The Bennington Triangle
In 1992, Vermont author Joseph Citro coined the term “Bennington Triangle” to capture the eerie pattern of mysteries that had occurred in the area of The Long Trail and the Appalachian Trail sections of a well-worn dirt track that climbs over 3,747-foot Glastenbury Mountain, near Glastenbury Vermont. The town, a former mining center is now a ghost town.
Freida Goes Missing
Frieda Langer went missing on October 28, 1950. She and several other family members were camping in the woods near Glastenbury Mountain. The 53-year-old Langer, along with her cousin, Herbert Elsner, left their family campsite near the Somerset Reservoir to go on a hike.
However, when they were just a few hundred yards from their campsite, Langer slipped and fell into a stream, soaking her clothes and shoes. She then asked her cousin to wait as she ran back to the camp to change her clothes.
After Elsner waited for a while and Freda didn’t return, he also went back to the camp to see if everything was alright. It wasn’t. Freda hadn’t returned to the camp. Instead, she had seemingly disappeared in broad daylight in the short distance.
In the next few weeks, several search parties, which included some 400 people comprised of police, volunteers, firefighters, and soldiers, as well as aircraft, searched for her and turned up nothing. The search was finally called off. Then, seven months later, on May 12, 1951, her body was found near Somerset Reservoir, in an area that had previously been extensively searched. Due to the decomposition of the body, no cause of death could be determined. The case remains unsolved.
Langer was the last person to disappear in the Bennington triangle during that period and the only one whose body was ever found.
Though no direct connections have been found that tie the Bennington triangle cases together, other than geographic area and time period, some claim these disappearances were the work of a serial killer. Others blame the Indian curse or the paranormal, stating the place is “window” into the unexplained. Some say the area is unstable due to wind patterns that are unusually chaotic and confusing, so people can easily get lost.
The first disappearance was in the area associated with the mystery was in 1945. Middie Rivers, a 74 year old hunting guide was leading a party of four other hunters around the southwest woods of Glastenbury Mountain. The group was heading back to camp when Middie pulled ahead, outpacing the rest of the group.
The other men figured Middie was just quickening his pace to get back to camp and they would see him there. But when they arrived, Middie was nowhere to be found. They hadn’t seen any sign of him on the trail before reaching camp. Though he was older the group knew Middie was very familiar with the area and that he probably just got turned in the wrong direction and he would either find his way to camp or back down the mountain.
Yet after a few days, Middie never showed up. A search party was formed but all that was found was a single shell from a hunting rifle near a small stream. Middie was never seen again. Authorities and those who knew him were perplexed – how did this man who knew that area of Glastenbury like the back of his hand disappear without a trace?
A year later, on December 1st 1946, the most known disappearance occurred – 18 year old Paula Welden, a sophomore at Bennington College, decided to go for a walk to get some fresh air after her shift at the college’s dining hall. After changing into a large red parka and jeans, she headed up the Long Trail at around 4 PM.
She supposedly ran into a few people on the trail – a man who she asked how long the trail was up to a certain point, and an older couple who said they spotted Paula walking about 100 yards ahead of them, identifying her by her red coat. They saw her disappear around a bend in the trail, but after they reached that same bend, she was gone. Both of these witness encounters seem odd to me – at 4PM on December 1st, it would have already been starting to get dark.
Why were so many people walking up the trail at that time? Nevertheless, multiple witnesses said they saw Paula either approaching or on the trail, so police focused their search efforts there. At the time, the Vermont State Police did not exist, so help from forces in New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut were brought in to assist with the search. Despite an extensive search with up to 600 people and a $5,000 (nearly $70,000 in today’s money) reward, Paula has never been found.
A year later in October 1950, 8 year old Paul Jepson disappeared after last being seen playing outside by his mother, who went to tend to the pigs on their property, which also doubled as the local dump, located at the base of Glastenbury Mountain. After his mother reported him missing yet another huge search took place, but this time police used bloodhounds to try to track Paul’s scent. The dogs were able to follow his scent up to a nearby crossroads, when they lost it indefinitely. Police theorizes that Paul may have been abducted by a passing motorist, but no one will ever be sure. Not a single trace of the boy has ever been found.