originally published December 8, 2013

As a life-long cynic and devoted doubter of lore and mystery, I find myself always checking the sleeves of an unexplained tale, searching for my card anywhere but inside the deck. I don’t poke under my bed for ghouls, nor do I hold my breath as I drive past a cemetery for fear of angering the dead. I don’t even try to restore my family’s good mojo by saying “bless you” when they sneeze. I find the whole thing a little weird.

The photos of the Loch Ness Monster are grainy and doctored, and that film footage of Bigfoot is nothing more than a guy in a cheap Wookiee costume. David Copperfield used perspective and mirrors to send the Statue of Liberty into a temporary void, and rapping one’s knuckles on a wooden table will do nothing to summon a fortuitous sway of luck.

Nevertheless, when a mystery pops up with no easy solution, I find my heart doing a little flap, brush and shuffle, and my interest simmers to a healthy shade of piqued. I marveled at the recent David Blaine TV special, not because I believe the man possesses otherworldly powers (though if ever a case could be made for someone, it’d be him), but because I still embrace the visceral squoosh of the unknown.

So despite my doubt-encrusted heart, I still find my pulse tip-tapping a little quicker when I read about mysteries like the Michigan Triangle.

Dangling like a limp and uninterested phallus off the side of the Great Lakes, Lake Michigan is known for being cold, huge and deep. One wouldn’t think there were many connections between Bermuda and frigid Green Bay, but their common bond is a three-sided cloud of mystery and disappearance. Actually, the Michigan Triangle begins in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, just south of Green Bay, and connects with Ludington and Benton Harbor on the Michigan side.

In 1937, Captain George R. Donner was scooting west from Erie, Pennsylvania with a boatload of coal. He retired to his cabin with instructions that he was to be woken up in the morning as they approached their destination of Port Washington, Wisconsin. When the second mate went to rouse him, George was nowhere to be found. In fact, he was never seen again.

Not much of a mystery. Someone probably killed him and tossed him overboard. But wait, there’s more…

Flight 2501 was a regular Northwest Orient flight between New York and Minneapolis back in 1950. But on June 23, some nasty Chicago weather forced the DC-4 to shift its course over Lake Michigan. That was it. The radio went dead and the plane dropped off radar. Fragments of the seats (and more gruesomely of the 58 people on board) were found, but no plane wreck. The subsequent investigation revealed… nothing. Without a wreck it would be impossible to determine what went wrong.

This isn’t simply a matter of rotten technology from the era – retrieving the wreckage shouldn’t have been all that difficult. A team even scoured the region in 2008 in search of Northwest 2501 and found nothing. So what happened? Aliens? Mole-Men? Did the plane hit the water so hard it somehow burrowed completely under the ground at the bottom of the lake?

Not likely, but the crash remains a mystery. I’m not ruling out the Mole-Men.

The 1998 National Cherry Festival Airshow in Traverse City, Michigan took an odd turn when an Aero Vodochody L-39C hung a right over the lake and never came back. There were two men on board: a pilot and his passenger, who was also trained on the aircraft. The Coast Guard was dispatched later that day to scour over 2300 square nautical miles of Lake Michigan, but they found nothing. Not a trace of the plane nor either of its pilots was ever located.

Should this one also get chalked up to an undetectable force reaching up from the murky deep and snatching humans into its insatiable maw? Or did this jet simply scoot off-course and crash somewhere that wasn’t searched by the Coast Guard? Maybe the two men on board wanted to escape their lives, land in a Manitoba farmer’s field and adopt new identities as Canadian soybean farmers. I adore a good mystery, but my instincts tell me the Michigan Triangle, while curious and not fully understood, is nothing more than a geographical wedge of water, and that its lore can be fully explained outside the realm of the supernatural.

I find the Bridgewater Triangle in southeastern Massachusetts to be a sliver more interesting, if only because it is almost wholly land-based and has nothing to do with mysteriously vanishing planes. This area, which contains a bunch of towns you’ve never heard of, has been home to a handsome dollop of paranormal goofiness. Thunderbirds – big pterodactyl-type birds with 8-12-foot wingspans – have been spotted in Hockomock Swamp, with one report on the record by a police officer. Strange hovering ‘spooklights’ have been seen along train tracks, and a number of residents report a half-man, half-ape creature walking through the woods.

Let’s not forget the UFOs. A group of witnesses at Joseph’s Restaurant in Rehoboth saw one together one night in 1973, as did two Boston-area radio reporters in 1979. A number of UFO sightings in the 70’s must have led locals to wonder if there was a nearby weather balloon factory, or if that part of New England was being targeted for invasion by Little Green Men.

So is any of this real? Are there ghosts, bigfoots or Martians lurking in Massachusetts? My hearty belief is ‘no’, but I love the stories.

The Bennington Triangle down in southwestern Vermont, is a bit less X-Filesy and a lot more sinister. People simply disappeared from this area around Bennington, Woodford and Shaftsbury – five of them between 1945 and 1950. 74-year-old Middie Rivers was leading a hunting group in November, 1945, when she got ahead of the group and vanished. She was never seen again. A year later, an 18-year-old sophomore from Bennington College was walking along a path, about 100 yards ahead of an elderly couple. She turned a corner and vanished. Veteran James E. Tedford was on a Bennington-bound bus exactly one year later when he disappeared. To be clear, he was *on* the bus, which never stopped between its last stop and Bennington. His luggage was still in the rack.

The work of a serial killer? Coincidental aspiring hermits? With more than six decades separating us from these incidents, we’ll probably never know for certain. And while my doubt that something from another realm of consciousness plucked these people from Vermont, I still get that rush from the inescapable curiosity that surrounds these mysteries.

Though I still wouldn’t count out the work of Mole-Men.

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