For almost 100 years, the “Bennington Triangle” has been linked to an eerie string of missing-persons cases. The area itself is a densely wooded patch of land in southwestern Vermont; its nickname came courtesy of a local radio host.
The triangle spans a large stretch of wilderness that includes Glastenbury Mountain and incorporates the towns Bennington, Woodford, Shaftsbury, Glastenbury, and Somerset. Loggers once richly populated these communities; now they feel abandoned and even haunted.
Between 1945 and 1950, five individuals vanished from the triangle, initially prompting speculation that a serial killer could be at work. As disappearances kept occurring throughout the years, though, various fingers have been pointed at everything from Satanic cults to Bigfoot to perhaps even a man-eating rock. According to the Bennington Banner, the area has also been a hotspot for paranormal investigators.
The first Bennington Triangle disappearance of note occurred on November 12, 1945, according to BenningtonTriangle.com. That’s when trail guide Middie Rivers, 74, led a hunting party into the mountains and never returned. The hunters said Rivers simply got ahead of them and was gone. The only clue left behind was a single rifle cartridge found in a stream.
The most famous unsolved mystery in the area involves the disappearance of Bennington College sophomore Paula Medford on December 1, 1946. Paula had just finished working her shift at the dining hall and chatted with her roommate Elizabeth Johnson when she reportedly decided that she was in the mood for a hike.
She set off at around 2:45 P.M. wearing a red coat with a fur collar, jeans, and sneakers. The temperature outside was wintry cold, instantly inviting questions as to why Medford dressed so lightly.
Several witnesses reported seeing Medford. A gas-station owner noticed her running up the side of a gravel pit near the college entrance. A motorist said he picked up a hitchhiking woman who matched Medford’s description and that he let her out on Route 9 near the area’s popular hiking spot, the Long Trail. An elderly couple said they then walked behind Medford on the Trail. No one ever spotted or heard from Paula Medford after that. Rumors that she became a recluse or absconded to Canada with a boyfriend have led to no answers.
Veteran James E. Tedford went missing on December 1, 1949, exactly three years to the day after Paula. Tedford, a resident of the Bennington Soldiers’ Home, had been in a nearby town visiting relatives when witnesses spotted him on the bus home. But somewhere between the last bus stop and Bennington he simply vanished, leaving behind his luggage and an open bus timetable.
On October 12, 1950, eight-year-old Paul Jepson disappeared from his mother’s truck, where she said she had left him while she fed pigs. Like Paula, Paul was wearing a red jacket when he disappeared.
Finally, 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. She fell into a stream, and Elsner said that she went back to camp to change clothes. A massive hunt that involved planes and hundreds of volunteers led to nothing — until May 12, 1951, when her body washed up near Somerset Reservoir. The body was too badly decomposed for investigators to determine cause of death.
Throughout the decades since then, the Bennington Triangle has continued to claim victims.
Most recently, on August 27, 2011, Marble Arvidson, 17, was last seen at his apartment in Brattleboro at around 2 P.M. before going out in the company of a strange male.
Arvidson’s family told investigators that the youth was an avid hiker, and he took his boots with him when he left. According to the Associated Press, some investigators believed that he could have been caught up in Hurricane Irene, which hit the day he disappeared. Whatever the cause, no trace of Arvidson was ever found — not even footprints.
Main photo: Bennington, U.S. Highway 7 toward Bennington, Vermont [Photo: Wikimedia Commons]