4. Other writers became involved in expanding the myth of the Bermuda Triangle
Allan W. Eckert was an American naturalist, playwright, and novelist who published numerous novels featuring historical characters. Some of the real-life people of history who appeared in his novels were Simon Kenton, Daniel Boone, Tecumseh, Blue Jacket, and other heroes of the early American frontier along the Ohio River and Great Lakes. While Eckert stressed historical fact in his works, which included extensive footnotes in his novels, he also inserted dialogue which he created out of thin air. Eckert called the practice narrative biography, though critics disagreed. Kirkus Reviews called Eckert’s narrative biography “an apparent euphemism for poetic license” in a review of one of his works on Tecumseh. Kirkus called A Sorrow in Our Heart: The Life of Tecumseh “A biography that succeeds better as fiction”.
In an article written for American Legion Magazine in 1962, Eckert applied his technique of “narrative biography” to the loss of Flight 19. In his article, Eckert claimed that Taylor had said, just before the flight met its ultimate fate, “We are entering white water, nothing seems right”. Taylor then went on to say the water was “green, no white”. None of the official documentation of radio transmissions during the flight contain such a message. Eckert also claimed, in the same article, one member of the Navy Board of Investigation stated the flight had flown “off to Mars”. Neither Taylor’s alleged last comments nor the unnamed Navy investigator have any confirmed source. Yet it was just the sort of sensationalism which the media found the public couldn’t get enough of, expanding the mysterious nature of the body of water not yet known as the Bermuda Triangle.
5. The public quickly lost interest in the loss of Flight 19
When the US Navy lost five airplanes on a training mission, followed by a search plane looking for them, in a single day it of course made front page news. But as news stories do, it quickly faded to the background, other than for those directly involved. The loss of 27 US sailors and Marines was tragic, but public attention quickly turned to other things. Except for those who exploited the tragedy for personal gain. The 1950s and early 1960s were the heyday for UFOs, both stories citing their “real” appearances and fictional accounts of alien activity on Earth. Sometimes fact and fiction were blended, with no apparent delineation between them. Several stories depicted the lost Navy pilots as having been abducted by aliens. The theory became so popular among ufologists that it was repeated at the end of the 1987 blockbuster film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
At the end of the film the lost naval airmen disembark from an alien spaceship, apparently unharmed, having not aged a day since they vanished. The same film revealed the lost Avengers to be in the Mojave Desert, though the Martin Mariner is not mentioned. Several best selling books of the 1950s focused on an alien abduction of Flight 19, for various reasons, or made references to such an event. 1950s films and television also featured stories of alien abductions, though with oblique references to ships gone missing in the area between Miami and San Juan, Puerto Rico. The popular pulp fiction magazines of the day also referred to missing ships and airplanes, including commercial airliners, as being victims of abductions, though the region in which they went missing still had no name to capture the attention of the general public, until 1964.
6. Christopher Columbus May Have Had an Odd Experience with the Bermuda Triangle
Supposedly strange occurrences were reported in the area which became known as the Bermuda Triangle for centuries before the loss of Flight 19. On October 11, 1492, Christopher Columbus reported seeing lights ahead from the deck of his ship. The following day he sighted land. Later writers used the sight of strange twinkling lights as evidence of eerie events in the triangle, but what is strange about seeing the lights from fires on land as it is approached from seaward? Ships were lost in the area beginning in the 15th century, including Columbus’s own Santa Maria, lost in a storm. But it was the brief focus on Flight 19 which led to the birth of the urban legend known as the Bermuda Triangle. From Eckert’s fictionalized account of radio transmissions subsequent authors built their own stories surrounding the event. Official US Navy transcripts did not include them.
Nor could US Navy personnel who were in the control tower recall Taylor referring to “white water” or other indications of panic. Nor is there evidence that Taylor’s compasses had failed, as he reported. It is far more likely that he saw islands resembling the Florida Keys below him (where he had extensive flight experience) and from them assumed he was over the Keys, causing him to distrust his instruments. Writers which followed Eckert, Gaddis, Charles Berlitz, Richard Winer, and others, used Eckert as their source, building upon his evaluation, and when US Navy records and findings conflicted with their version of events they were simply omitted. They also changed the time of several events, the weather conditions, and several other facts inconvenient to their assessment of something more sinister taking place than pilot error. Pilot error wouldn’t sell books.
