Supernatural or Superstition: the Lake Michigan Triangle
By Jennifer Young
Rough weather and shipwrecks are endemic to the Great Lakes, but one triangular swath of Lake Michigan is especially associated with mysterious occurrences. The Lake Michigan Triangle may not be as famous as the Bermuda Triangle, but it shares much of the same superstitious lore, much of which is based on unusual yet factual events. Lost captains, ships gone missing without a trace, weird underwater rock formations—many of this triangle’s tales remain unexplained.
The Lake Michigan Triangle, if you recall your high school geometry classes, is scalene in shape (all three sides have different lengths). While there may be some plausible explanations for the mysterious plane and shipwrecks in the area, the triangle’s paranormal reputation continues to this day.
The earliest known mystery of the Lake Michigan Triangle occurred in 1891. The schooner Thomas Hume set off across the lake with seven sailors to pick up a supply of lumber. Constructed in Manitowoc, Wis., in 1870, the wooden ship was the property of a lumber baron and had crossed the lake dozens upon dozens of times prior to its mysterious disappearance. The Thomas Hume set sail from Chicago, setting a course across the lake to reach Muskegon, Mich. It disappeared during the night without a trace.
In 1921, the Rosa Belle ship was discovered overturned and none of its 11 passengers were ever found. In 1937, Captain Donner vanished from his ship’s cabin after he had just navigated his crew through an icy area of the lake. The cabin was locked from the inside, but when the crew broke down the door to check on the captain, he wasn’t there. In 1950, Flight 2501 and its 58 passengers crashed within the Triangle, with no wreckage ever found. Some people reported to have seen a strange red light above the lake, leading some to blame the event on UFOs or some other paranormal occurrence.
In addition to these and other similar wrecks in the area of the triangle, divers have discovered a strange Stonehenge-like rock formation. The formation sits under about 40 feet of water. Marine archaeologists even found a boulder near the rock structure with a mastodon carved onto its surface. With its similarity to Stonehenge, the rock formation has an aura of mystery that some believe could play a role in the lake’s strange weather patterns.
The cause of these tragedies are likely not paranormal or extraterrestrial. The Great Lakes are associated with a wide range of mysterious shipwrecks, tall waves, and violent weather conditions. Blaming the weather isn’t such a far-fetched notion. Since 1679, tragedy has littered the murky bottom of the Great Lakes: 30,000 lives and over 8,000 vessels .
Skeptics of the triangle believe the mystery of this part of the lake is merely the creation of Charles Berlitz . In 1913, he claimed that this part of the lake was governed by paranormal forces. He also believed that the lost civilization of Atlantis was associated with the Bermuda Triangle and was a strong believer in extraterrestrials. Since this area of the lake is crisscrossed by shipping lines, its preponderance of collisions and wrecks isn’t mysterious at all, especially when one compares the statistics of lost ships with similarly shipping lanes.
In fact, shipping insurers don’t charge extra (as they do for ships near the pirate waters off Somalia’s coast) for ships sailing in Lake Michigan’s notorious triangle. As for the mysteries, the Thomas Hume was finally recovered in 2006 by a diving team. It’s likely that high winds and rough weather caused it to sink. Even so, not all of the mysteries have been explained. For this reason, it’s likely that the triangle’s superstitious reputation will remain intact.