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.


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?


Paula Jean Welden – pic credit – the line up

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.


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.


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.


PAULA JEAN WELDEN news articleAmid 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.

welden-3Seemingly 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.


weldenNine 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

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. 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 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 campus, which included the posting of a $5,000 reward and help from the FBI. However, no evidence of her was ever found. Also, she was not wearing a jacket and considering that it was 50 degrees outside and then later dropped to 9 degrees that night makes this even more of a mystery. 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.

Now that’s just plain insane.

credit – wikipedia