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The Bermuda Triangle Mystery Delusion: Looking Back after Forty Years

The man who solved the Bermuda Triangle “mystery” looks back after four decades on his investigations into the missing flight that started it all and the shoddy research, gullibility, and distortions that created this mystery.

Forty years have passed since my book The Bermuda Triangle Mystery—Solved was published in 1975. The most important chapter is “Flight 19,” the account of the five Navy Avenger torpedo bombers and a Martin Mariner PBM that disappeared on December 5, 1945. Flight 19 was on an overwater navigation-training flight from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to the Bahamas and back. The Mariner was searching for the Avengers after they got lost.

The disappearance of Flight 19 is the most famous, dramatic, complicated, and relevant incident in the part of the Atlantic Ocean off the southeastern coast of the United States that, twenty years later, would become known as the mysterious Bermuda Triangle. The original mystery story of Flight 19, as it was told for decades by those who did little or no research in authoritative sources, when compared to the true and accurate account—based on my research that included the official Navy report of the disaster, the personal records of flight leader Charles C. Taylor, the ninety-two personal interviews that I conducted, and my flight of the route—is a microcosm of how the mystery/delusion of the entire Bermuda Triangle story came about, and how I came to realize that the Bermuda Triangle is one of the biggest frauds/delusions that has ever been perpetrated.

Flight 19 is such a significant part of the Triangle story that, if the planes had safely returned to base, the concept of the Bermuda Triangle would never have been created. We would never have heard of the Bermuda Triangle, and all the articles, books, documentaries, movies, and websites about it would never have been created.

The loss of the Avengers (Figure 1) and the search plane was a legitimate, confusing, national front-page mystery at the time it occurred. Years later, magazines and newspapers began to publicize it and other supposed mysteries in the area. UFOs were a new, popular, and exciting topic in the 1950s. Best-selling books such as Flying Saucers on the Attack, The Case for the UFO, The Flying Saucer Conspiracy, Strange Mysteries of Time and Space, Stranger Than Science, and others speculated that Flight 19 had been captured by aliens from outer space.

Early in the popular 1977 Spielberg movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the Avengers suddenly appeared in the Mojave Desert. Near the end, the aviators, who had not aged, walked out of a huge UFO.

Figure 1. A Navy Avenger torpedo bomber. The pilot is Willard Stoll, one of the last men to talk with instructor-pilot Lt. Charles C. Taylor before Taylor left on ill-fated Flight 19 on December 5, 1945. Author Larry Kusche interviewed Stoll in his Michigan home. Stoll, the leader of Flight 18, heard Taylor on the radio when he was in the northern Bahamas. He told Kusche that Taylor “couldn’t have been too far away at the time.”

The part of the Atlantic Ocean where Flight 19 disappeared became popular when it was given a clever, catchy name by Vincent H. Gaddis in his February 1964 article “The Deadly Bermuda Triangle” in Argosy, a popular men’s pulp adventure and modest girlie magazine. A shortened version appeared in the July/August 1964 Flying Saucer Review.

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