7. The Bermuda Triangle’s Name came from an article in a pulp magazine
Argosy Magazine was one of the oldest pulp magazines in existence in America in 1964. Pulp magazines, collectively called “the pulps” reached their peak popularity prior to World War II. Following the war alternative forms of entertainment superseded them, and the few that survived did so by focusing on lurid crime articles, or sensationalist articles featuring the supernatural and the extraterrestrial. Argosy followed suit, presenting articles describing real crimes and police investigations, UFO sightings, and stories of encounters with aliens. In the February 1964 edition an author named Vincent Gaddis revived the story of Flight 19, claiming it was one of several mysterious and unexplained disappearances in an area of the Atlantic Ocean he dubbed the Bermuda Triangle. Gaddis described several disappearances inaccurately, and changed the location of some in order to include them in his defined area. It was the first reference to the Bermuda Triangle in print.
Gaddis established the vertices of his triangle as Miami, Florida, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and the island of Bermuda. He wrote, “Within this roughly triangular area, known as the ‘Bermuda Triangle’ most of the total vanishments have occurred.” He also mentioned other vanishings near but outside the imaginary lines connecting his proposed vertices, but did not describe how far out such “nearby” vanishings extended. “This relatively limited area is the scene of disappearances that total far beyond the laws of chance”, he wrote, without explain what the laws of chance were, or how he arrived at that conclusion. Gaddis included an in-depth discussion of Flight 19, basing it largely on the fictional quotations from Allan W. Eckert’s earlier article in American Legion Magazine. Gaddis defined the triangle, gave it a catchy name, and opened the floodgates of speculation about its supernatural nature.
8. The Bermuda Triangle took on an ominous reputation in the 1960s
Following Gaddis’s article in Argosy, other writers jumped on the bandwagon with articles they claimed were based on historical and scientific research. Stories about the triangle shared many similarities. Ships entered it only to vanish without a trace. No wreckage was ever found. On occasion ships or boats came out of the triangle without anyone aboard, and no evidence could be gleaned to explain their disappearance. Aircraft, military, commercial, and private, flew into the region and vanished forever. There was never an explanation, the incidents all remained unexplained by the authorities. In triangle lore, it quickly became an area of the ocean where ships and airplanes vanished at a rate unknown anywhere else in the world. Ships vanished without sending emergency messages. No crews survived in lifeboats. Entering the triangle, which spans some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, was hazardous, according to promoters of the idea.
The causes of all these nautical and aerial disasters were proposed in many different guises. Some called the triangle an extension of supernatural power. Some connected it to the lost city of Atlantis. Others supported the belief the triangle was a portal to a time warp, which whisked some who entered it into another dimension. There were proponents of the UFO theory, and there were those who believed the dangerous area was plagued with rogue waves, microbursts, and severe gales. But ships which encounter the latter usually have time to send messages and man lifeboats. Natural disasters didn’t explain the lack of evidence left behind after a vessel vanished. A popular theory is the triangle possessed a strange force which allowed it to render magnetic compasses unusable. That theory was especially popular with those who don’t comprehend magnetic deviation.
9. Compass failures from supernatural causes is a popular theory about the triangle
One of the more popular theories to explain the loss of ships and airplanes within the Bermuda Triangle holds that the region has an ability to cause compasses to deviate from true north. The deviation causes mariners and pilots to deviate from their intended course and instead sail or fly off to their doom, whatever and wherever that may be. True north and magnetic north are two different locations, and deviation from magnetic north is a fact across most of the globe. In fact, deviations shift dependent on the compass user’s location, a fact known to mariners for centuries. There is only a small narrow band of the globe in which magnetic north is aligned with true north, and that band shifts over time. The American Practical Navigator, originally published in 1802, gave the formula for calculating the variation.
