Scores of ships and planes are said to have vanished without trace over the centuries in a vast triangular area of ocean with imaginary points in Bermuda, Florida and Puerto Rico — the so-called Bermuda Triangle.
Christopher Columbus — on his initial voyage of discovery to the New World in 1492 — is the first to have recorded anomalous activities in the seas around Bermuda.
While his ships the “Nina”, “Pinta” and “Santa Maria” were passing through the Sargasso Sea, the Italian explorer said they experienced erratic compass readings. He also saw a strange light on the horizon on October 11, 1492 which remains unexplained today [in a 1979 documentary based on Charles Berlitz’s popular book on the Bermuda Triangle "all the elements of cheap tabloid fiction came together to showcase this incident as a host of blue-green glowing UFOs: the compasses rocked as they darted to and from the surface of the sea," says one scholar, "and Italian actors with poorly dubbed English lines grunted and moaned."]
But the genesis of the modern Bermuda Triangle legend can be traced to a September 16, 1950 Associated Press dispatch in which reporter E. V. W. Jones noted what he described as a series of “mysterious” disappearances of ships and aircraft between the Florida coast and Bermuda beginning in the late ’40s.
He cited such instances as the loss of the US Navy’s Flight 19 training mission of five TBM Avenger torpedo bombers flying out of Florida which vanished on December 5, 1945 and the disappearance of the commercial airliners “Star Tiger” — which disappeared on January 30, 1948 on a flight from the Azores to Bermuda — and the “Star Ariel” — which was lost on January 17, 1949, on a flight from Bermuda to Kingston, Jamaica.
“[The old devil sea] has shrouded in riddles the fate of 135 persons who flew or sailed the Atlantic in recent years,” wrote Mr. Jones. “Modern man with his pushbutton miracles has no clue to what happened to those who were swallowed without trace in the loss of ships and planes indicted on this map [reproduced below].”
Two years later, in an article in “Fate” magazine, George X. Sand recounted a “series of strange marine disappearances, each leaving no trace whatever, that have taken place in the past few years” in a “watery triangle bounded roughly by Florida, Bermuda and Puerto Rico.”
M. K. Jessup picked up on some of the same stories in his 1955 book “The Case for The UFO”, which suggested that alien intelligences were responsible, a view echoed by Donald E. Keyhoe in “The Flying Saucer Conspiracy” [1955) and Frank Edwards in “Stranger Than Science” .
It took Vincent H. Gaddis to coin the catch-all phrase that would enter popular culture; his article in the February 1964 issue of “Argosy” [later incorporated into his book "Invisible Horizons"] was titled “The Deadly Bermuda Triangle.”
“During the past two decades alone, this sea mystery at our back door has claimed almost 1,000 lives,” wrote Mr. Gaddis. “But even this is only as inference. In this series of disasters, not one body has ever been recovered.
“US Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard investigators have admitted they are baffled. The few clues we have only add to the mystery.
“Draw a line from Florida to Bermuda, another from Bermuda to Puerto Rico, and a third line back to Florida through the Bahamas. Within this area, known as the ‘Bermuda Triangle’, most of the total vanishments have occurred.
“… The Bermuda Triangle underlines the fact that despite swift wings and the voice of radio, we still have a world large enough so that men and their machines and ships can disappear without a trace.”
Soon nearly every popular book on “true mysteries” included chapters on the Bermuda Triangle or, as some called it, the “Devil’s triangle” or the “hoodoo sea.”
Ivan T. Sanderson, author of “Invisible Residents” , cited the Bermuda Triangle as evidence of an intelligent, technologically advanced underwater civilization which is responsible for, among other mysterious phenomena, UFOs.
The first book specifically on the subject was a self-published work by John Wallace Spencer, “Limbo of the Lost” , which as a 1973 Bantam paperback found a huge readership.
The Bermuda Triangle fever peaked in 1974 with the publication of “The Bermuda Triangle”, a major bestseller — five million sales worldwide — written by Charles Berlitz with J. Manson Valentine.
That year two paperbacks, Richard Winer’s “The Devil’s Triangle” and John Wallace Spencer’s “No Earthly Explanation”, also racked up impressive sales.
The articles and books on the subject betrayed little evidence of original research. Attentive readers could not help noticing that mostly the Triangle’s chroniclers cannibalised each other’s work.
