Jul 8, 2020
 in 
History

Bennington Triangle – What is it?

 BY 
Matthew Mann
W

e’ve all heard about the Bermuda Triangle. An area in the ocean between Florida and Bermuda that is famous for disappearances. Well, the Bermuda Triangle has a smaller, less popular sibling around Glastenbury Mountain in southwest Vermont. This mysterious area is the Bennington Triangle.

Its history predates North America’s colonization and continues to this day. This place has inspired movies and books as well as being responsible for reported sightings of UFOs, Bigfoot, and even inter-dimensional portals. We don’t know the actual truth behind Bennington Triangle, but as many as forty hikers and locals have disappeared in this area.

In fact, Joseph A. Citro wrote in his book — Passing Strange: True Tales of New England Hauntings and Horrors, published in 1996 — that Native Americans didn’t go to Glastenbury Mountain except when they needed to bury their dead.

The Native Americans believed that the mountain was cursed because the “four winds” met there and engaged in an eternal struggle. It may seem like a myth, but like most myths, it has a small amount of truth. The wind pattern on the Mountain is unpredictable, and plants grow at strange angles.

The native people of Vermont also believed that an enchanted stone at the top of the mountain could swallow humans. Davy Russell of X-Project Paranormal Magazine reported that if a person stood on the rock to look at their surroundings, they would suddenly be swallowed.

A Ghost Town: Glastonbury’s History

Even in the earliest of days, Glastenbury was a ghost town. In 1761, Benning Wentworth drew the town’s boundaries on a map even though he hadn’t been there before. Glastenbury had a short growing season, and rough terrain, so it was practically pointless to settle there. This was an issue from 1761 to the 1800s.

Technically, there were two towns, Fayville on one side of the mountain, and South Glastenbury on the other. The incline between both towns made it impossible for them to be connected. Glastenbury was founded on its rich mineral deposits and abundance of trees for logging. The only way workers could access the logs and minerals (coal) was by a railroad that covered 9 miles and had a top traveling speed of 76 meters per mile. The Bolles Brook — which flows down the mountain — was also used to transport logs and coal.

Since coal and wood are finite resources, the town’s blue-collar industries eventually ran dry. In 1894, they decided to revive the town by making it into a tourist attraction. They built casinos and hotels, upgraded the railroad cars, and completely reinvented the town.

Unfortunately for the townspeople, the deforestation of the mountain meant its topsoil was exposed, which would lead to mass amounts of erosion. In 1897, the majority of the railway was destroyed by a flood, in turn leading to the partial collapse of Glastenbury.

After the severe destruction of the town’s resources and ways of transport, attempts to rebuild the town were nonexistent. The town’s population reduced rapidly. In fact, in 1930, Ripley’s “Believe it or Not!” wrote about the Mattinson family. All three members of the family constituted the town’s population and held every available office. The town was officially reported as unincorporated in 1937, and by 2010, only eight people called it home.

The Strangest Happenings Since The 1800s

Even before the 1800s, there were reports of strange sounds, lights, and even weird odors coming from the mountain. The stories of the mysterious disappearances have bred conspiracies about UFOs and wormholes.

One of the strangest reports is the sighting of the Bennington Monster. Most people think of it as an early Bigfoot. It was described as being taller than 6 feet, and completely covered in hair. The first reported sighting was in the early 19th century. Apparently, it knocked a stagecoach onto its side on the road and ran away while roaring. The accident didn’t have any casualties nor evidence of the creature.

In 1967, another monster appeared on the mountain. Remarkably, it was even less pleasant than the Bennington Monster. The ‘Wildman of Glastenbury’ was said to be living in a cave close to Somerset and had a habit of going into Glastenbury to harass women. His M.O. was to open his coat to ‘flash’ his naked body, simultaneously waving around a pistol to threaten anyone who would want to stop him. Reports stated that his actions would not typically change before he retreated back to his cave.

Some occurrences in the Bennington Triangle were less dramatic than the wild man and the Bennington Monster. In 1892, Henry McDowell —a sawmill worker— killed his coworker with a rock. He claimed he heard voices telling him to attack the person. He was put in an asylum, but he eventually escaped.

