BENNINGTON TRIANGLE Photo by RootsRated BENNINGTON, VT HISTORY          There are those locations on this planet where people seem destined to disappear without a trace and with no explanation. The Bermuda Triangle and the Dragon's Triangle are two such notorious locations where the puzzling and bizarre disappearances of planes, ships and the people who pilot them have long been a source of wonder and frustration for those who have sought to make sense of the events that have unfolded there throughout the years.          But there is another lesser known but equally baffling source of mysterious happenings hitting even closer to home because it happens to be in the continental U.S. in the most unlikeliest of places - the beautiful and picturesque southwest mountains of Vermont. To be precise, the Glastenbury Mountain range (below).            There has always been a sense of foreboding surrounding the mountain as Native American legend has it the mountain as it is a place where the four winds meet. While local Indians stayed clear of it, they also used it as a burial ground.          The first European settlers to the area reported witnessing strange lights in the sky, peculiar noises emanating from the woods and foul odors that could not be readily identified. Tales were told of bizarre creatures residing in the swamps and a Bigfoot-like entity that came to be known as the "Bennington Monster" that reportedly flipped over a stagecoach on what is now Route 9 in that town.          Originally, the town was called Glastenbury and was a thriving logging town, but by 1937 was unincorporated by the state of Vermont after a series of misfortune including wide-spread disease and the harsh New England elements claimed a heavy toll on the residents. The much-celebrated story of Henry MacDowell, who murdered fellow millworker Jim Crowley in 1892 also did little to place Glastenbury in a favorable light in a state still in its infancy. MacDowell was subsequently sentenced to spend his life institutionalized, but escaped and vanished without a trace - never to be found.          This incident was merely a portend of the extraordinary and tragic happenings that would plague the area for years to come.   THE UNEXPLAINED VANISHINGS WITHIN THE BENNINGTON TRIANGLE                     On November 12, 1945, a long-time hunting and fishing guide named Middie Rivers was leading a group of hunters into the woods as he had many times before. Middie was a man of seventy-four who was experienced and comfortable in the wild. While returning to camp at day's end, he went off ahead of the hunters and seemingly vanished off the face of the earth. Police search parties found what only added to the mystery: a bullet found next to a stream. It was surmised while taking a drink from the crystal waters the bullet fell out of his pocket, but Maddie Rivers was never heard from again.          December 1, 1946 - just over one year later - an eighteen-year-old sophomore at Bennington College named Paula Welden (below) hitched a ride and set out on a hike on the Long Trail. Her trip was not spur-of- the-moment as she had told many of her intention to do so. One of those who knew of her excursion into the forest was local newspaper employee Ernest Whitman, whom she had asked for directions.  An old couple that were walking behind Paula by no more than 100 yards claimed to have seen her turn a corner, but upon reaching the same turn saw no trace of her.  A massive man-hunt ensued with FBI and local authorities aided by local townspeople and many of the student body of Bennington College all joining in the search. Police went to far as to contact a clairvoyant for assistance and offer a $5,000 reward for any information regarding her disappearance. All was to no avail as no sign or remains of Paula Welden were ever found. She was declared legally dead in 1956. Because of the inability of local police to deal with such an incident, the Vermont State Police was established.       (An aside to this story is that authorities arrested a man who had slashed another with a knife and robbed him. The assailant had newspaper clippings about the Welden case on him at the time of his arrest, but no link could be established and charges were never filed against him.)          Disturbingly, two years to the day - December 1, 1949 - a 68-year-old resident of the Bennington Soldier's Home named Jamed Tetford (r.) was in St. Albans visiting relatives. When the visit was over, Tetford boarded a bus and headed for home. Witnesses say they saw him board the bus and was on it when they made a short stop before their destination. When they finally arrived in Bennington, instead of the confirmed 15 passengers, there were only 14 that got off. Tetford was seen sleeping on the bus, but someway, somehow had vanished en route leaving his belongings in the luggage rack and a bus timetable on the seat. Like the others, despite an intensive search for the elderly veteran, he never turned up again.          A most heart-rendering occurrence took place on Columbus Day in 1950 when 8- year-old Paul Jepson disappeared. The youngster was playing in the yard of the family home while his mother was feeding livestock. When she came out to call him in, she could not find him. Paul was wearing a bright red coat at the moment of his disappearance. Literally hundreds of volunteers combed the area searching for the boy, but came up empty.  In a strange twist, Paul father stated his son expressed a peculiar desire days earlier to venture into the mountains. While not ever verified, there is an accompanying story that states bloodhounds tracked him to the exact spot where Paula Welden had last been seen four years earlier.  A more believable, but equally disturbing twist is that the dogs tracked him to a spot near the highway where they lost the scent - as if Paul had simply vanished from that spot.          Just two and-a-half weeks later on October 28th, 53-year-old Frieda Langer (l.) left the family campground near the Somerset Reservoir for a hike with her cousin Herbert Elsner. Before they had gotten very far, she slipped and fell into a stream, soaking her clothes. Telling her cousin she was going back to change and would catch up with him, she started back for camp. . .and never got there. When Herbert returned ands asked about her he was told no one had seen her since they had left originally. Again a massive search was conducted including planes and helicopters, but no sign of Frieda was found. Until 6 months later.          On May 12, 1951, the badly decomposed body of Frieda was discovered in the reservoir area. The location of her body was one that had been thoroughly searched at the time of her disappearance and there was no chance her body would have been overlooked. Because of the advanced state of decay, no cause of death could be determined. One unsubstantiated report was that her face resembled someone who had been "frightened to death". Frieda Langer remains to this day the only missing person ever to turn up in the Bennington Triangle.          Rumors abound that many more people vanished during the years between 1945 and 1950, but not all activity seemed to end after Frieda Langer was found. On August 27, 2011, Marble Arvidson, 17,(r.) was left his apartment in Brattleboro at or around 2 P.M. with an unidentified male companion. Marble’s family informed investigators that he was an avid hiker, and took his boots with him when he left. There is some speculation that he could have been a victim of Hurricane Irene, which hit the area the very same day he vanished. Despite an extensive search, no trace of the young man has ever been found. The exact cause of these disappearances has been hotly debated through the years and many theories have been put forth from the Bennington Monster to an enchanted Indian stone that "swallows" anyone who steps on it to a portal to another dimension that these poor souls accidental stepped into and vanished forever.          Alien abduction always winds up on anyone's short list of probable cause and there has also been the not-so-far fetched idea that a serial killer was loose in the mountains and claimed these people as victims, although because of the varying ages and genders of the victims developing a definitive profile is difficult at best. There are also rumors that in Paula Welden's case, she was having problems at home and ran off to Canada with a boyfriend or still lives as a recluse up in the mountains.          Despite the absence of hard evidence as well as the presence of intense speculation, no firm reason for this spate of vanishings has ever been put forth and all cases remain unsolved.