The American Practical Navigator, updated and revised, is still carried onboard all US Naval ships. Many other navigational guides carry the same information. But the sensationalist writers of the stories of mysterious occurrences within the triangle banked on the belief that most readers would not be aware of or comprehend the vagaries of magnetic declination. Instead, they focused their stories on belief in the supernatural, or conspiracies, or alien intervention. But ships lost because they could not determine direction due to a failed compass were just part of the story. They could and should turn up somewhere. The sensationalists used compass failure to explain how a ship or airplane could be diverted, but not as the answer to the question of what happened to it and its occupants. They knew their readers wouldn’t know better, and likely wouldn’t attempt to educate themselves.
10. The loss of HMS Atalanta in 1880 was ascribed to the triangle in the 1960s
A superstition among sailors of the past was that renaming a ship rendered it unlucky. Atalanta was renamed twice. Originally a small frigate of the Royal Navy named Juno, the ship was converted into a training ship in 1878, renamed Mariner. Two weeks later it was renamed Atalanta. In 1880 the ship departed the Royal Naval Dockyard in Bermuda, bound for Falmouth, Great Britain. The ship never arrived, and it was determined it was lost due to a storm. But nothing so mundane as a storm was acceptable to writers pushing the existence of the Bermuda Triangle. To them Atalanta was an example of a ship sailing into a mysterious unknown, its fate undetermined, its destiny forever a question mark. As with many of the stories of the triangle, the writers simply ignored facts, invented alternatives, and created fictional a fictional account.
In the case of Atalanta, the ship sailed through waters where a severe storm had passed. By calculating known factors, such as the ship’s speed, prevailing winds, and the storm’s path, the Admiralty determined where and when the two likely met. HMS Avon reported wreckage near the Azores, and a German freighter reported a submerged wreck near the path which Atalanta would likely have followed. And another factor to consider is that Atalanta was nowhere near the Bermuda Triangle, at least using the boundaries established by Gaddis. Instead, it was several hundred miles north and east of the so-called “Devil’s Triangle”, as some of the more convinced of the supernatural influence came to call the region. It stands to reason for a ship to be the victim of the Bermuda Triangle it should actually be in the Bermuda Triangle when its fate catches up with it.
In 1955, following severe storms and gale force winds caused by the passing of Hurricane Ione, the privately owned yacht Connemara IV was discovered adrift in the ocean. There was no trace of its crew or any passengers. Clearly, here was an example of the mysterious nature of the Bermuda Triangle, and it is easy enough today to find web sites and magazine articles describing the discovery of the ghost ship, sailing alone, its crew gone to who knows where. In his book The Bermuda Triangle (1974) writer Charles Berlitz described as “mysteriously abandoned 400 miles southwest of Bermuda”. The book sold over 30 million copies and was instrumental in expanding the myth of the Bermuda Triangle in the 1970s. According to other writers the yacht endured three successive hurricanes while transiting from New York to Bermuda, which overwhelmed its crew.
That story was patently false. Connemara IV was anchored in the roadstead at Carlisle Bay, Bermuda, on the morning of September 22, 1955. As winds and seas rose from the passing hurricane, its owner, unable to move the vessel to a more secure anchorage, reinforced the mooring lines and deployed additional anchors. The vessel was then left to ride out the storm at its moorings. The storm proved to be too much and the yacht broke from its moorings and drifted out to sea, driven by the storm and prevailing currents. No crew was found aboard when the vessel was discovered because no crew was aboard when the yacht drifted to sea. Richard Winer, who wrote the 1974 book The Devil’s Triangle, was informed of the fact in a letter which he quoted in a subsequent book on the triangle. Too little, too late.
On January 31, 1921, lookouts at the Cape Hatteras Coast Guard station spotted a vessel aground on Diamond Shoals. The shoals are a major reason the area is known as the “Graveyard of Ships”. Foul weather prevented the Coast Guard from reaching the vessel until four days later, when it was discovered the ship had been abandoned. Two lifeboats, the crew’s personal gear, and the ship’s log were missing. After the Coast Guard determined the vessel was both unsalvageable and a hazard to navigation it was blown up using dynamite on March 4. Extensive investigations into the missing crew and abandoned vessel were conducted by the US Government, including investigation whether the vessel had been hijacked by rumrunners to use to carry illegal liquor (Prohibition then being in effect). But no official finding was ever released.
