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  • Writer's pictureJohn Wick

Disappearances Of The Bennington Triangle

The ghost towns of Somerset and Glastonbury lie within the confines of the Green Mountain National Forest in Southern Vermont. During the late eighteen hundreds, both settlements were significant industrial hubs, playing host to the workers of the region's logging and mining communities. As these trade slowly migrated away from the area at the turn of the 20th century, so too did the people who comprised them and by the outbreak of the second world war, both towns had been unincorporated by the authorities, due to the lack of inhabitants. With a shrinking population, it would be reasonable to assume that life would become much more peaceful for those who had chosen to remain. Sadly, quite the opposite would be true, with a series of bewildering incidents, which resulted in the unexplained disappearances of at least five townsfolk in as many years.

The Fate of Middie Rivers

The first of these mystifying events occurred on the evening of the 12th November 1945. A group of hunters visiting the region had spent the best part of the day up in the mountains tracking deer and having failed to locate their quarry, they were making their way back to camp, along a path known as the Long Trail. When the visiting hunters had first arrived in town, they had asked around for a guide to help navigate the unfamiliar terrain, eventually employing a man by the name of Middie Rivers. Middie was a local resident who had spent most of his 74 years hunting and fishing in the sprawling forests which surrounded the region. He knew them like the back of his hand.

As the group closed in on their camp, Middie had suddenly and inexplicably increased his pace, disappearing into the undergrowth ahead of them. The hunters assumed that he had decided to walk on ahead in order to have a fire ready at the camp for when they arrived. But when they eventually reached their tents, there was no fire waiting for them and no middie. As the minutes turned to hours, it became apparent that something had gone wrong. And so several of the hunters retraced their steps to where they had lost sight of him, but they found nothing.

Extensive searches of the trail with park rangers and bloodhounds, yielded no clues as to the missing tracker's whereabouts, other than a solitary round of rifle ammunition, which had been left standing upright on a rock next to a small stream. The locals were bewildered by the disappearance. Middie Rivers had been one of the most skilled and experienced hunters in the community. It seemed impossible to them that he could have become lost or disoriented in an environment he knew so well. They were just beginning to come to terms with this loss, when an equally mystifying incident occurred on the same trail a mere 12 months later.

Paula Weldon's disappearance

Paula Weldon was just 18 years old, a student of Bennington College. At approximately 4 pm on the first of December 1946, she decided to go for a walk to clear her head after a shift working in the college canteen. She went back to her dormitory, donning a thick red parko to protect herself on the cold temperatures, before setting off up The Long Trail. Despite the gathering darkness, she passed a surprising number of people on the path. Several remembered her distinctive red jacket including a lost hiker who had asked for directions back to town. On her way, She also encountered an elderly couple who were heading in the same direction, greeting them as she walked past.

The husband and wife watched as the young girl in the red coat and blue jeans disappeared from sight around a bend in the trail, approximately 100 yards ahead of them. As they rounded the corner themselves a few moments later, they saw that the path opened out around them, but were surprised to discover that the girl was now nowhere in sight. When Paula did not turn up for college the next day, the alarm was raised. With the Vermont State Police still very much in its infancy, assistance was sought from law enforcement agencies in neighboring Massachusetts and New York. A search involving 600 volunteers and a five thousand dollar reward for information failed to turn up any evidence: Paula Weldon had simply vanished without trace.

Other creepy disappearances

But as mystifying as the circumstances behind the previous two incidents were, they paled in comparison to the completely inexplicable disappearance of James Tetford, exactly three years to the day after Paula Weldon went missing. The Bennington resident had served in France during the first world war and now resided in a state of peaceful contentment in the local veteran's hospital.

