The lack of eyewitnesses and subsequent investigations into the hikers' deaths have inspired much speculation. Investigators at the time determined that the hikers tore open their tent from within, departing barefoot in heavy snow. Though the corpses showed no signs of struggle, two victims had fractured skulls, two had broken ribs, and one was missing her tongue. According to sources four of the victims' clothing contained high-levels of radiation. There is no mention of this in contemporary documentation; it only appears in later documents. Soviet investigators determined only that "a compelling unknown force" had caused the deaths. Access to the area was barred for three years after the incident. The chronology of the incident remains unclear due to the lack of survivors.
The final verdict was that the group members all died because of an "unknown compelling force". The inquest ceased officially in May 1959 due to the "absence of a guilty party". The files were sent to a secret archive, and the photocopies of the case became available only in the 1990s, with some parts missing.
- After the funerals, relatives of the deceased claimed that the skin of the victims had a strange orange tan.
- A former investigating officer said, in a private interview, that his dosimeter had shown a high radiation level on Kholat Syakhl, and that this was the reason for the radiation found on the bodies. However, the source of the contamination was not found.
- Another group of hikers (about 50 kilometers south of the incident) reported that they saw strange orange spheres in the night sky to the north (likely in the direction of Kholat Syakhl) on the night of the incident. Similar "spheres" were observed in Ivdel and adjacent areas continually during the period of February to March 1959, by various independent witnesses (including the meteorology service and the military).
- Some reports suggested that much scrap metal was located in the area, leading to speculation that the military had utilized the area secretly and might be engaged in a cover-up.