The ship had been sailing from Rio de Janeiro to Hampton Roads, Virginia, when whatever happened to it occurred. It was found off Hatteras, miles south of the Virginia Capes. It had hailed the Cape Lookout Light on January 28, 1921, and the Coast Guard there reported the vessel had several crewmen aboard. The crew informed the Coast Guard that the ship had lost its anchors in their hail. The Carroll A. Deering tale is an enduring mystery of the sea, but whatever happened to the ship and crew clearly took place well outside the defined borders of the Bermuda Triangle. That has not prevented the perpetuators of the urban myth from citing the Deering as a victim of the triangle. Some use the mystery to alter the vertices of the triangle expanding the allegedly deadly seas to support their theories.
13. The Bermuda Triangle was not included in a 2013 survey of the world’s most dangerous waters
In 2013, the World Wide Fund for Nature conducted a survey of the world’s most dangerous seas, based on the number of shipwrecks and their potential impact on marine life. The Bermuda Triangle did not make the grade. Strange that an area alleged by supporters of the myth as being the most dangerous track of ocean in the world should not be considered so by scientific reasoning. Or, maybe not so strange. In creating the myth of the Bermuda Triangle, writers and researchers used sloppy techniques, circular reporting, and creative invention. Statistically, their claims of the numbers of sinkings and disappearances attributed to the triangle are skewed. Many moved accidents from outside the triangle into it. In one case, written by Berlitz, a ship was described as leaving an Atlantic port, never to be seen again.
In truth, a ship of the same name sank in the Pacific, and no record exists of the voyage mentioned by Berlitz. Another often cited victim of the triangle is the tanker V. A. Fogg, which exploded and sank in 1972. In 1969 John Wallace Spencer in his book Limbo of the Lost described the only body to be found was that of the captain, sitting at his desk. The Coast Guard found and recovered several bodies from the wreckage, refuting yet another triangle myth. The V. A. Fogg wreck shouldn’t have been assigned to the Bermuda Triangle at any rate. The ship exploded off the coast of Texas, in the Gulf of Mexico, hundreds of miles from the accepted bounds of the Bermuda Triangle. The same is true of many so-called triangle victims, adding to the myth, but unsupported by facts.
14. The deliberate creation of the Bermuda Triangle was good for book and magazine sales
By the mid-1970s the Bermuda Triangle had generated a substantial number of believers in the mysterious body of water which claimed so many lives. It had also generated skeptics, who scoffed not only at the hints of supernatural or extraterrestrial activities, but at the number of disappearances attributed to the triangle. The supporters of the triangle added events and expanded the triangle, including its shape, in order to include other mysterious losses at sea or in the air. Several writers omitted facts, or added false information, to support their reports of the strange events at sea. Richard Winer, author of a documentary made for television called Devil’s Triangle, was a strong proponent of the supernatural nature of the area. Winer’s books reported events by omitting pertinent facts, such as weather conditions, or altering them from stormy seas to calm weather.
His documentary presented the triangle as an eerie, inexplicable region, in which people, boats, ships, and airplanes vanished without a trace. To lend the story an even more sinister air, he had the documentary narrated by Vincent Price, then known for his horror films. The film was aired in 1974, the same year as his first book on the triangle, The Devil’s Triangle. In both, he presented tales which were clearly refuted by contemporary Coast Guard, Navy, and Air Force officials, as well as other government agencies official reports. When confronted with the inconsistencies by skeptics, the well-known hiding place of government coverup reared its head. The smell of conspiracy to keep the public from knowing the truth about the Bermuda Triangle was good for book sales. Book and magazine sales created the Bermuda Triangle, despite the Coast Guard loudly proclaiming such an area did not exist.
15. The Coast Guard assigns the losses of most small boats to operator error
Even those who deny the supernatural effects of the Bermuda Triangle often claim the region is the site for more lost ships than any other in the world. It is not. In fact, though it is one of the highest regions of the world for sea traffic, it does not rank highly for losses. It does have an inordinate number of incidents involving small boats operated by their owners. According to the US Coast Guard the vast majority of those occur due to the inexperience and lack of preparation of the boaters. Boats departing Florida for the island of Bimini for example, frequently either fail to correct their course due to the northerly current of the Gulf Stream, which will push a boat northward as it travels across. Others overcorrect. In either case, they miss the island completely, and can quickly become lost, especially if the weather deteriorates.
