Warning: Graphic Content
Recently, a story regarding a man who was mistaken for a mummy after he was allegedly ‘rescued from a bear den’ went viral.
It had everything a viral story usually has; an interesting back story, a short video seeming to prove its validity, and shocking pictures.
However, it turns out this viral story might be just that – a story. As more and more publications picked it up, details emerged which cast doubt on whether the man was even in the area at the time of the alleged attack, much less whether a bear was ever involved.
The initial story circulated in media outlets suggested a bear had savagely attacked the man, known only as Alexander, breaking his spine and tossing him into the back of its lair to save him for a meal at a later date.
The man in the viral video was alleged to have been found by hunting dogs before immediately being rushed to hospital.
Alexander reportedly told doctors the large animal had overpowered him and kept him in the den for approximately four weeks. ‘The bear preserved me as food for later’, he was quoted as saying as per The Siberian Times.
The now infamous Alexander was reportedly only able to recall his first name and was not able to tell medical staff his age. Allegedly surviving by drinking his own urine, doctors were reported as describing the turn of events as a ‘miracle’, with surprise he did not die.
The viral tale certainly was a head-scratcher, with many people questioning how anyone could survive such a horrifying ordeal. Well, the likelihood is the ordeal was not as advertised.
Demin clarified his website was waiting for additional details, two days after publication. He also confirmed Tuva’s local police had contacted EADaily with accusations of faking the bear story.
So is Alexander even real? Apparently yes, but the origins of his story are murky at best. Just days before the bear story went viral, on June 19, another shocking tale of survival emerged – also including a man called Alexander.
In this version of events, Alexander had apparently emerged from under the ground in a cemetery, with teenagers in the Black Sea resort of Sochi sharing pictures and a video of the lucky-to-be-alive man.
Those pictures and the video? Yep, they were the same ones doing the rounds one week later to depict the ‘mummy-like’ bear attack survivor.
Even if we somehow manage to look past these discrepancies and believe the incident really did happen, it’s not likely to have occurred in Russia’s remote Tuva region, as first thought.
A spokesperson at the health ministry in Tuva Republic disputed the details based on medical records, saying:
It was not registered by the Ministry of Health, the Emergencies Ministry or any other official body (in the region).
Most probably, it happened somewhere outside Tuva.
Although the spokesperson confirmed the incident had not been registered by a health body in the region, they could not confirm whether it did indeed happen elsewhere.
But did it happen elsewhere? The Sun suggested Alexander might well have been attacked by a bear – just not in Russia. Instead, the publication reported corrections to the original EADaily story, linking the man to a hospital in Kazakhstan.
Furthermore, a group known as Zello.poisk researched the video and confirmed the language spoken in the background of the footage was not Tuva. The organisation, who sought to identify whether Alexander was an already known missing person, claimed the man in question is actually in a hospital in the Kazakh city of Aktobe.
In a post, the organisation wrote:
We checked the hospitals (in Aktobe) and asked them to help us. In the end we discovered that this man (in the ‘bear den’ case) is from our city.
He is being treated in one of the hospitals and is getting better. He is ill. But the doctors said that they will cure him. Of course, how he turned out to be in such state we will never know…
Fact checking outlet Snopes also set about verifying the tale of Alexander. They concluded ‘it is still unclear’. While some theories suggest the man was suffering with a skin condition, some suggest abuse of the drug Krokodil. Others still suggest the video could be part of a zombie movie.
Basically, nothing is certain. In fact, the only thing that is certain is that the original report of a bear attack is unfounded.
UNILAD will continue to monitor developments in this story and report updated facts as they are made available.
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A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).