On the day in question, the 68 year old had been to visit relatives in St Albans and was returning home again on the bus. It was a regular trip for Tetford, who had greeted the driver as he boarded, before settling down with his luggage on the rear seats. But when the bus eventually pulled into the Bennington depot later that evening, Tedford was nowhere to be seen. The last time that anyone remembered seeing him had been as the bus departed from Arlington, which was the final stop before Bennington and yet nobody had observed him getting up from where he was sitting or walking to the front of the bus. Hauntingly, his suitcase and overcoat were still placed neatly on the seat he had been occupying at the back of the vehicle. He was neither seen nor heard from ever again.

On October 12th the following year, eight year old Paul Jepson had clambered up into the family truck to go and help feed the pigs, which were kept at the far end of the family property. After a short drive, his mother exited the vehicle, leaving Paul watching on from the passenger seat as she tended to the animals a short distance away. When she returned to the pick up several minutes later, she was horrified to find that her son was nowhere to be seen. As she frantically searched the vicinity in which she had parked, her screams drew other family members who came running to her aid. Once again, a massive manhunt was undertaken, and this time the police were able to uncover something in the way of a lead.

Learning from previous mistakes, a pack of bloodhounds was quickly brought to where the truck had been parked up. The dogs immediately caught a scent, leading the police in a straight line away from the vehicle, towards a nearby crossroads. Here the dogs stopped, having lost the trail of whatever it was they had initially detected. As the searchers began to penetrate the foliage near those crossroads, something suddenly dawned on them. It took no time at all for those involved to realize that the spot was only a stone's throw away from the same point of the Long Trail where Paula Weldon had disappeared. And in another chilling coincidence, the missing child had similarly been wearing a bright red coat at the time he vanished.

The authorities did not get much time to dwell on these coincidences, as a mere two weeks later they were once again engaged in a high-profile hunt for a missing person. A holidaying camper named Frieda Langer had gone out for a walk with her cousin, Herbert Elsner, leaving her husband back at their campsite. After falling into some muddy water, She had asked Elsner to wait for her, while she ran back to camp to get changed.

An hour later, an enraged Herbert had stormed back into the campsite, demanding to know why his cousin had left him standing out alone in the forest like an idiot. When it became clear that Frieda had not, in fact, returned to the camp, the alarm was quickly raised. A team of five hundred volunteers, assisted by helicopters and other search aircraft spent the next week looking for her. But in an all too familiar manner, no trace of the missing camper could be found.

What sets Frieda Langer apart from the other missing victims, is that her body was eventually located. In May of 1951, seven months after she had vanished, her badly decomposed remains were found lying out in the open by the nearby Somerset Reservoir. No cause of death was ever determined and no convincing explanation for how her body was found in an area which had been repeatedly searched by officers and sniffer dogs has ever been provided.

If five disappearances in as many years wasn't suspicious enough, there are a number of worrying factors which suggest that a casual link of some kind was present between the cases. Perhaps the most obvious of these is the tiny area in which all the vanishings occurred. Whilst none of the victims appeared to have known each other and varied widely in terms of age and gender, they all went missing during the winter months. They also disappeared within a few yards of witnesses, who should have been able to see what happened to them and possibly render assistance.

And with only one exception, they were never found, despite extensive efforts by local search parties familiar with the environment. All of the victims went missing at roughly the same time of day, early evening, and all within close proximity to the Long Trail. They disappeared from main transport routes, from well-used paths and trails, they vanished from an area saturated by thousands of visiting hunters and hikers every year, making it all the more inexplicable as to why they were never found.

Explanations for the disappearances

Explanations for what happened range from the simplistic to the truly inconceivable. Events that occurred there quite some time before the disappearances and continued thereafter have been used as the basis for both theory and conjecture about the Bennington triangle and those who have gone missing. Some believe that the area may be a point where the boundaries between neighboring realities is weak, allowing people to unknowingly pass between alternate dimensions. The Native Americans who originally settled the region certainly believed this, refusing to even set foot on Glastonbury Mountain. They believed the mountain was a cursed place as it was a point where four wind spirits collided, locked in eternal struggle.

