Monday, 7 April 2008

Vanished in Vermont

In my previous entry, I mentioned a series of apparent disappearances that were reported to have happened in or around Bennington, Vermont, USA, in the late 1940s and early 1950s. From among those disappearances, the case of Paula Welden who vanished on December 1, 1946, is often presented as being the most "mysterious" of them all. It certainly was the most widely discussed of the cases - and with good reason. 

Here's what happened, in a nutshell:

"On December 1, 1946, an 18-year-old student named Paula Welden vanished while taking a walk. Welden was walking along the Long Trail into Glastenbury Mountain. She was seen by a middle-aged couple that was strolling about 100 yards behind her. They lost sight of her when she followed the trail around a rocky outcropping, but when they rounded the outcropping themselves, she was nowhere to be seen. Welden has not been seen nor heard from since."

(Borrowed verbatim from here.) 

But after reading Paul Begg's detailed account of the story (taken from his book Into Thin Air) I, for one, have the feeling that Paula Welden's case was more likely a "perfect crime" than any sort of "paranormal" event.

You can read all the details about it  here - including a very precise timeline of the events leading to her disappearance - and make up your own mind. 

Unlike James Telford (see the previous entry) - who disappeared three years to the day after Paula's disappearance - the actual existence and identity of Paula Welden (or Weldon) is established beyond doubt. She was the daughter of a well-to-do family, her father being a well-known designer of fancy household utensils; and she was eighteen - "neither a child not yet an adult", as Begg puts it very well. 

Like many adolescents on the threshold of adulthood, Paula had certain psychological "issues" (not to mention probably raging hormones) - nothing out of the ordinary, but perhaps enough for her thoughts and plans to have been far beyond what those close to her might have suspected. She could have been leading a "double life". If that is so - and we may never find out - there is no way of ruling out an unpredictable drastic reaction from whomever she was involved with.

Perfect crimes do exist.
But was Paula Welden's disappearance one of them?
You tell me.

Be that as it may, a scenario based on a "double life" seems unlikely in the cases of the other people who went missing in and around Bennington, Vermont - although their individual circumstances may not preclude foul play. The only thing they seem to have in common is the season of their disappearance: all of the people who went missing in Vermont during the years 1946 - 1950 disappeared in the months of October, November or early December.

From among them, the most mysterious - along with Mr. Telford's alleged disappearance - is the case of
Frieda Langer, 53, who disappeared on October 28, 1950 (two weeks after the alleged disappearance of a small boy, Paul Jepson, 8, who is said to have vanished on October 12, 1950).

Frieda was on a hiking trip with her cousin, Herbert Elsner. According to him, Frieda fell into a stream. She told her cousin to wait for her as she ran off the half mile back to their family's camping site to change into dry clothes. 
He waited, but she did not return... ever.

Elsner went to the camping site to inquire after her, and found out that, if she did arrive, the other family members
 had not seen her. In fact, nobody saw Frieda again... until May 12, 1951, when her body was found in an open area where it should not have been missed during the extensive searches (on the day of the disappearance and then on November 5, 7, 11 and 12 of the same year, involving more than 300 military, police, firemen and volunteers).

Even more disturbingly, according to some accounts, the body is said to have looked very "fresh", as if she had just passed away "from fright". 
However, other accounts claim no such thing - they claim quite the opposite, in fact.
For more details on the search for Frieda Langer and the eventual finding of her body see this excellent article.

Frieda is said to have been quite familiar with the area; and the camping site was only a few hundred metres from the stream into which she is said to have fallen. And apparently there is little doubt that the search for her was thorough indeed.

One of the - seemingly - most rational explanations for the "Bennington triangle" disappearances is that the people who vanished accidentally fell into wells or crevices in the ground.
That would explain why the disappearances only happened in the autumn/winter months - at a time when the woods are covered with fallen leaves. 
But it does not explain the reappearance of Frieda Langer's body - or the fact that, after 1950, the vanishings stopped. 

Was there a serial killer, as some suggested?
Considering the evidence, such a theory seems highly unlikely.

Or were there some other forces at play? 
There was some mention of a huge rock in the area that the local native American population, so it was said, diligently avoided... But I have yet to find the origin of the mention or the "legend" itself (when I do, I'll post it here).

Whatever it was, it stopped after Langer's disappearance, in the autumn of 1950.
People investigating - or just snooping around - the area ever since are yet to experience anything out of the ordinary.
Or so they say...

Here is a Bennington-related entry from a lovely blog that seems to indicate that the... spirits of Vermont may not yet be as restful as they are claimed to be. ;)


Into thin air?
The Bohinj Triangle

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

hi, good site very much appreciatted