The Devil's Triangle: My Experience
Florida is a state full of legends and mysteries. The Fountain
of Youth was sought after by Pounce de Leon when he arrived
there, in what today is Saint Augustine, on April 2,1513. The
Satan Tree which was said to drip sap that could kill a man
was supposed to exist somewhere deep in Central Florida (it's
probably in Disney World and there's a long line to see it!).
The Skunk Ape, named for its obnoxious odor, is Florida's version
of the Yeti or Sasquatch and has been sited throughout the State.
But no Florida mystery has attracted more attention over the
years then The Bermuda Triangle.
Known better to locals as The Devil's Triangle, it's a supposed
triangular area covering thousands of miles where ships, planes
and people simply vanish. Although researchers disagree about
the actual dimensions of the area, most will say that the Triangle
stretches from the east coast of Florida over to Bermuda, down
to Puerto Rico and back up to Florida again.
In all fairness, anyone that has ever taken in the sun on
the Miami or Fort Lauderdale beaches knows how strange the weather
in that area is. One minute it's sunny and warm, the next minute
the wind kicks up and your being pelted with hard rain. It can
be cloudy with rain pouring down on one side of a street, while
the other is sunny and pleasant. It's possible and even likely
that the odd weather conditions and sudden changes in temperature
or conditions has contributed to more then a few ship and aircraft
disasters. But there's more to the story then weird weather.
Missing ships, planes and people are a part of life and the
price some have to pay for travel, but the Triangle has had
more then it's share. No one thinks much about the numbers until
some major disaster or odd disappearance happens. In all, over
1000 people have vanished without a trace during the last thirty
years in the Triangle. Statistics vary on the numbers of ships
and planes missing and never found, but it's easily in the hundreds.
The area came to the Government's attention in 1945. Flight
19 departed the Fort Lauderdale Naval Air Station on December
5, 1945. Fourteen men in five Avenger torpedo bombers were scheduled
to practice daylight bombing in the Hen and Chicken Shoals,
but appeared to have navigation problems. Radio transmissions
intercepted by Lt. Robert Cox, a flight instructor, indicated
the planes may have been headed in the wrong direction. Cox
may have made things worse by giving one of the Flight 19 pilots
directions based on where he thought they were, instead of their
By nightfall, the flight was out of communication with the
Naval Air Station. Several rescue aircraft were sent out in
response to the emergency. One was a Martin Mariner flying boat.
With several redundant hulls designed for survival in the water,
it was largely considered unsinkable. Despite this, the Mariner
and it's crew vanished. Some believe it may have caught fire
and ditched into the ocean. A ship's crew reported seeing an
explosion or fire in the night sky near where the Mariner was
to rendezvous with other rescue aircraft, but no trace of the
Mariner or it's crew was ever found. Others say that what the
ship hands probably saw were flares associated with the rescue
Several ships also vanished while searching for Flight 19,
but that's not the strangest part of the story. For days after
the Avengers disappeared, Marines were dispatched in small groups
to search Florida's east coast beaches for any debris or bodies
from the missing flight or rescue crafts that were also presumed
lost. A classified military report on the entire episode was
leaked to the press years later and indicated that during the
third day of the search, a group of ten marines combing the
beach near Miami just vanished!
The Marines were never seen again. If a few had gone missing,
one might attribute it to drowning or desertion, but it seems
unlikely that all ten would just not be there anymore. And this
isn't uncommon. More then a few people on pleasure boats have
reported having a conversation with someone on the craft, turning
away, then turning back to find them gone. As in the case of
the famed Marty Celeste, a ship which vanished in 1872, both
large vessels and pleasure boats have been found floating adrift
in various parts of the Triangle with no crew on board.
Without signs of fire, disaster or mishap, passengers and
crews just disappeared from sea worthy ships. It seems ludicrous
that anyone would abandon a ship for no good reason in the middle
of an ocean? Some attribute this to attempts at piracy, but
the vessels were never found looted. Some carried expensive
cargo, others were found with people's purses or wallets on
board containing large amounts of cash. Salvage rights has been
another proposed theory to explain the abandoned ships, but
in many cases no one directly benefited from the discovery of
these abandoned vessels.
