The area of ocean between Florida, Puerto Rico, and Bermuda known as the Bermuda Triangle is the source of much mystery. Over the centuries, reports of ships and planes vanishing without a trace have haunted the public consciousness, leading the zone to be nicknamed “The Devil’s Triangle.” Suggested causes for these mysterious disappearances run the gamut from strange natural phenomena to underwater alien bases, but there’s a more basic question to ask: do more crafts really disappear in the Bermuda Triangle than in any similarly trafficked area? For decades, we’ve known that the answer is no.
In 1975, journalist Larry Kusche published the book “The Bermuda Triangle Mystery — Solved.” In it, he reexamined as many Bermuda Triangle incidents from 1840 to 1973 as possible, including those in publications by other writers. One such writer was the man who might be considered the father of the legend, Charles Berlitz, who in 1974 wrote The Bermuda Triangle, the first book to suggest that something strange was going on in the area. Kusche found that most of the writers’ stories were just repeated from other publications without any fact checking, and of them all, Charles Berlitz may have been the worst offender: “If Berlitz were to report that a boat were red,” Benjamin Radford quoted Kusche as writing, “the chance of it being some other color is almost a certainty.” So what did Kusche find? In some cases, there’s no record of the ship in question ever existing. In others, the ships and planes were real but their “mysterious disappearances” were during bad storms—storms that the writer usually failed to mention. Still other incidents took place far away from the area. This isn’t to say there are no disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle, but it’s important to remember that the zone is heavily traveled by both ships and planes, so the odds are good that more crafts will sink or crash in that area than in a less trafficked one. So the next time you hear that someone has “solved” a mystery, take a step back and ask whether there was any mystery in the first place.