On the morning of April 26, 1986, reactor number four at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the former Soviet Union exploded. The incident is the only level seven event — a “Major Accident” and the highest grade possible — to occur on the International Nuclear Event Scale. The result was fallout four hundred times that of Hiroshima, the complete destruction of the reactor and a cloud of radioactive dust and steam that spread through a large geographical portion of the world, with fallout reaching Sweden and parts of Western Europe a mere 48 hours later. The catastrophe left the nearby Soviet city of Pripyat a radioactive ghost town.
Pre-glasnost Soviet apparatchiks were initially tight-lipped about Chernobyl-related deaths. Over the years, however, the Cold War thawed and information concerning the accident slowly began to surface.
Within three months of the event, 31 people died from acute radiation sickness. Included in this death toll are the Soviet firefighters who knowingly rushed into a death trap to contain the blaze inside the reactor. These brave souls, reminiscent of our own FDNY on 9/11, would die of radiation sickness in a matter of months.
Yet the full impact of Chernobyl will likely never be measured — the incident continues to claim victims across generations through cancers and Down Syndrome spikes in former Communist countries and NATO nations alike.
Despite the initial silence, the Soviet response to the disaster was quick. A large concrete sarcophagus was built around the site of the explosion to contain any possible radiation leakage and the town of Pripyat was immediately evacuated.
Today, Pripyat is literally frozen in time, radiated beyond any acceptable threshold. Plates and eating utensils sit in sinks waiting to be washed; clothes hang in closets, ready to be donned; children’s strollers are lined up at the train station where hundred of parents promptly boarded departing freight cars, leaving behind everything they knew. Sitting eerily in the center of the town is a Ferris wheel, ensconced within a dead amusement park.
The population of the city the morning of the accident was 50,000 — with the next sunrise it was, and still is, zero. On that fateful day, entire lives were abandoned, with fragmentary remnants left frozen for decades.
The city of Pripyat and the Chernobyl site is an interesting case study for paranormal investigators. Many in the field feel that radiation and paranormal events are somehow symbiotic — wherever you find one, you will find the other. And there isn’t a more radioactive spot than this place. While some claim that radiation is a byproduct of paranormal activity, others believe that the radioactive particles act as “fuel” for the spectral. And yet the question persists as to whether or not a legitimate paranormal investigation could occur in this area, as the radiation levels are so high that visitors can only move quickly in and out.
During an episode of “Destination Truth,” Josh Gates and the crew went to Chernobyl and attempted an investigation. However, whenever the team began to experience events, radiation alarms would sound and they would have to move out. Yet Gates and his team claim to have seen the shadows and the outlines of people, doctors and firefighters walking amid the radioactive clouds of night.
Could there be a connection between radiation and the paranormal? Many investigators carry Geiger counters on their belts to measure spikes, the idea being that stronger radiation readings increase the likelihood of activity. If this is the case, Pripyat is ground zero in more ways than one.
There’s tremendous doubt about Chernobyl and the surrounding area ever being safe enough to host a proper paranormal investigation that could make explicit the link between radioactivity and the paranormal. With the march of time, the reactor’s concrete sarcophagus has begun to erode — it’s expected to completely collapse within the next decade — elevating safety concerns rendering any hope of of an investigation a near impossibility.
Until then, Pripyat and Chernobyl rests silently in the Ukraine, a relic of another time in history as well as a reminder of mankind’s limitations in harnessing the power of his environment. And perhaps within the emptiness and isolation of this radiated Russian winter are the lost souls of Chernobyl: frozen in time and waiting for release.