While it's true that the story of Flight 19 has become serious
convoluted and exaggerated over the years, we still have the
missing aircraft, ships and people that had been a part of that
training flight and the subsequent rescue effort. Every few
years someone tries to find one or more of the missing ships
or planes and claims a fantastic discovery.
In the early 1990's, UNSOLVED MYSTERIES made a big deal of
someone finding one of the torpedo bombers on the ocean floor.
The number painted on the body of the bomber even seemed to
match that of one of the missing planes. But on closer examination,
and much to their dismay, the serial number on the engine did
not match any of those from Flight 19 and the supposed matching
number of the plane was actually from another flight.
Torpedo Bombers weren't just used for training missions.
By the end of World War II, they were obsolete aircraft and
became targets themselves. There could be literally hundreds
of torpedo bombers lying fairly intact on the bottom of the
ocean in the Bermuda Triangle. Some were slightly damaged during
shooting or bombing practices, while others were just allowed
to sink if missed during training sessions, but none so far
found have proven to be from Flight 19. It took a disaster of
equal or greater magnitude to prove how strange the Triangle
Despite warnings not to launch because of chilly conditions,
the Space Shuttle Challenger took off from Kennedy Space Center
on January 28, 1986 and exploded over the ocean. In an effort
to find out what went wrong, a search for pieces of the shuttle
was launched that may well have been the greatest military and
government search effort ever conducted. After searching what
amounted to ten thousand square miles of ocean bottom, they
found all the bodies of the astronauts and most of the shuttle.
In all this searching, not one aircraft or ship that had ever
vanished mysteriously in the Triangle was located. Many known
wrecks and a few unknown ones were found, but nothing else.
What is the Triangle? A giant sea sink hole? Time Warp? UFO
base? Energy vortex? I don't have the answer to that question.
Rather then speculate on theories or use any more space re-telling
Triangle stories you've probably already read or heard about,
I'll share my own Triangle experience with you in the hope that
it may add to the truth, and not distract from it.
My first visit to Florida was in the Spring of 1966 when
I was just ten years old. Talk of the Triangle was at a lull
in those days. Although I had already been reading non-fiction
books about the paranormal for about a year by that time, the
topics were usually ghost or UFO related. None, that I can recall,
had specifically mentioned Triangle events or disappearances.
When I arrived in Fort Lauderdale with my parents for a two
week vacation, I did so without any knowledge of the strangeness
associated with the region.
We stayed in a Fort Lauderdale hotel, just across the street
from the beach. The only strange thing that happened to me during
the first few days of our vacation was waking up in the morning
to find Spring Break college students passed out everywhere
just outside of our efficiency suite. I mean they were just
lying on the ground, sleeping in chairs and under the stairs.
It was upsetting and a bit scary, but nothing compared to what
I was about to deal with.
Near the end of our first week, my parents got a call from
the front desk. The hotel was offering free Bahamas weekend
trips to guests. The trip included two days and one night free
at a hotel, plus a luxurious charter flight to and from the
Islands. The object was to get people there for gambling. Although
my folks weren't big on gambling, they thought the trip might
be fun and made reservations for the last weekend of our vacation.
Too busy having fun in the hotel pool and at the beach, I
didn't give the trip much thought until about a few days before
the flight. I had always had a sort of sixth sense when it came
to certain things. I would hear a song playing in my head before
turning on the radio, then the song would be on the radio. The
same with television. I would start thinking about a certain
movie or a favorite episode of some TV series and it would be
on when I started watching. It would be easy to through all
that up to revolving music and TV schedules and even chance,
but sometimes it's scary how right I could be about things.
The view from the balcony of the hotel was spectacular! It
afforded a wide panorama of the Atlantic Ocean. Large and small
ships could be seen traveling back and forth all day, while
surfers gave it their best on small waves headed in towards
the beach. But the early evening was my favorite time to look
out over the water. Things quieted down and I found the sound
of waves crashing against the shore to be soothing. But two
days before the Bahamas weekend trip, I looked out at the ocean
that evening and felt very troubled. The feeling grew stronger
the next morning. Not wanting to upset my folks, I said nothing
as they headed out to the beach. I stayed inside having had
just a bit too much sun over the past week and a half.
