In 1978 five men mysteriously disappeared in Chico, CA, on the way home from a college basketball game. A month later their car and most of their bodies were discovered in a field, frozen to death in spite of being so close to civilization. Their strange deaths have since been referred to as the American Dyatlov Pass mystery because of the similarities that it shares with the strange deaths suffered by a group of Russian skiers nearly two decades prior.
What happened to the five men who disappeared in Chico in 1978? At the time of their deaths the police weren’t able to come up with any substantial answers and with each passing year it grows harder to solve the case. Amateur investigators have attempted to find a reason behind why five men would stop their car in the middle of nowhere, run out into the snow and never look back. However each answer seems to open up an entirely new set of questions. Let's take a closer look at this bizarre and mysterious case.
After attending a basketball game on February 24, 1978, at California State University at Chico, a group of five men between the ages of 24 and 32 piled into their turquoise and white 1969 Mercury Montego and allegedly took off for Yuba City. This should have only been a 45 mile drive but the trip would turn into the last road trip they ever took. Before hitting the highway the guys stopped at a gas station and picked up some snacks and then they drove off into the night.
The five men: Ted Weiher, Jack Huett, William Sterling, Jack Madruga, and Gary Mathias, had a basketball game of their own to play the next day. Many of the men have been described as mentally handicapped although two of them, Madruga and Mathias, served in the US Army. The last time any of the men were seen alive was at the gas station. After that stop it would be another month before they were seen again.
No one knows when the men split up after getting out of their car, but at some point they ended up going their separate ways. Weiher, a man who was 5'11 and 200 pounds ended up in a trailer almost 20 miles away from the car. As best as investigators could tell Weiher broke into the trailer through a window and wriggled in. However once he was inside he didn't use any of the amenities.
Upon the discovery of his body police noticed that not only had he not turned on the propane tank connected to the trailer, but he didn't burn any of the paperbacks available for warmth. He spent close to two months starving to death in the trailer despite the presence of multiple MREs. When Weiher's corpse was discovered it was wrapped in a makeshift shroud, the feet were riddled with frostbite, and the body had lost nearly 80 pounds.
Upon investigation the police discovered that the Montego was A-OK. It was unlocked, one of the windows was down, and there was a quarter tank of gas in the car - definitely enough to make it the roughly 30 miles to Yuba City. Even though there was snow all around, the car wasn't stuck, it was just parked. The only thing that was weird about its presence was that it was abandoned.
There was no damage to the car which led the police to conclude that whoever was driving knew where they were going.
No one knows what happened to the men after they left the car and made their way to the trailer. The only thing that investigators have been able to discern is that at some point three of the guys left the trailer and came back to find Weiher dead from either starvation or exposure.
One theory is that they wrapped his body in a makeshift shroud and once again left the trailer. It's possible that the the men all died and someone else wrapped Weiher in the shroud, however if that's the case then that person should have called 911. Without any forensic information it's impossible to know exactly what happened in the middle of nowhere in Northern California.