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I Love This Book

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In an effort to promote work I love (rather than just tear apart that which I hate), I introduce to you this book that I love: Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident by Donnie Eichar.

My Kindle Paperwhite propped up on some rocks on my dining room table, with a mug of coffee nearby.

 

If you’re unfamiliar with the subject matter, the Dyatlov Pass Incident was a tragedy that claimed the lives of nine experienced hikers on an expedition in the Ural Mountains in 1959. Searchers found the party’s tent slashed and their campsite abandoned. The bodies of Igor Dyatlov, Yuri Doroshenko, Lyudmila Dubinina, Yuri Krivonischenko, Zinaida Kolmogorova, Rustem Slobodin, Alexander Kolevatov, Nikolai Thibeaux-Brignolles, and Seymon Zolotaryov were found over a period of two months and in varying states of injury, mutilation, and radioactivity. The botched and secretive investigation by Soviet authorities led to half a century of cover-up allegations about everything from Big Foot to nuclear testing. The investigation’s final conclusion––that the hikers died due to an “unknown compelling force”––only fueled further ghoulish theories, and we still have no idea what happened to the hikers that night.

I’ve been obsessed with the Dyatlov Pass incident for a long time, owing to my inclination toward the spooky and weird. Despite how much I want to believe in creepy, otherworldly things, I had already accepted the practical and realistic explanations for the “mutilation” of the hikers’ bodies (naturally occurring decay and scavenging), the fact that some of them weren’t properly clothed (paradoxical undressing) and the slash made in the tent (they had knives, duh). But I’d never found a satisfying answer to the biggest remaining question: why would a group of skilled hikers abandon the safety of their camp, taking no supplies or proper clothing? What made going unprotected into the mountains at night seem less dangerous than staying? 

I went into Dead Mountain expecting to be disappointed by the totally rational explanations that would be offered by a serious book. I came away from Dead Mountain more terrified and unsettled than before.

Eichar writes about the hikers as the complex, vibrant people they were in life in a way many accounts of the tragedy ignore. Eichar makes it clear that this isn’t a ghost story or a conspiracy theory playground, but an event in which real people with family, friends, and loved ones were lost in a gruesome and horrifying way. He accomplishes this by mixing details of the investigation with a painstaking recreation of the group’s journey up the mountain that would ultimately claim their lives. When you reach the climax––and see Eichar’s hypothetical account of what could have happened––it makes this loss of life all the more terrifying.

After reading Dead Mountain, I’ve come to accept Eichar’s theory as the most logical and likely. And I really, really wish I didn’t. Whether you’ve never heard of the Dyatlov Pass incident or you’ve spent hours combing message boards and conspiracy videos, this book will stay with you for a long, long time.

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23 Comments

  1. Jen
    Jen

    Wowza. This is like a real-life Picnic at Hanging Rock (with the exception of the bodies being found). How tragic.

    August 22, 2018
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  2. Laura Teague
    Laura Teague

    Oh wow, I’m so torn! I really love the whole thing as a scary/bizarre/supernatural occurrence even though I *know* that’s not how the world works, so I tend to push away the real explanations. I’m super intrigued by this little review though…

    August 22, 2018
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  3. Cana
    Cana

    This book is so good! I think the explanation makes a lot of sense (I’ve experienced the thing in an everyday, not-dangerous environment and it was still really unsettling). I don’t tend to read a lot of nonfiction, but this one was really captivating.

    August 22, 2018
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  4. cyevi
    cyevi

    I really hope you keep this new series/feature going. I love hearing about awesome books, and hearing about them from an author’s personal perspective is even better. Don’t get me wrong, I love JHBC, but I am loving this too. Thank you!

    August 22, 2018
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  5. Amy
    Amy

    I’ll probably give this book a chance. I absolutely ~love~ creepy unsolved mysteries like this. I recently finished the book “Hunger” which was about the Donner Party. It was decently good, though it does suffer from “too many perspectives” syndrome.

