The Bermuda Triangle isn't the only watery region with a reputation for unexplainable events and tragedies. For centuries, a triangular portion of Lake Michigan has been ground zero for sunken ships, disappearing crews, and vanishing aircraft. As if these incidents aren't creepy enough, what is now known as the Lake Michigan Triangle is also notorious for UFO sightings and strange lights appearing on the horizon.
"A lot of interesting stories have come out of that region of Lake Michigan," Wisconsin Maritime Museum submarine curator Karen Duvalle shared with a local news affiliate. "No one knows why," she then explained. One thing is clear about the Lake Michigan triangle: The mystery doesn't seem to be easing up anytime soon.
The Lake Michigan Triangle Stretches From Manitowoc, WI, East To Ludington, MI, And South To Benton Harbor, MI
The Lake Michigan Triangle is scalene in shape, meaning none of its sides are equal. The three points of the triangle are marked by three different cities. On the Wisconsin side, there's Manitowoc; on the Michigan side, there's Ludington to the north and Benton Harbor to the south.
Unexplained phenomena and frightening legends related to the region date all the way back to the late 17th century, when a French vessel disappeared with the tide... never to be seen again.
In 1679, The French Brigantine 'Le Griffon' Vanished During Its Maiden Voyage
The Great Lakes' oldest shipwreck remains one of its most puzzling. The French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle commissioned and oversaw the construction of Le Griffon, a massive ship designed for fur hauling. In August 1679, Le Griffon set off on its maiden voyage from Niagara to Michilimackinac - an outpost in the Straits of Mackinaw.
Some historians allege the ship had larger ambitions beyond the outpost: to discover a northwest passage to China and Japan. Unfortunately, Le Griffon vanished while traversing the Lake Michigan Triangle. La Salle had already departed for the mainland, and his remaining six crew members met the same fate as his ship.
In 2001, a researcher named Steve Libert found what he claimed to be Le Griffon's bowsprit at the bottom of Lake Michigan. The elaborately designed spar includes sculptures of a mythical half lion, half eagle creature. Libert's findings have yet to be verified, and the rest of the ship has never been recovered.
More Than 300 People Lost Their Lives When The Passenger Steamship 'The Lady Elgin' Sank In 1860
Close to 200 years later, the deadliest open water sinking on the Great Lakes would propel the Lake Michigan Triangle into infamy. In the wee hours of September 8, 1860, the wooden-hulled sidewheel steamship PS Lady Elgin collided with the much smaller schooner Augusta, which was loaded down with heavy lumber and headed for Chicago.
"The vessel seemed to pay no attention to us," Lady Elgin Second Mate M.W. Beeman told The Chicago Tribune at the time. "She struck us just forward the paddle box on the larboard side, tearing off the wheel, cutting through the guards and into the cabin and hull."
The Augusta continued on for Chicago as the Lady Elgin took on more and more water. Hundreds of sleeping passengers on the overpacked steamship returning to Milwaukee from Chicago, exhausted from a night of merriment and dancing, received a rude awakening when the ship's crew began their evacuation efforts. "Everything that could be was done to try to stop up the hole," said Frederick Rice, a steward. "Mattresses were pushed into it, and planks spiked over it, but to no avail."
Three hundred people perished as a result of the crash, including the Lady Elgin's captain, Jack Wilson, who spent his final hours saving as many passengers as possible.
After Many Successful Trips Across Lake Michigan, The 'Thomas Hume' And Its Seven Crew Members Disappeared In 1891
Built in 1870, the 132-foot long, three-masted schooner Thomas Hume belonged to lumber baron Charles Hackey's fleet of ships when it disappeared within the Lake Michigan Triangle in 1891. Sailing alongside one of its sister ships, the Rouse Simmons, the Thomas Hume embarked from Muskegon, WI, to Chicago with a large shipment of lumber.
After delivering the wood, both ships turned around to venture back toward Muskegon. Seeing ominous storm clouds gathering in the distance, the crew of the Rouse Simmons decided to turn back and stay in Chicago until the weather improved. The Thomas Hume, on the other side, kept on toward home.
When the Rouse Simmons returned to Muskegon two days later, its crew knew something was wrong when there was no sign of the Thomas Hume in the harbor. Hackey and his business partner Hume put up a $300 reward for information on the Thomas Hume's whereabouts, but the ship and its seven crew members were nowhere to be found. Multiple search operations also resulted in failure.
Fast forward a few hundred years to 2005, when professional recovery diver Taras Lysenko found the intact remains of the Thomas Hume in the southeastern portion of Lake Michigan. Shipwreck experts have since shared their theories about what likely happened to the ill-fated ship, such as the storm overhead produced turbulent seas, causing it to capsize.