Six men were stabbed, including two who were critically wounded, in a wild melee last night that started inside a downtown Washington nightclub and then spilled into the street, officials said.

Police were alerted to the disturbance at the So Much More nightclub in the 1400 block of L Street NW shortly after 10 p.m. No suspects were in custody late last night, and it was unclear whether one or more people committed the stabbings, said Cmdr. Hilton Burton of the 4th Police District.

One of the most seriously injured men was stabbed eight to 10 times in the back, said Alan Etter of D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services. The second critically injured man was stabbed in the stomach, Etter said.

It wasn't immediately known how the melee began, but Ron Nelson, who was in the club at the time, said it started upstairs before spreading to the street level and then outdoors. Nelson said he works for a record company that he identified as Hollowpoint Records, which was sponsoring a party at the club to celebrate the release of a video.

"I [saw] something shiny coming at me" in the club, Nelson said. He said he put his hands in front of his face and was stabbed on a finger of his left hand.

Another man who was in the club when the violence began said that one man started to argue with another and that the confrontation spiraled out of control. About 40 to 50 people were in the club at the time, said the man, who identified himself only as Eric. He said that as more people were stabbed, a bartender threw barstools and started yelling at patrons to leave.

A man who was walking along 15th Street about the same time said he saw a man with blood on his body flee the area.

The stabbing victims, ranging in age from 18 to 23, were all transported to hospitals, authorities said. Police blocked off nearby portions of L and 15th streets.

Late last night, a police detective said the dispute may have started after some patrons who expected to get in the club for free were told to pay a cover charge. Other officers were at three hospitals early today, interviewing stabbing victims.

Police investigate stabbings at So Much More club on L Street NW. Patrons at the nightclub rushed outside to escape the violence.Police had not made arrests in the case as of late last night.