When Diamond Miners Unearthed a Siberian “Demon Baby”

Diamond miners in Siberia were sure they’d stumbled upon a new—and possible paranormal—species.

A pretty accurate rendering of the Siberian “demon baby.”
A pretty accurate rendering of the Siberian “demon baby.” / David Ryckaert III, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In August 2016, workers in the Udachny diamond mine in Siberia discovered the weird, desiccated remains of some unfortunate creature. As originally reported by the Siberian Times, the miners hoped their “monster mummy” was a new species of dinosaur or ancient mammal, while the internet made its own guesses as to the origins of the “demon baby.”

Further analysis, however, showed that it wasn’t quite so exotic.

Udachny is a pretty unique place to begin with. The frozen town, which lies about nine miles south of the Arctic circle, is best known for its natural trove of diamond-studded rocks. Since mining began there in 1955, the pit has become one of the deepest mines in the world, and is believed to hold at least 120 million carats’ worth of diamonds. For obvious reasons, companies are willing to go to great lengths to get those diamonds out. In 1974, those great lengths included detonating an atomic bomb underground in order to make room for mining waste.

So that’s Udachny. Now, for the baby. The miners who found the mummified object guessed that the twisted body had once belonged to a never-before-seen species of dinosaur. The monster was slated to be taken more than a thousand miles to the regional capital of Yakutsk for further inspection.

But there was no need for that, said one expert, because she knew exactly what the monster was—a polecat.

A European polecat in dead leaves on the forest floor
Look at this monster (a.k.a. European polecat)! / benedek/E+/Getty Images

Specimen preparator Darien Baysinger has been working with mummified remains for 25 years. Speaking to Earth Touch News in 2016, she said she was pretty confident that the so-called demon baby was simply the dried-out body of a Russian fitch, also known as a polecat.

Just as the demon baby is neither baby nor demon, polecats are neither cats nor poles. They’re members of the mustelid family, which also includes weasels, ferrets, minks, and martens.

Baysinger insisted that the body wasn’t fossilized, and that it must have been relatively new, since the mine has only been open for several decades. Udachny’s absurdly cold climate (averaging -31.4°F to -46.5°F in January) likely kept the body relatively free of bacteria, which allowed it to dry out instead of liquefying.

“It would be easier to say with certainty if we had a top-down view,” Baysinger said, “and it's possible that I'm wrong—but not likely."

But even Baysinger was not immune to the allure of the demon baby: “I would love to get my hands on that thing.”

A version of this story was published in 2016; it has been updated for 2024.

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