Eerie ‘zone of death’ where people ‘step off face of Earth’ and Bigfoot roams

Some suspect a serial killer at play, others blame eerie UFOs spotted in the area while many warn of a Bigfoot creature roaming around, but whatever the truth, a series of disappearances in a "zone of death" along the Appalachian mountains has left people puzzled for decades.

Between 1945 and 1950, five people seemingly vanished in an area Vermont author and folklorist Joseph Citro has dubbed the Bennington Triangle – a small triangle located in southwestern Vermont surrounding the now-abandoned town of Glastenbury and the nearby Glastenbury mountain.

Tales of the disappearances left Joseph with a fear of "vanishing" growing up and in his adulthood, he began to investigate the missing persons cases, soon making a disturbing discovery.

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Speaking exclusively to the Daily Star, he said: "I found out that not only were a lot of people stepping off the face of the earth but they were doing it in a place that historically had been considered mysterious, Glastenbury Mountain.

"It had always had a lot of lore and strange history connected with it. It is said that the Native Americans in the area stayed clear of the mountain because weird things went on there."

The first person to vanish was Middie Rivers, a 74-year-old hunting guide who disappeared in Hell Hollow in the southwest woods of Glastenbury in 1945.

Joseph revealed Middie's case was particularly baffling because the experienced hunter had been near a group of people he was leading.

He said: "He was leading I think four people along a path and he got a little ahead of the people and they never caught up. I mean we're talking about a distance of certainly no more than 25 feet you know, and he just seemingly stepped off the edge of the earth. They never found any trace of him."

Next was 18-year-old Paula Welden, whose disappearance is still one of the biggest missing person cases in the state.

On December 1, 1946, the Bennington College student set out for a walk on Vermont's Long Trail dressed in a red coat — but she never returned.

Despite Vermont having no state police force at the time, a massive manhunt was launched to search for Paula.

Joseph wasn't alive when she went missing but his mother remembers her disappearance vividly and as he grew up it was a case that continued to plague locals.

He explained: "My mother heard about it and she talked about it and it was sort of disturbing to me as a child to think that someone could kind of wander off and essentially vaporize.

"Thousands and thousands of people searched for her. They used dogs, bloodhounds and helicopters and there was so much attention. That case galvanized so much attention here in the state that it caused us to create a state police force."

Exactly three years to the day after Paula's disappearance came one of the most mysterious cases associated with the Bennington Triangle.

Multiple witnesses saw 68-year-old veteran James E. Tedford board a bus back to Bennington after returning from a visit with his family in St. Albans City.

Witnesses even recalled spotting James in his seat before arriving at the last stop in Bennington and no one saw him leave the vehicle but when the bus reached its destination James was gone — leaving his belongings in the luggage rack and a timetable for the bus on his empty seat.

Then in October 1950, an eight-year-old boy became the youngest victim of the Bennington Triangle.

Paul Jepson had been happily playing in his family's pick-up truck when his mother warned him not to leave the car as she left to tend to pigs in the nearby farm she and her husband were caretakers of.

When she returned, Paul was gone and despite a search carried out by hundreds of people as well as bloodhounds, he was never found.

His father told the Albany Times Union at the time that "the lure of the mountains" could be responsible for his son's disappearance.

The last vanishing in the cluster of disappearances came just two weeks later when experienced hiker Frieda Langer also disappeared while walking the Long Trail.

The 53-year-old had been hiking with her cousin in the Somerset area of the trail near east Glastenbury when she fell into a stream.

"She ran back to their camp which was quite nearby to change, but she never made it to the camp and her cousin never found her. Just within a defined space with which she was very familiar, she vanished," Joseph said.

Of all the disappearances, Frieda's was the only with a resolution, when her remains were found three-and-a-half miles from the campsite in the eastern branch of the Deerfield River.

"It was in a place right out in the open where the hundreds of searchers couldn't possibly have missed it, and then like a year later it reappears," Joseph said.

He added: "It was apparently in pretty terrible shape so they couldn't get any clues what had happened but it was as if when she disappeared, someone or something took her away and then put her back."

While ancient myths have shrouded the area for hundreds of years, Joseph revealed some people have been pointing the finger at more recent eerie sightings.

"There have been a lot of UFO sightings down in that neck of the woods, Glastenbury Mountain over to the Taconic Mountains and along the highway that we call Route 7," he said.

More notably, he revealed there have also been a "whole bunch" of Bigfoot sightings.

He said: "A number of people have had Bigfoot sightings there. I couldn't tell you quite how many of those who have made their sightings public, you can be sure there are a lot of people who just don't talk about it."

Recalling one sighting, Joseph revealed a local Bigfoot sceptic had told him he'd spotted a "large hairy animal" moving near Route 7 in Bennington while on his way back from dropping his daughter off at Southern Vermont College.

Detailing the sighting, Joseph said: "He was a long-time Vermont hunting, fishing sort of character and he knew the game animals and the big animals in this area and he wasn't able to identify exactly what he was seeing.

"He watched it for a while and was able to determine that it was a big bipedal (two-legged) human-shaped critter that he thought was at least seven feet tall. He had never seen anything like it when I talked to him about it."

Some are quick to brush off the sightings as a hoax but Joseph isn't convinced by this.

"Some people say 'Oh it was just a guy dressed up in a gorilla suit, nothing to worry about.' But people who say that forget that here in Vermont people drive around with rifles in their pickup trucks and a person would be very foolish to dress up like a gorilla and walk around within shooting distance of the highway," he pointed out.

One other theory Joseph has come across is the large number of dangerous wells in the area.

He said: "I think it's within reason to suspect that some of those people who disappeared just fell down a well and couldn't get out and no one can find them again."

Despite three decades of researching all the eerie myths surrounding the vanishings, Joseph isn't fully convinced by any of the more supernatural theories.

He explained: "Part of me thinks that it's a bunch of separate and unrelated vanishings, that just happened in a defined amount of time.

"Maybe somebody fell down a well, maybe Paul Jepson wandered off and was eaten by the pigs, maybe somebody was murdered, you know, it could just be a coincidence of time and place. I'm not quick to leap on supernatural explanations of things."

But the theories are enough to make him wary of the remote area, revealing he's only ever been three times and would never stay out at night.

"The whole thing is spooky enough that I would not go camping alone on Glastenbury Mountain because I don't know what's up there and it is just a scary place. I've never been up there at night. It was always during the day," he said.

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