July 12, 2024, 07:57:53 PM
Dyatlov Pass Forum

Author Topic: Henbane Poisoning  (Read 7643 times)

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July 23, 2022, 09:44:08 AM
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I hadn't really given much thought to the poisoning/mushroom/ergot possibility. It seemed to unlikely, too easy of an explanation. It's impossible to think that 9 people all had a shared delusion and left the tent with scant clothing in search of a common foolish goal.

But just yesterday I was reading about the plant henbane (Hyoscyamus niger). It's from the nightshade family, and has been used medicinally and recreationally for a long time. It can also kill you.

It grows in much of the world, including in the Urals. It's anticholinergic, and can have the following side effects if taken:

  • dialated pupils (mydriasis)
  • increased body temperature (hyperpyrexia)
  • lack of muscle control/coordination (ataxia)
  • farsightedness (difficulty seeing)
  • bronchodilation
  • afraid of light (photophobia)
  • urinary retention (much like hypothermia)
  • agitation
  • decreased intestinal transit (food slows in GI tract)

and, delirium, of course.

A medical trauma pneumonic for anticholinergic plant poisoning:

  • Blind as a bat (ciliary muscle paralysis)
  • Dry as a bone (anhidrosis [no sweating])
  • Red as a beet (peripheral vasodilation)
  • Fast as a fiddle (tachycardia [fast heartbeat])
  • Hot as Hades (hyperthermia [overheated])
  • Mad as a hatter (delirium, coma)

It's probably nothing, but I just hadn't seen it mentioned on the forum as a possibility. A few of the side effects were interesting with respect to the DPI, but again, how/why would this happen? How could henbane be accidentally eaten? Belladonna kissel (it could be any anticholinergic plant)?

Hyperthermia could explain why most hikers decided to venture down the mountain without boots and hats... I've camped on plenty cold mountains (and by no means Urals cold!), and I'd never, EVER leave the tent without proper clothing. If my tent was somehow buried in snow but I was able to get out (couldn't have been that deep, then), I'd dig for my clothing and boots, and possibly die digging, before I walked away to certain death. The first step out of the tent into cold snow and biting wind with only socks on... you'd know death would come quickly. Unless you weren't cold. But again, everyone had the same symptoms? It seems like from the trauma pneumonic that some of these side effects are common amongst all who take it, which makes it different from, say, a shared delusion.

Anyway, food for thought.

Henbane distribution

Henbane seeds on dried plant in snow
The following users thanked this post: Ziljoe

July 23, 2022, 03:59:47 PM
Reply #1


Hi warpedwing,

Covers the dialated pupils and gives some explanation to the behaviour.


July 23, 2022, 05:37:48 PM
Reply #2


Hi Ziljoe,

Yes, and it also might explain:

feeling warm and not wearing enough clothes (even in the tent)
clumsiness, falling, getting injured/burned/killed
urinary retention in the autopsies (I didn't realize that urinary retention isn't really diagnostic in hypothermia deaths, but it's notable in anticholinergic poisoning)
leaving the tent without a care as to the consequences
the splintering of the group post "event"

Scopolamine, an anticholinergic agent, could have been added to the alcohol or the water-based food items.

I was watching this docuseries last night by Michael Pollan where he talks about the history of psychedelic drugs. The first episode goes over the history of LSD, and it touches on the U.S.'s MKULTRA program, where LSD was tested on soldiers. I wondered if there was a USSR corollary? This is all happening right at that time, too.

That thought, in turn, too me to the song In Judy's Jungle by Brian Eno, which is about the LSD tests done in the UK with Marines. The soldiers were scattered, doing their own thing or in small breakout groups, totally unmanageable by the leader. One soldier even climbs a tree, a tall one too. There's video footage online, which is something to see!

July 23, 2022, 06:09:42 PM
Reply #3


Hi warpedwing,

I will have a Google at it all. I was aware of lSD testing with soldiers and a number of experiments .

I have some Brian eno CDs and enjoy the music but I wasn't aware of the story with Judy's jungle. Thanks for that ,  gives me food for thought which I like.

Im searching to see if there's some way accidentally , intentionally or medicinally that the plant got into the hikers possession.

To me, it's another plausible explanation.
The dilated pupils are an important factor  highlighted by Igor b.

July 24, 2022, 04:54:37 PM
Reply #4


Anticholinergics cause ataxia that you also listed. Lack of muscle coordination. This would have made it unlikely for all of them to reach the cedar area (if we believe that all of them did and Zina, Igor and Rustem turned back and died in the way going back up to the tent)


July 24, 2022, 05:35:22 PM
Reply #5


Hi Manti,

I just saw your previous post about anticholinergics!

Ataxia isn’t listed as an anticholinergic side effect in all of the sources I’ve seen, so I think it may be a rare side effect of anticholinergic poisoning. It would seem that most people under the influence would still be able to make their way down a hill, although they might fall a few times, as their coordination is bad and their vision is blurred.

Here’s a datura ingestion presentation from calpoison.org:

“ A 17 year old male was brought in to the Emergency Department by paramedics after being found by police running partially clothed in the street after consuming Angel’s Trumpet. His initial vital signs were a temperature of 100.7?F, blood pressure of 155/78 mmHg, heart rate of 112 beats per minute, respiratory rate of 20 per minute and oxygen saturation of 99% on room air. His examination was significant for dry mucus membranes and his skin was warm and flushed. On neurologic exam, he was awake, but was confused, agitated and answering “I am Batman” to all questions.”

Sounds like you can be quite active on them, but overheated (unbuttoning jackets, leaving the tent) and quite insane.
The following users thanked this post: Manti