A ghastly video of a scab-covered “living mummy” from Russia proved too gruesome to resist for shock-seeking news sites who published the story. Emerging evidence, however, seems to show the video was a fake.
Local journalists say that the video first made the rounds on messenger apps, with an attached audio file explaining that the man – identified only as “Alexander”– was found in a coffin in a rural district of Sochi, washed out of a crypt by heavy rains.
By the time the story made it to the news portal Eurasia Daily, poor “Alexander” had been exiled from Sochi to the remote region of Tuva near the Mongolian border. He had also become a victim of one of Russia’s notorious and fearsome bears.
Citing “eyewitnesses,” the site claimed that the man had survived an entire month in the animal’s lair with a broken spine, but didn’t venture to guess how exactly.
That’s where the western media stepped in. While it is unclear where the details first came from, the Daily Mail reported that Alexander himself described keeping hydrated by drinking his own urine after being stored away as a bear snack. Other UK tabloids, including the Sun and the Metro, had similar stories. Given the contradicting claim he had been buried alive, it seemed that Alexander was either having the worst week ever, or not what he seemed.
Some stories did note that the incident hadn’t been confirmed by local officials, nor registered with any official body in the Tuva area. Meanwhile, authorities from the district in Sochi – where Alexander allegedly rose from his coffin – reportedly closed the lid on that version as well.
On closer inspection, there were a number of signs that might have tipped people off about the fact that the nightmarish viral video was most likely a gag-inducing fake. When it was posted last week on Pikabu, Russia’s analog to Reddit, commenters pointed out that the bedraggled man had rather white teeth and healthy enough sounding voice, which was odd considering his body looked decomposed enough to make it in a zombie film.
Russian news site SochiStream says it has finally settled the matter, bringing in an IT specialist who said the video showed clear signs of being a fake. He suggested that “Alexander” was likely a test for viral video channels, which seems somewhat more plausible than him being a much less appealing real-life version of Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in The Revenant.
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