Such was the case of the 23-foot yacht Witchcraft, which carried its owner, Dan Burack and a friend, a Catholic priest named Father Patrick Horgan, about a mile out from Miami in order to view the Christmas lights displayed in the city. According to the accounts by Winer, Berlitz, and others the water was calm. According to the Coast Guard, which received a distress call from Burack, the water was rough, with winds and sea rising. The Coast Guard responded to the area where Burack reported he was, but found nothing. A search over the following week failed to find the boat, or evidence of its two occupants. Burack had reported he was near a buoy which, if he was, he misidentified. To proponents of the Bermuda Triangle the boat simply vanished, in sight of land, on a calm day. Coast Guard reports indicate otherwise.
16. The creators of the Bermuda Triangle created several explanations for its existence
While the creators built the triangle upon the backs of the writers before them, none of them concerned with factual accuracy, they also proposed causes for the phenomena they reported. Paranormal activity was a popular solution, unexplained disappearances as part of things that go bump in the night. UFO activity was also proposed by many, at a time when books, films, television, and other media speculated about extraterrestrial visitation heavily. Proponents of Edgar Cayce and psychic phenomena announced the triangle was influenced by magnetic fields emanating from the Lost City of Atlantis, evidenced by a rock formation in the region known as the Bimini Road. They claimed the “road” is clearly a man-made object leftover from Atlantis. Scientists state unequivocally the “road” is a natural formation. The scientists, as they so often are, were dismissed by the believers as being part of a cover-up.
Compass variations and the Gulf Stream have been mentioned, both have been well known by navigators for centuries. In recent years, pockets of released methane have been offered as explanations for the loss of ships in the region. One would expect in a region where, according to the believers, so many ships above the norm are lost, shipowners would be required to pay higher insurance rates for their vessels transiting the area. They do not. Lloyd’s of London, the international insurance giant, does not charge higher rates for ships transiting the triangle, and never has. According to Lloyd’s it has no justification to, since the loss of ships is no greater in the region known as the Bermuda Triangle than any other similarly sized tract of ocean in the world. And it is considerably lower than some.
17. The US Coast Guard denies the existence of the triangle beyond creative imagination
The US Coast Guard recognizes the boundary descriptions of the region known as the Bermuda Triangle. Whenever it conducts rescue operations withing the area, the press reports their efforts with breathless headlines such as; “Coast Guard ends search for missing boat in Bermuda Triangle (Tampa Bay Times, January 2, 2021); “BREAKING NEWS: Coast Guard: Missing Ship Sank in Bermuda Triangle” (CBS News This Morning, October 5, 2015) and the like. But Coast Guard records, incident reports, vessel logs, and reports from air patrols contain much of the data which refutes the sensationalists and their descriptions of the events in the triangle. In this they are joined by the United States Navy. The United States Board of Geographic Names does not recognize the name Bermuda Triangle.
The US Coast Guard maintains a Bermuda Triangle Fact Sheet, prepared jointly with the US Naval Historical Center. It stresses the need to consider human error when studying losses in those waters. “All too often, crossings are attempted with too small a boat, insufficient knowledge of the area’s hazards, and a lack of good seamanship”, states the Coast Guard succinctly. The Coast Guard also denies supernatural activity in the region. They state, “It has been their experience that the combined forces of nature and unpredictability of mankind outdo even the most far-fetched science fiction many times each year”. By the mid-1990s, boating in the region was so popular the US Coast Guard answered an average of 23 calls per day for assistance. Despite Coast Guard warnings the region is not for the inexperienced sailor, they continue to ply the waters, knowledgeable or not. Unfortunately too many become statistics, but from personal error, rather than paranormal activity.
18. The weather in the region of the triangle is unpredictable and can change dramatically and quickly
The Gulf Stream cuts through the Bermuda Triangle, bearing to the north on its journey to the North Atlantic and Europe’s western waters. At its center, the Gulf Stream flows along at a speed of four miles per hour. Essentially a river in the ocean, the warm waters of the Gulf Stream can encounter cooler winds and water while within the triangle. The result of such a collision is a turbulent, dangerous sea, with high waves, and low visibility. The speed of the Gulf Stream can also carry away evidence of disaster with rapidity. Even experienced sailors can be, and often have been, taken by surprise by the sudden changes of conditions. Waterspouts, essentially small tornadoes of water, are common in the area. So are sudden violent thunderstorms, formed by locally isolated air masses, which unleash high winds, lightning, blinding rains, and stormy seas.
