What's so mysterious about the Lake of Bones?

What's so mysterious about the Lake of Bones?

Every now and then, the Armchair Alien authors have a conversation about a thing that intrigues us, sparks ideas, and fills our creative well. The lake of bones is just such a thing.

Schwiki, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Roopkund Lake is a small, glacial lake located high in the Himalayas. It’s also called Skeleton Lake or Mystery Lake.

What makes it such a mystery? Well, it’s full of bones—human bones. That in itself is mysterious enough, but the greater mystery is that these bones are from three different groups that died in two separate events. The earlier group had south Asian ancestry, not so mysterious given the location, though it still leaves the question of how they all died and how their bones ended up in the lake. But the latter group, around 1800, had Mediterranean genetic ancestry (Greece and Crete specifically) — how did they get there? Why? Beyond that, none of the tested individuals were related to each other (not sure if this is both groups or just the later group), and isotopic analysis showed the two groups had different diets.

What are similar things we’ve seen in media we’ve consumed?

J - Anything with a portal like Stargate (the terrible movie plus all the iterations of TV shows which I was slightly addicted to for longer than I care to admit).

C - It was also a book.

J - Really? I haven’t read it (or even realized it existed until now)

C - Neither did I, though I read at least one of her other books set in ancient Egypt. I could see a lake of bones existing in ancient Egypt, 

J - For all the people who tried to get through but weren’t worthy.

J - The Expanse series—if you are going to go anywhere in space within a reasonable amount of time, portals (often explained by being wormholes) are one of two options (faster than light (FTL or warp) is the other). 

C - Deep Space 9!

J - Both wormholes and warp speed.

J - Other examples that come to mind are The City of Last Chances by Adrian Tchaikovsky and The Long Earth books by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter. There was also the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon where a ring of stones linked two times. They had to be standing in the ring at the right time and have the right genetics to be pulled through. And then there’s The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

C - Oh yes, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe! I have a soft spot for those books. They’re ones my mom read to us as kids.

J - The Lake of Bones could be where the wardrobe emptied out into a lake instead of a forest.

C - What about the The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alex E. Harrow?

J - Yes, The Ten Thousand Doors of January! I love the idea of opening a door to a completely different world—now that I think about it, it’s like the wardrobe portal which could explain why I loved it so much—that dash of nostalgia.

C- And closing doors, not being able to get back. I really enjoyed the Shades of Magic series by V.E. Schwab.

J - Londons of different sorts. I devoured those books a few years ago. What did they use to get through?

C - It’s been a while, but I remember needing some thing from the other London. A bit of a non sequitur, but even Quantum Leap, where the protagonist doesn’t know exactly where he’ll end up.

J - There’s also the 1980 movie, The Final Countdown where an aircraft carrier (USS Nimitz — a ship I toured once in the 1990s) passes through a funky storm to the day before Pearl Harbour was attacked. I loved that movie, but I don’t dare re-watch it in case it doesn’t live up to my memory of it. 

J - Speaking of 80s shows — there was a TV show I watched as a kid that didn’t last long. From what I remember it was about a family touring Egypt that got pulled through a portal into an alternate reality. I can’t remember what it was called…

C - Yes! (after a quick Google search) — Otherworld. I can’t believe we both saw that — it’s so obscure.

What does it make us think about? What questions does it raise for us?

J - Clearly something about the portal above the Lake of Bones goes wrong… or someone broke it for reasons…

C -  So we’ve really focused on the portal idea, but are there other things that would draw such disparate people to that location?

J - Time travel? Which again seems to have gone wrong. What if a time traveller visiting different eras doesn’t realize that people are pulled in their wake and dumped into the lake?

C - What about magic? Maybe there’s some artifact in the lake. Or it’s a place of power.

J - A pilgrimage to find a thing? Maybe the thing was retrieved and is out in society somewhere just waiting to create havoc.

C - Oh, havoc! I wonder if it was always a lake? Maybe it was a pile of bones first, it’s not very deep … but then why are there more bones and from a much later date? 

J - A supernatural collector? That’s their collection (which they’ve been adding to over time—and maybe still still are)—and now we’re messing with their stuff (what could go wrong).

Read more about how these ideas lead us to stories over on our newsletter.

What about you? What questions does it raise for you? Are you as fascinated by the Lake of Bones as us? Join the conversation on Armchair Alien.

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