On April 26, 1986, one of the world's worst disasters occurred in the Ukrainian city of Pripyat (then part of the USSR). There was an explosion caused by a flawed reactor design at the Chernobyl power plant, which spewed radiation into the air. Only Chernobyl and Fukushima have been rated as a level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale—that's the highest the scale goes.
The city of Pripyat was evacuated, and a total of 31 people died as an immediate result of the accident itself, while as many as 500,000 were affected. Pripyat became a tourist attraction in 2011, and is today captured by photographers who snap haunting images of abandoned toys and dilapidated buildings, sometimes referred to as "ruin porn."
Lore and legends surround the area, from ghosts and Chernobyl mutants, to a strange ominous black bird that some believe to be the harbinger of disaster. In addition to these stories, you'll find creepy true tales of people and places that fell victim to a catastrophic nuclear meltdown.
The Black Bird of Chernobyl
According to legend, several people began to see a large, winged creature with red eyes in early April before the Chernobyl disaster. The creature became known as the Black Bird of Chernobyl, and many have drawn parallels between this creature and America's Mothman. Both creatures were supposedly seen right before disasters: the Mothman was spotted right before the Silver Bridge collapsed in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, a tragedy that cost 46 people their lives. They're also similar in appearance: large, black, winged figures with glowing scarlet eyes.
Survivors of the Chernobyl disaster reported seeing the creature flying away from the reactor. Reports of the bird stopped immediately after the disaster. Those who believe that the bird was a paranormal entity regard it as a harbinger of terrible things to come, while others believe it was merely a black stork.
20 people just voted on The Chernobyl Amusement Park
The Pripyat Amusement Park should have been a fun addition to the town. It was slated to open on May 1, 1986, just days after the disaster. Obviously, the park would never open, and has simply been left to rust.
The amusement park had a Ferris wheel, bumper bars, a paratrooper attraction, and swing boats. High levels of radiation still exist in the mossy areas of the park. It's now a popular backdrop for ruin porn photographers. The park is also used a setting in the game Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.
It bears similarity to Six Flags New Orleans, an amusement park which has been eerily abandoned since Hurricane Katrina.
Chernobyl's Mutant Animals
Many reports of deformed and strange beasts near Chernobyl can be found all over the Internet, indicating that radiation had severe effects on the animal population.
To be sure, some severe mutations were seen right after the accident. The piglet in the photo above suffered from dipygus and is on display at the Ukrainian National Chernobyl Museum. It was born near the site of the explosion.
Contemporary animals, however, are typically okay, even though their internal radiation levels are higher than most. They do not suffer significant genetic mutations, though some species have issues. For instance, some birds have developed smaller brains and some rodents have decreased litters or do not live as long. In fact, animal populations seem to be doing better now than they were when humans were farming there before. Scientists continue to debate, however, what the long-term effects of exposure will be for the animals that live there.
The Ghosts of Chernobyl
As with any site where a number of people have lost their lives, Pripyat is rife with ghost stories. Andrei Kharsukov, a nuclear physicist from New York, told one such story after visiting the area in 1997:
Kharsukov said he went to the power station at 7:30 a.m. and went to the Reactor Four sarcophagus, which is where the explosion occurred. He could not go inside due to radiation, but as he took radiation readings, he heard someone screaming for rescue from a fire inside.
"I ran upstairs to tell someone, but they said that when I entered the reactor control room, I was the first person to open that door in three years, and the only way to get inside the old reactor is through the doors I came in through. If someone had gone inside the reactor when I was not looking, they would have tripped an alarm that goes off when the reactor door is opened mechanically.
"The reactor door requires a password and a handprint, yet someone, or something, was inside. Later that evening, as we were eating dinner outside the building by the river next to the plant, a flood light turned on in the room of the installation. There was no way anyone could be inside. As we ate, we figured there was a power surge or something. Then just as my colleague said that, the light turned off."
Performers Were Brought In To Calm Local Residents, And Contracted Radiation Sickness Themselves
Redditor creepyjake posted the following in 2015:
Hi Everyone! I'm Jake & I met Yuri in a bar in Finland (this is my Reddit account) Over a couple nights, and some vodka, I recorded his voice to capture the story & piece it together. These are his words...his story.
If you were to meet Yuri, as I have, you might not be so doubtful. The man is a gifted musician, a gentle soul, and it was a true gift to meet him. I've shared some of the positive comments with him...but I'm not reading anything negative. Peace.