The creators of the triangle frequently assert cases of missing ships and airplanes in calm, clear weather. Flight 19 is an example. Flight 19 did take off in clear weather for its ill-fated mission, but by the time it was apparent the flight was lost and a search and rescue mission was needed, the weather had deteriorated badly. In a 1974 BBC documentary, Richard Winer, confronted with errors in his book The Devil’s Triangle regarding the timing of events, the changing weather, and the radio contacts with the flight, asserted there were no errors. Conflicting testimony from professional Naval and Coast Guard officers were dismissed as evidence of government wrongdoing and subsequent coverup. The film may be seen here. In the same film Charles Berlitz mentions the loss of several nuclear submarines as further evidence of the existence of strange activity within the Bermuda Triangle.
19. USS Scorpion was not in the Bermuda Triangle when it was lost in 1968
Charles Berlitz claimed the Bermuda Triangle was a factor in the loss of “several” nuclear and conventional submarines in the years following World War II. The only nuclear submarine lost anywhere near the region (but clearly outside its accepted boundaries) was USS Scorpion, lost in May, 1968. When Berlitz made his comments the mystery of what happened to Scorpion was still not fully understood, and rumors of hostile action, accident, and supernatural interference all were in play. It was necessary to extend the boundaries of the triangle in order to place Scorpion’s last resting place within, but sensationalist writers had been performing that exercise for years. By the time Berlitz referred to several submarines, Scorpion’s location had been found, though much regarding its loss remained classified, largely due to Cold War restraints.
However, in 1986, the Soviet Union did lose a nuclear submarine K-219, though it too was outside the widely accepted borders of the Bermuda Triangle. Its loss was due to a fire and explosion in one of its missile tubes. Nothing particularly mystical about it. Yet it quickly fell into the hands of the believers in the Bermuda Triangle mystery, and since the submarine was the property of the Soviet Union it was easy to claim a coverup among writers in the West. The accident followed Berlitz’s comments by more than a decade. It is further evidence that the sea is a harsh master, and mistakes by mariners frequently leave little time for correction before tragedy occurs. Though there is nothing supernatural about it. Sailors have dealt with its vagaries for centuries, the vast majority living through the passage, though many were no doubt eventful.
The loss of Navy Flight 19 continues to be attributed by believers to sinister elements at work within the Bermuda Triangle. Naval Aviation Museum
20. It’s impossible to disprove the supernatural nature of the Bermuda Triangle
One cannot prove definitively that there is no death ray powered by an ancient power source emanating from lost Atlantis, far below the Atlantic’s surface. One cannot prove definitively that no extraterrestrials use the Bermuda Triangle as a portal through which to transport humans to other realms. Nor can one disprove the theory the triangle is a window through which humans are whisked, through supernatural means, to another dimension of time and space. But one can prove that many of the incidents so described by believers in the Bermuda Triangle don’t meet the criteria they promote. The evidence of more realistic events aligning to lead to disaster and disappearance outweigh the speculation of supernatural action. Human error, lapses of judgment, and failure of technology appear as the main cause of accidents within the Bermuda Triangle, which does not have an inordinately greater number of such incidents so often claimed.
But one can trace, through the sequence of articles, books, films, essays, lectures, and discussions, how the urban myth of the Bermuda Triangle was shaped over the 1950s through the present day. One can also compare the assertions of those supporting the supernatural Bermuda Triangle to the official records and investigation reports and easily spot the discrepancies. The believers in the triangle shaped events, locations, and timing to support their hypotheses. The investigators attempted to determine, through scientific method, what led to the disaster in question. The result was the myth of the Bermuda Triangle, complete with government efforts to keep its true nature covered up from the public. “The Coast Guard is not impressed with supernatural explanations of disasters at sea”, reads an official document from that organization. And every day they venture into the triangle, trying to prevent those very disasters at sea.
Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources: