I think most people have heard of the Bermuda Triangle. Many people in New England also know about the Bridgewater Triangle, an area in Southeastern Massachusetts famous for paranormal activity.
Maybe paranormal triangles come in threes, because folklore guru Joseph Citro claims there's also one in his home state of Vermont. Centered on Glastenbury Mountain in Bennington County, the Bennington Triangle shares some traits with its Massachusetts cousin. Bigfoot like creatures have been seen there frequently, strange lights are seen in the area, and it has some murky connections to old Native American lore.
However, the Bennington Triangle is most famous for a series of strange disappearances that happened there in the 1940s and 1950s. Hairy humanoids and weird orbs are creepy, but I'm downright terrified by people vanishing.
It's not unusual for hikers, usually from out of town, to get lost in the New England woods, but most often they are rescued by the Park Service. The Bennington disappearances were mostly local folks, though, which makes them much stranger, and they all disappeared without a trace. Well, almost.
The first person to disappear was local hunting guide named Middie Rivers. Seventy-one year old Rivers was a Vermont native and knew Glastenbury Mountain well. On November 12, 1945 he was leading a group of hunters home from a trip up the mountain. Rivers went ahead of the four men, who assumed they would catch up with him. They never did, and didn't find him even when they emerged from the trail. They reported him missing, and despite search parties combing the woods neither Middie Rivers or his body were ever found.
The next person vanished on December 1, 1946. A Bennington College student named Paula Welden set out for a hike alone. She never returned, and once again search parties tracked through the woods trying to find the college sophomore, and once again they found nothing.
Three years later, on December 1, 1949, a Bennington man named Jim Tedford was taking the bus home from seeing family in St. Albans. Although many people saw him get on the bus, he did not get off. Somehow, somewhere along the route he apparently vanished from the vehicle. His bags were still on the bus when it arrived in Bennington.
On October 12, 1950, an eight-year old boy named Paul Jepson disappeared from his family's truck while his mother fed the pigs. Again, neither the boy or his body were ever found. He was followed by Freida Langer, who slipped in a stream while hiking with her cousin on October 28, 1950. She told him to wait while she ran back to their campsite to change clothes. He waited, and waited, and waited... In a familiar ritual, hundreds of people searched the woods in vain for the missing girl.
The final person to disappear was a teenage girl named Frances Christman. In the fall of 1950, shortly after Freida Langer vanished, Christman told her family she was going to visit a friend who lived less than a mile away. She never arrived at her friend's house, and was never seen again.
I said almost all the victims vanished without a trace. There was one exception. Freida Langer's body was found in open ground near a reservoir in May of 1951. That spot had been searched many times the previous autumn, so it seems likely her body had been placed there some time later. Langer's body was too decomposed for a coroner to determine the cause of her death.
Who or what was behind all these disappearances? I've seen a few paranormal theories floating around on the web: UFO abduction, Bigfoot kidnapping, portals into another dimension. Naturally, there's no proof of any of those things, but they're all fun to think about.
More fun than the alternative, which is that these people were murdered and their bodies carefully disposed of. Could these people have been killed by a local serial killer? Many people think serial killers always murder one specific type of person, and this has been reinforced by various Hollywood movies. The six people who disappeared (one of whom was clearly killed) were of various ages and sexes, so therefore according to this line of thought a serial killer couldn't be responsible.
Unfortunately, it's not true that every serial killer goes for just one type of person. That makes a great plot point, but some serial killers just go for whoever is convenient. This FBI report also notes that most serial killers don't travel much and generally commit their crimes in a limited geographic area. It's interesting that all the disappearances happened not only in a small area, but also during the autumn months.
OK, I'm going to stop writing about serial killers because it creeps me out, but here's one thing against the serial killer theory: how did Jim Tedford vanish from a moving bus? I don't think anyone could make that happen.
In the end we're just left with a lot of questions, some spooky disappearances, and one gruesome murder. Be careful when you're out walking in the woods.