Stories were passed down of warriors who had been seen to disappear into invisible portals, opening up in the ground beneath their feet and swallowing them whole. It is believed that the Untersberg region of Austria contains a similar phenomenon and the fact that James Tetford literally vanished into thin air on a bus full of passengers does seem to lend some credence to the concept. Another theory is that southern Vermont is a place of specific interest for visiting extraterrestrial entities, like so many other regions of North America such as the Uinta Basin in Utah or Dulce in New Mexico. There have been numerous reports of mysterious lights seen in the skies above the triangle, with the witness reporting what he described as a flying silo hovering over the woods near Bennington in 1984.

The Green Mountain National Forest also allegedly comes with its own resident Bigfoot with the group of travelers during the early 19th century reporting a disturbing encounter. They have been attempting to get to Glastonbury at the height of a torrential storm, but found the road impassable due to flooding.

As the group dismounted from their Stagecoach, trying to turn it around and go back the way they came, something ventured out of the tree line a short distance away. It was large and covered in fur with two glowing eyes. With a deafening roar, it attacked pushing the carriage over and sending the terrified occupants fleeing down the road on foot. Reports of such a cryptid have persisted over the years. And as recently as 2003, a motorist named Ray Dufresne reported having seen a six-foot tall creature making its way along the slopes of Glastonbury Mountain.

When he pulled over to get a better look, he could see that it had long arms and was covered in black hair before it disappeared from view. Of course, it's entirely conceivable that the creatures described in these encounters were in fact bears and that they or other predatory animals may have been responsible for some of the missing victims in the stories we have covered. It is also possible that those people may have gotten lost, wandering a significant distance before tripping and falling on the uneven terrain and their bodies becoming concealed in the undergrowth over the passage of time.


One final possibility, which is subscribed to by a significant number of commentators, is that there was a serial killer using the secluded, wooded area as a hunting ground. With similarities in terms of the time of year and time of day, and the almost even frequency of the vanishings, some people find it impossible to discount a sinister human element from being behind these disappearances. In 1892, a local Sawmill worker by the name of Henry McDowell was jailed for bludgeoning one of his co-workers to death with a rock. McDowell had been very drunk at the time, but swore in court that he had heard voices telling him to commit the murder. He was committed to an asylum for examination, but managed to successfully flee the facility. There were rumors that the deranged killer had returned to the Bennington area after his escape and a bloody murder five years later seemed to confirm these suspicions.

A local resident named John Harbor had set out to go hunting in an area called Bickford Hollow, just south of Glastonbury. When he did not return, a search party later found him dead, his body concealed in some bushes off the main trail. It was discovered that someone had managed to incapacitate the hunter killing him with his own rifle. His body had been being dragged into some bushes with the murder weapon left lying beside him. The killer was never identified, but locals were convinced that this was proof that John McDowell was living somewhere nearby and that Harbour must have encountered him by accident.

Admittedly, McDowell would have been in his 70s at the time of the Bennington triangle disappearances, but that does not mean that there wasn't another killer silently stalking The Long Trail. One who waited patiently for young female student walking alone, a lost tourist asking for directions back to her campsite, or maybe even a confused eight-year-old boy who had wandered off from his mother.

From the truly bizarre occurrences witnessed at Skinwalker Ranch, to the mysterious killings of the Superstition Mountains, it is apparent that some truly bizarre places exist on this earth which may not be limited to simply one aspect of Fortean lore. What is also clear is, that as the number of residents and visitors to the Bennington area has lessened over the years, so too have the number of disappearances.

Whatever vindictive force was responsible for the abduction and presumed murder of the victims appears to have disappeared itself, or possibly achieved whatever sinister goal it nurtured. Though increasingly unlikely, it is possible that at some point in the future, a clue as to the fate of the four missing victims may be found and that advances in science and technology may provide answers to the questions behind their disappearances. Until then, we can only hope that wherever they came to rest, they do so in peace.


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