The Vanishings of the Bennington Triangle

One of the most mysterious happenings in the Bennington Triangle is the disappearances that occurred from 1945 to 1950. Within those five years, many people disappeared on or near the Glastenbury Mountain. The first vanishing was of Middie Rivers, a 75-year-old mountain guide. While leading a group of people back to their camp, he decided to get a little ahead of them on the path. The distance between the group and him was enough for him to be out of sight for a while.

Within that relatively short period, he disappeared. It doesn’t seem likely that he got lost; obviously, because he worked as a mountain guide and would have had a lot of experience. Sadly, Middie Rivers was never found, dead or alive. Maybe a hungry animal found him as an easy meal. We’ll never know.

An 18-year-old college student, Paula Welden, took up hiking and went exploring on the mountain in 1946. Many people claimed to have seen her, even drivers and fellow hikers that told her that she wasn’t dressed warmly enough for the hike. She was wearing a bright red coat, which made it easy to see her, but after she disappeared, the clothes weren’t much help in locating her. Welden’s disappearance became famous because it was the reason for the founding of Vermont’s police force. Vermont didn’t have a police force at the time, so Paula’s father invited officers from New York and Connecticut. Sadly, they never found her.

In 1950, Paul Jepson, an 8-year-old local, went missing from his home in Bennington. The police dogs tracked his scent to the highway, where it went cold. Similarly to Welden, he was also wearing a red jacket. Could this mean the two disappearances are related? No one knows for sure.

1950 was the last of the five years of disappearances ending with Frieda Langer. She was reportedly hiking with her friends and cousin on the mountain. Her clothes got wet during the hike, so she reportedly headed back to camp to get a change in clothes. The group launched a search party as soon as they realized she hadn’t returned safely. Multiple search parties such as police, military, volunteers, firefighters, and more, came together to search for her. They found her body the following May in a field that was thoroughly searched at the time of her disappearance. Her body was too decomposed to give any indication of how she died, or even when. The decomposition and sudden appearance of the body made the authorities suspected foul play, but there was evidence to confirm that.

Serial Killer or Supernatural Reasons?

A lot of people believed that a serial killer was behind the years of disappearances. Townspeople became suspicious because of the timing and pattern of the disappearances. Strangely, every person that disappeared did so during the winter.

Langer’s body was found in a place that had already been scoured immensely. It is possible that someone who was knowledgable about the area and had some expertise in kidnapping and killing could pull this off. It is in the realm of possibility in some cases; however, it would take a massive amount of courage and cockiness to abduct these people around their loved ones.

Others believe that supernatural factors are the reason for some of the disappearances— the man-swallowing rock, for example. The description of the rock has led people to suggest an interdimensional wormhole exists. The disappearances with the strange sounds, odors, and lights have sparked UFO conspiracies in the area. Joe Durwin, on his blog “These Mysterious Hills,” explains how the conspiracies have evolved over the years. When the newspapers started to report on the Bennington Triangle, the theories were tied to Native American myths. In the 1990s, the theories moved to UFOs, and in the early 2000s, the theories moved back to the Bennington Monster. All over the place is an understatement.

Realistic Theories

Winter conditions in the mountains allow the temperature and wind to fluctuate drastically. Being that all the people disappeared in the winter, the odds were already stacked against them. If they were any bit outdoors savvy, they would seek refuge in a cave or small covered area to reduce the possibility of hypothermia. This is referred to as terminal burrowing and is one of the most common theories that makes sense.

Abandoned mine shafts are known to kill people, either by suffocation, wall collapse, or falling to their death. Mineshaft deaths are still not uncommon to this day, so its probability of being an option 70 years ago is quite high.

These theories might explain some of the disappearances, but some things still don’t add up. For example, why was Langer found months after she disappeared in an area that was said to be searched? Why did Jepson’s trail go cold on the highway? Rational reasoning would suggest that they didn’t die the same way.

To this day, no evidence has come forward for how these people disappeared or why they occurred for a 5 year period and then abruptly stopped.

Hikers Beware

Information on the scenic views around the mountain can be accessed readily. To this day, a popular tourist attraction is a long trail that reaches the Canadian border.

Although it is known for its views on wildlife and trails, the majority of tourists in the area seem to be not aware of its mysterious past. Hikers and tourists may be ignorant of the five years of disappearances or that may be the reason that they have come to the area. Either way, people traveling in the area should be wary. Maybe the 5 years of vanishing townspeople are set to happen again or maybe the Bennington Triangle isn’t real after all.