People Believe A Girl Died In The Endless Odessa Catacombs, But The Mystery Goes Much Deeper
While you may have never heard of the Odessa catacombs, they are filled with legends and dark tales that you'll never forget. Creepy stories about the Odessa catacombs range from dead bodies found in catacombs, to people who have gotten lost in catacombs and were never seen again. There are even tales of Nazi executions and cultists, not to mention a ghost story or two; however, the most famous of the catacomb legends is probably that of a girl named Masha, who went into the maze of passages and wasn't found until years later.
The sticking point of this famous story is that no one is sure if it really happened. The Odessa catacomb death legend has been supported by witnesses, as well as photos and even a few news articles, but there's not much as far as hard facts go. So, is it really true? Even if it's just a myth, there's no denying that the other tales of the catacombs are creepy enough to keep anyone out... Or so one would think. As it turns out, many people still venture into the darkness seeking adventure. Unfortunately, what they often find inside is far more grim than that.
It Started With An Ill-Placed New Year's Eve Party...
The legend goes a little something like this: In 2005, a group of teenagers headed out on New Year's Eve (or New Year's Day, depending on the source) to have a little party. They decided to do this in the Odessa catacombs, where they could have some privacy, drink, and have fun with a little added creep factor. One of the teens was a girl named Masha, and she was simply going with the rest of her crew to have a good time. The kids began to drink, and soon enough Masha became drunk. She went to do a little exploring with the others and quickly became separated from the group among the maze-like corridors. Some say this was even done maliciously.
Before long, the other teens gave up looking for her and left, figuring she'd already gotten out, or would get out on her own soon. Unfortunately for Masha, this was not the case.
She Wandered Alone For Three Days, LostPhoto: Metaweb / CC-BY
What followed for Masha was a three day trek from hell. There was no light in the catacombs besides whatever she might have had on her, and it is believed she wandered in pitch blackness. She had no food and no water, and the catacombs were freezing cold and dry. What's worse is that it's believed she walked away from the entrance, farther underground, so that the temperatures dropped even lower. In the end, she might have crawled. Even with all that, humans are resilient, and can survive several days without food and water. Based on what was later found, it is believed that Masha stumbled around in the catacombs for at least three days, starving, thirsty, alone, and in the dark. No one is exactly sure how she died, but it could have been dehydration or hypothermia.
Her friends never were able to find her, and the police saw neither hide nor hair of her, as they didn't want to venture into the mysterious catacombs.
It Took Police Two Years To Locate Her Body
A little less than six months after the incident is said to have occurred, news began to spread among local cave explorers near Odessa that someone had spotted a body. The rumors said it was deep underground, but from what they had seen, the body appeared to be fresh.
This was enough to drive a group of explorers to the area in search of the supposed corpse, and it appeared they actually found it. Amid yellow limestone walls and floors, young explorers found a body that was partially mummified by the cold dry air. It was wearing jeans and modern shoes, and did appear to be the result of a fairly recent death. The group snapped a photo, in which three young boys pose with the body as if they have just identified it. The group supposedly went to the police, but they were still reluctant to go in to retrieve the body because it was literally miles from the entrance. Eventually, a journalist wrote about the body, and within 24 hours, the police came and had it removed.
The Story Became An Internet Legend
As modern urban explorers tend to do, individuals from the group who found the body decided to share their exploits online. The story quickly became a famous Internet legend. A 2009 forum post on the Urban Explorer's Resource (UER) site, by someone named Eugene Lata, put the tale into English, detailing everything from Masha's backstory to the grim discovery the group had made. He claimed that his best friend had led the expedition, and that he had been there when the infamous photo was taken. After the incident, Lata said that the group had continued to explore the catacombs, and that they would sometimes go down there for days at a time. More photos surfaced, including additional shots of the tunnels and even bones.
Various message boards shared the tale, and websites began to present the details as fact. It was meant as a sort of warning for others to stay away, but it also lured urban explorers to the site with growing regularity. Everyone wanted to see where poor Masha had met her end. There was only one problem...
There Are Slivers Of Fact, But No One Knows How Much Is True
The whole story of Masha might actually just be an urban legend. There is little to no record of a girl named Masha ever disappearing into the catacombs, and there are those that refute Lata's accounts. However, one thing agreed upon is that there was a fresh body found in the catacombs, and that it was removed at some point around 2004 or 2005. A man named Kostya Pugovkin claims he was one of the people that carried the body out, but it was never originally thought to be someone named Masha. Instead, he claims they were looking for the body of Janis Stendzenieks, the son of a local newspaper magnate. He had gotten lost, and there was a reward offered to anyone who could find the young man. However, when the body was removed, it was in terrible condition, with no good identifying factors. It was brought to a police medical examiner's office, and everyone found that, shockingly, the DNA didn't match the missing boy. Instead, it belonged to a girl who was never identified. Was this, then, the origin of the stories of Masha?
Authorities have also suggested that the photo is a prank, and that the corpse is a fake. Although the tale has long been reported as fact, even in newspapers, there is still a great lack of evidence, and few people are stepping forward to corroborate the sparse claims that to exist.
In the end, we cannot be entirely sure if the story of Masha's ill-fated party, nor her sad demise, is accurate, and that may never change. But we do know that the confirmed tales of the catacombs, as well as its history, are still filled with gloom, death, and horror.
Multiple People Have Been Murdered TherePhoto: Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY
Besides Masha and the missing boy, there have been other stories of people who have died in the catacombs, and not just from getting lost. In 2011, a body was found in the catacombs that had been dead for several months. Initially, police believed that he had simply gotten lost and died, as Masha had supposedly done. But when cause of death was found, they identified him as someone who had been murdered. By that point the body was mostly a skeleton, so there were not many more details.
In another instance, a little more information was brought to light: in 2015, a man was sentenced to 13 years in prison for killing a girl in the catacombs. According to the investigation of the incident, the man was with a group of friends, and had been drinking with the young girl. He quarreled with the teen, then led her into the catacombs where they could continue their argument. Instead, he brandished an axe, and hacked the girl to death before leaving her there. He then threw the axe into the sea. On a more historical basis, it is also believed that the catacombs were used to murder and store Jewish people during World War II.