Season 4 of 'True Detective' Has Lightly Borrowed From These Real and Very Creepy Stories

Jennifer Tisdale - Author

Jan. 16 2024, Published 1:38 p.m. ET

Jodie Foster
Source: Warner Media

Jodie Foster as Chief Liz Danvers in 'True Detective: Night Country'

Four years passed between the premiere of Seasons 3 and 4 of True Detective. The world has changed dramatically during that time, and it stands to reason that Season 4 of HBO's crime drama could in fact reflect some of the upheaval. Set in the often brutal environment that is Alaska, it follows Chief Liz Danvers (Jodie Foster) and her partner Trooper Evangeline Navarro (Kali Reis) as they investigate the mysterious disappearance of eight men.

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There are many stories throughout history that involve a large group of people vanishing. In America, the most notable is of course the Roanoke colony who seemingly evaporated into thin air sometime around 1590. When it came to Season 4 of True Detective, writer, director, and showrunner Issa López was inspired by two true and horrifying tales of people who met a similar fate. Let's get into the historical horrors that helped make Season 4 creepier than ever.

The frozen heads from three men in 'True Detective: Night Country' aka Season 4
Source: Warner Media

The frozen heads from three men in 'True Detective: Night Country'

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Season 4 of 'True Detective' was partially inspired by the strange tale of the "Mary Celeste."

According to Vanity Fair, the fourth season of True Detective was inspired by the disappearance of the Mary Celeste as well as the Dylatov Pass Incident. And while both tragic tales involve people going the way of the dodo, they are each their own deeply disturbing experiences. In what feels like art imitating life, a fictional crime drama is now following in the footsteps of the true crime genre. Here's what we know about these mystifying events.

On Nov. 7, 1872, the British brig Dei Gratia set sail with "seven crewmen and Capt. Benjamin Spooner Briggs, his wife, Sarah, and the couple's 2-year-old daughter, Sophia," per Smithsonian Magazine. A month later they stumbled upon the Mary Celeste, which was completely empty and had set sail 10 days earlier than their ship. It should already have reached its destination, Genoa, Italy. The crew of the Dei Gratia was stunned and confused as the shop was in perfect condition, including its cargo.

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Because the ship's cargo was untouched, pirates were ruled out, said Anne MacGregor, a documentarian who launched an investigation and wrote, directed, and produced The True Story of the Mary Celeste. She also ruled out the idea of a drunken mutiny by the ship's crew and a fear of explosion brought on by the possibility that alcohol vapors were leaking from the alcohol-filled casks.

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MacGregor determined that what likely happened is, the captain ordered everyone to abandon ship. This was probably due to an issue with the ship's pumps which were found disassembled. Based on the last logs of the ship and where it was found, they theorized that the ship might have been within sight of land though MacGregor is still researching other ideas.

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The Dylatov Pass Incident is also fodder for Season 4 of 'True Detective.'

Fans of true crime are undoubtedly familiar with the eerie Dylatov Pass Incident. Ten members of the Soviet Union’s Urals Polytechnic Institute in Yekaterinburg embarked on a skiing and mountaineering expedition on Jan. 23, 1959, though one turned back. "According to camera film and personal diaries later found on the scene by investigators, the team made camp on February 1, pitching a large tent on the snowy slopes of Kholat Saykhl," per National Geographic. That was the last time anyone heard from them.

Eventually as the snow thawed, all nine bodies were discovered in strange positions. There were in various "state of undress; some of their skulls and chests had been smashed open; others had eyes missing, and one lacked a tongue." For years, conspiracy fanatics put forth all kinds of wild theories that included but were not limited to alien abduction or a yeti attack. In 2021, two Swiss researches found data that supported the idea that a small, deadly avalanche was to blame.

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