Glastenbury Mountain, just northeast of Bennington, has a reputation for being strange. Eerie lights, unusual odors and Bigfoot-like sightings. It's been blamed for causing insanity and mysterious disappearances straight out of the Blair Witch Project, all part of the allure for many visitors that hike the 22 1/2 miles of trails the mountain has to offer.
Chartered in 1761, early Glastenbury settlers reported hearing odd noises and seeing strange lights from the top of the mountain. The native Americans believed the mountain top was where the four winds met and of the existence of an enchanted stone that consumed anyone who dared get near it. They avoided the mountain completely except to bury their dead.
The early colonists faced many hardships, and as the town continued to be plagued with bad luck, some attributing it to the land being cursed, as believed by native Americans. However, residents enjoyed a short-lived period of prosperity during the 1800s as it bustled providing lumber and manufactured charcoal. It was even briefly designated as a tourist attraction. But by the end of the 1800s the mountain was completely deforested and most of the Glastenbury residents moved on, leaving behind only one family. The township was officially unorganized in 1937. The only evidence left behind are remnants of the brick kilns for the charcoal production and empty cellar holes, now hidden by mature forest.
According to the Bennington Banner, as recently as September 2003 a Winooski man spotted what he called a Bigfoot heading into the woods near Route 7 toward Glastenbury Mountain at dusk. Officials shrugged it off as an upright black bear, for there is a large population on the mountain, but this has not been the first such sighting of the supposed Bennington Monster.
As early as 1879 the New York Times reported that two hunters had happened upon a "wildman" while hunting in a heavily wooded area just north of Pownal. Startled as it jumped off of a rocky precipice, the hunters shot at it and wounded the wild eyed, red haired creature. The animal screamed in pain, charged the hunters and the terrified duo dropped their weapons and ran. Another account happened in the late 1800s when a stagecoach was overturned along Route 9, near Glastenbury, and attacked by what was described as a huge ape-like creature.
The mystery doesn't end with Bigfoot.
It has been reported that up to 40 people have inexplicably vanished from the Glastenbury area. The most well known and receiving the most press began in 1942 and ended in 1951. These unexplained disappearances earned the area the nickname the Bennington Triangle. From seasoned hunters to an 8-year-old boy, a series of local residents vanished under suspicious circumstances, leaving behind many unanswered questions, but no body. The range in age and gender of the victims dispels the serial killer theory, but just as puzzling is the sudden end of the disappearances.
The first victim, Henry MacDowell, killed his co-worker from the local mill, Jim Crowley, in a drunken fight in 1892. He was sentenced to life in an asylum, then escaped, reportedly spotted near Glastenbury then disappeared for good before the police could arrive.
Beginning in 1942, a string of disappearances have baffled people for years. Melvin Hills, a 13-year-old, disappeared in the Bennington area on or about October 11, 1942. No evidence of his whereabouts were ever found.
The next victim was Middie Rivers, a 74-year-old experienced hunting and fishing guide. Leading a group of hunters in November of 1945, he got ahead of his group then vanished, never to be seen again, dead or alive. The only trace of evidence was a single bullet along side a stream.
About a year later, in December, Paula Welden a sophomore at Bennington College had been witnessed by several other hikers hiking along the long trail, then totally vanished. Even after a search team scoured the area, no evidence was recovered.
Three years to the day later a bizarre disappearance when James E. Tetford boarded the bus in St. Albans , was on the bus for the ride as witnessed by passengers, only to vanish, never getting off the bus.
The youngest victim, 8-year-old Paul Jepson was nowhere to be found after his mom left him unattended to feed the pigs. His father claimed Paul had an unusual desire to go into the mountain in the days before his disappearance.
Two weeks later Freida Langer, the only victim whose remains were found, went hiking with her cousin then fell into a stream. Her cousin waited for her while she ran back to their camp to change into dry clothing. She never made it back to the camp. Since Freida knew the area well it didn't seem likely she got lost, especially during daylight hours. Search teams searched for weeks but found nothing. Then the next spring her body inexplicably turned up in an area that had been thoroughly searched just months earlier. The cause of death could not be determined.
In 1949 three experienced hunters mysteriously vanished when hunting in the Glastenbury area.
Then as strangely as the disappearances started, they stopped.
There have been many theories, from the logical - a serial killer - to the paranormal - interdimensional horizons - with a few other thoughts thrown into the mix, perhaps abandoned wells, alien abduction or Bigfoot carried them off.
Today, Glastenbury Mountain has reclaimed its wilderness and is enjoyed by many outdoor enthusiasts with no reports of unusual events. It is the only mountain in Vermont with an elevation of over 3,700 feet without the interruption of ski lifts and is part of the Green Mountain National Forest. Trails abound for the enjoyment of cross country skiers and hikers, and the wilderness is home to a large variety of birdlife including the rare Bicknell's thrush sure to thrill bird watchers.
Wild and rugged it makes for the perfect escape from civilization, and for those brave and hardy souls that make the climb to the top, the view is breathtaking. To partake in an even better view, the mountain is home to one of the few remaining fire towers in Vermont, located along the Long Trail.
So grab your backpack, put on you hiking boots and head out Bennington way, destination Glastenbury Mountain if you dare.