A Winter not so Wonderland

Sup Abominable Snow Folks

Welcome back to Ghosts, Ghouls and Lagging! Your go to final destination for a month long Halloween hoedown! Now just a heads up, this post does have a few gruesome details so just a heads up for the faint of heart.

Round my parts it’s beginning to get a little chilly. Nothing crazy just yet, but enough to wear a sweater and stop putting ice cubes in my coffee (I’m usually too impatient to wait for it to cool down). But now that the weather has begun to snowball (hehe) towards a winter freeze, my mind has wondered back to a horror game I enjoyed a few years ago: Kholat. 

landscape photography of mountains covered in snow
Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

Kholat is a survival horror game set in the northern Ural Mountains of Russia (then the Soviet Union).  The story goes that in 1959, a group of 9 university students set off for a skiing expedition in the Ural Mountains… never to be seen again. It is unclear what exactly happened to the group as the bodies suggested that they had been attempting to flee someone… or something. Investigators came up with a number of possible theories to explain the incident including wolves, avalanche or even local tribesmen. But nothing could be proven. That’s where you come in, your character travels to the very mountains were the mystery waits to be uncovered. And particularly the mountain named “death” in Russian: Kholat.

The game itself looked beautiful, really pushing the boundaries of the Unreal 4 engine to create some gorgeous views. But it wasn’t just the visuals that are great, the soundtrack is excellent and is able to evoke both beauty and terror simultaneously. Oh and did I mention that it’s narrated by Sean Bean. Yes, I just said that. This Polish indie title is narrated by Sean Bean ( screw the game, this is the real mystery).

While Kholat is a perfectly good game in itself, there was a completely different reason why I was so entranced by the title in 2015.

The game was based on a true story.

white and gray cat lying on mossy ground
Photo by Min An on Pexels.com


That’s right dear reader, in 1959, 9 students embarked on an adventure into the Ural mountains… and never made it back. Now in case you are skeptical about all this, I beseech you, check it out! Not only did this all happen but to this day no one really knows what happened.

So here is what we know:

  • A group of 10 students (8 men and 2 women) held an expedition to the Ural mountains in order to obtain Grade III hiker certification (the highest rank in the Soviet Union at the time)
  • This means they were all Grade II, so they were experienced hikers.
  • One of the hikers, suffered from health problems and departed early.
  • A heavy snowstorm forced the team to deviate from their initial path and they accidentally headed for Kholat Syakhl (death mountain).
  • On the slopes of the mountain they made camp.
  • For some unknown reason, the group abandoned the tent in a panic.
  • They cut through the canvas and ran, leaving belongings including shoes.
  • The first two bodies were found by the remains of a small fire… naked
  • Three more bodies were found attempting to return to the camp
  • The final 4 bodies were found covered in snow 2 months later
  • The investigation was kept very secretive
footprints on snow
Photo by Lloyd Freeman on Pexels.com

Ok kids, we all on the same page so far? Well here is where things get even weirder. You see, up until these last four bodies were found, the cause of death for the others was simply hypothermia. Makes sense right? People tend to freeze when they’re stuck in a frozen wasteland. But then the coroners found  something different about the other bodies.

  • 3 were found to have sustained major injuries (1 with skull damage and 2 with chest injuries)
  • The force required to do this damage was huge (comparable with that of a car!)
  • No wounds related to bone fractures.
  • One body was found missing their tongue, eyes and parts of they’re lips!
  • Clothes found on these last 4 bodies were found to be radioactive (crazy)

And that is pretty much where the story ends. To this day, nothing definitive has been found in explanation of the events. There have, however, been some theories:

snow capped mountain
Photo by Nathalie De Boever on Pexels.com


This the most credible (boring) theory right now. I guess it makes sense. It would explaining the hypothermia, the incredible force causing the wounds and why the group ran from the camp so quickly.


  • It doesn’t explain the radioactivity
  • The were no real signs of an avalanche having taken place
  • The group were largely experienced and were unlikely to camp in a potential avalanche path
  • The conditions of the area were highly unlikely to cause an avalanche

Native Attack

Unlikely. The indigenous Mansi people were known to be peaceful. Also there were no other sets of footprints.

Paradoxical Undressing

It is possible for people suffering from hypothermia to feel extremely warm and try to remove layers. This is known as Paradoxical Undressing and could explain the naked bodies.


I wish. Unfortunately there’s no evidence. But how cool would that be right?

Extraterrestrial Activity

A few years after the incident, some people came forward claiming to have seen “orange spheres” in the sky on the night of the incident. Perhaps our students came in contact with something… otherworldly.

Military Testing

Ah yes, the government. What haven’t they done. Well the theory here is that they were involved with weapons testing in the area. In particular, we’re talking radiological weapons. This would explain the radio activity on the clothes, the massive damage sustained on 3 of the bodies and why the investigation was so secretive. More importantly… I want this to be the reason (that and Yetis).

black jetplane flying on the sky
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com


It’s one of the great unsolved mysteries and will likely never be solved. But theorising is fun and Sean Bean is everywhere. Now I want to turn to you, dear reader. What do you think? Conspiracy? Yeti? Aliens? Don’t Care? All totally valid responses and I’d love to know what you guys think.

Anyway, there’s lots of phantom fun to be had this month so stay tuned for more Ghosts, Ghouls and Lagging.

GG Everyone (even that guy standing behind you).






2 thoughts on “A Winter not so Wonderland

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