, and Snowmen in Eurasia.