In 1975 Larry Kusche, a librarian at Arizona State University, published a devastating debunking of what he called the “manufactured mystery.”
In the book, titled “The Bermuda Triangle Mystery-Solved”, he did the archival digging the other writers had neglected.
Weather records, the reports of official investigating agencies, newspaper accounts, and other documents indicated that the Triangle literature had played fast and loose with the evidence.
For example, calm seas in the literature turned into raging storms in reality; mysterious disappearances became conventionally caused sinkings and crashes; the remains of ships “never heard from again” turned out to have been found long since.
In an April 4, 1975, letter to Mary Margaret Fuller, editor of “Fate”, a spokesman for Lloyd’s of London wrote, “According to Lloyd’s Records, 428 vessels have been reported missing throughout the world since 1955, and it may interest you to know that our intelligence service can find no evidence to support the claim that the ‘Bermuda Triangle’ has more losses than elsewhere.
“This finding is upheld by the United States Coastguard [sic] whose computer-based records of casualties in the Atlantic go back to 1958.”
If the Triangle’s proponents had been able to mount any credible defense, the Triangle might have retained some claim to being an authentic anomaly.
Instead there was virtual silence, which inspired little confidence in would-be believers.
Occasional reappearances in supermarket tabloids notwithstanding, the once-famous Bermuda Triangle survives for the most part as a footnote in the history of fads and passing sensations.
National Geographic documentary on the Bermuda Triangle
As one researcher has said: “There are some skeptics who argue that the facts do not support the legend, that there is no mystery to be solved, and nothing that needs explaining. The number of wrecks in this area is not extraordinary, given its size, location and the amount of traffic it receives.
“Many of the ships and planes that have been identified as having disappeared mysteriously in the Bermuda Triangle were not in the Bermuda Triangle at all. Investigations to date have not produced scientific evidence of any unusual phenomena involved in the disappearances.
“Thus, any explanation, including so-called scientific ones in terms of methane gas being released from the ocean floor, magnetic disturbances, etc., are not needed. The real mystery is how the Bermuda Triangle became a mystery at all.”
While the Bermuda Triangle has — appropriately enough — all but vanished as a subject of scientific and even pseudo-scientific speculation, its impact on popular culture remains undiminished.
Beginning in the 1970s with the made-for-television movie “Satan’s Triangle” and the NBC TV series “Fantastic Journey” about a scientific expedition in the Atlantic Ocean which becomes lost in the Bermuda Triangle, the supposedly anomalous region has inspired countless movies, television programmes, novels and video games.
Episodes of shows ranging from the “Scooby-Doo” cartoon to the science fiction/mystery series “X-Files” have been set in the Bermuda Triangle.
And in recent years superstar Brad Pitt has expressed interest in producing and starring in a 1930s-era adventure/fantasy film based on the Bermuda Triangle-themed video game “Dark Void”, a project that has been described a “…’The Rocketeer’ Meets ‘War of the Worlds’.”
It has also been reported that Harrison Ford may have a final crack of the bull whip as Indiana Jones with a movie adventure reportedly set in the Bermuda Triangle.
In the unnamed new project, two-fisted, treasure-hunting archeologist will likely pass the family tradition for high adventure onto son Mutt Williams [Shia LaBeouf], introduced in the franchise’s last, underwhelming entry “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” .
The fondly remembered film stars Leigh McCloskey as traumatised, orphaned college dropout Magnus Dens who returns to Bermuda to find the cause of his father’s mysterious death years before.
Montage of scenes from “The Bermuda Depths” 
At the Bermuda Biological Station, he finds Eric [Carl Weathers] and Dr. Paulis [Burl Ives], friends and colleagues of his late father, and joins them on a quest for gigantic sea creatures. He also meets Jennie Haniver [Connie Sellecca] , a mysterious young woman who was once his only childhood friend. Paulis’ housekeeper, an island local, warns Magnus that Jennie is dangerous.
The beautiful but vain young woman had made a pact with the Devil centuries before and lives forever young deep in the waters of the Bermuda Triangle.
Nobody heeds the folklore and the researchers trap the giant sea turtle, setting the stage for a deadly confrontation with both minions of Satan.
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