Eleven years ago this month, hikers found identification belonging to Steve Fossett, world famous aviator and adventurer who vanished a year earlier.
The vast search for Fossett focused attention on what is now called the Nevada Triangle. It’s an area not nearly as infamous at the Bermuda Triangle, but has seen far more disappearances.
In 2007, famed aviator Steve Fossett flew out of a landing strip in northern Nevada and vanished. For months, searchers combed the rugged mountains looking for Fossett. What they found were eight other plane wrecks no one knew about.
By one estimate, 2,000 planes have vanished in the last 60 years in what pilots call the Nevada Triangle, the vast area between Las Vegas, Reno and Fresno. That averages out to about three planes per month, far more than have ever disappeared in the more infamous Bermuda Triangle.
Scientists have determined that strong winds from the Pacific create a powerful downdraft when they cross the Sierra, strong enough to slam small planes into the ground. But many of the aircraft that have gone missing weren’t small at all — a B-24 Bomber and other military craft among them.
Powerful winds and treacherous weather are major factors in why so many planes crash or vanish in what’s called the Nevada Triangle but it’s more than just planes that disappear. It’s also people.
“Then I pulled out a map of Nevada and California and almost fell out of my seat because the largest cluster zone we’ve established is in that Nevada Triangle, and there’s two other cluster zones also in that triangle,” said David Paulides, investigator and author of Missing 411 books.
For nine years, former police officer turned author David Paulides has scoured through about 20,000 missing persons files. Based on very specific criteria, he’s whittled them down to about 1,200 seemingly inexplicable mysteries — people who vanish under unusual circumstances.
In a series of books, Missing 411. Paulides has identified dozens of clusters, many of them national parks or forests, where the number of missing is way out of the ordinary. Three of those clusters exist within the Nevada Triangle, including, at the top of the list, Yosemite National Park.
“There’s no concrete one item that can say this is causing that, and because of no tracks, no scent trail, no witnesses, we’ve had people say it’s got to be UFOs, it’s got to be reptilians, Bigfoot, it’s got to be this. In reality, I don’t think you can say it’s just one thing,” Paulides said.
Often the missing vanishes into thin air while with other hikers. Dogs are unable to pick up any scent. There are no tracks. Small children who vanish are found a day later many miles away, over mountain ranges. Human abductions and animal attacks are ruled out.
For years, Paulides requested lists of the missing from the National Park Service but was told they don’t keep any such list. More recently Yosemite officials have opened up.
“It might be ten years later, you find a shoe, a piece of clothing,” said Scott Gediman, Yosemite National Park Ranger.
Paulides has investigated cases closer to home, including the 1966 disappearance of 6-year-old Larry Jeffrey of Henderson who vanished while with his family on Mount Charleston and a 1977 case of a missing woman near Tonopah.
Some have tried to link the mystery to the Area 51 military base but that facility is far to the east of the triangle’s boundaries.
While speaking to a national conference of search and rescue experts, Paulides was addressed by a pair of state troopers.
“They said, ‘Dave, you’re talking about things that nobody in this room wants to talk about. Everybody knows it’s going on. Everybody here faces it, but nobody wants to talk about it.'”