16 Spooky-as-Hell Photos From Inside Chernobyl

© Robin Esrock
© Robin Esrock

It has been more than 30 years since the meltdown of Reactor No. 4 in Ukraine’s Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, an unprecedented manmade disaster that affected much of Europe. Radiation levels are still high, but with a Geiger counter and the right permits, visitors can safely enter the 18-mile Exclusion Zone on guided day tours. What you’ll encounter is straight out of a horror movie.

A photo from inside Chernobyl
© Robin Esrock

When Reactor No. 4 ignited on April 26, 1986, firefighters rushed to the scene oblivious and unprepared for the meltdown. Within days, many died from acute radioactive sickness. Today, the reactor is enclosed in a massive steel and cement sarcophagus, designed to keep uranium isotopes from entering the atmosphere. The cement has already leaked radioactive lava, with the reactor still capable of fires and explosions.


© Robin Esrock

A model Soviet city, Pripyat was home to 50,000 people and serviced the adjacent power plant. It was hastily abandoned after the meltdown, and has remained untouched ever since. Everything inside the city and surrounding area is contaminated. Empty and desolate, nature is reclaiming this once-thriving city.


Robin Esrock

Visiting an old school is particularly haunting.


© Robin Esrock

Dolls with dead-stare eyes can be found as you approach the nursery. While visitors are strongly advised not to touch anything, some items have been arranged for maximum creep effect.


© Robin Esrock

According to some reports, an estimated 6000 individuals—most of them children—have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer as a direct result of the Chernobyl meltdown.


© Robin Esrock

Blackened, rusty cribs in the old nursery. You can almost hear the soft melodies of music boxes, violently disrupted with panic during evacuation. This is not the place for vivid imaginations.


© Robin Esrock

It will take centuries before anything in Pripyat can safely be destroyed. During that time, the evidence of humanity will continue to break down naturally, some of it less gracefully.


© Robin Esrock

Soviet-era propaganda and iconography are prominent. Pripyat was built as a model city to demonstrate the power and efficiency of the State, with the Chernobyl facility a symbol of national pride. Today it provides a fascinating glimpse into the past, and the hubris of the State’s political ambitions.


© Robin Esrock

The old gymnasium with its empty pool is a visitor highlight. Broken glass and cracked ceramic tiles are everywhere. You can listen to your scream echo throughout the gym and adjacent buildings.


© Robin Esrock

Moss, dust and bushes might look benign, but this growth has absorbed much of the radiation. Visitors are advised to watch where they step, and to avoid moss in particular. All visitors are screened on exit for exposure to radiation, with particular attention paid to hands and footwear.


© Robin Esrock

A fairground was scheduled to open just two days after the disaster. This creaking, rusted, radioactive Ferris wheel never took a single paying customer.


© Robin Esrock

Portraits of Communist party leaders have been stored backstage in the community theater, along with old props and equipment. Seats are torn, and decades-old dust sits heavy on the stage.


© Robin Esrock

If your visit needs a soundtrack, listen to the de-tuned strings in this abandoned piano shop. Neglect, creaking wood, and wind result in disjointed twangs and ghostly whistles.


© Robin Esrock

Nature has been remarkably resilient. Moose, deer, boar, wolves, and bears have been reported in the area, breeding in large numbers. Scientists have been unable to detect any large-scale mutations. Safe from fishing rods, these giant catfish swim in the radioactive water river near the reactor.


© Robin Esrock

The Chernobyl Disaster could have been much worse. Favorable winds saved thousands of lives, splitting the plume and sparing the city from the brunt of the initial radiation. The Soviet government originally planned to build the reactors just 15 miles from Ukraine’s capital of Kiev, which would have devastated a concentrated population.

This story has been updated for 2019.

The Rise of David Bowie Is a Photographic Deep Dive Into the Musician's Ziggy Stardust Days

This new book examines Bowie's life on and off stage.
This new book examines Bowie's life on and off stage.
TASCHEN

David Bowie will always be remembered as more than a singer. The larger-than-life performer was also an artist, an actor, and even launched his own short-lived internet service provider in the late '90s. But, arguably, his most memorable period was during the early '70s, when he burst onto the scene as the garishly costumed Ziggy Stardust, cementing his place in history as a performer who defied just about every norm imaginable. Now you can get an intimate look at this pivotal moment in his career with the new book from TASCHEN, The Rise of David Bowie ($40).

A new book about David Bowie
Mick Rock spent a year as Bowie's photographer and videographer.
TASCHEN

The images found in this 300-page book are by Mick Rock, a photographer known as "the man who shot the seventies." His career took off alongside Bowie's, and between 1972 and 1973, Rock was the musician's go-to photographer and videographer. Inside the book, you’ll find photographs of Bowie both on stage and behind the scenes, giving fans an up-close look at the transformative performer's life on the road as he honed his daring new persona for the Ziggy Stardust world tour.

Rock compiled the photos back in 2015, after he received the late singer’s blessing to do so. Currently, the book is available for pre-order and it’s set to ship by the end of March if you order from TASCHEN. For those heading to Amazon to pre-order, books will ship around April 21.

Did you know Bowie was an avid reader who often finished a book a day? While you wait for your copy to arrive, check out the performer's 100 favorite books, which include titles like Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

At Mental Floss, we only write about the products we love and want to share with our readers, so all products are chosen independently by our editors. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.

Rare, Early Portraits of Jim Morrison and The Doors Are Headed to Auction

Jim Morrison of The Doors photographed in 1968.
Jim Morrison of The Doors photographed in 1968.
Michael Montfort, Swann Auction Galleries

The Doors left a bluesy mark on rock ’n’ roll music that lasted long after the tragic death of frontman Jim Morrison at age 27. But because the band only existed for about six years—in a pre-smartphone era, no less—there isn’t a ton of behind-the-scenes content to tell the story of Morrison’s bright, albeit brief, career.

Come February 25, nine rare photos of Morrison from The Doors’ first European tour in 1968 will end up in the hands of one fortunate fan. Swann Auction Galleries is selling them as part of their “Classic and Contemporary Photographs” auction, which also includes portraits of early Hollywood stars like Joan Crawford, John Barrymore, and Veronica Lake.

The black and white photographs of Morrison were taken by German-born photojournalist Michael Montfort when the band performed in Frankfurt, Germany that September, and they manage to capture the strangely hazy, somewhat intense nature of the legendary lead singer. In one, Morrison looks right into the camera while leaning against a church pulpit; in another, he lies on the stage clutching the microphone with his back turned to the audience; in yet another, a sweat-drenched Morrison holds a leather jacket in one hand and makes a peace sign with the other.

jim morrison of the doors lying onstage
The Doors' Jim Morrison takes a break onstage during a Frankfurt concert in September 1968.
Michael Montfort, Swann Auction Galleries

The Doors played early hits like “Light My Fire” and “Break on Through (To the Other Side)” to raucous, devoted crowds across Europe, but the tour wasn’t without its calamities, due largely to Morrison’s substance abuse. After leaving Frankfurt, the band stopped to perform a show in Amsterdam, where a drug-addled Morrison collapsed on stage during Jefferson Airplane’s opening set. He was immediately taken to a hospital, and keyboard player Ray Manzarek stepped in as lead singer that night. Morrison finished the tour, but his drug addiction would continue to plague him until he died of a (suspected) overdose in Paris in 1971.

jim morrison the doors backstage photo
A messy-haired Morrison flashes a peace sign in 1968.
Michael Montfort, Swann Auction Galleries

The collection of nine photos is expected to fetch between $1500 and $2500, and you can place a bid here.

[h/t Swann Auction Galleries]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER