The world is a magical place, full of mysteries science may never understand. It's also full of bullshit that people just make up to draw attention to themselves.
At the heart of pretty much every "paranormal" phenomenon you find some lonely, attention-seeking soul, or several of them, willing to put a spooky little twist on an otherwise boring story. But it usually doesn't take a whole lot of examination to find the truth.
On February 2nd, 1959, during the cold winter on Kholat Syakhl ("Mountain of the Dead") in Russia, nine intrepid ski hikers decided to do what they do best, which is ski hike, whatever the hell that is. On February 26th, the first of their very dead bodies turned up. Man, who would have thought such a tragedy could strike on "The Mountain of the Dead?"
Image courtesy of Noah Scalin
It probably didn't look like this, but can you imagine?
But it was the discovery of the campgrounds that added the icing to the creepy-as-fuck cake. The ski hikers' tent was shredded. The skiers were scattered around the grounds wearing either very sparse clothing or just their underwear. Three of them were found with crushed ribs and fractured skulls, but no visible defense marks or other signs of a struggle.
Oh yeah, and one of the bodies was missing a tongue.
In case you weren't already on the phone with Mulder and Scully, trace levels of radiation were supposedly found on their bodies. The official statement on what happened was about as vague and ass-covering as possible, saying it was caused by an "unknown compelling force." In laymen's terms this means, "fuck if we know."
The story has become an internet sensation over the years, with many people blaming aliens, and then ghosts, and then the yeti, or possibly all of them working in tandem.
"So we're agreed then: We tear up their tents, take a lady's tongue, and never tell a soul."
The Obvious Answer:
So there's six things that freak people out about this one:
1. The no-tongued woman
2. A mysterious orange tan on the dead bodies
3. The ripped tents
4. The hikers' lack of clothing
5. The crushing damage done to three of the hikers
6. The traces of radioactivity
The big fact that gets lost in the re-telling of this story is that the bodies weren't found until weeks later. It's not like somebody turned their back, then five minutes later all their friends were dead and half naked.
That makes the missing tongue a lot easier to explain. As disturbing as it may be, the first thing a scavenging animal is going to go for is probably the soft tissue of an open mouth, especially if it still smelled like the burrito the hiker just ate. Laying out in the sun surrounded by white snow for days also accounts for the weird tan.
The trauma and the destroyed tent points to an avalanche. Their state of undress can be explained by paradoxical undressing, a known behavior of hypothermia victims when their brains start to freeze and malfunction. In other words, it's the kind of behavior you'd expect from a group of injured avalanche victims wandering around in the middle of the night in the freezing cold.
What about the radioactivity? Or stranger details that turn up in some accounts, like orange lights in the sky? Well, there's the fact that none of that stuff turns up in the original documents from the incident, and appears to have been added later by people who just can't resist making things spookier than they are.
It's those later accounts that have stuck in the public memory, because so many of the original reports were destroyed (this was the Cold War-era Soviet Union, which treated casserole recipes as state secrets).
So none of the details on their own prove anything other than a tragic hiking accident. The conspiracy-loving public widely reject this, too busy lighting their torches and getting their pitchforks to go hunt down an, "unknown compelling force."
Otherwise known as "snow."
The Roanoke Colony was either the first permanent settlement in America, or an elaborate practical joke. Walter Raleigh sent the colonists there and then left them without supplies for three years, perhaps just to see what would happen.
What he probably didn't expect was for the colony to just vanish. When new settlers finally arrived, none of the original colony remained at the settlement (except for the old skeleton of one guy) and the mysterious word "Croatan" was carved into a tree, right under, "Metallica Rules".
So, was it a UFO abduction? Perhaps the colonists were held in some kind of suspended animation and are still being anally probed to this very day.
The Obvious Answer:
That second group of settlers didn't really get the chance to investigate what happened to the original bunch, because a few years later an even bigger mysterious phenomena occurred: Blue-eyed, pale-complexioned Indians began showing up on nearby Croatan Island.
So what to make of these mysterious children, who looked like they might have been the descendents of white/Indian mixed race parents? On CROATAN island?
It's almost as if, we don't know, a certain group of settlers realized their colony sucked, and went and found some natives nearby who seemed to know how to live off the land. And that they then left their shitty colony forever to go live happily ever after on Croatan Island, and to have impressive amounts of sex with the natives.
"Hey, like the nearby island. Whatever, I'm sure that's just a coincidence."
In 1955, members of the Sutton family were out on their porch enjoying a relaxing visit/drinking binge with their good friend Billy Ray Taylor. Billy Ray decided to go out and get a drink of water from the well, when shit started getting weird.
He ran back in to tell everyone he'd seen some bright lights in the sky and that everyone should come look. According to one member of the Sutton clan, upon stepping outside the Suttons-plus-one encountered:
"... a luminous, three-and-a-half-foot-tall being with an oversized head, big, floppy, pointed ears, glowing eyes, and hands with talons at their ends. The figure, either made of or simply dressed in silvery metal, had its hands raised."
After seeing these figures coming out of the woods, showing the universal sign of surrender, the Suttons did the only thing they could do: try to kill their asses.
As they shot at the defenseless creatures with rifles, they claim to have heard clangs and ricochets as if the aliens were wearing some kind of metal armor. They said the aliens "flipped over and fled into the darkness when shot at."
The Obvious Answer:
This is a sketch of one of the aliens.
This is a great horned owl.
Look at the head of the "creature" then look at the head of the owl. Now, get really, really drunk. We're talking "mid-1950s rural Kentucky" drunk.
Ufologist Renaud Leclet admitted, "It could be a misidentification of a pair of Great horned owls, which are nocturnal, fly silently, have yellow eyes, and aggressively defend their nests."
Oh, and that sound of metal clanging and ricochets during the shooting? Get drunk and shoot towards a target in front of your tin chicken coup.
So it's either that, or there may still be an interstellar invasion force on the way to retaliate.