According to creepyjake, Yuri's account is as follows:
"Please forgive my poor english because it cannot be my primary choice language.
Please call me "Yuri"- I'm a musician in taverns of Northern Europe for drinks and for the generosity of patrons. I was once classically trained pianist- I studied at the St. Petersberg conservatory in the late 1970's. I lost my eyesight, and I have numerous illness- I am a survivor of Chernobyl.
As the disaster commencement occurred, I was in state sponsored musical/dance troupe. Our gathering was immediately enlisted by the government to calm village peoples in Pripyat and surrounding area. Mere hours after the meltdown commenced, our bus entered the exclusion zone at checkpoint "Dityatki". We were told not anything, and the soldiers made it forbidden for speaking with the village people.
Imagine not knowing a disaster taking place, yet seeing the strange workings of the radioactivity all around. Everyone was sick and dying, yet quarantined and not allowed to leave the zone. Some believed the world was ending, and we all became resigned to the fact we will certainly die. The soldiers has masks and guns, but I could see the fear on his face too! As dead men and women, we gave our best musician and dancer performances ever.
Allow me to describe our final performance at Pripyat: As the music played, the ballerina danced like never before. The passion in the music, and her movements were legendary. She was a beautiful girl, dancing her final dance with love in her heart. She allowed her long flowing hair down, and it seemed to float mystically in the air. As the music crescendoed, and she spun delicately around, her hair was falling away from her head. Gently, long golden strands of her hair floated to the floor as she danced. I saw the blood leaking from her nostrils, and down cheeks from her ears. The sparse crowd knew the face of death, and it was surely the final dance. The children ran to her with flowers from the meadow..their hair and teeth had fallen out already. The petrol generator stalled and for several moments, we were in darkness. To my utter horror, I saw the flowers, and the children glowing in the dark.
That night I climbed out window of the lodging house. The soldier who saw me lowered his carbine when our eyes locked in silence. I ran through the alley and I hot wired the car. I drive non stop to the northwest- on back roads I learned as a boy- avoided checkpoints imposed by military. I siphoned the petrol from other vehicles in the night. I began missing my vision during my flight, and by the time I escaped USSR, I was blind. I am only musician who lived."
The Elephant's Foot
Elephants are cute, so you'd think anything named after their feet would also be cute. You'd be wrong, however, as this particular euphemism refers to a flow of hot lava that will kill you after 300 seconds—that's a mere five minutes—of exposure. And not quickly, either, but you will die within two days.
According to Kyle Hill in an article for Nautilus, this black lava was discovered by emergency responders who entered a steam corridor underneath Reactor 4. The crews' radiation sensors warned them to stay away.
What happened was this: the radioactive particles got so hot, they melted and turned into a flow of lava, which in turn melted through the bottom of the reactor vessel and all the way down until it cooled enough to form the big glop you see above.
Photos of the "elephant's foot" were taken via a camera on wheels. It was determined that the blob consisted mostly of concrete and other materials that the fuel melted on the way down. Still, going near it was a bad idea, and we wouldn't advise going near it even today.
3 people just voted on Fatalistic Youth Is An Unexpected Side Effect Of The Meltdown
In a report entitled Chernobyl's Legacy: Health, Environmental and Socio-Economic Impacts, Fred Mettler of the International Atomic Energy Association discusses a unique strain of fatalism present in youth who grew up in the shadow of the nuclear meltdown.
"The population remains largely unsure of what the effects of radiation actually are and retain a sense of foreboding. A number of adolescents and young adults who have been exposed to modest or small amounts of radiation feel that they are somehow fatally flawed and there is no downside to using illicit drugs or having unprotected sex.”
The Soviet Government Sent In Soldiers When The Meltdown Destroyed Robot Cleaning Crews
After evacuating the residents of Pripyat, the city bordering the Chernobyl power plant, the Soviet government sent robots into the Exclusion Zone to contain the meltdown and put out a raging fire. The excessive radiation in the air prevented the robots from doing their work, so the government rounded up a bunch of soldiers and gave them a choice - serve two years in Afghanistan, where the Soviets were engaged in a brutal war against mujahideen, or spend two minutes shoveling sand onto the exposed reactor at Chernobyl.
Soldiers who chose Chernobyl were known as liquidators. At the time of the meltdown, and into the 21st century, Ukrainians believe vodka prevents the adverse effects of radiation. So liquidators typically took a shot of vodka and shoveled sand onto the exposed reactor for two minutes. Most liquidators died or contracted an illness due to radiation poisoning.