    Though the Donner Party wasn’t a mystery. They totes ate each other.

    August 22, 2018
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    • Rachel O'Riley
      Rachel O'Riley

      ” They totes ate each other.”

      You are cracking me the hell up 😉
      Fun Donner Party trivia (I bet you already knew this): one of the survivors went on to open a restaurant! :0

      August 23, 2018
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  6. Jo
    Jo

    My only knowledge of the incident comes from the video game Kholat, which uses the intro at the beginning to talk about the incident and use it as a sort of tone-setting framing device for the game. But based on that alone, I now want to read this book too :O

    August 22, 2018
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  7. Betty
    Betty

    Based on your recommendation I just checked a copy out from the local library and downloaded it.

    I’d love to see something really comprehensive about Roanoke. That one always twists up my head.

    August 22, 2018
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  8. Sarah
    Sarah

    Nice! I love the mystery surrounding the Dyatlov Pass incident, i’ll be sure to check this out.

    August 22, 2018
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  9. Dove
    Dove

    I don’t think I’ve heard about this but I have a slight weakness for unsolved mysteries. I’m going to check if I can borrow this and/or the Percy books from the library soon. (ATM still working my way through some Valerian graphic novels, but I did read the sample for Percy and it has me intrigued as well. So far not that excited about her but I’m hoping I’ll warm up as I get further in.) Of course, I don’t expect to be interested in every book recommendation but I like seeing what you’ve enjoyed too. 🙂

    August 23, 2018
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  10. Rachel O'Riley
    Rachel O'Riley

    This sounds like a great read! Thank you.
    The leaving the camp/undressing part is a symptom of hypothermia….but it seems unlikely to me they’d all succumb the same way at the same time. I fearfully look forward to the author’s explanation!

    August 23, 2018
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    • Rachel O'Riley
      Rachel O'Riley

      Wow, devoured the book in one go last night. It is a good read. Eichner writes with beautiful clarity and economy. It’s amazing to have the photos taken by the group. So sad.

      August 24, 2018
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      • Rachel O'Riley
        Rachel O'Riley

        Whoops. Eichar not Eichnar. My bad.

        August 24, 2018
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  11. Jellyfish
    Jellyfish

    Oh dang, I’ve read this! I think Caitlin Doughty recommended it on Ask A Mortician. I have to admit I went into it for the ghoulish mystery, but like you said, he describes the campers as people so well, it ended up just making me really, really sad. All the other accounts I’ve read just gloss over who they were as actual human beings.

    I’m not sure I totally buy his explanation for why they left the tent, but it seems pretty plausible.

    Re: Roanoke, I’m like 95% sure the survivors got invited to live with a nearby Native tribe, and they went because being an early colonist was a totally garbage time.

    August 23, 2018
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  12. myeck waters
    myeck waters

    Purchased the kindle version based on this review. I have to finish my current read before I start in though.

    August 24, 2018
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  13. Just ordered for my husband, who’s always been fascinated with the Dyatlov Pass Incident. Thanks so much for sharing!

    August 24, 2018
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  14. Dove
    Dove

    No one ordered a White Russian at this table. No tip for you.

    August 25, 2018
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    • Tez Miller
      Tez Miller

      Moderator’s note: Ugh, that was a spambot disguised as a troll. Slipped through the spam-filter while I was offline. Have deleted it now. Sorry it appeared before I could catch it.

      August 25, 2018
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  15. New Fan
    New Fan

    Wish I could get you sales perqs for every person who I’ve gotten to buy this. And now I just got in on Audible. Love the hate, but ❤️❤️The Love ❤️ ❤️

    August 29, 2018
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  16. Dayna
    Dayna

    The podcast Astonishing Legends did a really great series of episodes about this (and so many other creepy happenings). If you’re into creepy/supernatural/otherworldly stuff and podcasts, I totally recommend them.

    September 10, 2018
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