I watched TV and enjoyed the air conditioning, while occasionally
peeking out the front window to laugh at the college guys who
were making complete fools of themselves down in the pool in
an effort to pick up girls. I didn't look out toward the ocean.
Despite these diversions, my thoughts always returned to the
upcoming weekend trip. When I began to think about not going,
I felt some peace. Chalk it up to the built in protective instinct
that all children have, but there was no way I was going to
take that trip.
After baking in the sun for a few hours in the morning, my
parents came in for lunch. I wanted to speak right up, but decided
to wait until after the meal. Then I told them. "I don't
want to go on that trip to the Bahamas." It was simple,
direct and honest. My folks were shocked! It was unlike me to
be so defiant. Even though they wondered why, I had no answers
to offer. At ten years of age, it was tough to put feelings
that you didn't understand into words.
Despite attempts to change my mind and an insistence that
I was going, I assured my parents that nothing was going to
get me on that plane. By the day of the trip, my folks gave
up. Maybe they were afraid I would freak out during the flight
or were just two exhausted from a vacation filled with activities
to be bothered with the trip. Either way, they made me the fall
guy claiming that I had ruined the family's one chance to see
the Bahamas. Fortunately, my folks went out on Friday evening
to a show in the hotel and I didn't have to hear about it all
night. I stayed up late Friday watching old movies on TV and
felt the best I had in days.
Although I was normally up with the sun, six o'clock came
and went without me the next morning. My parents hadn't come
in until after one thirty, so they wouldn't be getting up early
that day either. The phone rang just around eight o'clock. I
woke up, but couldn't drag myself out of bed fast enough to
answer it. My father woke up and took the call. It was the front
desk. There was a short conversation that I couldn't hear, then
my dad went back to bed.
Once I was awake, it was hard for me to go back to bed. After
making a pit stop in the restroom, I headed for the TV. Our
efficiency suite was divided enough to allow me to watch TV,
close the door to the room where my parents were sleeping and
not disturb them. I loved those Saturday morning superhero cartoons!
The phone rang again around ten o'clock, but my father answered
it again before I could. By eleven, both my parents were up.
There seemed to be a long discussion going on, but I couldn't
tell what was being said and just figured they were making plans
for our departure on Monday morning.
Lunch was an unusually muted affair. No one really spoke
except to lay out a few plans for the rest of the day. Clouds
gathered throughout the afternoon, so we decided to spend it
at the movies instead of the beach. Although I wanted to see
a monster flick, we ended watching THE SINGING NUN. If there
was a hell, I wanted the producer of that film to go there!
After the movie, we stopped at a fast food place and brought
some back to the efficiency. There still wasn't much conversation.
That evening I went to a small game room just off of the
hotel lobby to play pinball and some other games of the period.
There was a lot of activity in the lobby. Police came and went,
and people were calling to ask about friends and relatives staying
at the hotel. After about an hour of listening to the front
desk conversations with one ear and hearing the bells and whistles
of the pinball game with the other, I figured what had happened.
It seems that the charter plane carrying those who went on
the weekend trip to the Bahamas had vanished! It carried passengers
who were guests at a number of area hotels, including ours.
About eight guests from our hotel had been aboard. I figured
out later that the first early morning phone call to our room
had been to see if we were in or had taken the flight, while
the second was to find out if we knew any others that might
have passed on the trip.
My parents were the type of people who were not up to speed
with pop culture or anything out of the ordinary. To them, The
Beatles were either bugs in our garage or a passing fad. Tom
Jones was about as wild as it got for their taste. I had to
buy any books about the paranormal with my own allowance money
because they thought such material was junk. The first time
that ROSEMARY'S BABY aired on TV, my folks wouldn't let me watch
it and actually confiscated the small TV I had in my bedroom
to be sure that I wouldn't. I was thirteen at the time! Given
all that, I knew that the incident with the plane would just
never get discussed, and it never did.
I still can't explain what happened or why I didn't want
to get on that plane. When I think about it, I'm reminded of
any number of stories I've heard about people obeying a sense
of doom and missing a flight or not keeping an appointment,
only to find it saved their lives. But that's the real mystery
of The Devil's Triangle. Despite our best efforts to explain
it all away with science, coincidence or a closer examination
of the facts, the place keeps throwing things in our face that
are a little stranger then our ability to fully understand them.
For Further Reading