The 13th Floor

The Unsolved Disappearances of Vermont’s Own “Bermuda Triangle”

The Bermuda Triangle, on the western edge of the Atlantic Ocean, has for centuries had a dubious reputation. Mariners have long reported strange occurrences including malfunctioning compasses, strange lights, weird creatures, and the occasional ghost ships. Since the early days of exploration many ships and even planes have gone missing within the confines of the Triangle. Even today, there are still reports of boats and airplanes failing to return from its mysterious clutches. But it isn’t the only unusual equilateral out there. In fact there is one so conveniently located you don’t even need a ship or plane to get to it. It’s called the Bennington Triangle.

Located in southwestern Vermont, the Bennington Triangle got its name in 1992 from Joseph Citro, an author speaking on a public radio show. He coined the term in reference to a number of strange disappearances that had occurred between 1920 and 1950. The Bennington Triangle’s power centers on Glastenbury Mountain, located in Bennington County and part of the Green Mountain National Forest. Although its influence is mainly felt in Bennington, its powers have reached into nearby Woodford, Shaftsbury, and Somerset. Neighboring Somerset was actually a thriving logging town until the late 19th century when it inexplicably became a ghost town.

From 1945 to 1950, five people went missing in the Bennington Triangle. On November 12, 1945, a seventy-four-year-old hunter by the name of Middle Rivers was out on a hunting trip guiding four other hunters through the mountains. While returning home, Rivers was walking ahead of the rest of the group when they lost sight of him. After a lengthy search, the only evidence they found was an unfired rifle cartridge in a nearby stream. Locals found it strange that Rivers disappeared in an area he was extremely familiar with and had traveled countless times before. To this day, no sign of him has ever been found.

One year later Paula Welden, an eighteen-year-old sophomore at Bennington College, was out on a hike on Long Trail. Several witnesses remember her entering the trail, and one witness even remembered giving her directions. An elderly couple, walking 100-yards behind her, saw her turn a corner in the trail. When they reached that same corner they no longer saw the young lady in front of them. Weldon failed to return to campus, and authorities searched the trail and nearby woods. A reward of $5,000 was offered, and the FBI stepped in to aid in the search. They still found no trace of Paula Weldon.

Then on December 1, 1949, three years to the day that Paula Welden disappeared, James Tedford was returning from a visit to his relatives’ house when he disappeared. Tedford, a veteran and resident of the Bennington Soldiers’ home, was returning from the town of St. Albans on a local bus. Eye witnesses place Tedford on the non-stop bus between St. Albans and Bennington. However, when the bus arrived at the depot in Bennington, Tedford was nowhere to be seen. His belongings were still in the luggage compartment, but the only thing in his seat was a bus schedule.

Paul Jephsen was the fourth-reported vanishing. Eight-year-old Paul was driving with his mother on October 12, 1950. She left her son in the truck while she went to feed some pigs. She was gone for about an hour, and when she returned Paul was gone. A search of the area found nothing. At the time, Paul was wearing a bright red jacket which should have been easy to locate. Some claim that bloodhounds tracked the boy’s scent to the exact spot where Paula Welden had disappeared.

The final disappearance happened sixteen days after Paul Jephsen went missing. Frieda Langer and her cousin Herbert Elsner were camping with their family on October 28, 1950. The pair decided to go for a hike near the Somerset Reservoir. During the hike, Frieda fell into a nearby stream. She told Herbert to wait for her while she went back to change her clothes. Herbert waited, but Frieda never returned. Herbert headed back to camp, and no one there had seen Frieda. Three hundred searchers, aided by helicopters, combed the woods looking for Frieda for two weeks. Then on May 12, 1951, Frieda’s body was located near Somerset Reservoir. Rescuers claimed that they had thoroughly searched that area seven months prior to her body being located and that there was no way they could have overlooked it. Because of the condition of her remains, no cause of death could be determined.

Books have been written about this strange phenomenon, and it even made its way on to William Shatner’s WEIRD OR WHAT? program in 2012. However, whatever is behind this disappearances still remains a mystery. Some suggest the standard alien abduction angle, while others have said that Glastenbuy Mountain has the ability to produce strange magnetic fields that can disrupt internal compasses causing victims to lose their sense of direction, and in some cases, can even disrupt the atoms in our bodies to the point that they vanish into the atmosphere. Whatever the case, the bigger question is- why did these vanishings stop? Was this a onetime occurrence that lasted only five years. Were there past occurrences that went on before recorded history? And will this all happen again?