The verdant stretch of woodlands around Glastenbury Mountain in Vermont is deceptively serene. The area boasts legends about dangerous creatures, reports of strange floating lights, and stories involving people who disappeared without a trace. These baffling disappearances and inexplicable sightings inspired folklorist Joseph A. Citro to nickname it the Bennington Triangle, borrowing from the Bermuda Triangle, another epicenter of mass disappearances and weird phenomena.
The Bennington Triangle, which centers on Glastenbury Mountain and includes the city of Bennington and the ghost towns of Glastenbury and Somerset, is known for five disappearances that took place from 1945 to 1950. Of those five people, authorities recovered the body of just one.
People have suggested numerous explanations for the disappearances and other strange goings-on that have cemented Bennington's reputation for the bizarre. One theory holds an escaped murderer killed the missing people. Others claim reality in the Bennington Triangle is a little unstable. Whatever the cause, if you're planning a hiking trip in southern Vermont, be on the lookout - and don't wear red.
The most famous Bennington Triangle disappearance is 18-year-old Paula Welden, a student at Bennington College. On December 1, 1946, Welden took a short hike on the Long Trail in the woods near Glastenbury Mountain. Apparently, she didn't leave dressed for the colder weather expected that night, so it was unlikely she intended to stay out late.
The last people to see Welden were an elderly couple hiking about 100 yards behind her. The couple reported seeing Welden turn a corner on the trail ahead, but once they reached the same spot, she was nowhere in sight. Local police organized a thorough search of the area, and offered a $5,000 reward for her return - but no one saw Welden again.
Given her choice of clothing, Welden's disappearance seems even more baffling. She wore a bright red jacket, so it should have been easy for the couple to see where she'd gone, or for a search party to recover her body.
James Tedford, a war veteran living in Bennington, took a bus trip to visit his family in 1949. He was one of 14 passengers on the last trip from the previous stop to Bennington - but vanished without anyone seeing a thing.
When authorities questioned fellow passengers after his disappearance, they confirmed he boarded the bus on the last stop before Bennington. But when the bus reached its destination, Tedford didn't get off - because he wasn't there. His luggage remained in the overhead compartment, and his timetable was discovered lying open next to where he sat.
The prevailing theories about Tedford's disappearance are he never got back on the bus to Bennington, or someone killed him before he could disembark. The first explanation, however, doesn't account for why his belongings remained. And while it's possible he was killed on the bus, none of the other passengers reported any suspicious or violent incidents. No one has posited a satisfactory explanation for how Tedford disappeared from a crowded bus without a single person noticing.
In 1950, Frieda Langer was camping with relatives in the woods near Glastenbury Mountain when she and her cousin Herbert decided to take a short hike. A few hundred meters from their campsite, Langer fell in a small stream, soaking her clothes and shoes. She asked her cousin to wait while she went back to camp and changed into dry clothes.
After a while, her cousin made the short trek back to camp to ask if everything was alright. When Herbert arrived, however, he discovered Langer never made it back to the campsite. Somehow, in broad daylight and only a short hike from camp, Langer inexplicably disappeared. Over the next couple of weeks, search parties combed the area around the campsite for any signs of her, but found nothing - at first.
Unlike with the other Bennington Triangle cases, searchers located Langer's body. But the discovery raised more questions than it answered. Not only was Langer's body so decomposed it was impossible to determine how she died, but it was discovered right in the middle of an area that had already been meticulously searched in the weeks following her disappearance.
How Langer went missing in the middle of the day, in an area familiar to her, and what happened in the several months between her disappearance and the discovery of her body, are questions that remain unexplained.
In 1945, a man named Middie Rivers led a hunting party in the woods near the city of Glastenbury. On the way back to camp, Rivers broke from the others and disappeared from view. His companions had no reason to worry: Rivers, a skilled woodsman, wasn't far ahead, so they assumed he'd catch up eventually. He never did.
After a long, thorough search of the area, the only thing anyone found of Rivers was a rifle cartridge of the same type he used. No one discovered evidence of an animal attack, and his body was never recovered.