“Bennington Triangle” is a phrase coined by New England author Joseph A. Citro during a public radio broadcast in 1992 to denote an area of southwestern Vermont within which a number of people went missing between 1945 and 1950.
This was further popularized in two books, including Shadow Child, in which he devoted chapters to discussion of these disappearances and various items of folklore surrounding the area. According to Citro, the area shares characteristics with the Bridgewater Triangle in neighboring Massachusetts.
Precisely what area is encompassed in this hypothetical “mystery triangle” is not clear, but it is purportedly centered on Glastenbury Mountain and would include some or most of the area of the towns immediately surrounding it, especially Bennington, Woodford, Shaftsbury, and Somerset. Glastenbury and its neighboring township Somerset were both once moderately thriving logging and industrial towns, but began declining toward the late 19th century, and are now essentially ghost towns, unincorporated by an act of the state legislature in 1937.
According to Citro’s books, stories of strange happenings had been told about Glastenbury and the surrounding area for many years prior to the disappearances in the 1940s, the best-known of which is probably that of Paula Jean Welden.
Middie Rivers (1945)
Between 1945 and 1950, five people disappeared in the Bennington area. The first occurred on November 12, 1945 when 74-year-old Middie Rivers disappeared while out hunting. Rivers was guiding a group of four hunters up the mountains. On the way back, Rivers got ahead of the group, and was never seen again. An extensive search was conducted, but the only evidence discovered was a single rifle cartridge that was found in a stream. The speculation was that Rivers had leaned over and the cartridge had dropped out of his pocket into the water. The disappearance had occurred in the Long Trail Road area and Vermont Route 9. Rivers was an experienced hunter and fisherman and was familiar with the local area.
Paula Welden (1946)
Paula Jean Welden, 18, disappeared about a year later on December 1, 1946. Welden was a sophomore at Bennington College. She had set out for a hike on the Long Trail. Many saw her go, including Ernest Whitman, a Bennington Banner employee who gave her directions. She was alleged to have been seen on the trail itself by an elderly couple who were about 100 yards (91 m) behind her. According to them, she turned a corner in the trail, and when they reached the same corner, she had disappeared. An extensive search was conducted when Welden didn’t return to the college campus, which included the posting of a $5,000 reward and help from the FBI. However, no evidence of her was ever found. Unconfirmed rumors speculated that she had moved to Canada with a boyfriend or that she became a recluse living in the mountains.
James Tedford (1949)
James E. Tedford (also spelled as Teford or Tetford), a veteran, was the third person to disappear. He went missing on December 1, 1949, exactly three years after Paula Welden had disappeared. Tedford was a resident of the Bennington Soldiers’ Home. He had been in St. Albans visiting relatives, and was returning home on the local bus when he vanished. According to witnesses, Tedford got on the bus, and was still on the bus at the last stop before arriving in Bennington. Somewhere between the last stop and Bennington, Tedford vanished. His belongings were still in the luggage rack and an open bus timetable was on his vacant seat.
Paul Jephson (1950)
The fourth person to vanish was eight-year-old Paul Jephson. On October 12, 1950, Jephson had accompanied his mother in a truck. She left her son unattended while she fed some pigs. His mother was gone for about an hour. When she returned, her son was nowhere in sight. Search parties were formed to look for the child. Nothing was ever found, though Jephson was wearing a bright red jacket that should have made him more visible. According to one story, bloodhounds tracked the boy to a local highway, where, according to local legend, four years earlier Paula Welden had disappeared.
Frieda Langer (1950)
The fifth and last disappearance occurred sixteen days after Jephson had vanished. On October 28, 1950, Frieda Langer, 53, and her cousin, Herbert Elsner, left their family campsite near the Somerset Reservoir to go on a hike. During the hike, Langer slipped and fell into a stream. She told Elsner if he would wait, she would go back to the campsite, change clothes and catch up to him. When she did not return, Elsner made his way back to the campsite and discovered Langer had not returned, and that nobody had seen her since they had left. Over the next two weeks, five searches were conducted, involving aircraft, helicopters, and up to 300 searchers. No trace of Langer was found during the search. On May 12, 1951, her body was found near Somerset Reservoir, in an area that had been extensively searched seven months previously. No cause of death could be determined because of the condition of her remains.
Langer was the last person to disappear and the only one whose body was found. No direct connections have been identified that tie these cases together, other than the general geographic area and time period.
In popular culture
The Bennington Triangle was discussed in Season 3, Episode 8 of the television program William Shatner’s Weird or What? The episode, entitled “Mysterious Vanishings,” first aired on July 23, 2012.
The events of 1945 – 50 are told in episode 67 of Lore (podcast), titled “The Red Coats”.