Have You Visited New England’s Forgotten ‘Bermuda Triangle’?
Editor's note: This article was written by a Townsquare Media Northern New England contributor and may contain the individual's views, opinions, or personal experiences.
After the reboot of Unsolved Mysteries, the success of Dateline, and the rise of true crime and paranormal podcasts, it’s curious that one of New England’s eeriest unsolved phenomena has remained as shrouded as its setting.
For five years, a wooded area in Vermont served as the last known location for several people, resulting in five disappearances that remain cold cases to this day. Perhaps time is to blame.
According to a local newspaper, all began in 1945 in the small town of Bennington. That’s when the first of five individuals seemingly vanished into thin air.
As it is Northern New England, one could surmise each person met their fate in the form of a wild animal or hunter’s bullet that missed the mark. But the parallels and coincidences that exist between these “isolated” disappearances point to something more sinister.
A HUNTER VANISHES (ALMOST) WITHOUT A TRACE
A hunter named Middle Rivers was the first to vanish into the so-called Bennington Triangle in 1945. Rivers separated from his pack of five and was never seen or heard from again.
Of course, a cynic could suggest that an accident involving one of his friends led to some sort of coverup, but that seems unlikely, as Rivers was known to the area and a relative was among his hunting party.
A year passed, and Rivers’ disappearance was seen as a strange but simple tragedy until 18-year-old college student Pamela Welden went for a hike. She was seen by others before and during her excursion, including a Bennington Banner employee who gave her directions and a couple that spotted her on the trail. When the couple reached a corner around which Welden had turned…she was gone.
Three years came and went without any other strange occurrences in the woods of Bennington, until once again…somebody vanished.
A PASSENGER JUST DISAPPEARS
James Tedford, a veteran living in Bennington, boarded a bus in another town to return home. In an instance of what some call the “vanishing hitchhiker” phenomenon, Tedford vanished not in the woods, but apparently into thin air on the bus.
According to a news report in the Burlington Free Press, passengers had seen him throughout the trip, but he was suddenly gone. His belongings remained on board, but Tedford had vanished. But here’s where it gets creepier: Tedford vanished somewhere between Bennington and the previous stop – reportedly, along the Bennington Triangle.
Though by far the strangest, multiple witnesses vouched for Tedford’s presence up until this point…and it wouldn’t be the first time someone would go unnoticed in failing to board a bus.
In the days before social media and cell phone pings, it’s sad but reasonable that three strangers could meet mysterious fates in the same cold, wooded environment. But there exists an unmistakable and eerie link between the three cases.
A CALENDAR COINCIDENCE?
Rivers vanished two weeks before Thanksgiving in 1945. Meanwhile, Welden was last seen just after Thanksgiving 1946, on December 1. Not surprising, you say, as the days were growing shorter, the weather colder, and hunters more aggressive.
Plus, three years went by between Welden and Tedford’s disappearance. How then does one explain that James Tedford vanished on December 1, 1949, three years to the day after Welden’s mysterious disappearance?
Even a novice true crime follower understands the trend of predatory individuals leaving a “calling card” after striking. And one of the most common is to prey on their victims at the same time or, in some cases, the same date. A demonic annual tradition.
Sure, this could be deemed circumstantial or again, coincidental. The same cannot as easily be said for the ties to another victim.
PICKING UP A SCENT
In October 1950, eight-year-old Paul Jepsen vanished from a truck being driven by his mother, as recounted in 2016 New York Daily News feature. Sadly, no trace of the child was ever found. However, locals would report that bloodhounds would be drawn to…the site of 18-year-old Welden’s disappearance nearly four years earlier.
It was another strange twist uniting four unfortunate souls, soon to be joined by a fifth.
Frieda Langer, 53, was hiking with a cousin when she tripped and fell into a stream. She told her hiking companion she would retreat to their campsite, change clothes, and return, but was never seen again.
Alive, that is.
A DISCOVERY IS MADE
The following spring, in May 1951, Langer’s body was discovered. However, due to its condition, it was impossible to determine a cause of death.
However, there exists yet another tie between Langer’s case and another victim of the Bennington Triangle. All that remained of Middle Rivers was a lone rifle cartridge believed to have popped out of his pocket while he leaned over a stream.
ALL THESE YEARS LATER
Today, Bennington is home to roughly 15,000 people, per the 2020 U.S. Census. Per the town’s website, it holds several feel-good, small-town seasonal events drawing tourists and locals.
While Bennington hails itself as "Vermont's first town," there is no mention of the Bennington Triangle. Which makes sense, as it would lead residents to reckon with an uncomfortable question: was there once a serial killer that preyed on victims in the woods of Bennington, Vermont (or, something even harder to explain)?
And as the events transpired three-quarters of a century ago, and Unsolved Mysteries chose to focus on another rural New England town, we’ll likely never know.