Why The Bermuda Triangle Craze Of The '70s? The Hoax And Hysteria Explained

Fads | May 31, 2020

Left: The legendary Lost Squadron & plane 'Flight 19' that supposedly vanished into Bermuda Triangle shortly after WWII. Right: cover art from Argosy, August 1968.Sources: The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images; eBay

The Bermuda Triangle, that plane- and ship-swallowing mystery zone in the Atlantic, fascinated us in the '60s and '70s. Magazine articles, books and TV shows looked into the phenomenon -- along with quicksand and killer bees, the Bermuda Triangle was cause for concern and wild speculation, including paranormal theories about sea monsters and aliens. But should it have been? While some people fretted over the causes of the bizarre phenomenon, others began to question whether it was a phenomenon at all.

One assumption about the location of the Bermuda Triangle. Source: (Bermudian.Kolmio/Wikipedia)

The Bermuda triangle is an area of about 500,000 square miles of ocean and the points of the triangle are approximately Miami, Bermuda, and Puerto Rico, however sources differ with regards to the exact location of the Bermuda Triangle. The stories surrounding theTriangle date back to Christopher Columbus, who reported that a great flame of fire crashed into the ocean and that he had erratic compass readings while in the area, but just as the ball of fire could be explained as a meteor, the compass readings may have been caused by the fact that, at the time, a sliver of the area was one of the places that true north and magnetic north lined up.

Ships And Planes Disappear And So Does The Truth

The USS Cyclops, one of the ships that disappeared. Source: (History.com)

There were additional mysteries over the years, such as the 1918 sinking of the USS Cyclops, a carrier equipped to send out a distress call, but didn’t. In 1941, the two sister ships of the Cyclops also disappeared following the Cyclops’ route. In 1945, five Navy bombers were conducting practice bombing in a mission known as Flight 19 and the commander got hopelessly lost when his compasses malfunctioned; the five planes flew until they ran out of fuel. When a plane went to search for them, it too disappeared. No evidence turned up to point to what happened. On September 17, 1950, Edward Van Winkle Jones published an article in The Miami Herald mentioning these strange disappearances…George Sand then published an article, “Sea Mystery at Our Back Door” in Fate magazine, examining the disappearance of Flight 19; this article laid out the triangular shape and suggested the involvement of the supernatural. In the April 1962 issue of American Legion, Allan W. Eckert covered the story once again, stating that the flight commander was heard saying “We are entering white water, nothing seems right. We don’t know where we are, the water is green, no white.”

It Gets A Name

Source: (Amazon)

However, the area was still not known as “the Bermuda Triangle” until the term was coined by Vincent Gaddis in a 1964 magazine article published in Argosy; later that year, he published a book expanding on the article, Invisible Horizons. By the time the article came out, three passenger planes had disappeared without a trace in the area in addition to other accidents. Other books came out as well: In 1969, John Wallace Spencer released Limbo of The Lost, in 1974, Richard Winer published The Devil’s Triangle and that same year, Charles Berlitz wrote The Bermuda Triangle, which became a bestseller. All of these books continued to espouse supernatural causes for the mysteries.

As Ships Disappear, Profits Materialize

Source: (BoardGameGeek.com)

At that point it became a bit of a craze that people were looking to profit from. In January, 1975, the ABC Movie of the Week was Satan’s Triangle. Milton Bradley released a game in 1976 called "The Bermuda Triangle," in which players were challenged to get their ships across the Bermuda Triangle, where they faced the “sinister mystery cloud” that swallowed ships. A short-lived series on NBC in 1977 titled The Fantastic Journey was about a ship that passed through the Triangle, encountering a mysterious green cloud. After passing through the cloud, they ended up on an island where all time periods meet. That same year, an episode of In Search of narrated by Leonard Nimoy focused on the area. Rankin-Bass, who was known for its stop motion animation even got in on the craze, producing a made-for-television film called The Bermuda Depths in 1978. The plot included a love/ghost story, a ghostly siren played by Connie Selleca, a giant sea turtle, and a Moby Dick themed sub plot.

What Happened To The Ships?

Rankin-Bass made a television movie. Source: (IMDb)

With regards to the theories surrounding the disappearances, supernatural explanations abound. These theories range from the effects of technology left over from the mythical continent of Atlantis, to a submerged rock, known as the Bimini Road to aliens. Berlitz also proposed unknown forces as the cause of the disappearances.

The Skeptics Speak Up As Well

The lost continent of Atlantis, one potential cause of the disappearances. Source: (History.com)

Of course, with the preponderance of supernatural theories, the skeptics have added their voices, pointing out all of the evidence that contradicts the theories. In 1975, the journalist Larry Kusche published The Bermuda Triangle Mystery—Solved. In the book, he debunked the supernatural theories regarding the Triangle, stating, that in some cases, there is no record of the supposed sunken ships and planes ever existing. On June 27, 1976, the Nova/Horizon episode “The Case of the Bermuda Triangle” criticized the theories, claiming that "When we've gone back to the original sources or the people involved, the mystery evaporates. Science does not have to answer questions about the Triangle because those questions are not valid in the first place ... Ships and planes behave in the Triangle the same way they behave everywhere else in the world."

So What Caused The Disappearances?

Source: (SlashGear)

Despite the number of theories that abound regarding the Bermuda Triangle, it is unlikely that there is any one cause of the occurrences, but they have most likely had different, more mundane causes, from human error to violent weather. In fact, Lloyds of London does not recognize the Bermuda Triangle as a particular hazard as quite a large number of vessels pass through the area. and the disasters are proportional to other areas of the world..

Tags: Bermuda Triangle | Paranormal

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Cyn Felthousen-Post


Cyn loves history, music, Irish dancing, college football and nature. Social media is also her thing, keeping up with trends and celebrities with positive news. She can be found outside walking or hiking with her son when she's not working. Carpe diem is her fave quote, get out there and seize the day!