When author Joseph Citro coined the phrase “the Bennington Triangle,” in 1992, he was speaking of an area where a number of people had mysteriously vanished into thin air between 1920 and 1950. The ‘triangle’ was an area located in southwestern Vermont and is, at least now, best known for the mysterious disappearance of Paula Jean Welden.
WHO WAS PAULA JEAN WELDEN
Paula Jean Welden was an 18 year old sophomore that attended Bennington College. One afternoon in December of 1946, she told her roommate that she had finished her studies and was going out for a walk. No one ever saw her again.
Or did they?
On December 1, 1946. Paula worked a double shift in the college dining hall. Afterwards she spent time studying with her roommate. When she had finished studying, she told her roommate, Elizabeth Johnson, that she was going out for a ‘long’ walk.
Elizabeth knew that Paula would be walking along Vermont’s Long Trail, that in total runs 272 miles from the Massachusetts state line to the Canadian border. But, because the day was quite chilly and due to the clothing that Paula had chosen to wear while walking, Elizabeth felt that Paula would be able to afford on a few hours in the outdoors.
WHERE HAD PAULA GONE AFTER LEAVING ELIZABETH
Not long after her departure, Paula, or so he later stated, was spotted by Danny Fager. Fager owned a gas station across the street from the college. He told authorities that he had seen her run up, and then down, the side of a gravel pit near the college. The time was 2:45 p.m.
Louis Knapp claimed to have picked up a young girl who was hitchhiking on Route 67 A, shortly after that hour. Knapp remembered that he and she said little during the ride. He let her out on Route 9, near the Long Trail.
Next, Paula would be seen by several people, slightly before 4 p.m. She was in Bickford Hollow and appeared to be heading toward the trail. Ernie Whitman would recall that he had warned Paula against climbing into mountains without wearing heavier clothes. Paula, who was dressed only modestly in a red parka coat and blue jeans, ignored his advice and continued on her way.
BY NIGHTFALL, PAULA JEAN WELDEN HAD FAILED TO RETURN
When night fell and Paula failed to return, Elizabeth began to worry. However, she did not want to cause an unnecessary stir, so she waited until morning to alert the collage president, Lewis Jones. Mr. Jones immediately called her parents to see if she had arrived at their residence.
She had not.
Paula’s mother immediately fell ill with fright for her child. Paula’s father, immediately left his Stamford, Connecticut home for Bennington. Upon arriving, Mr. Welden, local residents and students from both Bennington and Williams College formed a huge search party. After spending a whole day, that did not produce his daughter, Mr. Welden called in both the New York and Connecticut State Police departments to help. A $5,000 reward, for information on the disappearance of Paula, was made public.
DAYS PASSED WITH NOTHING LEARNED
Amid the leads, that did surface, came a call from a waitress in Fall River, Massachusetts. She claimed to have served dinner to a ‘disturbed’ woman fitting Paula’s description. Mr. Welden vanished immediately. He was gone, for nearly 36 hours, without anyone knowing he’d left or where he had gone. When he returned, he said that he had gone to Massachusetts to follow up on the lead. This made a few people uneasy and some believe that Mr. Welden was somehow connected to his daughter’s disappearance.
Earlier it had come to light, that Mr. Welden and Paula Jean had a falling out over a man. Mr. Welden disapproved of Paula’s boyfriend and now Mr. Welden was trying to convince searchers and authorities that Paula’s boyfriend must be the responsible party. The only rational proof that he could offer though was the word of a clairvoyant that he had spoken with on the subject.
Seemingly fed up with the lack of professionalism, on the part of the authorities that were in charge of finding his daughter, Mr. Welden returned to Connecticut on December 16th.
Search parties continued on the Long Trail until the extremely unkind weather forced all willing, but now physically unable bodies, to cease their hunt.
NINE YEARS WOULD PASS
Nine years after Paula’s disappearance, a skeleton was found. Investigators, hoping to finally bring closure to the cold case, hurried to make identification of the remains, but to no avail. It was deemed that the remains were not Paula’s.
The case has remained unsolved in many a mind. But, to a few, the explanation was a simple one. She has fallen victim to the mystery of the Bennington Triangle and to search on for her would be to find ones way into the world that is not of this world.
credit – the line up